Recent analysis by leading property agents, Savills found that the value of UK housing stock has hit a record high (increased by 2.7% to £7.29 trillion in 2018), but remains in older hands with more than £77 in every £100 of housing equity being held by the over 50s.
Nick Freeth, Managing Director of Retirement Homesearch, Britain’s number one retirement property specialist, says this picture can change but only if there is a concerted shift in focus from first-time buyers to last-time buyers.
There’s much to be said by the Government and housing-market commentators on the significance and importance of first-time buyers, but perhaps Savills’ latest research should act as a reminder that the focus needs to shift to last-time buyers in an attempt remove the blockage at the top of the market. This would involve a combination of emotional support, in order to encourage older people to view downsizing as a realistic and beneficial option; but also practical support, ensuring there’s enough retirement stock to meet the needs of an aging population.
From an emotional perspective, we need to present downsizing as the positive and exciting opportunity it is - the beginning to an exciting new phase of life. In our experience, downsizing is driven by retirees who want security, safety, convenience and companionship in their later years, but they are often disillusioned by the thought of leaving their family home and making a significant lifestyle change later in life. Not enough is made of the positives, such as the fact that moving to a smaller, easier to maintain property will not only free up retirees’ time, but also have a fruitful financial impact.
We can produce all the emotional support in the world, but if there are not the right regulations for retirement home developments to boost stock, this will sadly all be in vain. Whilst there is now more choice in the type of retirement accommodation available, there is still a real need to boost supply. Currently retirement properties account for just 2% of UK private housing stock, and few homes in the UK are designed with ageing in mind.
We need to keep this debate open and active, and I would suggest starting with looking at how planning regulations for retirement home developers could be relaxed in order to boost this much-needed housing stock.
Whatever the priorities are, it’s vital we keep the discussion alive in order to make downsizing work better.