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A guide to downsizing (and releasing equity from your house)

Moving home is always a stressful task, no matter how much planning and preparation you put into the process.

And when you're downsizing, the pressure goes up a further notch.

But simply, you have to be ruthless.

With less space for your things, deciding what is staying and what can go can be difficult.

But the benefits of downsizing usually outweigh those tough decisions, as moving to a smaller home can see you lower your property maintenance commitments as well as releasing equity from your home.


A guide to downsizing your house

Before deciding to downsize, it's worth looking in detail at your reasons for wanting to do so.

More often than not, these are financial.

For homeowners close to retirement, or those who have retired already, downsizing can release vital equity funds to help them once they finish working.

Retirees, meanwhile, often downsize to reduce the levels of maintenance they need to undertake, both inside and outside their property.


When should I downsize?

Homeowners generally look to downsize at retirement or when their children have left home and the family home is too big for them.

But there is no right or wrong time to downsize - it's all dependent on the individual or couple.


Three steps to downsizing your house

1. Assess your current and future needs

When looking at both your current home and a smaller property you may wish to buy, think about your current and future needs. Ask yourself some key questions.

Do you have mobility problems, or could this occur in the future?

Do you prefer to be close to family or friends and near amenities, or are you happy to live in a more rural setting? How would a rural setting affect you in the future?

Also think about the practicalities of downsizing. Do you still need space for relatives to come and stay, or can you manage in a smaller property?


2. Declutter your home

Once you have decided the type of property you want to downsize to or even made an offer on one, it's time to start the painstaking process of deciding which belongings to keep and which to remove.

Work out if your current furniture will fit in a smaller property or if you'll need to purchase new items.

Be ruthless, but not so ruthless that you leave yourself short, or missing key items when you move.

One good thing about a mass decluttering session is the benefit it can have for charities. There should be a host of shops in your area happy to take the things you no longer want – some of them will even come and collect bulky items.


3. Be prepared to be emotional

If you're downsizing, there's a strong chance you'll be leaving behind a property and items that mean a lot to you.

You may have brought your children back to the property for the first time, or got married while living in your home.

Even if you have simply lived there for a long period of time, emotions can rise to the surface when the time comes to leave.

Be prepared for the emotions and focus on the happy memories you have and the future you will have at your new home.


Equity release mortgages

If you decide that downsizing is not for you, you could consider an equity release mortgage to fund your retirement.

These mortgages mean you can stay in your current property, but release some of the money in your home.

There are generally two types of equity release mortgage:

* A lifetime mortgage
* A home reversion plan

The lifetime mortgage means no monthly repayments post retirement as the interest from the loan and the loan itself is payable on death or when the property is sold.

A home reversion plan sees you sell all or a percentage of your home in return for a tax free sum or regular income to boost your pension.

After the house is sold, usually on death, the lender gets back the monetary value of their share of the property.


Things to remember when releasing equity from your house

It's important to remember than an equity release plan will devalue your estate and could affect your state benefit entitlement.

Some equity release schemes also carry fees.

Speak to an independent financial advisor before taking out any plan like this.


If you are looking for a new home, take a look at our properties for sale or get in touch with your local Whitegates office.


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