Downsize, rent or buy?

Oct 11, 2023 | Insights

If you are in a post-children dilemma over your property, consider how to deal with these critical elements of the decision.
Your children have flown the nest, and you are rattling around in a house full of empty rooms. Now, the place is quiet and even a little sad.

Unsurprisingly, empty nest parents consider downsizing at this point. Many buy somewhere smaller, although a few rent. Some find alternative uses for their space.

The decision is emotional, practical and financial, which makes it a dilemma, as two powerful stories from my days as a financial planner show.

Asset-rich and cash-poor

I remember visiting a couple in Leeds at their request (I don’t apologise for retelling this powerful story). They had spent their retirement lump sum and their investments on creating their dream house and wanted help because they didn’t even have enough liquid cash left to buy airline tickets to see their daughter in Australia.

In contrast, I looked after a retired couple who rented their home. They were not well-off but had enough income and investments to fund their unrushed lifestyle. They lived a contented life that suited them.

I was reminded of these stories when I read property specialist Nicole Bremner’s article “A Renter’s Utopia”. Nicole asks her readers to imagine living in a country where property ownership is the exception, not the norm. She highlights Switzerland, the wealthiest country in Europe with the lowest rate of home ownership in the OECD.

Renting in Vienna

Nicole also shines a light on Vienna, which focussed on housing supply after the war. Now, 80% of Viennese residents elect to rent, not buy, and benefit from low rents, minimal maintenance responsibilities, and “the freedom of mind and money.”

Nicole stops short of making a direct link between renting and wealth, and I would not argue from my two stories that property ownership is detrimental to personal wealth. However, both stories illustrate the implications of tying up wealth in property.

Of course, alternative ways of dealing with your half-empty, silent house exist. Fair Ways is a Plymouth, UK, charity encouraging parents whose kids have left home to fill their rooms by fostering children. Parents who take up the charity’s invitation to foster report a new sense of purpose and satisfaction by making a difference.

Facing the dilemma

So, if you are in a dilemma over your property, consider how to deal with the three critical elements of the decision.

Think about your longer-term aspirations and values. These will help you to deal with the emotional aspects. Consider what “home” means to you rather than “house.”

Decide on some of the practical issues. Are you happy to live in a half-empty house? Can you handle the hassle of moving? Where would you move to? What other ways could fill your space and bring life back to your home?

Decisions about your home have financial consequences. The decision will be easier with good financial maturity, knowing where you stand now and how much your future lifestyle will cost, and knowing deep down whether you have enough and are enough.

I'm Jeremy Deedes. I coach experienced independent consultants who are overwhelmed by the demands of life and work. Through my unique FUTURE program, clients become financially mature and organised and create a plan to achieve their personal, professional, and financial goals confidently and clearly.

Discover your money maturity score by taking the Money Maturity Quiz at https://shrtm.nu/n2D. It’s free, takes only a few minutes, and you will get your score and recommendations by email immediately.

Then, use the link below to schedule a free 20-minute call with me so we can start you on the path to understanding your money and creating a new story to tell your family and friends.

Photo attribution

Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash

Other attributions and references

Nicole Bremner: The Business of Property (5 Oct 2023). A renter’s utopia? Apparently it does exist, just not in the UK. https://nicolebremner.substack.com/p/a-renters-utopia-apparently-it-does (5 Oct 2023)

Botsman, Rachel, and Roo Rogers. What’s Mine Is Yours : The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. London, Collins, 2010.

Fair Ways Childrens’ Services Charity: https://www.fairways.co/

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