How Late Should You Leave it to Move House?
Depending on which research you read, moving house is reckoned to be one of the most stressful life events... just below the death of a partner and divorce. No wonder so many of us in later life put it off. But what can we learn from others who have been faced with this dilemma? Tony Watts OBE talks to a couple who found an ingenious way to get the most out of their later years by buying not one house... but two.
My very last day at work was during Covid, so I had to make my goodbyes with colleagues on Zoom, with all of us raising a piece of cake and glass of wine to the screen to mark the occasion. Not quite the same, if I’m honest...
I came downstairs to see Jenny and said: “Right, what do we do next?”
I just felt this was the opportunity to start a new chapter. We were both mid 60s, financially comfortable and still relatively fit and healthy. Jenny had retired a few months before and we thought this was when we should do some travelling – the only tie to our house was our elderly dog. Our son emigrated to Spain a few years ago, and we were also looking forward to seeing him, his wife and two children a lot more.
We decided to strike when the proverbial iron was hot, before we found reasons to delay making a decision, and that’s when the planning began. I’m an engineer by training and (Jenny says) a bit nerdy when it comes to organising things. I made a spreadsheet working out our finances for the next 20 years, and that told us that we could afford to cash in some savings and upgrade the house we had... or buy a smaller one and also acquire a small holiday home close to our son.
While we do love being with them all, it’s a bit of a squash and a squeeze in their city apartment, and we thought that with a modest apartment close to the coast we could have the grandchildren stay with us during school holidays.
I must admit, I would have been very nervous about the process, but my
son’s wife is Spanish – and she did all of the negotiating and chasing up.
For our new home in England, we plumped for a smaller house on the same estate where we already lived, which meant we could still keep in touch with local friends, and Jenny (who has the greenest fingers of the two of us) could convert the garden into a low maintenance one which we could leave for a month or two at a time.
As strange as it might sound, the issue that we spent most time worrying about was our dog. At one point, we thought we might have to abandon our move. But the neighbours who had done all of our dog minding when we went to Spain on previous holidays offered to take him on while we were away. I think the dog actually prefers being with them as they let him sleep on their bed...
The whole process took just over a year from start to finish, but we’ve now got what – for us – is the perfect set up. We’re spending about three or four months a year in Spain, which gives us time in the sun during the coldest weather, and we’re seeing more of our grandchildren than we could ever have hoped for had we stayed put. They won’t stay young for ever, as Jenny regularly points out.
When the day arrives when we don't want or need the property in Spain, we can sell that to provide a financial cushion for our later years. But hopefully that won’t be for some time yet...
- Do it while you are fit and on top of things if you possibly can
- Think out of the box – do you really need all of the space you have now, or could you make use of the extra capital that downsizing could give you?
- Take time to work through all of the upsides and downsides of what you want to do – and make sure that each of you gets what they need out of a move