Over 55s likely to upsize rather than downsize, says new research

English street

Homeowners aged over 55 are almost as likely to upsize to a new home than downsize, according to new research.

The latest report from the NHBC Foundation found that 46% of the over-55s surveyed had invested extra money in their latest house move and that 40 per cent of them had chosen a four-bedroomed house, despite an average occupancy of just two people.

The NHBC Foundation report: Moving insights from the over-55s – What homes do they buy, uses research carried out by the Cambridge University Centre for Housing and Planning Research to study the home-buying trends of the over-55s.

The research is based on a sample of almost 1,500 homeowners aged 55 to 74 who moved to their current new-build home between 2010 and 2016.

Of the moves made during that period, 39% downsized to a home with fewer bedrooms, a third moved to a home with the same number and 28% upsized to a home with additional bedrooms.
The findings challenge the assumption that an increasing number of older home owners will downsize to smaller properties, freeing up larger houses for younger families.

The over-55s make up half of all homeowners and account for about 330,000 home moves a year. It is a market set to grow, as the number of people aged over 55 is projected to rise from nearly 19 million in 2014 to over 26 million in the next 25 years.

New-build homes are particularly appealing to the over-55s, the report finds, as they offer features such as low maintenance, low running costs, manageable gardens and a new home warranty, which are high priorities for this age group. As a result, older buyers are 20% more likely to consider purchasing new-build properties over existing homes than younger buyers.

However, the over-55s often feel that marketing for new-builds is directed at families or young people and the report argues that more should be done to reflect the needs of older home buyers in this sector.

The over-55s are a varied group with a range of varied priorities for new home purchases, including ease of maintenance and proximity to healthcare facilities.

Rather than downsizing, many older homeowners were still looking for a similar or increased amount of space – often to accommodate visiting relatives or to provide room for hobbies and crafts.

Many of the over-55’s surveyed did not consider themselves as ‘old’ and believed they were decades away from requiring specialist accommodation.

Key findings include

  • Half of over 55s (54%) released an average of £105,000 equity as a result of their move
  • 46% invested an average of £84,000 in buying a new home
  • 74% per cent of those downsizing said the main reason for doing so was to reduce maintenance costs
  • 40% of the over-55s occupy a four-bedroomed house compared to 20 per cent of the overall population
  • Of those choosing to downsize, there is a strong preference for two and three bedroomed homes.

Neil Smith, NHBC Head of Standards, Innovation and Research said: “They say 50 is the new 30 and as our latest survey shows, a large proportion of older house buyers don’t fit the old-fashioned stereotypes.

“Many older buyers are not looking to downsize or even to release equity when purchasing a new-build home. What’s more, they don’t consider themselves as ‘old’ and feel they are decades away from requiring specialist accommodation.

“New-build homes offer a range of benefits that do appeal to older buyers – with lower running costs, ease of maintenance and a new home warranty, they’re often the logical choice.

“There is strong demand for high quality new homes across the age ranges, and it’s vital that we tune in to the needs of this important group of buyers.”