A wry view of life for the world-weary

A New Day Yesterday – Part Fifteen


Blogger Towers (natch) is in what the estate agents call a desirable area, close to schools, good public transport links to London, close to the major road networks, adjacent to town booming with businesses relocating from the smoke etc. This means we are bombarded by earnest or possibly desperate estate agents anxious for us to put our house on the market. They claim they have a queue of potential buyers ready to step through our front door. And judging by the sale of a property down the road which in estate agent parlance was in need of some modernisation in just three days at presumably the full asking price, they may just be right.

The truth is that for most of the year the house is too big for our needs. We are occupying one of an estimated 2.6 million homes, worth a combined value of £802 billion according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, which could be released on to the housing market if their elderly owners could only be induced to or were given better incentives to downsize. A third of over 55s have considered downsizing but only 7% actually did, the report states.

We have in idle moments considered moving to a smaller property but it is a decision fraught with difficulties. Where to? We actually quite like where we live and there is an enormous risk that we might not like where we end up. And the thought of packing up all our possessions just fills me with horror. And we do have visitors, welcome all, who when they descend on high days and holidays fill the place, if our des res was fitted with them, to the gunwales. And too many couples who have found their dream home regale us with tales of extensive redecoration, renovation work and the discovery of previously undetected problems. That’s not a dream, that’s a nightmare.

And is there something really wrong in occupying in your dotage somewhere that technically contains more rooms than you need? As TOWT and I are now both retired we need that bit of extra space to do our own things. No, until the bricks start flying through the windows and the packets of dog faeces are pushed through the door – presumably the next stage of the inducement for old codgers to move – we are staying put.

But the fact remains that for many of us our home is our greatest asset and there is an enormous temptation, especially for those who are cash poor and/or do not have the benefit of occupational pension pots, to look to release some of the equity in their pile of bricks and mortar. According to the Equity Release Council, in 2015 a record number of over 55s, some 22,500, unlocked £1.61 billion, on average £70,670 a time, by using specialist equity release schemes such as life-time mortgages. These allow you to take out a loan collateralised by your house with the interest paid when the house is sold – another incentive, when you think about, to stay put until the bitter end.

The chronic shortage of houses in certain areas is a major problem but it is unrealistic to expect old codgers to be shamed into performing some form of auto-da-fe and shuffle off to a retirement home just to solve it. The longer you live somewhere, the less likely you are to want to move so perhaps the longer term solution lies in encouraging greater mobility between first, second and third time buys. Greater brains than mine need to do thinking around this problem before the elderly are all rounded up and forced to vacate their properties.


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