As the Baby Boomer generation comes of age, the oldest now in their early 70s, many will be considering downsizing from their family homes which have long been an 'empty nest'.
Most Boomers stand to reap the benefits of the 1990s and early 2000s property boom when they let go of their large family properties to move to something smaller.
But the financial rewards don't always make leaving that 'forever' home any easier. It's a big decision and one that requires much thought and consideration.
WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO DOWNSIZE?
If you fall into the Baby Boomer generation and still live in the family home, there's a good chance your property will be worth considerably more than what you paid for it all those years ago.
Selling and downsizing can free up that equity and boost your retirement fund, putting you in a very comfortable financial position as well as leaving a legacy for your children.
Others choose to downsize in order to reduce the amount of maintenance required as they start retirement. Less work around the home can free up time for more enjoyable experiences during retirement and is a key part of the decision-making process when it comes to downsizing.
HOW DO I DECIDE IF DOWNSIZING IS RIGHT FOR ME?
If you want to free up the equity in your home and reduce your maintenance commitments then downsizing is probably the right decision for you.
But there are many other considerations to make before taking the plunge:
* How much money do I NEED to free up?
* How much space do I need in a smaller home?
* Are there enough rooms for family to stay?
* Am I close enough to family if I can no longer drive?
* How far away is the GP's surgery?
* Is there a supermarket close by?
* Will I be happy in a smaller property for the next 15-20 years?
I WANT TO DOWNSIZE BUT HOW DO I CHOOSE AN AGENT?
Most of this decision will come down to the answer to the first question above. You'll need to work out how much money you want to walk away with once you have sold your family home.
And that means factoring in costs like stamp duty, agents' fees and legal costs. You may not have sold a property and bought a new one for quite some time, so take some time to familiarise yourself with things like stamp duty charges.
Ask friends and family for recommendations when it comes to estate agents. Younger family members, in particular, may have moved home two or even three times while you were living in your family home, so they will have an idea of the best agents in your area.
Your emotional attachment to you family home may drive you to seek an asking price higher than the property's real value. Try to be realistic about what you need to sell for and choose an agent that can show they have sold similar properties in your area for a similar price.
WHEN SHOULD I SELL TO DOWNSIZE?
If you are selling a large family home in order to downsize, you'll need to get your property on the market when families are actively house hunting.
Most families with young children will start their search for a new home in the New Year as this provides enough time to start looking for school places. Late spring and early summer are too late when moving into a school catchment area, so bear this in mind.
WHAT IF MY FAMILY HOME WON'T SELL?
Don't panic. There are a few things you can do to try to spark an offer.
Some older family homes simply need a small amount of modernising to appeal to a younger market and your property may fall into that category.
Repainting walls in neutral colours and removing wallpaper can help potential buyers see themselves living in your family home. If your carpet is well worn through years of traffic, consider replacing it - a quick sale will make a cost like this worth it.
Remember curb appeal, too. If your front garden, pathways and property exterior have seen better days simply because the maintenance became too much for you, consider bringing in some experts to tidy up and give your property's exterior a clean up.
Finally, years of living in the same property can mean one thing: Clutter. You will almost certainly need to rid yourself of some things in order to downsize, so have a clear out early on.
Buyers hate clutter so clearing out anything you don't want as soon as the For Sale board goes up will benefit you in your new home and help sell your current one quicker.
HOW DO I CHOOSE A SMALLER HOME WHEN DOWNSIZING?
As we mentioned above, there are many important things to consider when choosing a home to downsize into.
The most important thing is to consider the next 15 to 20 years and whether the home, its location and maintenance demands will be suitable for you as you get older.
Try to be practical and don't allow your heart to rule your head. A picture postcard rural cottage might seem like the perfect property for retirement when you are 65-70, but consider the location, maintenance of such a property and practicalities of the interior when you are 80-85? Will it still work for you then?
Finally, consider the things you loved most about your family home and its location. What are the things you would miss the most? Don't let your quality of life suffer simply to unlock that equity or reduce hefty maintenance...
I'M FINDING IT HARD TO LET GO OF MY FAMILY HOME, THOUGH...
This is perfectly normal. You may have brought your children back to your property from the hospital after they were born and raised them in your home until they flew the next in their late teens.
There will almost certainly be many happy memories of your family home and letting go of these can be extremely hard.
Try to focus on your own wellbeing in the future. If a smaller property will help you have a better quality of life, think about that when leaving your home becomes too much.
Perhaps throw a leaving party once your house is sold and invite everyone close to you. A celebration of your property's role in your life can be a great way to say thank you and let go a bit easier.
A scrapbook or memory box can also help. Take photos of the rooms and keep some scraps of the wallpaper you may have removed before the sale.