Downsizing can be an emotionally-charged decision – even when buyers know it’s a smart choice financially. We explain the danger zones for selling agents, with tips on how to deal with common stumbling blocks.

Working with downsizers can mean navigating a range of emotions and uncertainties. No surprises there, after all downsizing is a major life change.  People spend their entire adult lives working to afford  the best possible home they can, and downsizing (even if it’s to free up cash for retirement) can seem like a step backwards. Thinking about the possibility of ill-health, impending old age and death can be confronting, and the focus needs to remain on the positive aspects of moving to a new home.

Reducing cumbersome home and garden maintenance is a big factor driving downsizing decisions, as is the attraction of a well designed newer home, well suited for hosting family and friends, in a location offering more convenience and a better lifestyle. Most new retirees plan to travel, so a lock up and leave property is more practical, too.

For selling agents a little tact can go a long way but it pays to anticipate some common emotionally-driven hurdles and have clever solutions at hand when working with downsizers.

“Where will I put the furniture?”

After decades in the workforce and raising a family, many downsizers face the dilemma of what to do with a collection of furniture built up over many years. There may be an emotional attachment to particular pieces which won’t easily fit into a new home, especially if they’ve been handed down from other family members.

It’s not enough for selling agents to offer suggestions to “put what you don’t need in storage” as this just lumbers the downsizer with additional costs, defers a final (emotional) decision, and sidesteps the point of appeal that downsizing is a fresh start.

It makes more sense to discuss the perils of buying a property simply because it fits a downsizer’s existing furniture. It costs less to buy new furniture than it does to buy a new home, and downsizing can be an opportunity for a completely new beginning with furnishings that are more lifestyle appropriate.

Moving house at any stage in life will inevitably involve decluttering and a long overdue clear out. The process is even more difficult where people associate a lifetime of memories with household items and possessions. Part of the emotional journey in downsizing is being selective and practical in deciding what to keep and what to discard, and other family members may offer practical support in helping to sort and dispose of possessions.

“I won’t know anybody”

Concerns about leaving a familiar environment should never be dismissed with comments along the lines of “you’ll soon make new friends”.

Developing new social contacts becomes harder as we age, and people can be reluctant to leave their current home because of a perception that they have good social contacts nearby, even though in reality the people they once mixed with may have moved on long ago. Neighbours and family members may work long hours, limiting opportunities for daily interaction and support. As mobility and social contact declines, many older people living alone suffer from social isolation and become depressed. A fear of change is a major barrier to decision-making, which increases with age. It’s much better to make the change while you are relatively young and active, rather than be forced into a traumatic move later in life due to ill-health or the death of a partner.

One of the major selling points of downsizing can be the sense of community that residents share. For many people who’ve worked hard for decades, and raised a family, there is a new sense of personal freedom in retirement and they relish the opportunity to socialise and enjoy themselves with like minded neighbours.

In purpose built developments like retirement villages, lifestyle communities and other over 50’s developments, an abundance of social and recreational facilities can provide opportunities for both formal and informal get-togethers, and for selling agents it’s worth taking the time to point these out.

Features such as pools, spas, billiard rooms, libraries and even on-site cafes all offer social hubs. But as a selling agent, don’t just focus on the availability of these facilities – they’ve probably already been highlighted in the marketing material. Instead, point out the social interaction they facilitate.

A little investigative work for example, can highlight whether any clubs or social groups have sprung up around these facilities. A monthly billiards competition for instance, or a weekly book club, that operates within the retirement village can offer extra reassurance to buyers that they’re not just buying a property, they’re becoming part of a welcoming community.

A little empathy and offering positive solutions to downsizers’ concerns can go a long way to securing a buyer – and generating valuable ongoing referrals.

Author: Greg Oddy from