More than ever, Australians aged over 50 are deciding to shift into a general apartment or townhouse community, to take advantage of low-maintenance and lifestyle-rich living.
In fact, research has found that, as people age, they are less likely to regard detached homes as the ideal housing option, and instead look towards apartments and townhouses.
However, with so many different apartment projects on the market, how can downsizers find the project that best suits their needs?
This includes ensuring they move into a complex with a healthy cohort of fellow downsizers, rather than one where they will be isolated among swathes of investors or first home buyers.
Having a group of fellow downsizing owner-occupiers on your side is important for body corporate meetings, when you are making decisions about matters such as building or grounds maintenance or how to manage short-term holiday letting within your complex. Investors, in particular, are notorious for resisting maintenance spending or increased regulation.
With this in mind, we’ve asked three leading downsizer-focussed property professionals to provide their advice about how to find the right downsizer pad and community. These were:
Angus Algie, managing director of Addisons Property Advisory Services, which helps developers market their project. His company currently has two projects at Blakehurst and Kogarah in Sydney listed on Downsizing.com.au.
Caroline Humbert, national sales director of the ASX-listed Velocity Property Group. Ms Humbert sells luxury apartments, town homes and freehold homes to downsizers as part of the Velocity’s portfolio of projects in Queensland.
Mr Algie said downsizer-friendly apartment projects typically have a lower overall dwelling yield, and more generously-sized apartments, compared to projects targeted towards investors or first home buyers.
“Properties suited for investors tend to have higher dwelling yields, with more one-bedroom and smaller two-bedroom apartments, while properties suitable for downsizers tend to have lower yields and larger sized apartments,” Mr Algie said.
“Downsizers want more elbow room, after all they have been used to living in larger homes, and are often looking for smaller, boutique projects with more generously-sized apartments.
“I am yet to find a downsizer, for instance, that is looking for a one-bedroom apartment.”
Mr Anderson says both larger and smaller complexes can be suitable for downsizers, but points out that “if you’re downsizing from a family home or property to a smaller apartment complex, it doesn't mean you have to sacrifice space, comfort or style.”
Construction quality record
Given their new apartment or townhouse is likely to be a downsizer’s ‘forever home’, construction quality is a critical issue.
Mr Algie advises downsizers to check out whether the developer has been in business for many years trading under the same name and ask for a back catalogue of projects.
Mr Anderson agrees with this point. “You should certainly be aware of a developer’s construction record before making any firm decisions about downsizing,” he said.
"As a nation, Australia has been previously known for having some of the biggest free-standing dwellings anywhere in the world, so there has been a lot of demand historically. However, according to Commsec, the average Australian home built during 18/19 was down 1.3% from the previous year – a figure which has been in decline since the beginning of this millennium.
“The slowdown in housing construction has seen some construction companies struggle. For this reason, it’s important to ensure you’re working with a developer that has a good track record of delivering quality developments.”
Ms Humbert adds: “Research the developer - it is easy to do in this electronic age, so look them up and see what else they have developed.”
Storage and parking
Ms Humbert says downsizers should look for apartments with plentiful storage.
“The first ingredient is storage, storage and more storage,” she said. “Downsizing is not about sacrificing everything you have gathered for many years to move into a smaller residence. It is about taking what you truly love into your new home and being able to store that comfortably.”
Mr Algie agrees with this point, and also says a downsizing-friendly apartment will tend to also contain parking. ”Downsizers have had parking at home and are used to this,” he said.
Our experts all agree that a downsizer-friendly apartment building will tend to have better finishes.
“Downsizers seek the best finishes possible,” Ms Humbert said. “Many downsizers see this stage of their life as their final, forever home, so they want to enjoy the best kitchens and bathrooms they have ever had.”
Mr Algie makes the point that apartments at one of his projects have large balconies, to allow downsizers to host family gatherings, along with balcony-based water taps to help with washing and watering the plants and gas bayonets to plug into a BBQ. He said an investor or first home buyer-focussed project would probably not have these finishes.
Marketing and identity
Project marketing is also an important clue for downsizers.
Mr Algie notes, for instance, that some developers chase the downsizer market simply because they’ve exhausted other potential markets.
“Some developers - and a lot of marketing agencies - tend to chase any angle to sell their apartments. However, it is preferable that a project has a clear downsizing-focussed identity from the start,” he said.
Downsizing.com.au has a wide range of downsizing friendly apartments and townhouses - search here