Around one in four Australians over 50 say they are more likely to consider downsizing because of the coronavirus pandemic, in a sign that the retirement and lifestyle housing industry has an upbeat post-crisis future.
Some 28 per cent of people who responded to the survey said they were “more likely” to consider moving into a retirement or lifestyle community as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
When asked what was motivating them to downsize as a result of the crisis, 68 per cent of respondents said they wanted to be among a supportive and helpful community.
Other popular reasons to downsize were to:
- Live in a modern, low-maintenance home (67 per cent of respondents)
- Move away from a crowded city environment (26 per cent)
- Boost retirement finances by releasing home equity (18 per cent)
However, the survey also shows that over 50s may be willing to defer downsizing for a short period of time, which potentially reflects the temporarily weaker real estate market in which to sell the family home.
Around 18 per cent of respondents said they wanted to move either immediately, or in the next 3-6 months. In an earlier survey of 1,400 people undertaken by Downsizing.com.au between 2012 and 2019, around 35 per cent said they wanted to move in this timeframe.
Retirement living communities provided a supportive environment during shutdowns
“All evidence points to the fact that retirement and lifestyle communities have provided a supportive, safe and stimulating environment for residents who’ve been required to stay in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Downsizing.com.au co-CEO Amanda Graham.
“For instance, residents in these communities have been able to continue to live independently in their own villa or apartment, but also enjoyed access to communal support services, including food deliveries and socially distanced entertainment and social activities.
“Clearly, many over 50s who’ve been isolated in the general community during the pandemic have seen these benefits and are now looking at downsizing as a result.
“Importantly for the retirement living industry, our survey respondents seem to have understood these types of independent living communities for younger and more active retirees are completely different to what is offered in aged care facilities, which provide high needs hospital-like services to very frail elderly residents.”
Greater desire for independent living and space
The survey also examined whether the specific property preferences of downsizers had changed during the coronavirus period.
“The results for property preferences show a desire for additional independence and living space, which potentially reflects the fact that people were seeking to stay safe but also spending more time at home,” Ms Graham said.
When it came to “essential” property features, the survey found that:
- 85 per cent of downsizers wanted to live independently in their retirement home, up from 81 per cent in the previous 2012-2019 survey
- 67 per cent wanted two or more bedrooms, up from 48 per cent in the previous survey
- 64 per cent wanted a garage, up from 48 per cent in the previous survey
- 45 per cent wanted a spacious unit, up from 36 per cent in the previous survey
- 44 per cent wanted pets to be allowed, up from 40 per cent in the previous survey
At the same time, having a hostel or nursing home on-site were regarded as less essential.
Just 3.5 per cent regarded these as essential in the April-May 2020 survey, compared to 6.8 per cent in the 2012-2019 survey.
The findings are based on 201 responses to the survey between 14 April to 25 May.
Dawn moved into a residential land lease community at the height of coronavirus concerns
Dawn Fisher sold her home at Bray Park, in northern Brisbane, in the middle of March, to be one of the first residents to move into the Freshwater by Ingenia Lifestyle land lease community in the Moreton Bay region.
She moved into Freshwater at the height of the coronavirus shutdown in April 2020.
“I sold at the right time, just before the coronavirus situation really started and before a lot of people put off selling their homes,” Ms Fisher said.
Ms Fisher said that once her family home was sold, and she had secured her new home at Freshwater, she was keen to move in.
“Once I’ve made my mind up, I can be a determined lady,” she said.
Ms Fisher moved after becoming frustrated with the maintenance requirements for her suburban home. “It had a big backyard which needed a lot of work. In addition, it was built in the 1970s and needed a lot of things done to it.”
At the time of an interview with Downsizing.com.au in early May, Ms Fisher said she was looking forward to socialising and meeting new people, as the Freshwater community’s facilities opened up and more residents moved in.