Downsizing on the up and up as over-55s hit the road

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Grey nomads and downsizing
Selling the family home can give retirees the means to travel

For grey nomads and wannabe grey nomads, hitting the open road long-term means making some tough decisions. Foremost of these is often ‘what do we do about house?’

Many baby boomers have done very well out of the housing market and the idea of selling the family home to release equity and perhaps buy a more comfortable rig and a few more ‘toys’ can be tempting.

Nonetheless, it is a huge step to sell a property in which the family was brought up and which contains so many memories. And, of course, having a plan about what happens next is critical.

A new report from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute has revealed that more than half of Australians over the age of 55 are open to downsizing. Based on a survey of 2,400 households, the study ‘Effective downsizing options for older Australians’, the main barrier to moving to a smaller home is a lack of housing that matches their needs and preferences.

And while the general rationale for downsizing is that larger family homes are being ‘underutilised’, the survey shows that most older Australians consider ‘spare’ bedrooms necessary for use as permanent guest rooms (58%), studies (50%), or dedicated rooms for children or grandkids (31%).

However, two-thirds of downsizers surveyed did move to a dwelling with fewer bedrooms. Three bedrooms was the preferred dwelling size for older Australians. Downsizing the garden was essential for most.

Downsizers appear mobile.

While many downsized within their original neighbourhood, 42% moved to a neighbourhood completely new to them. Some grey nomads, of course, sell up the family home and then traverse the country keeping half an eye out for that dream location in which to establish a new, perhaps more affordable, home base.

After seven years on the road, grey nomads Colin Pender and Jan Knight – who were originally from Sydney’s Sutherland Shire – were ready to find a new place to call home.

“Getting older we feel the cold more so made the decision to move to a warmer climate,” said Colin. “We had a list of boxes to tick … water views, acreage rather than a 400sqm block, and we wanted town water, power, a hospital nearby, and a choice of supermarkets and a shopping centre.”

With all these things in mind, the pair started looking at Ayr in Queensland and worked their way down to the town of 1770, checking out many out of the way places. “Bowen came up and ticked every box and a big plus was, they don’t have traffic lights,” said Colin.

Colin and Jan are now happy in their new home and take regular trips away in their van.

  • Did you downsize to travel? Are you looking for a new home base while you’re on the road? Comment below.

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4 Responses to Downsizing on the up and up as over-55s hit the road

  1. Major obstacles to downsizing are; Realized gain on family home causes Govt (ATO) to deem the monies immediately and any Pension goes out the window. Unable to keep a nest egg intact to purchase another home. Never again being able to re-enter the housing market due to escalating costs. Moving away from friends, social groups and family hard to handle for most oldies. All the stamp duty, agent commissions and other add-ons make it a very expensive exercise.

    • All relevant points there Possum.

  2. I agree with Possum, however; with our home we have 240 sq mtrs of lawn, and a 7 x 3 mtr pool, and every time we go away we need to find someone to maintain both. Tried house sitters but ended up with heaps of damage to furniture and fittings, and yes I was insured and claimed. So we will not be doing that again. So we have to pay for lawn and pool maintenance, which has to come from our savings and or pension. So we have Sold, bought a smaller block and have just signed up with the builder. You are allowed to park you home $ for 12 months without affecting you pension to much. It has deeming applied; I believe. So providing the new build is approx the same value as you received from the sale of you home, your pension is not affected to much. We will end up with a lock and leave in the same suburb we are in now; and are now free to travel. we are excited.

  3. We sold the family home (Canberra) in March 2014 and have been out there “living the life” as Grey Nomads for 6 years come Easter 2020.
    Furniture is stored at no cost have a base camp ( family) that provides a dog, a garden and the ‘shed”.
    We house/farm sit 50/60% of our time while traversing this great country we call home.
    We have had it all health issues, major mechanical issues and recently extreme weather.
    As we wind down 6/7 years full time on the road with no permanent address we are thankful to have completed the journey, have had wonderful times meeting people and seeing some beautiful country.
    We have recently purchased our retirement home in Hervey Bay an area we visited many times over the past 6 years.
    Remember it will be a monumental decision but as we have found out you don’t know what is around the corner particularly with “health”.


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