Downsizing snub as half of older Brits refuse to move

16 September 2019


  • Only a third of over 55 year olds plan to move to a smaller house, shows Nationwide poll
  • More than half see their current property as their forever home
  • Four in ten haven’t thought or don’t know about how they will cope with their home in retirement
  • But more than one in five say they will rely on family to help them with the upkeep of their home

Just over a third (36%) want to downsize in retirement, according to research that scotches the view that a “rabbit hutch” home is a pensioner’s dream property.

The survey was carried out by Nationwide Building Society1 – the first major high street bank or building society to offer a full suite of mortgage products designed to help people access the value that may be locked up in their home in later life, to enable them to live comfortably in retirement.

It shows that while just 36 per cent would downsize, one in five (20%) baulk at the thought of reducing their home’s footprint, saying their next home move will be to a same size or larger property. Just over two in five (43%) say they never plan to move again.

The survey, which polled more than 2,000 people aged 55 plus, found that space was the main reason for staying put (49%), with respondents saying they don’t want to downsize due to needing room to host family (22%), for a lifetime of possessions they have amassed (18%) and to enjoy their hobbies (10%).

But staying where they’ve put down roots is also important, with just over four in ten (43%) saying their home location was the reason for wanting to stay, while being close to family (18%) was another.

For those willing to downsize, more than half (56%) say this is because a smaller house would be easier for them to manage or easier for them to get around in old age. But seven in ten (73%) said they would stay in their current house if they could.

Although many want to stay in their home for the long term (54% see their current home as their forever home), 47 per cent either don’t know, or haven’t thought about, how they will cope with their home in old age. But rather than have a clear plan, more than a fifth (22%) say they will rely on family to help them out with maintaining the property.

Around a quarter (24%) would also consider using equity release to allow them to stay in their current homes with respondents saying they have, on average, £115,559 in equity.

Jason Hurwood, Nationwide’s Director of Home Propositions, said: “The perception that all older people want to downsize to much smaller properties is outdated and cliched. As the research shows, people aged 55 and above are putting off the traditional downsizing house move, with space being very much in demand for a range of reasons – from entertaining friends and family to allowing them to keep and store valuable keepsakes and belongings. However, remaining in a larger property may have financial implications in later life, from mortgages to maintenance.”

“With many retirees being property rich and cash poor, planning for the additional costs that may be needed is essential. Nationwide offers a range of Later Life Lending options as we are seeing more demand from older people to realise money through their homes – from unlocking the value to fix long standing maintenance issues, from creating new space to updating tired rooms or from helping adapt the property for old age to taking their mortgage into retirement.”

“Alongside Nationwide’s standard mortgage lending options, the Society offers three Later Life Lending options. These are a Retirement Capital and Interest product (RCI), a Retirement Interest Only (RIO) product and a Nationwide Lifetime Mortgage for older borrowers. Accessed with the help of specialist Nationwide Later Life mortgage consultants, the advice process allows for a simultaneous eligibility assessment on the suite of products2.”


1Research by Censuswide: total sample size was 2,006 UK adults aged 55 years and over. The survey ran from the 14.05.2019 to 16.05.2019
2The products are as follows:

Retirement Capital & Interest (RCI)

  • Standard capital and interest repayment mortgage

  • Applicants must be over 55 (both if joint)

  • Must apply before 85th birthday (or 95th if an existing mortgage member)

  • Must be in receipt of a pension (occupational, annuities, state pension, pension credits or war disablement pension)

  • Maximum LTV of 50 per cent

  • No product or valuation fees or advice fees

  • Can borrow for number of reasons including debt con, gifting, holidays, home improvements

Retirement Interest Only

  • Interest only mortgage – loan usually repaid by sale of property after borrower(s) move into long term care or die (loan must be redeemed within 12 months of these events)

  • Applicants must be over 55 (both if joint)

  • Must apply before 85th birthday (or 95th if an existing mortgage member)

  • Must be in receipt of a pension (occupational, annuities, state pension, pension credits or war disablement pension)

  • Maximum LTV of 50%

  • No product or valuation fees or advice fees

  • Can borrow for number of reasons including debt con, gifting, holidays, home improvement

Lifetime Mortgage

  • Equity release mortgage – loan usually repaid by sale of property after borrower(s) move into long term care or die (loan must be redeemed within 12 months of these events)

  • £1,000 cashback with initial advance

  • No contractual payments, but member can make optional payments if they choose

  • Applicants must be over 55 (both if joint)

  • Must apply before 85th birthday (or 95th if an existing mortgage member)

  • Maximum borrowing is dependent on LTV and age of application

  • No product or valuation fees or advice fees

  • Fixed rate for life

  • No negative equity guarantee

  • Can borrow for number of reasons including debt con, gifting, holidays, home improvements

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

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