The Senior Move Partnership is featured in housebuilder magazine. Amanda Fyfe Sales Director, explores the ethical and commercial benefits of providing support to later life home movers.
By 2039, it’s predicated that 37% of all households will be headed by someone aged 65 and over with a growing proportion living alone. On paper the demand for retirement properties is there. However, in reality many last time buyers face physical and emotional barriers that prevent them from taking the plunge.
Financial pressures including stamp duty and legal fees are leading issues and, in some cases, the size of new build apartments have also failed to live up to buyers’ expectations. Yet beyond the bricks and mortar there are softer reasons that prevent last time buyers from committing to a sale.
Moving house is already one of life’s most stressful events and doing so in later life is arguably even harder. In a survey by think-tank Demos, 50% of older respondents felt that packing up their belongings would make it difficult to move, with a third of older home owners worried that moving would be too physically difficult.
Emotional barriers also play a significant factor. Moving out of the family home is a big step. Purchasers might worry about the move or generally feel overwhelmed by the whole process. Add to this that downsizing is usually triggered by an event such as a spouse passing away, an unexpected illness or a significant life event and you start to see why some people just can’t face the task.
It’s been three years since the government recommended in its Housing White Paper that developers put strategies in place “to support older people in making the right housing choices”. Have developers been doing enough? And what more can be done to remove these barriers to sale?
Firstly, we need to recognise that last time buyers are rarely 55-plus. In my experience we are talking about people aged 70-75-plus. This is a time in life when you are slowing down a bit. You might take more time to make decisions and benefit from having your hand held through the process and a listening ear to chat things through.
Research from The Centre for Ageing Better shows that older buyers respond positively when they are given face-to-face support. Traditionally you might expect this to be provided by the buyer’s family. But purchasers don’t always have this family network, or may be unwilling to ask for help. This level of personalised service can rarely be offered by sales teams on site. And whilst some removal companies help older buyers plan the layout of their new home, these services often don’t involve a lot of one-to-one time with the client.
That’s why an increasing number of developers are choosing to invest in move management services, such as those provided by The Senior Move Partnership. A move manager can handle all the logistics of downsizing for a major move, as well providing emotional support.
A Personal Journey
Each buyer has their own personal journey with some needing more hand-holding and others just wanting practical support. Services range from helping clients go through decades worth of possessions, to creating furniture floor plans for their new home, scaling their existing furniture to fit the new space, physically downsizing cupboards, removing unwanted belongings and sending them to auction, charity or clearance, organising removals and notifying utility providers.
Of course, it can be challenging for retirement developers to commit to another upfront cost, especially when the industry is faced with a higher than average capital outlay due to planning restrictions. Yet the commercial benefits are that the housebuilder should see quicker and easier sales from satisfied purchasers who are then more likely to recommend the company to friends and family.
Beyond profit, move management support also helps deliver long term social value to our ageing population. This social value can’t be underestimated. I recount my time with a client who was visually impaired and I spent several hours with her describing each item of clothing individually to help her downsize her wardrobe. The result was a happier, more settled client in her new home.
Ultimately, being a last time buyer should be a positive lifestyle choice that opens up new opportunities and the start of a new chapter; a buyer’s moving experience is the first step of this journey.
If housebuilders invest in supporting individual buyers during their move, it will not just have an impact at a personal level, it will resonate across the industry and help to transform outdated perceptions of the senior living market, encouraging investment, increasing long term profits and most importantly, supporting our ageing population to enjoy retirement.