UK’s over-55s own £1tn in housing wealth but almost half want to downsize

Older homeowners in the UK own an extraordinary £1 trillion in housing wealth. But half of those who have considered downsizing say they can’t move because of a lack of suitable properties.

Research from Legal & General and economics consultancy CEBR revealed that the UK has 3.1 million “last-time” homes – those owned by the over 55s – and those homes are worth £938bn, a figure expected to exceed £1tn later this year.

Last-time buyers account for 26 percent of all over-55 UK households.

Finding the right property proving elusive

In the last three years, 39 percent of those homeowners have thought about downsizing, up from 32 percent the last time the question was asked. However, almost half said they couldn’t find the right home to move to so had to stay put, while a third of those quizzed said they couldn’t move because the right home was too expensive.

According to the Legal & General research, only 7,000 age-specific homes were delivered in the UK last year. That means larger properties aren’t coming on to the market and so remain out of the reach of families who want to upsize.

Phil Bayliss, head of later living at Legal & General, said: “Last-time buyers account for more than a quarter of the total number of households aged over 55.

“This report highlights the crucial role they could play in unlocking the wider UK housing market, further demonstrating the need for Government to recognise this sector through key policy changes.

“If rightsizers were able to move to a property more aligned to their desired lifestyle and needs, vast swathes of homes would be freed up for growing families and second steppers.

“This, when matched by the huge health benefits proven to come from age appropriate housing, such as a 50 percent reduction in GP visits and 40 percent reduction in NHS spend, means that increasing the number of properties available to these buyers is the most efficient way to help solve the UK’s housing crisis and spiralling NHS costs linked to our ageing population.”

Pension age is best time to move

The Legal & General/CEBR research revealed:

  • Last-time buyers say the best age for them to downsize is between 65 and 69, down from 70 in the same research in 2015.
  • In 2015, 25 percent of last-time buyers could not downsize because of a lack of suitable properties, a figure that has now risen to 49 percent.
  • Almost half (45 percent) of last-time buyers have lived in their home for more than 30 years, while a third (29 percent) live in the first property they ever bought.
  • Almost three-quarters (72 percent) of last-time buyer households have no-one in full-time work, most of them being retired.
  • And 13 percent of last-time buyer households said they wanted to release money for their retirement by moving to a smaller home.