Opportunity Unlocked – New research suggests people may be missing out on potential £150,000 windfall by not downsizing in retirement

  • One in four people aged 60 and over believe their home is too big for their needs, but only 14 per cent have considered downsizing to release equity in their property
  • Nicki Chapman, TV presenter and property expert, says people living in large family homes after their children have flown the nest risk missing out on a “significant windfall”
  • For every downsize into a retirement property, an additional two to three housing sales are generated in the lower property chain for families and first-time buyers

Millions of homeowners in retirement or approaching retirement are living in family houses that could net them a potential £150,000 windfall if they chose to downsize, new research reveals. It found more than one in four (25 per cent) people aged 60 and older say their home is larger than they need but only 14 per cent had considered downsizing.

The survey commissioned by Churchill Retirement Living, which polled over 2,000 people aged 60 and over, found one in ten (10 per cent) believed they could release between £250,000 and £500,000 in equity if they moved to a smaller property. On average, people asked to consider downsizing said they would expect a windfall of £150,000. That increased to an average of £295,000 for properties in London.

Many older people admitted to being in homes too large to suit their daily needs. More than a third (36 per cent) who live alone reported having at least two spare bedrooms, while two-thirds (65 per cent) of those living in a couple have at least one spare bedroom. Three in 10 (30 per cent) say they have a room they use solely for storage.

Encouraging people to downsize from family houses once children have flown the nest is key to freeing up larger homes for families and first-time buyers. The recent Homes for Later Living report revealed that for every person downsizing and moving into a retirement property, an average of two to three properties are released further down the housing chain through stimulating market activity.

Making sure we are building enough high-quality and well-located retirement properties, is seen as key step to helping respond to the challenges faced by older people and alleviating the housing crisis.

Property expert and TV personality Nicki Chapman, who is on a mission to get people downsizing said: “Moving home to downsize needn’t be a daunting prospect, and with the potential to make such a significant windfall I’m surprised more people aren’t doing it already.

“I’m aware of people staying in their family homes long after their children have flown the nest, sometimes living in properties which may be far too large for their day-to-day needs.”

When asked how they would use the potential proceeds from downsizing, a significant proportion said they would use it to top up their pension (28 per cent) or put it towards the inheritance for their family (41 per cent), highlighting the meaningful social benefits that being able to access this money could have for millions of people. Nearly 1 in 3 (29 per cent) said they would put the money towards a family holiday or a trip, while 7 per cent would simply put it towards their social life.

For those who remain hesitant to downsize home, the main barriers are that they love their current location too much (45 per cent) and that they’re unsure they could find somewhere suitable (33 per cent). Meanwhile, more than one in four (27 per cent) say they’re just too attached to the property for sentimental reasons.

Retirement developments, with their community driven benefits, have become an increasingly popular solution for older people in recent years, provide a solution by allowing buyers to downsize into lifestyle-driven developments which are lower maintenance and often centrally located. In fact, half (47 per cent) agreed that a smaller property would be easier to manage and around the same figure say it would cost less to run (48 per cent). Worryingly, 14 per cent of those surveyed – equating to more than 2,000,000 over 60s in the UK – say their biggest concern about their current living arrangement is loneliness.

Nicki Chapman added: “Retirement communities are a great option for these people. They’re often well located, easy to manage and offer a genuinely sociable experience. And by being such attractive options for people to downsize into, they also have a crucial role to play in unlocking the housing market for families and first-time buyers. I would urge anyone with a home they think is too big to get a valuation and look at what is out there – I’m sure you’ll be surprised at what you find”.

CEO and Chairman of Churchill Retirement Living Spencer McCarthy said: “We’re delighted Nicki is supporting our campaign to show the second lease of life downsizing gives people.  Retirement is a time for focussing on what you love without any of the stresses that usually come with home ownership.

“These latest findings are a clear signal that not only are there better options for quality of life out there, but huge opportunities for people to spend more time on the things they enjoy like family, holidays or helping others”.


The survey in this press release was carried out 4th and 9th August 2021 by Mortar Research on behalf of Churchill Retirement Living. There were 2,009 people total surveyed (690 approaching retirement v 1,319 in retirement).