Addressing your 5 biggest concerns about downsizing to an apartment

Apartment developments, such as Esplanade on Norwest Lake, are becoming popular with older Australians looking to downsize or 'rightsize' their home. Photo courtesy of Capital Bluestone.

With the new measures in the Federal Budget encouraging older Australians to downsize, you may be faced with the decision of whether to downsize to an apartment or unit. 

With more apartment and unit complexes for seniors appearing on the market, particularly in major cities, there comes challenges and concerns for older Australians on the move.

For older Australians there are a range of concerns about downsizing to apartment, of which experts have identified five big ones to address.


1. Storage and space

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For a lot of older Australians, downsizing can be stressful – particularly when it comes to deciding what to do with a lifetime of possessions.

When you’re downsizing from three or four bedroom home to a one or two bedroom apartment or unit, chances are you’re going to have to do a lot of sorting of your possessions. 

Leading Sydney interior designer Sue Axlund specialises in helping people who are downsizing to an apartment, assisting them with everything from planning their move to decluttering and selecting furniture for their new home.

She’s currently working on a project in Sydney, Esplanade at Norwest Lake, and one of the questions she’s hearing the most from people resizing their homes is the question of storage.

“With an apartment, it’s all about selecting the most functional pieces for each area and creating as many clever storage solutions as required,” she said.

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“For example, bed bases are available with storage drawers, or you can shop around for a local joiner to make custom shelving units to suit what you want to keep.”

 As Axlund points out, if you choose to live in an off-the-plan apartment, the wait time is much longer and will give you more time to plan your move and sort your possessions.

  According to social researcher Mark McCrindle, downsizing to an apartment is the perfect opportunity to clear out unused or unwanted items.

“People accumulate a lot but in the case of baby boomers for example, lots of stuff isn’t actually theirs,” he said.

“They’ve been providing a free storage facility for their kids and if the rightful owners take their things, the parents may find they have less than they thought.”

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2. Room for guests

Many older Australians who want to downsize have concerns about where the kids or the grandkids will sleep when they visit. After all, who doesn’t love to have their grandies over during the school holidays?

As Axlund explained to Starts at 60, many apartments will offer a utility room or study which can fit a small sofa bed.

“If the grandkids are staying often, this is a great opportunity to put a bunk bed in and create a special little room that is just for them,” she said.

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Many apartments also offer plenty of places for you to entertain your grandkids such as pools, gardens, parks and even open air cinemas and putting greens!


3. Gardening

If you’re a green thumb, then chances are you might be hesitant to move into an apartment because you fear losing your garden space.

But it turns out some apartment complexes do offer you the opportunity to enjoy some gardening.

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As PRDnationwide Norwest Lake director David Inkster points out, living in an apartment requires you to think about gardening in a different way.

“Gardens can be catered for within balconies – you can have a vertical garden, a herb garden or an outdoor living and dining area,” he said.

“And the benefit of these gardens is that they’re much easier to maintain.”

Research by experts such as McCrindle suggests many downsizing older Australians enjoy their low maintenance gardens, giving them the ability to “lock-up and leave” as they please.

 “If on a whim they want to go away for a weekend or an extended trip they can, they don’t have to worry about maintenance,” he said.

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“Also, a lot of blokes can’t wait to not have to mow the lawn.”


4. Pets

Finding somewhere to live that will allow you to keep a pet can be a challenge, which is why a lot of older Australians can have reservations about living in apartment.

According to Inkster, many apartments now allow people to own a pet.

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“It’s probably the biggest change to the Strata Act ever,” he said.

Increasingly, apartments such at Esplanade are catering for pet owners by providing large balconies and other amenities for pets.

McCrindle said that given two-thirds of all new home approvals were apartments, the laws around pet ownership were changing to reflect.

“It gives a lot more power to the residents over the by-laws,” he said.


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5. Privacy and space from neighbours

After living in a big house with plenty of space, a lot of older Australians have concerns about apartment living because they ‘don’t want to like they’re living on top of their neighbours’.

Experts such as Inkster are pointing to new developments such as the Esplanade as breaking the traditional stereotype of crowded apartments by having communal spaces that can be used for all sorts of social occasions.

If you’re concerned about privacy in your apartment, designers such as Axlund have a few tips that can help you including using pot plants and other screening to make your outdoor space more private.

 She also suggests meeting you neighbours and getting to know them better.

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“You never know, you might even make a friend,” she said.


Have you considered downsizing to an apartment? What are your biggest concerns about apartment living?