For many older Australians who have achieved the Australian dream of owning their own slice of real estate heaven, perhaps with no outstanding home loan to boot, the idea of selling your family home and downsizing to a cosy little apartment might seem daunting or unappealing.
But for many retirees the transition is the right one, after your adult children have moved out and started families of their own, or perhaps following the breakdown of a relationship, meaning you longer have any need for all of those empty rooms. Not to mention, having less square-footage to keep clean and tidy and lower outgoings and bills can free up more time and money for you to spend on yourself.
So before you sign on the dotted line and purchase a swanky new apartment to live out your retirement in, here are some things you should consider to ensure that your new home is truly liveable.
Moving into an apartment block comes with one glaringly obvious potential obstacle – stairs. Depending on your own level of fitness and mobility, it’s important to consider how many flights of stairs you may have to climb to reach your front door. Most building nowadays do have lifts, but what would happen if this was out of use for the day? Ask yourself, would you be able to make it up the stairs?
Another accessibility issue to consider is the entrance to the building. For example, if you or your spouse use a wheelchair, is there an accessibility ramp or would you struggle to get into the building?
This is hugely important when it comes to buying any property, as you need to consider how easy your day-to-day life would be if you were to go through with the move. For example, if you run out of milk or bread, is there a local store nearby that you could walk to, or would you need to drive a considerable distance? Being close to other amenities such as the local doctors practice, dentist, shopping centre and even the local pub or restaurant, can all make a huge difference to your overall satisfaction in a new home.
You should also consider the proximity of the apartment to the homes of your loved ones. If you’re used to living a stone’s throw from your kids or grandkids, or have a close group of friends that you meet regularly, it’s important to think about how your life might be impacted should you move further away? Doing a trial run of the journey between the apartment and your child’s home is a good idea, as it will allow you to get a feel for how easily you would be able to get there should the need arise.
If you’re buying a newly-built apartment, or even off-the-plan, it’s likely that the unit will come with all the mod cons. The property is also unlikely to need renovating or decorating, which can really cut down the cost of the move for you.
With most new apartments though, the kitchens are typically built in with the spaces tending to be much smaller than traditional kitchens and open-plan, adjoining the living room. While many younger homeowners may prefer this style of living, older Australians who may have become used to having a seperate kitchen and living area might not be as open to the idea.
The type of bathroom is also important, particularly if you or your partner has any health or mobility issues, as fixtures such as handrails are unlikely to be included. Modern bathrooms also typically include showers, rather than in-built baths, which may not be preferable for you – although it may be easier for those who cannot climb easily in and out of bathtubs.
However if you do buy off-the-plan, you may be able to alter the plans ahead of time or pick which fittings and features you’d like. Plus, if you plan on living there for a long period of time, there’s always the option of doing some reno work to make the space better suit your needs.
So, you’ve considered the proximity of the apartment to local amenities, but does the property have good public transport links? For those who don’t drive, being close to a train line or bus route can play a vital role in helping them to retain their independence and live their lives to the fullest.
However, even if you still drive now, you never know what’s around the corner and health issues can creep up on us as we age, so making sure you wouldn’t be isolated without access to a car is a really smart thing to consider.
If you have lived in the same house for years, it’s likely that you know all of your closest neighbours by name and have perhaps become close friends over the years. This sense of community is something that seems to be dwindling in modern times as people become more detached and tend to keep themselves to themselves. So, when you move into a new property, particularly an apartment block, it is important to think long and hard about whether the development will be the right fit for you.
One of the biggest issues with apartment living is the potential noise from other inhabitants, so it pays to ask ahead of time what the other residents are like and even how old they area. For example, if the apartment block is in the CBD, will it be home to potentially loud students with a penchant for partying? Obviously you can’t prevent any loud neighbours from moving into the building – or predict who might cause an issue down the track – but thinking about where the building is situated, and who would be able to afford to live there, can’t hurt.
It’s also important to feel safe in your surroundings, especially if you live alone, so asking questions about the security of the building is a good way to put your mind at ease.