Never buying property again The Tonic www.thetonic.co.uk

I sold my house and I’m never buying property again!

Jan spent years rearing her family and building up equity in a London property, but now the kids are gone, and so is the other half, she’s completely re-evaluated her situation…

My family and I lived in our large, semi-detached London home for close to 25 years — and as you would rightly expect, it was hard to let it go. This is the place where my kids grew up; the backdrop to countless dinner parties, barbeques and family gatherings; and a little slice of the world that I could really call my own. And yet it was time to let it go.

The question I’ve been asked by friends and family is obvious — why? As so many young people, my kids included, struggle to get their foot on the property ladder, it seemed ridiculous to give up what I had.

Well, firstly, I didn’t really need it anymore. My kids have all flown the nest, a sad but nonetheless expected occurrence, and a four-bedroom property was a bit extravagant just for me. I also had a real sensation of wanting to be free, and enjoy some time traveling and making up for the time I put into caring for my family – not exactly lost time per se, but time lost to me. So it made sense to liquidate what I had, and move into something a bit more me-sized.

I could have decided to reinvest that money in a smaller property, perhaps move out of London. But the fact of the matter is that I didn’t want to. Instead, I’ve decided to join the growing numbers of over 50s who are shying away from the housing market and choosing to rent.

The benefits of renting… Money

Let’s talk about the most obvious reason for selling up— money. A semi-detached home in the London suburbs is worth a fair amount, and certainly more than it cost in 1994. Enough to bolster the retirement funds for sure.

Renting has its own financial benefits too. Gone are the days of worrying about the cost of repairing or replacing a broken boiler. Just drop a message to the landlord and it’s their problem. The same goes for house maintenance, which over the years has cost literally thousands of pounds.

Retired life should be more brunch with friends than beans on toast

By selling up I’ve set myself up to reap the benefits of my hard work. Sure, my pension will (just about!) keep me afloat in my retirement, but there’s still plenty of life left in me and I’ll be damned if I don’t enjoy it. Retired life should be more brunch with friends than beans on toast; I’ve done my working and saving, so now’s the time to enjoy it.

Will it mean I have less to leave to my kids when I depart this mortal coil? Definitely. But I think I’ve raised them well enough to not resent me for shrinking their inheritance a little bit. If anything, it saves them the rigmarole of clearing out and selling the old family home in future.

The benefits of renting… Location

Renting gives you the freedom to live wherever you want. Within reason of course, I couldn’t suddenly up sticks from the suburbs and move to a flat in Mayfair — wouldn’t that be nice! But it’s been really freeing looking at the map and wondering where I ought to move to, and knowing that when I find the right place, there won’t be a massive chain or loads of additional costs to buy.

Seaside towns and quaint little villages are on the top of most people’s lists. As for myself, I decided to move just outside of London to get the best of both worlds. I get to enjoy small town peace and quiet, but the familiarity of the city is just a short train journey or drive away, and I’m still near my friends.

It’s also allowed move closer to my kids. The three of them all live in separate parts of the country, so renting in a location roughly central to them means we get to see each other more. They still have their independence — and I wouldn’t have it any other way — but it’s nice to be able to spend more time with them and the grandkids.

It’s liberating to know that I could move without too much hassle – I literally have to give a month’s notice and pack my stuff up

Another benefit of renting is the flexibility it offers me. I’m happy where I am now, don’t get me wrong. But it’s liberating to know that I could move without too much hassle – I literally have to give a month’s notice and pack my stuff up (more about ‘stuff’ below!). Maybe retirement wanderlust is getting the best of me. But equally, there are options for longer tenures and tenancy agreements. Just talk to the agency when you’re deciding how much stability you actually want or need.

The benefits of renting… Downsizing

Clearing out the muddle you have accumulated throughout the years is remarkably therapeutic

Downsizing and clearing out was a wonderful, cathartic experience. All that clutter, gone! And as for all the space in that big old house – well, I’d like to think I needed three guest bedrooms, but I’m not sure I’m that popular. Sure, the family came to stay now and then, but rarely all at once. Renting somewhere smaller suits my lifestyle far better — it’s the kids’ responsibility to host Christmas dinner now. I love it!

Clearing out the muddle you have accumulated throughout the years is remarkably therapeutic; I can heartily recommend it. Who knows what exciting things you might find in the back of a cupboard when you’re packing to move!

Old photo albums full to the brim with happy memories, bits of jewellery thought long lost, or my personal favourite: the slow cookers, vegetable spiralizers and other assorted kitchen utensils that I used once and then decided weren’t worth the faff. It was amazing to sort through, keep the things I needed and ditch the rest. I feel so much lighter.

A smaller home also means there’s much less to maintain — a welcome change for sure. I’m sad to see my garden go, but keeping on top of it could be a real pain. Nowadays potted plants are more my style, and anything bigger than that is the landlord’s responsibility.

The benefits of renting… Not having to fix my own boiler

This is a big one for me. For a start, having lived with my husband all these years I’m actually not very practical around the house. We had a very traditional setup – he did breadwinning and DIY, and I did kids and home making. It worked well for us together but now he’s gone, I don’t really know how to do things like put up shelves and I don’t really fancy learning. I’ve got better things to do.

So there’s something really reassuring about knowing that if that boiler blows or the drains are blocked I can call the landlord (or lady) and get someone round to sort it out. It’s not just about cost – it’s about having that help.

Shelving I’m still working on but there is always IKEA, let’s face it. And now I don’t have so much clutter, well….

Renting isn’t for everyone, but I’ve surprised myself. I’ve invested enough money to ensure that when the time comes there is enough to pay for more supportive living arrangements should I need them, and also my own funeral. I can’t tell you how free this makes me feel – and I’ve even been considering taking an apartment in Spain for a year or two, get some new perspective on life. Whatever happens later on I am glad I’ve thrown myself into this and will be happy looking back at my adventures. I never wanted to go to St Peter saying “I wish I’d done…”

Jan Lessings

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