RICS: Elderly should be given help to downsize

Older people should be given more help to downsize in order to ease Britain’s housing crisis, according to the RICS.

The subject of ‘home blockers’, the rather crude term for people who have paid off their mortgage but now occupy more bedrooms than they actually need, has been a hot topic lately.

On Friday the Daily Mail claimed on its front page that Lynda Blackwell, head of mortgages at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), said older homeowners who “sit quite happily in a very big house” should be given encouragement to downsize.

The story, and a subsequent follow-up, led to the FCA issuing a statement defending Blackwell’s comments as being in the context of a wider debate, and condemning the Mail’s ‘sensationalist’ headlines.

Many older people who do wish to downsize say they are often prevented from doing so either because they have left it too late in life, they cannot face the prospect of upping sticks, or the cost of retirement accommodation is simply too high.

Now the RICS has joined the debate, saying that if older people want to move (and only if they want to move, we hasten to add), they should receive greater support from the government to do so.

In its residential policy review, released yesterday, the RICS urged the government to help older people who wanted to move. It said doing so could release £820bn of property assets, freeing up 2.6m family homes.

It also said all new-build developments should include a statutory percentage of affordable rented accommodation and that second-home owners needed to be encouraged to sell their houses or to put them up for longer-term let.

Jeremy Blackburn, RICS head of policy, said: “Britain’s older homeowners are understandably reluctant to move out of much-loved but often under-occupied family homes.

“Clearly it’s an emotive issue and one that needs to be treated with sensitivity, but we would like to see central and local government provide older people with the information and the practical and financial support they need to downsize if that is their choice.

“This might include offering a fund to support with moving costs – Bristol City council is already piloting a great scheme along these lines – or perhaps a stamp duty discount.

“Almost a third of over 55s have considered downsizing in the last five years, yet we know that only 7% actually did. Greater support for those looking to move could release 2.6m family homes.

“The most consistent feature of the housing market over the last 18 months has been a distinct shortage of new sales instructions. Average stock levels on surveyors’ books have dropped to lows not seen for at least three decades.

“If we are to get to grips with this country’s housing crisis, we need to look at supply-led measures across Government and the wider industry in order to get the market moving.”

In an interesting blog on the subject published on the Council of Mortgage Lenders’ website, Sue Anderson says: “The real debate is about how to address the current lack of (perceived) choice for older homeowners who would like to move, but feel they can’t. No-one, as far as we know, is suggesting that older homeowners should be forced or guilt-tripped into doing anything they don’t want to do.”

You can read the blog here 

And earlier this year Legal and General published a detailed report into the subject which can be seen here


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  1. Robert May

    You don’t think the housing crisis has anything at all to do with investment funds UK and International buying  off plan any new build that gets planning permission?

    You don’t suppose it has anything to do with planning regulations that insist barn conversions can only be developed to provide holiday accommodation and effectively abolishes local needs provision of rural accommodation?

    There is something very very snouts in troughs about this whole debate  and it is simply embarrassing that RICS have lent any support to  what is simply social engineering.

    Isn’t it strange how not so long ago the financial institutions were pushing equity release schemes  telling the older generation they could cash in the equity in their homes and stay put, now it seems they want everyone out.  Me thinks they should make their mind up!

  2. Ric

    I know some surveyors read EYE, so forgive me, once in a blue moon this happens, but a comment would be interesting, as this one has staggered me.


    Dear RICS (True story last week)


    I have an elderly client who would love to “downsize” for both health and mobility reasons.


    They recently agreed a sale on their home with me for £635,000 against the asking price of £645,000, we did not force the buyer, she viewed twice and decided herself having viewed others this was the one.


    One of your RICS member surveyors, down valued the property by £75,000 to £560,000 remarking on several defects which add up to perhaps £4,000 to £7,000 at best, could this be a typo?


    So I wrote to your surveyor with my 10 comparable properties, within 30 yards to 1/2 a mile away from the subject property, some of similar size and some smaller (I cannot find one bigger nor with the corner plot and swimming pool (but I ignored these and added no value in my hunt for comps) asking, sorry if this is a typo! but if not can you consider the attached so I can report to my client?


    The attached I sent included the lowest pound per square foot/meter resale price achieved, the highest and the average pound per-square foot/meter achieved (from the 10) also noting the standard visible sold prices of each and this showed the subject property which ever way you did this homework came in at (lowest) £628,500 to (highest) £658,000 (average of these to £643,250) pretty impressive based on the asking price and offer made by the buyer. ALTHOUGH – I accept defects should and possible may need to then come off the purchase price, as did my vendor.


    Your surveyor did respond (which was good of him), but said he did not really care about the comparable evidence I supplied, nor the fact the defects even if £10k meant something seemed wrong; he did equally say he would not provide me with which comparable properties he used, (which in fairness he didn’t have to even reply but possibly because 2 of my comps were in fact from his own Estate Agency arm of the business) However he did justify his reasons for the value as:


    He said: If my client purchased this property and after a week of living their changed their mind and wanted to sell, my client may then struggle to sell it and it could take 5 years to “shift it”, what then he asked me?


    I suggested, well we found a buyer after 11 days, including 4 other viewers, so perhaps ask your client could call me (not your agency arm) and I will do my best to get what it is worth on “that” day….(a bit tongue in cheek but what else can I say now)


    His response was simply, “it might not be worth this money in 5 years and that’s that. The comparable evidence is irrelevant and I do not want someone complaining to me in 5 years they paid too much for the property”


    I put to RICS – To assist the market moving forward and some elder clients having the ability to trade down, regardless of the fact this is a £600k plus house, why not explain to some your surveyors, If there is overwhelming “present” evidence within 6 months of completion that a property had achieved the right price, don’t be too scared as surely the courts will only prosecute you if there was no evidence at the time of survey and therefore it could be argued your opinion was not in keeping with the market at that time and you guessed. Even I would go to court with this one!!! Fact is fact surely?


    I was to slow too slow to say what if the property was twice the price in 5 years, do I insist the buyer who has now walked away, takes him (the surveyor) to court for the missed opportunity of huge capital gains? as the reason she has pulled out is simply the price is clearly bonkers according to a “qualified professional” and my vendor “an elderly person, trying to trade down, could not afford to wipe £70k off their pension/nest egg”.


    Just saying – oh and the other note: Surveyors within Estate Agencies should be banned from valuing competitors houses when sold!

    1. MF

      I’ve hit “Like” 10 times, Ric.  It will only allow me 1 though.

      I’m not involved in sales but I really cannot understand why anything beyond “current value” matters.  Surely providing a surveyor can justify “current” value, what does it matter what the property’s worth in one month, one year, or ten years?

      1. Ric

        Thanks MF – Indeed, crystal ball valuing, crazy. Going to take it further.

        Imagine CPR on this one! Why did the last sale fall through? Down-valued or wrongly-valued or Not-Saying?

    2. smile please

      I feel your pain!

      A number of surveyors have a “God complex” or a hint of the green eyed monster about them.

      i also agree surveyors within estate agencies should be banned from valuing competitors property, a complete conflict of interests.

      No doubt you will secure another close to asking price offer, hopefully next time via a cash buyer!


      1. Ric

        Thanks smile please.

        Worryingly they valued a £595k sale of mine yesterday and doing a £510k sale on Monday…….. The latter of which they valued as Estate Agents but lost the business to us.

        Even if these go okay, it doesn’t help the poor vendors of my original post.

        Have a good day  😉

  3. Robert May

    Perhaps all this goes to explain why  RICS refuse to comment about  on line random number generator valuation systems, they are too reliant on them to allow them to be be switched off.

    1. Ric

      I spoke with 2 surveyors about this, who both said they would have called the agent to have a natter if they could not see the evidence for themselves especially when so drastically down valued. Otherwise if they had the evidence they would have been delighted in shoving it in front of me. (Neither was the case with this occasion)

      I would love a surveyor to comment on here; Would you change your opinion if an agent delivered 10 comps and pretty compelling ones covering every angle BUT actually ignoring the potential uplift in the fact the subject property had a fantastic 30ft x 15ft swimming pool, High Spec finish and I mean High Spec plus large corner plot, double garage and parking for possibly 15 or so cars at the front. (I get all of which could be argued if you don’t want a swimming pool, large plot and big drive it is more of an issue than a benefit, but then this lady kind of noticed it and clearly wanted it, still I remain fair in saying lets just go off location, position and internal living space square footage ie each of the 10 had an EPC so not to difficult for a surveyor to do homework now!)

      What has come to light since……. earlier today – This company did look at the subject property 18 months ago as an “Estate Agent” and said they thought it was worth £480,000 and no more than £500k – so perhaps they are working from what they thought last time which was indeed just an opinion back then without the property actually going to the market.


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