When I started this blog and was trying to think up a suitable clickbait title, I asked myself what subjects would middle-aged, middle class, middle British people be likely to be interested in? The trouble was I didn’t think that the title, “Sex, Health, Money, Property” had the same ring to it.
An Englishman’s home is his castle – although he’s also very interested in the slightly bigger castle just along the road. His wife, meanwhile, is interested in about ten other bigger castles in a better location than the current dump, which hasn’t even got a moat.
I’m approaching the stage of life now where I take being classed “middle aged” as a compliment. Let’s face it, I’m heading toward the Third Age and finding I’m starting to think that, instead of needing a bigger house, more space and trying to get a foot on the next rung of the property ladder, I actually need to downsize and release some of the equity in the property.
Over the last year, my wife and I decided we’d start to look around at likely places we’d consider staying in for that “Third Age” and, somewhat to my surprise, met a number similarly aged couples doing what we were doing (it was the amount we met that was the surprise, not the fact that older middle aged couples would want to downsize their homes.). They too were selling up, releasing equity and moving on. But, what was almost more interesting, was the fact that many were selling up with nowhere to go. They intended to rent until they spotted that house of their retirement dreams and could bid for it as a cash buyer.
We were considering doing the same, because we knew from previous experience that the only thing that trumps a ridiculous over-bid on a property is a cash buyer who isn’t in a chain and can be pretty flexible on moving dates. It’s a big advantage when a desirable property pops up to not to have to say, “Oh, we’d need to sell our house first before we can buy yours”. When you’re the seller, this feels like you have two properties to sell before you can move on – theirs first, and then yours – but someone offering cash, well, it’s a done deal.
So selling and renting was our “secret strategy” that would enable us to grab that little rose-covered cottage when it came up. That’s a laugh. It began to look like we’d be up against at least half a dozen grey-haired cash buyers trying to do the same thing. So, yet again on the property front, the question of whoever had the biggest pockets would come into play.
Now I’m pondering two things (1) has this come about because there is a massive amount of rental property options out there in attractive locations which offer quite good value for money? And (2) if so, and if we find a place we like, why shouldn’t we just rent until it’s our time to move on to the Big House in the Sky?
I’m finding the latter idea growing on me. There’s a lot of advantages to renting. For a start, we’d have to jettison a lot of the sheer junk we’ve accumulated over the years (one of the things that puts me off selling the house is the thought of literally packing up.) The thought of “living light” with a lot less material possessions appeals to me. Then there’s the money freed up – I reckon selling our house will transform those bricks and mortar into a substantial wedge of wonga that I can invest. I mean, over the years, my investments have pretty consistently delivered a return of between 5% and 10%. If I could keep that up, I’d be generating an income that would more than cover any likely rental charges.
Selling up and renting also gives an element of flexibility – I often fantasise about heading to warmer climes for the winter. Santa Barbara, California, from about October through to March would be nice. It might also be a real option if I could trust and count on the investment income generated from the sale of my home. I could live six months abroad and not worry about my house going on fire, the pipes bursting and flooding the home, if squatters had moved in and so on.
We could live the next ten years like that, until we became bored with it (or became seriously worried about falling ill in America!) Then we could buy a property more appropriate for a couple heading into their seventies and beyond which, I feel, would look a lot different to any houses we’re currently considering buying.
When you start thinking about how many years you have left on the planet, never mind in a house, you inevitably have to think about eventually leaving all your possessions behind. Of course I’m talking about that other middle class property obsession, Inheritance. Well, let’s say my wife and I both live for another forty years (assuming we haven’t killed each other by that time.) My son will then be sixty two. I’m sure he’ll appreciate getting an old house at that point in his life as opposed to getting some of that inheritance now, just as he’s thinking of getting into the property market himself. Right. Surely, as a concerned parent surveying the current housing market from the perspective of a twenty year old wondering how on earth to save for a deposit, that’s a no brainer? I mean, I know I’m in a lucky position to be able to consider the options, but it’s a fact that many of us are, or will be in a similar position. Like old age, it’s a subject that needs thinking about.
Pondering these questions makes me think back to the title of my blog. When I think that I have to admit I’m no longer middle aged, maybe I should shuffle and change the title to reflect an older age priority of obsessions: Death, Property, Health, Money (and Sex, If You’re Lucky). What do you think?