When your kids left home you probably had big plans for those unoccupied bedrooms – like the art studio you’ve always wanted, a sewing room or a playroom for the grandkids. But it’s a fair bet those rooms have barely changed and now you may be wondering if you really need all the extra space.
Downsizing can be a way to harness the home equity you have built up. But it’s a big decision and you need to be sure it is the right choice that helps you scale back your life without scaling back your lifestyle.
Let’s look at some factors to consider.
When you’re not in the workforce, your choice of location is no longer dictated by proximity to work. You’re free to explore a change of scenery, which opens exciting possibilities, although you may want to remain close to family or friends. So a long distance relocation is something to think through carefully. If you’re heading off to a new location, investigate whether the area has clubs and organisations to help you make new friends and become part of the community.
Look for something that suits you now and in the future. Some of the factors you may want to look at are the ease of maintenance of the property, how many stairs it features and whether doorways are wide enough to accommodate aids such as a walking frame. Single level living is often a plus for seniors.
Downsizing can seem like a great way to free up extra cash. But you will need to pay for a new home and this brings a range of buying and selling costs which can eat into the sale proceeds of your current home.
There are ongoing costs to consider too. Moving from a house into an apartment can mean a lower maintenance style of living. Be sure to look into strata levies though. The more facilities an apartment complex offers, the higher the levies you are likely to face. Similarly, retirement villages can be a great place to socialise and feel part of a community. But often have monthly fees that you will need to account for.
There’s a lot of family history tied up in our homes and you shouldn’t discount the emotional attachment to your place. Think through the decision to move very carefully and discuss it with your family. The last thing you need is to make a decision you’ll regret.
Recent Government changes now allow people over 65 to make contributions to superannuation (called ‘downsizer contributions’) from the proceeds of selling a main residence, up to $300,000.
Key Features of this strategy include:
For couples, each person can contribute up to $300,000, however total contribution cannot exceed the total proceeds of the qualifying residence sale.
For example, Elizabeth and Philip sell their home for $550,000. If Elizabeth makes a downsizer contribution of $300,000, Philip is limited to a contribution of $250,000 (that is, $300,000 plus $250,000 equaling the sale proceeds of $550,000).
Downsizing your primary residence or making downsizer contributions to superannuation may potentially lead to decreases in Social Security benefits or increased aged care fees.
For Social Security purposes, your primary residence is an exempt asset, regardless of value.
So, a downsizer contribution to superannuation will convert an exempt asset, to one that is asset and income tested when determining Age Pension entitlements. So, depending on a person’s personal situation, having more money in superannuation (or held in cash for that matter), may reduce social security benefits.
A person’s aged care costs are impacted by their ‘means tested amount’ which can impact this initial entry contribution as well as their ongoing ‘means tested care fee’ when entering residential aged care.
For aged care testing, the former home is generally assessed at a capped rate of $159,631, unless a ‘protected person’ lives in the home (in which case, the house is exempt). As a result of a downsizer contribution, a person would effectively convert a largely exempt asset, to being a means tested amount, which could lead to higher care costs.
In addition, when someone enters aged care, their former home is exempt under social security asset test for up to two years. By selling the former home, the person will be assessed as a non-homeowner (for Age Pension purposes) and the proceeds of sale will now be assessed. This could potentially decrease age pension entitlements.
So, depending on your personal situation, having more money available to you from downsizing (whether in superannuation or not), rather than a main residence, may increase ongoing costs of aged care and potentially reduce social security entitlements. However, understanding the impacts will help you make a more informed decision that is best for you and your family and highlights why getting financial advice around aged care is important.
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