Perth’s apartment market provides new options for downsizers

Older buyers opt for location, lifestyle and lower maintenance.

The apartment market is opening up new accommodation options for downsizers who are trading in their family homes for addresses in some of Perth’s newest buildings.

When the lights came on at Pinnacle South Perth earlier this year, one of the newly lit homes belonged to Robert and Pamela Proctor, both 79, the second residents to move into the high rise apartment tower in South Perth.

The couple have lived in Como for 51 years so finding a home in the area to downsize into was one of their priorities.

“This came up at a very convenient time,” says Pamela, “we were not considering an apartment but our son was looking and found this place and that’s how it all started.”

Located across the road from Perth Zoo, Pinnacle’s panoramic views over the South Perth peninsula were a key attraction for Robert who was keen to have a smaller home and says the expansive views dispel any feelings of being enclosed.

“From our balcony I can see up to the Raffles Hotel, Mt Henry Bridge and Canning Bridge and the hockey and cricket at Richardson Park,” he says.

Downsizing from a three-bedroom villa into a one-bedroom apartment was not without its challenges.

Relinquishing possessions and adjusting to a smaller home was hard Pamela says, but one month after moving into their eighth-floor apartment and with new furniture and curtains in place, the busy move was behind them.

“Now we joke that we have downsized but upgraded,” she says.

Although they are 20 years into their retirement, both are enjoying more leisure time.

A keen golfer, Pamela is now just a short stroll from the Royal Perth Golf Club where she plays twice a week and armed with a workout from his physiotherapist, Robert is making regular use of the Pinnacle gym.

A year ago the Proctors sold the caravan they have towed around Australia and as more recent converts to cruise ship holidays, they plan to make the most of their lock and leave apartment lifestyle.

According to the Productivity Commission, the strong lure of the family home means many retirees delay downsizing until poor health or property maintenance becomes an issue but Perth expatriates Brad and Denise Mitchell made an early start.

They have been co-ordinating their move into a smaller home from Port Moresby, where Brad is the chief financial officer at Kumul Petroleum Holdings.

The couple were clear on their preference to downsize early to get the most enjoyment from their new lifestyle and took possession of their new apartment in Port Coogee in September.

“We’re both very conscious of the importance of planning and not leaving the decision to downsize until it was too late,” Brad says.

With boating and ocean activities a big part of their lives, they purchased an apartment at the waterfront development Marina Edge Apartments.

According to Denise, buying off-the-plan suited their time-frame and regular visits to Perth made it possible for them to look in on Marina Edge’s construction which is due to finish in July.

“Retiring is going to be a lifestyle change for us and one that we’re looking forward to, particularly as it comes with the freedom of not having to maintain a house, garden and pool,” Denise says.

Denise and Brad Mitchell

Location was also a key factor for downsizer Marilyn Boss who says there were several prerequisites on her checklist but the most important one was being close to the Subiaco nursing home where her husband John lives.

After ruling out a retirement village, her search moved to the western suburbs apartment market where she weighed-up several projects before buying an off-the-plan apartment at Floreat.

Home for the 69-year-old former nurse is now a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment on the top floor at Empire West in Perry Lakes, a seven minute drive from John’s nursing home.

“The top floor is great as I have a skylight and an outlook over Underwood Avenue to the trees,” Marilyn says.

Another import aim for Marilyn was to have surplus funds from the sale of their Claremont home of 30 years.

“Selling our home also freed-up a few hundred thousand dollars which I have used to top up my pension for the next ten or fifteen years,” she says.

Marilyn says adjusting to apartment living was made easier by two lengthy stints they spent living in serviced apartments in Hong Kong and Taiwan, late in their working lives.

“I did have to cull a lot but it was really stuff I wasn’t using anyway and actually, the culling was quite   cathartic.”

Two months into her apartment venture and with a short commute to John’s nursing home now locked in, Marilyn says friends and family have noticed that she is more relaxed.

“I cared for John at home for 11 years and although we didn’t have a big house or a big garden, I was finding I wasn’t able to do much of the maintenance or gardening,” she says.

“Now I’m walking around Perry Lakes in the morning and going to the movies with friends and doing things that not so long ago, I didn’t have time for.”

The development industry is increasingly aware of older buyers as an emerging force in Perth’s apartment market but unlike first home buyers whose market entrance is well documented, there are few hard numbers for downsizers.

Pinnacle South Perth

According to Colliers International, older buyers are scarce at inner-city apartment projects where they are estimated to be behind just five per cent of sales. However, they are really making their mark in Perth’s western suburbs where they are buying up to 50 per cent of new apartment stock.

After steering a number of downsizers through the process, Colliers International agent Lauren Lovelace says it’s a lot more than an address change.

“Parts of the downsizing process are like a normal residential move but it’s also a change of lifestyle and in many cases, it will be the home that sees a buyer through, well into their old age,” Lauren says.

“It’s one of those times where there can be stress and a lot of emotion as buyers weigh-up what can be a pretty big change.

“As a rule, they are hoping to satisfy a whole bunch of goals when they come into the downsizing space but accessing money tied up in the family home and looking after their health are generally among the top motivations.

“They also want a smaller home that will need less cleaning and won’t have fall hazards found in a lot of free-standing homes.

“I tell my downsizers ‘not to buy too big’ and to focus on the comfort level, the quality of the finish and security.

“Think about the areas you will use in apartment—the living room, bedroom and kitchen and remember—you’re after a low-maintenance lifestyle.”

According to Lauren, many downsizers experience a mix of nerves and excitement once their home sells.

“That’s when you need to start thinking about what to keep and what to get rid of,” she says.

“Just before settlement it’s also important to make time to understand the finer points of living in a strata complex and a run through the by-law do’s and don’ts.”

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