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As Younger People Struggle to Get on the Housing Ladder, the Majority of Homeowners Aged 65+ Have TWO or More Spare bedrooms

1st December 2023

  • Nine in ten homeowners over 65s live alone or just with their partner

  • Between them they have 10 MILLION spare bedrooms

  • A quarter would be ‘concerned’ about hosting  Christmas if they downsized

  • The majority have lived in their home for an average of 26 years, leading to a lack of supply of three bed homes - the most in demand property type in the UK 

  • Zoopla can help reassure downsizers curious about moving that now may be a good time to move


Under embargo until 15th November 2023, London: Older homeowners staying in properties that are larger than they need is creating a ‘domino effect’ of short supply when it comes to starter and family-sized homes in the UK, according to new research from Zoopla. 

A survey of 2,000 UK homeowners aged over 65 found that more than four in ten (41%) say that they live in a home which is ‘larger than they need’ citing wanting to have enough space to host Christmas, worries about the stress of moving ‘at their age’, and wanting to pass the home down to family members as key reasons. This equates to 2.6 million* homes in the UK that could be put to use by larger families and first time buyers and help to address short supply in the market. 

Overall, nine in ten homeowners over 65 (88%) either live alone, or just with their partner,  yet more than seven in ten (71%) live in homes with three bedrooms or more.

But most bedrooms are ‘spares’ - nine in ten (87%) have at least one spare bedroom and half (51%) have two or more. This equates to a massive 10 million spare bedrooms owned by 65s across the UK. 

And they are rarely used. A fifth (18%) say that in a typical year, they use none of their spare rooms at all with a quarter (25%) saying they have other rooms in their home - such as dining rooms or reception rooms - that go unused most of the year. Seven per cent even say they sometimes sleep in their spare bedrooms just so they’re used. 

How is this causing a domino effect for younger buyers?   According to data from Zoopla, there is currently a larger disparity between supply and demand for three-bedroom homes than any other type of property in the UK. Not only does this impact second-steppers (those going from their first home to a larger property) but also first-time buyers (who make up 34% of the market). This is because the age Brits are buying their first home is increasing - the average first time buyer is now 34, compared to 30 a decade ago, meaning many need a family-sized home from the get-go.

Why do older people remain in these large homes?Having a large home can lead to increased expense and upkeep. Those who own a home larger than they need say that on average it takes them an additional 12.6 hours and £91 per month to maintain, compared to if they had a more suitably-sized property. So why do so many stay put?

The research shows that Christmas is a factor; over a quarter (27%) say they’d be ‘concerned’ about being able to host Christmas if they downsized. This is despite just half of those who’d be concerned (53%) saying they host Christmas every year. And fewer than half (45%) say they use all of the rooms in their home when they do. 

Another reason is worries about moving, with a quarter (25%) saying moving home would simply be ‘too stressful’. Emotional ties are also a barrier preventing 22% from moving, with two thirds of those (65%) saying they still think of their property as the ‘family home’. Furthermore, 26% say they are keeping hold of the home so their family can inherit it - meaning their own children or grandchildren are less likely to have trouble finding a family-sized home. 

Commenting on the findings, Daniel Copley, consumer expert Zoopla said: “We know that three bedroom homes are very popular for families and first time buyers, but there are simply not enough on the market. We are not here to tell homeowners what to do - many are putting their larger homes to good use or understandably don’t want to let go of the family space. But we can help arm homeowners with the tools they may need to make their next move - and for those that are considering downsizing, it could increase supply of suitable properties for younger buyers so they can find their perfect home.

“The research also demonstrated that on average, homeowners over 65 have lived in their home for over a quarter of a century. Given the huge house price rises over this period and the current high demand, many may be in for a very pleasant surprise in terms of their house’s value. We’d encourage homeowners to speak to an agent who can help to advise on this process and work with you to find your next home.” 



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For further information, please contact PR Team on [email protected] or +44 (0)20 3873 8770.

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So let us help you find yours.

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