Best London homes for downsizers: easy-to-run flats and the capital’s cultural scene appeal to ’empty nesters’


Once the children have moved on, so can you.

There was a time when this meant empty-nester parents selling their big suburban house and buying a little place by the sea or a cottage in the country.

For a significant number now, though, the norm is downsizing into the city to a smart new-build flat that is easy to run, sustainable and set in the thick of the action. 

Such a move often means parents get to live closer to their kids who may well have found a flat of their own, thanks to a deposit drawn from the equity freed up via the Bank of Mum and Dad.

Culture hotspot: homes at The Denizen near the Barbican Centre, in the City of London, come with stamp duty and legal fees paid

According to Hamptons International, about 14,000 people per year move into London from the home counties in order to be closer to their children and to make the most of the city’s arts, entertainments and ever-expanding foodie scene. 

Those who have the budget opt for Kensington & Chelsea or Westminster, while those who want something a little more leafy or less expensive favour Richmond, Croydon, Havering, Bromley, Sutton or Bexley.

The power of the grey pound has been something of a revelation.

Nina Coulter, a director at Savills’ London residential development team, says: “We have seen a surprising number of downsizers across many of our schemes. 

“We think that with the reduction of buy-to-let investors, and people wanting to travel more and free up some cash from the family home, people are looking at new-build properties as a convenient lock-up-and-leave option.”

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Prices from £690,000: flats at Teddington Riverside are handy for Heathrow airport, they come with 24-hour concierge service for peace of mind on your travels

These older buyers have much the same wish list as their kids, starting with a hassle-free urban lifestyle.

They seek “security, lift access and the proximity of a huge variety of restaurants and shops”, adds Coulter.

“Also, the downsizers we sell to take a big interest in design, the specification of their apartment and the communal spaces. It’s not really about whether there is a hand rail in the bath any more, but whether their lifestyles are being catered to.”

In Richmond, Danny Hicks, sales manager of Chase Buchanan estate agents, says his downsizers have at least one thing in common with pop diva Mariah Carey, who once said she didn’t “do stairs.” His buyers want lateral living.

“They want expansive living space for themselves and entertaining, they want something in good condition, they want to walk into a plug-and-play home. They like a concierge or porter, good security and communal gardens.”

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Take the Tube: Manor Wood Gate, near Cockfosters station on the Piccadily line, has homes from £795,000

Manor Wood Gate is just over half a mile from Cockfosters station, on the Piccadilly line in Zone 5, and handy for the shops and restaurants of Cockfosters Road.

But the big benefit of the location is that it is across the road from Trent Park, some 400 acres of open space, with a golf course and riding school — and a wildlife centre and Go Ape activity centre for when the grandchildren visit.

Manor Wood Gate also has its own gardens. Prices start at £795,000.

North London village appeal

Hornsey Town Hall is set in a slightly more central north London location.

Developer Far East Consortium says downsizers, mostly local, have so far been responsible for 40 per cent of its sales at the converted former municipal building. 

Its appeal is its location in villagey Crouch End, with plenty of cafés and boutiques, and its large, light apartments, most of which have a balcony or terrace.

Prices start at £499,000 for a one-bedroom flat.

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Hornsey Town Hall: located in villagey Crouch End, there are plenty of local boutiques and cafés nearby

On the other side of London, downsizers with the time, money and desire to travel could opt for Teddington Riverside, a reboot of the old Teddington Film Studios.

It is handy for Heathrow airport and has a 24-hour security concierge service, so flats will be taken care of while the owners are away.

It is also within walking distance of the fabulous Richmond and Bushy Royal Parks, and promises a life of leisurely strolls along the Thames, with dinners at one of the many restaurants in Teddington High Street.

Kingston upon Thames is a couple of miles away for a wider choice and a wealth of shops. Trains to Waterloo take around 40 minutes and there will be a courtesy car shuttle to the station. 

Prices at Teddington Riverside start at £690,000. 

City homes with a cultural buzz

Downsizers who want to immerse themselves in culture might well like The Denizen, close to the Barbican Centre and a 30-minute walk from Sadler’s Wells Theatre.

To make up for reduced living space post-downsize, there is a residents lounge and terrace, a cinema and a games room.

And if high moving costs are putting prospective downsizers off making the change, the developer is also offering to pay stamp duty on some of the flats as well as covering legal fees and throwing in a furniture pack — which could well come in handy, since more traditional furniture might look a bit out of place in a modern, open-plan apartment.

Prices start at £740,000 for a one-bedroom apartment.

Walking distance from the West End 

Another option with plenty of extras, The Broadway is the redeveloped New Scotland Yard complex in Westminster.

Currently being rebuilt as 268 flats and due to complete next year, the scheme features amenity space for health and fitness, a spa, a games room that can also be reserved for private parties, plus meeting rooms and a screening room.

The site is between the river and St James’s Park, with the West End and the South Bank in walking distance.

The only issue may be price. The starting point for these homes is £1.6 million.

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King’s Road Park: the pool at the luxury development just off the King’s Road

Handy for King’s Road

Buyers who look back fondly on the Swinging Sixties might like to revisit their old stamping ground at King’s Road Park, set just off the south end of King’s Road, close to Sands End. 

This ultra-convenient development offers health and leisure facilities, a bar, dining room, golf simulator and two cinema rooms on site — and of course, there’s plenty more to do within walking distance. 

Apartments are priced from £790,000 to £3,135,000 through Savills.

Downsizing fact file

  • Over-55s collectively hold at least 75 per cent of all housing equity in Britain, according to research by Savills.
  • The number of “underoccupied” properties, where the grown-up children have flown the nest, has risen sharply over the past 20 years according to Nationwide Building Society, which reveals that more than half of homeowners live in a property with two or more spare bedrooms. Among over-65s, the proportion rises to two thirds.
  • The average retiree can release £158,000 by downsizing, according to research by Hamptons International. In London the sums involved are much larger. An average semi in Ealing, for example, is worth £1.3 million, while an average flat in W5 has an asking price of £515,000.​
  • Downsizers typically hand over 30 per cent of the equity they have released to younger family members, hanging on to 70 per cent for themselves according to Savills.



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