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Young Brits more likely to downsize homes than older generations, study says

Estate agents' signs stand in front of residential properties in London, U.K.
Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Young people in the U.K. are four times more likely to downsize their homes this year than those aged over 55, a new study found.

The research, published Saturday by investment manager Hargreaves Lansdown, also showed that Brits aged between 18 and 34 were more likely to downsize than move up the property ladder in 2019. It examined the plans of both renters and homeowners.

Among the wider population, 6% of people were planning to move into a smaller property this year, with one-in-six planning to move home. A large proportion of the planned moves was among young renters, a third of whom were planning to move to a new house over the next 12 months.

The report noted that as rents were rising, tenants may be forced to continue downsizing to keep the cost of living manageable. People who were aiming to buy their own home may also have to downsize again in order to get onto the property ladder, researchers said.

The survey will likely add to a growing debate about housing and the generation gap in the U.K. Some housing experts suggest exorbitant prices in places like London have been accentuated by a reluctance from "baby boomers" to downsize their homes.

Location divide

Plans to downsize properties also varied by location. Leeds was the "capital of downsizing" this year, according to the report, with one-in-six people planning to move down the property ladder. In Edinburgh, one-in-eight people had plans to downsize, while in Brighton 10% of people said they had plans to move into a smaller property.

Research published last week by Deutsche Bank found that London was the sixth most expensive city in the world for renting a home, leaving its residents with low levels of disposable income compared to other global hubs.

After Leeds, London was the city where most people were planning a move over the next year, with 20% of the respondents based in the capital planning to move home. The report noted that these cities were home to relatively young populations, and that those renting from private landlords were the most likely to change homes over the next year.

"Generation rent is being squeezed out of the property market and crammed into smaller and smaller homes," Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said in a press release Saturday.

"As rents rise, tenants may be forced to keep downsizing in order to keep a lid on costs — especially if they're simultaneously trying to save for a home themselves."

Hargreaves Lansdown's analysis surveyed 2,000 people who lived in the United Kingdom.

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