Downsizing to an apartment: what you need to know

senior couple on their apartment's balcony smiling together

Erin Delahunty

Posted May 24, 2023

Decades ago, many older Australians spent their retirement in their family home, but nowadays downsizing into a fresh, future-proof apartment is a popular alternative.

Downsizing is a unique property transaction, with its own set of practical and lifestyle considerations. Here’s everything would-be downsizers need to think about when it comes to apartment living.

Things to consider when downsizing from a family home to an apartment

Location of the apartment

When considering downsizing from a standalone home to an apartment, the property mantra of “location, location, location” is especially relevant.

The proximity of an apartment to amenities such as supermarkets, medical facilities, public transport and cafes and restaurants is vital, as being close will make everyday life easier, especially for those with limited mobility or who need regular medical care.

It’s also wise to research the safety of the neighbourhood and crime rates in the wider area. Look at noise levels and how close the apartment is to busy roads or industrial areas too.

Downsizers are often used to having a lot of outdoor space, so check if the apartment is close to parks, green space or other outdoor recreational areas such as swimming pools and bike tracks.

Proximity to family and friends should also be a consideration when looking at potential properties, particularly for those who’ll need extra support as they age.


senior couple smiling and looking at laptop together on the couch

Do your research before starting to downsize. Image: Getty


Building and construction quality of the apartment

When buying an apartment, it’s not just the individual property that matters, but the building it sits within. 

For downsizers who drive or who’ll have visitors by car, parking is crucial. Look into what designated parking spaces there are for residents and visitors, whether they’re secure and what they cost. Some apartments offer underground or covered parking, which can provide added security and protection from the elements.

Noise levels are another important consideration as apartments can be noisier than standalone properties because of shared walls and common areas. Ask about construction materials and soundproofing as well.

It’s also helpful to learn who lives in the building. Is it other downsizers, families, professionals or students? Is the majority of the building owner occupied? These answers can indicate the noise levels and overall atmosphere of the building.

Security is also paramount when transitioning to apartment living, so potential downsizers should assess the building’s security measures, such as entry systems, surveillance cameras and on-site security staff. Also, look at the security of individual apartments.

Amenities and access within the building should also be considered. Is there a gym, swimming pool, communal gardens or social spaces? Are there fees attached? What is the accessibility of the amenities? Are there steps or elevators? How wide are hallways and doorways?


senior couple moving boxes out of their old home's front door

Downsizing can be an exciting time. Image: Getty


Management of the apartment

Downsizers should inquire about the building’s management and investigate any history of issues. This could include maintenance and repair issues, pest control problems or disputes between residents.

It’s important to know how the management team handles these issues and whether there’s a clear process for resolving disputes and complaints.

It’s also a good idea to inquire about the frequency of building inspections and maintenance to ensure the building is well-maintained and meets safety standards.

Functionality of the apartment

What it’ll be like to live in the apartment day-to-day will come down to its functionality, which includes layout and accessibility.

Downsizers should carefully consider the layout of the apartment and the number of rooms to ensure it meets their needs. Investigate if it’s accessible, both inside and outside, and inquire about any adaptations that can be made to the apartment to make it more functional.

Also assess whether any existing furniture will fit into the new apartment, particularly large or bulky items. Those downsizing from a larger place might need to prioritise certain items of furniture and get rid of some possessions before moving into an apartment.

Practicalities of the apartment

Like any move, there are lots of practicalities to think about with downsizing.

Downsizers need to work out how they’ll physically move belongings from one property to another and the cost of using a removalist. Insuring belongings during the move and once in the new apartment is another consideration.

Getting utilities, internet and home phone services set up is another job for the list, but can be left to professional moving service providers to save time and effort.

It’s also important to arrange for inspections of the new apartment before finalising the move, to ensure it’s in good condition and meets all safety and health standards.

There are dedicated downsizing services to help manage the whole process.


senior woman climbing interior apartment stairs

Investigate whether your new apartment is accessible by stairs or lift. Image: Getty


Future-proofing of the apartment building

Accessibility, adaptability and technology can ensure a downsized property is right for now – and the future.

With future-proofing in mind, it’s recommended downsizers look for apartments that are wheelchair accessible, have step-free access and are equipped with grab bars. Also consider how the apartment could be adapted to meet changing needs, such as the ability to add a stairlift or ramp.

It’s also important to understand the technology available in the apartment, such as internet connectivity, home automation systems, security features and even solar power and electric vehicle charging.

Potential cost of living savings of living in an apartment

Living in an apartment can result in significant savings in several areas.

Apartments are typically smaller than standalone properties and require less energy for heating and cooling. Modern apartments also often have double-glazed windows, which provide increased insulation and energy efficiency. This can result in lower energy bills and a more comfortable living space.

Ongoing maintenance costs are generally lower in apartments too, as maintenance and repair responsibilities are often shared between multiple residents.

Some apartments also offer solar panels, which can provide further cost savings on energy bills.

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