The art of downsizing with Ockham's Joss Lewis

In 2030, around a fifth of us will be aged 65+ compared to a tick over 15% now. And with a Victoria University report finding that 23% of New Zealanders live in houses far larger than they need, more of us are considering ‘downsizing’ to an apartment that fits just right.

Ockham Residential’s Joss Lewis has been selling apartments for a decade, guiding many a buyer through a major lifestyle shift. Here the Downsizing Doyenne shares a few observations she’s collected along the way.

Now’s the time to think about where you’ll want to be a few years down the track. “If you still have teens living in the family home, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s next,” Joss says. “It can feel a bit daunting or even selfish to anticipate what you want for yourself.”

Buying off the plans – as Ockham offers – is a good chance to go at your own pace with a new home already sorted. “Selling and purchasing at the same time can be stressful. The good thing with buying off the plans is that, once you pay your 10% deposit, you've got a year or two to get your house ready for sale and market it without the time crunch.”

Consider trying before buying.
“Trialling apartment living is a great idea if you’re unsure about shifting to a smaller home,” Joss suggests. “A couple who have just bought with us had rented a Grey Lynn apartment after selling their home in Remuera. They wanted to try it out first – and found they loved it. They do lots of urban walks where they stop for coffee and just adore their local neighbourhood.”

Apartments have the perks of community living.
“An apartment building is an ideal spot for those wanting a closer sense of community while still retaining their privacy,” Joss says. “At Ockham’s Isaac Building for example, there’s a monthly meet-up in the residents’ lounge with wine and food. It’s not compulsory to attend, of course, but a lot of people say it’s more neighbourly and social than when they lived on a residential street.”

But they’re not a retirement village.
“Oh, no one I’ve sold to is near that point!” Joss exclaims. “But an apartment is a great compromise if you want to reduce your home maintenance and have everything on one level in a building with a lift. It’s about future-proofing,” she adds. Giving yourself options.

The key is to the city, not just your unit.
“If you’ve been living out in the suburbs, a move to a more urban and connected area can be a revelation,” Joss says. “One buyer recently told me: ‘It’s a first-world problem… but I just want to socialise without having to worry about driving or getting in a taxi or Uber.’” If your spiritual home is a table at SPQR or Madame George, an apartment at The Greenhouse or The Feynman is a skip home in minutes.

Downsizing can be streamlining.
“There’s this idea an apartment means you get ‘less’,” Joss says. “But a lot of buyers I’ve spoken to find the opposite. Ockham’s buildings often come with a lot of amenities – a pool, outdoor areas – all covered off as part of the Body Corporate. So stuff’s there for when you want it, and not your worry when you don’t.”

It’s also unexpectedly liberating.
“Probably the number one qualm I hear from my clients before they move is whether an apartment will feel too confined,” Joss says. “And the number one piece of feedback I get from residents after move-in is that the apartment’s given them all this freedom!

Apartments become a kind of ‘base’, she explains, a place to pause between travel, adventures or family gatherings at the bach. “You finally have that freedom to go off on a whim!” Joss says. “Your home shouldn’t hold you back.”