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I’d assumed my London house would be my pension

Updated: Nov 4, 2020

Seniors in London suffering from lower house prices are not alone. Carole Railton (frsa) writes about her experience.

I knew I was not alone but I still reeled from the news that my house had fallen in value since the Covid-19 pandemic. It had fallen nearly half a million pounds, gone from £1.5M to approximately £1M.

My plan had been to sell the house when it reached £1.5M, buy a property for half a million and live on the rest of the money for the next 20 years or so. After all, properties had gone up in value consistently in London for a about 20 years and I had assumed that would continue. I had no pension plan. I had already lost my Xerox pension by switching companies even though I sought advice from an independent financial adviser (IFA). If I had not moved my pension, I would be getting around £1,800 per month from it. I shudder when I see friends who still have that pension from Xerox coming in when I know I could have been in that position too, safe with a regular pension, without having to work.

How did I get in this state? Well, after loosing my Xerox pension, I lost faith in IFAs and sort solace in the fact that property was a good bet for earning money. My house is too big for just one person, currently single, so over different periods I have let rooms, let the whole house when travelling and generally been able to leverage the house to maintain my standard of living even when business was low.

I planned out, as you can see from the first paragraph above, how things would work out for me when it was time to retire. Now that I am in my 70s it seemed time to put this plan into action. What timing. How wrong could I be.

The first estate agent let me know in no uncertain terms that she could not get me more than £1.1M, if that. Unsurprisingly, I contacted two other local estate agents who viewed and valued the house. They said much the same as the first estate agent. Four years ago the house had been valued at £1.250M and I had an offer on it at that price. Shock horror. I will have to change my plans. To get anything near a decent flat I will have to move out of London, where I am based, in order to ensure I have some money to live on.

However, things have changed. houses in London, are no longer wanted; rather they are sought after outside London - by the coast, near forests and, generally, in areas where you can go for lovely walks. Although in London we have amazing parks, they are usually busy and crowded, especially on the weekends.

Therefore, people are wanting to move away from London, so they have a bigger garden, outside space and beautiful views. If they are to remain inside their homes, working, they want the other things that go with it, like relaxing scenery; the ability to take 30 minutes out to walk in the countryside, rather than alongside great big empty office blocks. Although I love photographing big office blocks, it has been really odd walking past them with little traffic and fewer people. Central London is a bit like a ghost town, and none too comfortable. After all people generally lived in London because of work and now that has changed.

I would love to stay in Central London, in a flat with a view and outside space. But here is the rub; flats with outside space in London is very rare and this is the only type of property that is sustaining its value. Ouch!

I know I am not alone. People have been telling me of their woes and how this change in value is affecting them. It’s great news for people who have a large property on the coast, or in rural areas that have not seen much increase in its value over the past few years.

However, it’s terrible news for people like me, who have been caught out. Seniors, like me, who did not understand investing. Seniors all over London are worried.

There was no real information on investing when I was in my 20s/30s. And having never owned a house before, and my parents didn’t own theirs, I had no background knowledge. I really thought I was doing the right things.

Now not only are properties not the way forward, savings have been hit too, with negative interest on money invested in the banks. What a state of affairs for those of us who have worked until their '60s or '70s and in some cases '80s to find themselves in this dilemma.

I am not a financial expert, so we are looking to post another blog on this from someone who is. In the interim, I wish you well and hope that you can comment, on what is happening to you and your pension. Let me know if your pension is totally supporting you; let me now if you are worried. Until I am next in contact, I wish you well.

Photo: by Carole Railton 2019 (copyright). "Muddle" by Antony Gormley

by Anthony Gormley.

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