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'Do it while you're fit and healthy - and enjoy it, life is for enjoying'

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Ger Kelleher, Jerry Slattery and Nelson in their new home in Cork city. Photo: Daragh McSweeney

Ger Kelleher, Jerry Slattery and Nelson in their new home in Cork city. Photo: Daragh McSweeney

Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Ger Kelleher, Jerry Slattery and Nelson in their new home in Cork city. Photo: Daragh McSweeney

Last September, after 15 years in a four-storey Georgian house with five bedrooms in Cork, Jerry Slattery and Ger Kelleher moved to a modern two-storey townhouse in the same area.

"It was the right time to do it," says Ger, "because we're both 60 and I had just retired. We'd 15 years in the big property and we had great times. Then it became a job to keep it. It won't keep itself. You come to a stage in a house like that where we'd have to reinvest in it for various reasons. So I said, 'Actually no, the best thing is to say goodbye to it, get a smaller property.' It's amazing how much more free time we have now, because the house isn't such a big job any more. You're not spending half your day cleaning, maintaining."

It was a three-year process, they say. And they looked at 90 properties before they found the one that they wanted.

"My priority," says Jerry, "was that it could be easily adapted if anything happened to us, if somebody became disabled, say, the house had to be able to manage. The whole idea is to avoid a nursing home for as long as possible. It had to be three-bedroomed - now we've turned one of the small box rooms into a dressing room.

"There's a living room downstairs," continues Jerry. "There's a large kitchen and dining room downstairs, and a very nice patio, so my idea would be that, if necessary, you would turn the front room into a bedroom fairly quickly. And there's a downstairs toilet that you'd quite easily adapt for a shower.

"The first thing I said to my builder who was doing the bits of maintenance was: 'Will you get a chair lift up there?' And he looked at me and said, 'What in the name of Jesus do you want a chair lift for?' I said, 'I don't want one now, but I want one in 20 years.'

Their biggest problem was clearing the old house. "We rented a container because we had collected a lot of junk and antique furniture, over the last 20 years," says Jerry. "We're not antique dealers. We collect. We're gay. We're magpies. We ended up having to go to car boot sales to get rid of stuff, and we've given stuff that would have cost a lot of money away for literally pennies. Friends and relatives have got extra-nice Christmas and birthday presents.

"There's certain pieces that obviously aren't going to fit [in a smaller house], that you have to get rid of. And that can be fairly hard, especially if they're pieces that were in the family for generations. We see our stuff in different people's houses. That is nice. That is lovely. Life has moved on."

"And once you declutter," adds Ger, "a lot of your stuff isn't around you any more, so you're living in the show house and you've said goodbye to it already to a certain extent."

"We bought before we sold," says Jerry, "but we were lucky to be able to time the contracts so we didn't need financing. We'd a nice bit of extra cash left over, which was part of the idea, but the main idea was just to scale down."

"Plan, plan, plan," says Jerry. "There are times when it is stressful. We thought it would take six months to sell the house. It actually only took two. So that really put the pressure on us to get out of our old house and into our new one, and luckily we had the container.

"It's not daunting. My advice is look around your house. All it is is bricks and mortar - 90pc of the stuff you can take with you. You're moving from one set of bricks and mortar to another. Don't be too upset."

"You need to be in the top of your health to buy and sell a house," advises Ger. "I would recommend people do it while they're fit and they're healthy and they're well able to do it and enjoy it, rather than having to do it after having an operation or suddenly finding that the house has completely overcome you."

"In my opinion," says Jerry, "a lot of people leave it too late, whereas we've done it now so we can develop new friends in the new area much more easily than if you were 70 or 80. It's a new phase, enjoy it. Life is for enjoying."

Sunday Independent