Thinking of Downsizing?

5 Home Buying and Selling Tips for Seniors and Retirees

If you’re retired or getting close to retirement and trying to decide whether to stay in your current home or downsize to a home that will allow you to more comfortably age in place, don’t make a move before you’ve considered all the angles.

In this article, I suggest  five  important questions you should consider when deciding whether to stay in your current home or buy a new home, so you don’t end up wishing you’ve never left home. 

And don’t miss the my final question. I think it’s one that people often forget to ask themselves. And it may be the most important one.

Can you afford to stay in your current home?

Most of us plan and save for retirement, but it can still come as a big shock when you stop getting regular paychecks. And while social security will bridge some of that gap, it probably won’t be enough to pay all your bills and allow you to do the things you want to do after you retire.

If you’ve paid off your current home, staying put may be the most cost-effective option. You may also want to consider getting a home equity conversion mortgage to tap into your existing home equity so you can update your home or improve your lifestyle.

But if you’re still paying a mortgage and you have significant equity, it might be better to sell you current home and buy a smaller home, townhome or condo that will better meet your needs—especially if you can pay cash, or purchase your new home with a home equity conversion mortgage that allows you use your existing home equity to purchase your new home and you won’t have to make any future mortgage payments. You can check out my video on that here.

Can you comfortably age in place in your current home?

Person carrying laundry

Many of the features of your current home—maybe even some things you loved when you bought it—might not seem so great as you get older. Big yards, second and even third floor bedrooms, clawfoot tubs, and … stairs. 

Let’s face it, none of us are getting any younger and if you find yourself, as I do, throwing the laundry down the basement, or skipping a bath for a shower, or paying lots of other people to maintain your home, it might be time to look for a home that better meets your needs.

Can adapt your current home to meet your needs?

For some people, the answer to this question is yes. They have a main floor bedroom and bath, they have room to bring the laundry upstairs, and they can afford to hire others perform routine cleaning and yard work, and maintenance. If you’re one of these folks, aging in place may just require installing some grab bars, better lighting, and hiring some help.

But some homes are just not adaptable. If your home isn’t suited to making those big changes, at least without investing in a costly remodel or addition, it might not be place you want to grow old.

What kind of lifestyle do you want in retirement?

Some people’s idea of retirement is a good book and a cat on their lap. Others can’t wait to make golfing a fulltime job. And some people, like me, are eager to travel and explore the world. If you want to be lock the door and head out, buying a condo or townhome gives you the freedom to leave without worrying about who will mow the lawn or blow the snow.

Locking a door

With a townhome or condo, it’s easier to just lock the door and go. 

Deciding what type of lifestyle you want in retirement is going to be key in determining whether to stay in your current home or make a move.

What will moving be like if you wait 5 or 10 years?

This last question is one many people don’t think to ask themselves. What will moving be like if I wait five or ten more years?

If you’re in your sixties or even your early seventies and you think you could live comfortably in your current home for another ten years, I want you to close your eyes and think about what moving might look like when you’re ten years older than you are now.

Chances are, it will be physically more tiring, and it might be emotionally more draining too, sorting through all the memories and getting rid of things you love.

Especially if you’re moving into a much smaller home or even into assisted living. It might be financially more challenging too, if you’ve had to draw down on your retirement savings in retirement. You will have less money, and probably fewer choices on where to move than you do right now.

Many people often wait to downsize until they are forced too, either by illness, the death of a spouse, or when finances push them out. This can bring added pressure to an already pressure-filled process if you’re grieving, or struggling physically, or struggling financially.

Downsizing when you’re younger can offer the chance to enjoy a more carefree lifestyle with fewer financial worries, and you get the added bonus not burdening your kids or your heirs with the task of getting rid of your stuff.

There’s no one right answer for everyone, no one right time to downsize, but if you want to know more about homeownership in retirement, check out the other video in this series on retirement and real estate.

J Trout Lowen is a Minneapolis Realtor©, a baby boomer, and a prospective downsizer. 

Can’t decide whether to stay or move? Use my pro-con list to help you decide whether to sell your home and move to something smaller.

Downsizing means getting rid of stuff. In this video, I discuss options to responsibly sell, gift, repurpose, and recycle things you either don’t need or won’t want in your next home.

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