Three Questions All Seniors Buying a New Home Must Ask Themselves
What are the main things to consider if you’re a senior looking for a new home?
Whether you’re moving to downsize and age in place or to be closer to friends, family, or the beach, or whether you’re in perfect health or have some mobility issues, every senior should ask themselves these important questions before making any commitments.
What can I really afford?
How are you planning on buying your new home? Do you have enough money to buy it outright - either from savings or from the sale of your current home? If so, this is probably your best option.
Many seniors don’t have this opportunity, however, as they still have mortgage obligations to pay on their current home once it’s sold, and they may live on a fixed income. These seniors will probably be forced to get financing in the form of a traditional mortgage. It’s vital that seniors think long and hard about what they can afford in a new home - especially if they have any indication that their income may change as they age. Make sure to research how much homes are selling for in your area.
The thing that trips up many seniors in the home-buying process is failing to take hidden costs into account. Your new home is not just your mortgage payment. You must factor in homeowner’s insurance costs, taxes, home maintenance costs, sudden repairs, and even smaller fees like homeowner’s associations. It’s ill-advised that you spend more than 30% of your monthly income on your house.
How much space do I need/can I handle?
It’s very rare for a senior to buy a new home that’s bigger than their current, longtime family home. Most seniors are downsizing, as that’s usually the key to long-term, independent living. You should downsize your belongings and declutter early and often - before you make a final decision on a new home. This way, you’ll know exactly how much space you really need.
Think about your ability to manage household responsibilities. How much upkeep can you reasonably perform? If you have mobility issues or other health concerns, you may end up having to hire a housekeeper, someone to do yard work, or a handyman. Do you have the extra funds for this?
What kind of modifications will I need to make?
When it comes to the modification question, you must consider the future as much as you consider the present. If you see yourself aging in place and staying in this home forever, you need to envision what your home will need to look like to accommodate future you.
Be wary of taking on a home that would require too many major-scale modifications. This includes room additions (if you need access to things on a single floor), knocking out walls (for a more open floorplan), and widening doors (for wheelchair access). These modifications can be incredibly costly and time consuming. Small modifications like adding small ramps, handrails and grab bars, and installing extra lighting and carpeting for more traction are inexpensive and can be done at any stage. But you really need to watch out for those large mods. It may be a good idea to buy a new home that already fits most of your accessibility requirements.
In the end you must consider what kind of home you need for now and for the future. This is your aging in place home, after all. You need to be able to afford it, move around in it, and keep it in good repair (without needing to spend too much on outside help) for years.
By: Mike Longsdon
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Listing information last updated on December 4, 2023 at 8:30 PM EST.