It should come as no surprise that 75% of the senior citizens polled in the latest AARP Preferences survey strongly agreed with the statement, “What I’d like to do is stay in my current residence as long as possible.” After all, home is where the heart is; and the longer you live in a place, the stronger your attachment to it becomes.
But it’s important for those over 50 to assess potential lifestyle modifications that may be necessary down the road well in advance, because many will require significant research and preparation.
Whether you are planning for your own future or that of a loved one, analyzing new housing options before a change becomes necessary will help ensure you have the greatest number of options with the least amount of stress. Here are some considerations to help guide you or your loved one through the process.
Location and size
In planning for the future, communication with all involved parties is key to understanding where you or the senior in your life wants to be. Many seniors want to be close to family and friends. Proximity or access to basic needs is also a critical consideration, especially for those who no longer drive.
Once an area is chosen, think about how much space is needed. Most seniors choose to downsize to a smaller home, and here are many advantages to this. A smaller home generally means less maintenance, lower mortgage or rental costs, and lower taxes. Less space can also be easier to manage. Single-level homes are a good option for those with decreased mobility and can help reduce the likelihood of falls and injuries. You’ll also want to consider whether a yard is needed, and whether you’d need someone else to maintain it.
Multi-family homes, such as condominiums, cooperatives and townhomes, are well-suited for senior living, offering many options for budgets, maintenance and amenities. But most people don’t fully understand the differences between them.
Condominiums and cooperatives offer benefits of homeownership, but allow for certain expenses to be shared by all owners. Other benefits include security, shared building insurance and possible onsite amenities. Monthly fees are collected in both condominiums and cooperatives to maintain the property and any amenities, and both have elected boards of representatives who meet regularly to review operating expenses and building issues. Condominium ownership is based only on the unit, with taxes paid by the owner. In cooperatives, owners are shareholders, giving them sole rights and equity of their unit, but property taxes are shared by the building and included in your monthly fees.
Townhomes, on the other hand, allow for ownership of the structure and the land it sits on (front and back yards). Most are designed as row-houses, with one or two common walls. For those who prefer the legal rights of single-family ownership and do not want to pay monthly dues and do not want to pay monthly dues, a townhome may be the best option.
Drawbacks of multi-family homes can include noise from shared walls or floors, homeowner’s associations, monthly fees and CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions).
Renting can be a good way to avoid home ownership costs and maintenance. It may also be a more affordable way to live in a desirable area. Cons of renting can include noise through shared walls, the potential for your rent to increase over time, difficult or unreliable landlords, inattention to maintenance issues, and the possibility that you may need to move if the property is sold. It’s a good idea to talk to one or more current tenants of the rental to find out what their experience has been with the property and the landlord.
Alternative senior living options: independent and assisted
Another solution to consider for yourself or your family member is independent living communities (also called senior apartments, retirement communities, retirement communities, retirement homes and senior housing). Independent living communities provide privacy, independence, and the opportunity to connect with others without the demands of home ownership. They are usually full-service, offering meals, housekeeping, transportation and social activities.
For those who struggle with day-to-day living responsibilities, it may be time to consider assisted living arrangements. Some options include Adult Day Care, Elder Cottage Housing Opportunities (ECHO), Group Home, Special Care Unit (SCU) or Nursing Homes. Your state human resources department can usually provide more information about these options in your community and offer help with referrals, or you can opt for private referral services.
The costs for alternative housing can add up quickly—especially as the need for assistance increases. Medicare, unfortunately, does not pay for housing; but under strict financial restrictions, Medicaid may. To get a better feel for just how much these living arrangements can cost, visit GenWorth.com and search the cost of long term care where you live.
If the choice is made not to move, you could consider a reverse mortgage. This allows homeowners over the age of 65 to tap into their home equity in lieu of a monthly payment, with no repayment necessary as long as the property is their principal residence and they meet all the terms of the agreement. Keep in mind, however, that if the owner sells the home, dies, or does not meet the terms of the agreement, they or their family will be required to pay the remaining balance of the loan.
Some states offer assistance with property tax, or special assessments for seniors based on age, disability and household income. Check with your State Department of Revenue to see what options exist in your state and whether you qualify. Long-term care insurance is another option. An LTC policy will help pay for the costs not covered by traditional health insurance or Medicare (which can include assistance with daily-living activities, as well as the care provided in a variety of living/care facilities).
For more help and information
Your Windermere Real Estate agent can help you make the transition when the time is right by assessing the local property market, helping you properly price homes for sale, and finding a new home that best meets the unique needs of you or your loved ones.