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Seven Considerations Before You Resize to a New Home

BY NANCY BIERENGA, REALTOR®, E-PRO, ABR, éLAN REALTY, PAST PRESIDENT, WEST MICHIGAN LAKESHORE ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS

As more and more baby boomers enter retirement age, the question of whether or not to sell their homes and move will become a hot topic. In today’s housing market climate, with low available inventory in the starter and trade-up home categories, it makes sense to evaluate your home’s ability to adapt to your needs.

Here are some basic considerations about staying where you are re-sizing to a new home.

1. Affordability. Being able to afford the payments and costs today is different than it will be after retirement. You need to think long-term about your monthly costs like property taxes, insurance, HOA fees, utilities – all the things that will be due whether or not you have a mortgage on the property.

Would moving to a complex with homeowner association fees actually be cheaper than having to hire all the contractors you would need to maintain your home, lawn, etc.? Your insurance cost would be more like a renter’s policy since you are responsible for only the paint inward for most condos. Would your taxes go down significantly if you relocated? What is your monthly income going to be like in retirement?

2. Equity. Equity in your current home will be available to apply in the purchase of your next home. Maintaining a healthy amount of home equity gives you a source of emergency funds to tap, via a home equity loan or reverse mortgage. Reverse mortgages are not the devil in disguise like they used to be. This is now a great option for people who own a larger or more expensive home, allowing you to use some of that equity for vacations or other wishes.

The equity you have in your current home may be enough to purchase your retirement home with little to no mortgage. Homeowners in the U.S. gained an average of over $14,000 in equity last year.

3. Maintenance. As we age, our tolerance for cleaning gutters, raking leaves, and shoveling snow can go right out the window. A condominium with low-maintenance needs can be a literal lifesaver if your health or physical abilities decline. Having these things done by the association would also free up your time for traveling.

A condo with an HOA fee may well be worth the added peace of mind of not having to do the maintenance work yourself.

4. Security. Elderly homeowners can be targets for scams or break-ins. Living in a home with security features, such as a manned gate house, resident-only access and a security system can bring peace of mind.

As scary as that thought may be, any additional security and an extra set of eyes looking out for you always adds to peace of mind.

5. Pets. Renting won’t do if the dog can’t come too! The companionship of pets can provide emotional and physical benefits.

Evaluate all of your options when it comes to bringing your “furever” friend with you to a new home. Will there be necessary additional deposits if you are renting or in a condo? Is the backyard fenced in? How far are you from your favorite veterinarian?

6. Mobility. No one wants to picture themselves in a wheelchair or a walker, but the home layout must be able to accommodate limited mobility.

Sixty is the new 40, right? People are living longer and are more active in retirement, but that doesn’t mean that down the road you won’t need your home to be more accessible. Installing handrails and making sure your hallways and doorways are wide enough may be a good reason to look for a home that was built to accommodate these needs.

7. Convenience. Is the new home close to the golf course, or to shopping and dining? Do you have amenities within easy walking distance? This can add to home value!

How close are you to your children and grandchildren? Would relocating to a new area make visits with family easier or more frequent? Beyond being close to your favorite stores and restaurants, there are a lot of factors to consider.

The Bottom Line. When it comes to your forever home, evaluating your current house for its ability to adapt with you as you age can be the first step to guaranteeing your comfort in retirement. It’s never too early to begin planning. An active life may continue into our 70s and 80s nowadays, but not having to worry about taking care of the little tasks that add up will certainly increase your enjoyment!


Nancy Bierenga, of élan Realty, is past president of the West Michigan Lakeshore Association of REALTORS®, a member of the National, Michigan, and West Michigan Lakeshore Associations of REALTORS®, and the Greater Muskegon Woman's Club. She is an Accredited Buyer's Representative, a Certified e-Pro REALTOR®, and a Certified Fair Housing REALTOR®. She and husband Robert have lived in Muskegon since 1996. Phone Nancy at (231) 730-0887, email Nancy@HousesByNancy.com, stop by élan Realty's office at 4075 Airline Rd., Muskegon or visit the élan Realty on Facebook here.

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