Retirement is a fun and exciting time to reap the rewards of all your years of hard work. Less time in the office means more time with family and friends, getting to engage in the activities you enjoy and seeing the world. A big part of many people’s retirement is buying a forever home. However, buying a retirement home will be much different than when you bought your first home as a young adult. There are many factors that need to be considered to make the transition smooth as well as smart!
First, consider neighborhoods and communities. Safety is an important factor. Do you due diligence and research crime in the area. Look into nearby transportation (bus and train services), grocery stores, hospitals, volunteer opportunities, places to socialize and worship. As we grow older, many of these things become very important. Also, look at the streets. Are the sidewalks safe to walk on? Is signage visible and clearly marked? Are there a variety of housing options like condos, apartments and single-family homes? How far are family and friends?
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Consider communities that meet your lifestyle. If you are an avid golfer, look into communities that have a strong focus on golf. Perhaps you want to surround yourself with those who have had the same type of careers. There are lots of niche communities that serve retired postal worker, actors, musicians, doctors, etc. Find out what the HOA rules and regulations are for the communities that are of interest. Make sure the rules and fees work for your lifestyle and budget.
Once you have found a neighborhood and community and are ready to look at housing, there are things within the home that are important to focus on. Consider your current health as you retire and your future health as you age. A home you purchase in your 50’s and 60’s may not work when you reach your 70’s and 80’s. Look into single level homes or condos with elevators. Check out the adaptability of the home. Are the halls wide enough for wheelchairs if they are needed in the future? Does at least one bathroom have a stand-up shower instead of a bathtub? Can grab bars be installed? Can the toilet seats be raised?
Ease of use is another factor. Are switches easy to reach or on remotes? Are there programmable items that can assist with temperature, light switches and even doors? Is the outdoor space going to be easy to maintain in the future? Lastly, the size of the home is important. Think about who will be doing the house cleaning. Will you have visitors often or primarily be by yourself? Can your handle the future maintenance and repairs of the home?
Start planning early. Prepare a budget of income and expenses so you know where you stand. Follow your dream as best as possible. Visit places to retire while you are still actively working. Know what you will do all day once you are retired. Start downsizing early. Declutter and disband as you approach retirement. Make some piles for “move, maybe, sell, give away, donate, and throw out.” Think about what would fit in your future home and what would not. Give your children your keepsakes and those items that hold sentimental value but cannot be brought into a retirement home.
Kirsten Goebeler is a RE/MAX Fine Properties residential real estate agent with more than 15 years of experience in the industry. Goebeler specializes in helping seniors reach their real estate goals, and recently earned The Seniors Real Estate Specialist® designation through the National Association of Realtors.