7 House Hunting Tips If You're Over 60, According to Real Estate Experts
There are some things seniors should take into consideration when looking for a new home.
Whether you're planning to retire, relocating to be near family, or just looking to make a lifestyle change, there are plenty of reasons to start house hunting as a senior. And while everyone's needs and means are different, there's no denying that there's an entirely new way of approaching the process later in life. Fortunately, there are a few tips for making home buying as straightforward as it can be, helping to ensure you'll end up with the perfect property for your golden years. Read on for the house hunting tips that real estate experts have for people over 60.
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Consider how different your home needs are now from when you were younger.
Over the years, people choose to move houses for various reasons. In most cases, people change addresses to increase square footage, get more acreage, or simply upgrade to a nicer dwelling. But experts point out that after years of family building or ambitious projects, house hunting later in life usually revolves around a new set of considerations for the immediate future.
"Buyers' needs are different as they age," Clare Trapasso, executive news editor of Realtor.com, tells Best Life. "Older house hunters may prefer a smaller home that is easier to clean and maintain. They may not want to buy a fixer-upper or a starter home that needs work to save money. They may not need extra bedrooms or be concerned with buying a home in a top school district if they don't have children."
This can also include moving into a new property with fewer upkeep obligations. "Townhomes and condominiums may also be appealing so that buyers don't have to worry about maintenance, like shoveling snow, raking leaves, or mowing the lawn," she says. "It could also be helpful to have a super in the building who can help with repairs."
Look for important safety or mobility upgrades.
Our lifestyles inevitably change as we age, and so do our physical capabilities. Of course, experts say this should be a critical factor in deciding what type of home you're going to buy.
"Older home buyers may want to consider a one-level home, so they don't have to worry about stairs as they age," says Trapasso. "They also may prefer wheelchair-accessible homes with ramps that help them enter the home or homes that can be outfitted with ramps."
"They may also want to consider walk-in showers large enough to accommodate a wheelchair or walker instead of a tub that may be more difficult for them to access as they get older," she adds, noting that "grab bars and good lighting can also be helpful."
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Think long-term when considering a new property.
By age 60, you know that life can take all kinds of unexpected twists and turns. But solid planning takes on new importance as we age, especially when it comes down to something as important as where you might spend the rest of your life. That's why experts suggest that house hunters think ahead to ensure they'll be in a good position to live comfortably down the line.
"Older home buyers want to consider whether this new home will be their 'forever' home or if they plan to sell it at some point and move into a 55+ community or assisted living situation," Trapasso says. "If they plan to age in place, they want to make sure their new home is near top-notch medical facilities and other essential amenities, like grocery and drug stores. They also want to make sure their new home is suitable to retire in or can be outfitted with whatever they may need as they age."
Think about what you want to get out of your retirement.
After decades in the workforce, those over 60 are usually at least thinking about retirement. The exciting change presents a rare opportunity to reassess your priorities and tailor fit your life to how you'd like to spend your time. When it comes to moving, Trapasso says this raises questions about what's most important, whether it's wanting to be closer to friends and family, settling down in a warm year-round climate, or finding someplace that will make their savings stretch as much as possible.
"Many older Americans seek out locations with lower taxes—such as states that won't tax their retirement income—that offer a more affordable cost of living. Others never want to shovel snow again. And some would prefer to be close to outdoor amenities, international airports, wineries—whatever they enjoy," says Trapasso. "My advice is for older Americans to figure out what matters most to them, take a hard look at their finances, and then research which areas offer what they need at the right price point."
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The area around your home can be just as important as the house you end up buying.
It's very rare people are willing to move homes if they don't love the town or city in which their new house is located. But this consideration can take on a whole new importance for anyone over 60 looking to stay socially active and entertained.
"Look for vibrant communities, especially if you're retired or plan to retire soon," Jill Preschel, real estate advisor on the Kirsten Jordan Team at Douglas Elliman, tells Best Life. "I've heard from my own parents that retirement can make your world feel smaller, but once you found your routine, hobbies, and community, your world begins to expand again."
One surprising type of locale often makes a good fit for seniors in particular. "It might seem counterintuitive, but college towns are perfect for retirees. They have great restaurants and amazing arts and cultural offerings—from lectures to gallery openings," Preschel says.
Decide if it makes more sense to rent rather than buy.
Homeownership may feel like a major part of adult life for some people, and most of us will reach 60 having had at least one mortgage under their belt. But if you're moving houses when you're older, experts say you should weigh the pros and cons of swapping your deed for a lease.
"Deciding to rent or buy is a personal choice," says Trapasso. "It may make more sense for some homeowners to sell their properties and use their profits on a rental. Conversely, some renters may be better off as homeowners. Some people would prefer to build equity through homeownership that can be passed on to their children. Others may be hesitant to take out a mortgage later in life."
Of course, there's no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. "It really depends on their goals, their finances, and where they live. In some real estate markets, it may be more affordable to rent than to buy or vice versa," Trapasso says.
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Lean in to making a decision entirely for yourself.
Picking a home earlier in life can come down to a long list of requirements, from how it will affect your commute to worrying if you'll have enough space as your family grows. But while shopping for a new house over 60 may come with its own set of concerns, it can also be an incredibly liberating decision to make. In many ways, experts say keeping this in mind can broaden the possibilities and ultimately help you make the right choice.
"For many people over 60, this is the house hunt where they can finally be selfish," says Preschel. "You aren't relocating for work and don't have to worry about uprooting children. You are entirely focused on your quality of life and what you want in your next phase. That's exciting! I always enjoy working with clients at this stage because they really go after what they want, and it's wonderful to see the joy in that process."
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