There are multiple aspects to consider when home buying in the senior years. The priorities in a home will likely be very different compared to what was years ago, and there may be some financing challenges to work through. Navigating the process can seem challenging, but there are some ways to make it a bit easier.
Create a Priority List
A senior should create a priority list before starting the search for a new place. For many older adults, one-level living is important as stairs can become challenging. Natural light and an open floor plan are important to many seniors, and don’t forget to look at the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom closely to ensure they will be easily accessible.
Seniors are often downsizing to a smaller place at this stage of life, but they should consider whether extra space is needed for storage or guests. If the new home will be in a retirement community or assisted living facility, consider the community amenities and other potential resources. Look at both the individual unit and the community spaces, and think about what may be needed in the years to come (not just right now).
Consider Budget and Options for Accessing Equity
Prior to purchasing a new home, a senior will need to consider what they can afford. Many seniors are on a limited budget, and it is vital they keep enough money accessible to live comfortably day-to-day. Not only do they need to account for monthly expenses, but they should also build a reserve for emergency repairs or future health issues.
Some seniors decide to make a large down payment on their home, perhaps using equity from the sale of their previous home. As the FDIC explains, there are ways older adults can utilize equity in their new home in order to have access to cash. Some do a reverse mortgage, called a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage, while others get a home equity line-of-credit or second mortgage.
Transfer of Property to Adult Children
A quitclaim deed can be useful for many seniors and their families. Realtor.com defines a quitclaim deed as “a legal document that transfers any ownership claim, interest, right or title a person or entity may have in a property to someone else. In effect, it releases (or quits) any ownership claims a person may have in a piece of property.” Seniors often find this to be an inexpensive way to grant ownership of a home to another family member rather than sell the property.
Investopedia recommends that seniors only use this option to transfer property to someone they know and trust, such as a situation involving an older parent and adult children. However, families need to recognize that this does not transfer a mortgage, only ownership rights. If there is a mortgage on the property, additional steps will need to be taken to assume the mortgage or refinance.
Focus on Reputable Options for Professional Movers
When moving day arrives, many seniors will want to hire professionals for assistance. Moving can get expensive with hired movers, so it may be best to go with a proven entity rather than someone unknown. Ask around for recommendations – senior centers can be a great resource for finding movers experienced in these types of relocations.
Prioritizing what a senior needs in a new home can be tricky, and older adults sometimes need to utilize special options such as a quitclaim deed or reverse mortgages to make the financial aspects fit properly. However, with some strategizing, a senior can settle comfortably into a new home that brings them peace and tranquility for their remaining years.
Jim Vogel, co-founder of ElderAction, is passionate about promoting senior health and safety. He enjoys sharing valuable information with seniors and their caregivers. He focuses on helping ensure seniors are able to thrive throughout their golden years by sharing pertinent resources and information. He works with his wife, Caroline, to provide useful resources to aging seniors and their caregivers.