Ten Things To Consider Before Purchasing a Retirement House

Thinking about purchasing a Retirement House.

A Retirement House? Should I change where I live? Whether you are 15 years from purchasing a retirement house or you are already retired and considering a move, this article is for you! The consideration to purchase a retirement home may be one of the biggest and most difficult financial decisions you can make. You have been dreaming about what this house would look like, but are you prepared for your own dream? This is a complex decision, and each person has a unique set of needs and desires. Here we will look at ten things you must consider before you purchase a retirement house.

Take Time for Conversations and Planning

Always start with open conversations! It is common that people married many years have not planned together for their retirement. Planning ahead is really important. He thinks they are going to the mountains. What if she thinks they are going to the beach? We would assume this kind of exchange would happen naturally as people dream together. But, with busy lives, people don’t automatically have this conversation. It is never too early to talk these things over. However, it is problematic when you have begun retirement and finally realize that your expectations were not the same!

Affordability of Your Retirement House

What have you set aside for retirement? Does your dream home fit financial boundaries? Consider home-related expenses. Can you afford the annual taxes and insurance of that particular location? Downsizing your home to something smaller would make smart financial sense.  It is best to not start all over with a 30-year mortgage at age 45 or above. Use the financial leverage of your current home to feed into the purchase of your smaller home. The mortgage is the biggest monthly expense, and it is wise to keep the retirement debt to income balanced. Better yet, strive to be mortgage-debt free!

Organization: Keep your things or pass them on?

Besides affordability, your organization style will impact the size of your retirement house. If you keep items you have been collecting for the past 30 to 40 years, you will not be able to purchase a smaller, less expensive home. Remember the retirement debt to income ratio? You will feel financially freer once you have less items to pack along. Do you have old treasures that your children or grandchildren would like to have? Keepsakes can be very special to pass on. Be careful with this, as some family members might be hesitant about how many things they want to add to their household. Also, consider having an older grandchild help you with a garage sale. Make this a family event! Holding on to stuff will require more cleaning and moving things around, which leads us to the topic of maintenance.

Maintenance at Your Retirement House

Here is a big one! How much maintenance will you be able to do, or even want to do five or ten years from now? Yes, it is nice to have acreage for the grandkids to play in, but how much mowing and trimming will be involved? Gardening is a joy, but picking up cucumbers from the ground is a pain, literally. Not to mention plucking those monster weeds.

Indoors, the cleaning schedule can become tedious, because it takes longer to maintain and get around in a large home. How many years have you managed housekeeping, home maintenance, laundry and meal preparation? How would housekeeping be easier if you downsized? Would you have more energy for good meal preparation and visiting loved ones if it weren’t for maintaining a large place? Generally speaking, most retirees want less maintenance.

Ability to Age in Your Retirement House

The house style needed to age in place is another important consideration. A stairway would be one to avoid! We are more prone to balance issues as we get older, and we do not want balance issues on a stairway. But other considerations include the open space to convert your entryways to wheelchair width, if they are not already so. It is good to be able to age in familiar surroundings. This is difficult to think about, but we must take stock of the changing needs of aging. This includes potential mobility issues.

Floors and Mobility

Another consideration for mobility is the flooring. Is the rug or floor easy to clean and move about? Carpet doesn’t do well in wet areas such as the bathroom or kitchen. It stains easily and requires a professional cleaner to deep-clean. Wheelchairs do not roll over carpet as well as over hard flooring. Also consider potential trip hazards of long-pile carpets. A carpet should be no higher than ½ in, and the padding should be firm. When looking at a new house to purchase, notice the floor transitions between rooms. Floors should be as flush as possible, for both ease of travel and to prevent tripping accidents. (https://www.thespruce.com/the-best-flooring-for-senior-citizens-1314944)  If there are potential floor hazards or carpets in the kitchen or bathroom, can these easily be changed before you move in?

People Connections

Remember to choose a retirement house within a reasonable geographical area of family members. Do you want to visit with your children or grandchildren beyond face book? You already have a unique-to-you social network in your family. What if your family or friends haven’t heard from you or been able to contact you by phone? Consider how far someone would have to drive to check on you. You don’t have to be next-door neighbors to family. However, a drive across town would be better than a drive to the next county.

Driving Issues

Many people purchase homes based on their lifestyle today. Take the time to think this through and pick a location with the kind of things you may need when you are older. Will you be at an easy location for your friends to drive you to a favorite store, church, symphony or other places of interest to you? Don’t assume that you will drive forever.


This is a sticky one, because no neighborhood is 100% everything you have dreamed of.

What is your style? Do you want to be in a neighborhood of children and school buses? Some people love to be around this, even if they do not have children at home. It brings back memories and gives a special rhythm to the time and seasons, not to mention someone to invite over for homemade cookies.  On the other hand, other people would rather have a quiet neighborhood or an area with other retirees to converse with. These retirees might consider a 55+ active adult community.

Look at neighborhood logistics. There should be plenty of street lighting so it is easier to come and go during the early winter evenings. Do people seem to watch out for each other? Visit the neighborhood at different times of the day over a period of a week or more before purchasing a home there. This would give you an indication of what is “normal” in that area. Better yet, visit with a neighbor or two to discuss the history and current events of the area.

Fitness and Health at Your Retirement House

Do you want to thrive during your retirement? Make it easy to stay fit and mobile! Look for a retirement house in a good place to walk or bike. Is there a nearby fitness gym you can envision yourself attending several times a week? Will you be able to step out into the sunshine near your door? Is there a grocery store or market in town, where you can purchase fresh food when you need to? Always ask yourself questions.

 In conclusion, plan and strategize the purchase of your retirement house! Look out for your health, life-long strength, vigor and independence. Your location, social connections, and available activities should impact smart, retirement house choices. Finally, I leave you with this quote from Jim Heafner, president of Heafner Financial Solutions in Charlotte, N.C.: “Look for what will meet your needs today, but don’t forget to plan ahead and find a community that will meet your needs in the future.”

Christine Blankenship, Editor, Vibrant Senior Options

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© 2019 Vibrant Senior Options

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