Senior Downsizing

Senior Downsizing

For a Successful Senior Downsize, Avoid These 3 Common Mistakes

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Your house seems too big now that the kids have moved out, so you’ve made the decision to downsize. You’re looking forward to more financial freedom and fewer chores, not to mention the great new location you’ve scoped out for your future home. But are you forgetting something important in the midst of all the home-buying excitement?

If you want this move to be your last one, you need to think about more than what your next home will look like. Otherwise, you could end up making one of these common downsizing mistakes and throwing away money in the process.

Failing to plan for long-term care

Before you start house hunting, ask yourself if aging in place is really the right choice for you. While most people would prefer to age independently, some people have needs that are best met in an assisted living facility. If you’re having trouble with day-to-day tasks like dressing, bathing, or taking medications, and in-home care is unaffordable, downsizing to assisted living may be a better option than buying a home.

Even if you don’t need that level of care today, it’s important to think about how your health may change over the next few years. Moving into assisted living now may be more cost-effective than buying a house just to sell it in a couple of years. Plus, assisted living isn’t one-size-fits-all, and many communities include options for seniors who are highly independent. If you’re not sure, tour some facilities to get a feel for the options. Tours are also the best way to learn about costs, which, while not the most important detail, are still a big factor. Meeting with a senior advisor who can connect you with several communities is a great way to get started and to have some guidance when making this decision.

If costs are prohibitive (assisted living averages $3,150 a month in Florida), you may be able to sell your current home to help fund your stay in assisted living.

Not buying an age-friendly home

For many, the ability to age at home is well worth the price of in-home care. However, you might change your tune if you have to renovate your new house once you start having mobility problems.

Aging-in-place remodeling can be exorbitantly expensive when you’re trying to adapt an unsuitable home to the needs of aging-in-place seniors. Just look at the price of a curbless shower or home elevator, and you’ll realize why it’s so important to buy a home that already features age-friendly design.

Don’t confuse age-friendly with institutional. Age-friendly homes include modern features like single-level floor plans, wide entryways, and electrical outlets raised a comfortable height off the ground. With good design, an age-friendly home is indistinguishable from any other home. Unfortunately, the fact that age-friendly homes look like any other also makes them difficult to find. Your best resource is a real estate agent who understands the needs of senior homebuyers.

Not researching home prices

You’ve fixed up your home to sell, downsized your stuff, and are ready to put your house on the market. Until you look at homes for sale and get hit with sticker shock, that is.

Many seniors assume that downsizing will save big on housing costs. It’s true that a smaller home can cut your mortgage payment and utility costs, but the savings might be smaller than you think. The dense, walkable neighborhoods that are ideal for seniors are equally popular with younger buyers, leading to higher prices than you’ll find elsewhere. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth it, but it’s important to research home prices in advance so you understand average costs in the area you want to buy (e.g., Palm Beach Gardens homes have sold for an average of $320,000).

One more mistake seniors make is waiting too long to downsize. The best time to downsize your house is before you need to. That way, you have plenty of time to plan for your senior housing needs and find the right home for you. Take a proactive approach to aging in place and start planning your senior downsize today.

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