What to look for when buying a house to retire in

With increasing numbers of baby boomers reaching retirement age, it’s becoming more and more common for these homeowners to decide to downsize from the family home. If you count yourself among them, it’s important to keep in mind that shopping for a home to retire in comes with its own considerations.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Establish a budget

The federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits lenders from denying potential borrowers because of their age. If you or your spouse are still working now, consider how your income will change once one or both of you retire. Include costs for lawn care and maintenance you may need to hire out. If you have a house to sell, you may have enough equity to purchase your new home without taking out a mortgage. However, if you need a mortgage to pay for at least a portion of your new home, be sure to budget not just for your current income level, but for the future as well.

Speak to a financial advisor to determine whether it is better to put more cash into a house to reduce the mortgage or keep more cash on hand to live on in retirement. If you do get a mortgage, it’s also important to consider whether one of you could make the payments if the other one were to die before the mortgage was paid off. Life is unpredictable, so be sure to purchase a home you can afford under many circumstances.

2. Choose a floor plan for the future

If you aren’t currently in a ranch-style home, you may already have grown weary of going up and down stairways. Think how much more you will dislike it as the years go by. When looking for your next home, look for a floor plan that offers one-level living. You’ll find it much more convenient if your bedroom and main living area are all on one level. Also on the list? Be sure you have roomy bathrooms, preferably with step-in or walk-in showers rather than just a tub shower. Today’s open floor plans mean you shouldn’t have difficulty finding a house with roomy entryways or hallways, which may also be important for accommodating wheelchairs or walkers in the future.

3. Consider your social network

No, not your social media network, but your real-life social network. If you have always dreamed of moving across the country for your retirement, be sure you’ve thought things through carefully before taking the plunge. Living in the same place for any amount of time has probably allowed you to build an extensive social network of friends, colleagues and family members. Being surrounded by people who care about you is important for both physical and mental health. Even if you have an adventuresome spirit, be sure to vacation frequently or even rent for a year in your future community to be sure it’s a good fit before buying a home there.

4. Look for access to services and amenities

If travel is on your agenda, consider buying a home with easy access to the airport. Rather than that pretty home in the country, consider a home within walking distance to stores, public transportation, cultural attractions and movies because there may come a time when you no longer want to drive. You’ll also want to consider accessibility to health care services. People of retirement age typically see more specialists than younger adults. A good rule of thumb is to look for a new house that is conveniently located so you don’t need to drive more than a half hour to reach a major medical facility.

5. Educate yourself on restrictions and fees

While moving to a 55-and-over neighborhood may have some appeal–planned activities, other people your age–be sure to read the fine print. While you may own your property, many of these communities have a lot of restrictions regarding what you can do with your property. You may find this frustrating if you’ve always owned your home and could do what you pleased when it came to landscaping, pets, decor, renovations–even having the grandkids stay. You also need to consider any maintenance fees. In the end, it may make more sense to buy in a conventional neighborhood.

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