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Retirees and Real Estate: Should You Buy or Rent?

Retirees and Real Estate: Should You Buy or Rent?

By    |   Wednesday, 29 January 2020 12:56 PM

Many people consider moving in retirement, but research shows that the majority of people intend to stay put.

In a 2019 survey from Chase, 52% of baby boomers expect they’ll never move from their current home.

The other 48% who want to relocate have to make an important decision: Does it make more sense to rent or buy in retirement?


For Americans 65 and older, buying a home is the more popular option — Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies found that nearly 80% own their homes. Comfort may play a factor in that decision. The longer a person stays in their home, the more likely they are to say that homeownership is easier than the hassles of renting. Here are other advantages — and disadvantages — to buying.


Your variable costs are lower. Most homebuyers choose fixed-rate mortgages because the monthly principal and interest payments are constant over the life of the loan. While property taxes, insurance premiums and maintenance costs can increase over time when you own your home, you won’t have to worry about a landlord increasing your rent.

You can use the home to generate income. If you own your home, you can use it to generate income by renting it out, either to a long-term tenant or on a short-term site like Airbnb or Vrbo. If you rent and your lease includes a “no subletting” clause, bringing in a renter may count as a violation of that provision, and your landlord may evict you.

Homeownership has tax benefits. When you own a home, property taxes and mortgage interest are deductible; rent isn’t. Plus, if you later sell your home, you can exclude up to $250,000 ($500,000 if married) of the gain from your taxable income.


You may need to renovate. As we age, physical challenges can make a once comfortable home difficult to navigate, meaning aging in place may be an impossibility for some homeowners without necessary updates. Some simple safety features, such as installing grab bars near toilets, are relatively inexpensive. But the cost goes up if you need to expand doorways and remodel kitchens and bathrooms to accommodate a wheelchair.

Moving might be challenging. If you buy a home and later decide you want to move, you won’t have much flexibility. Selling a home can take months, and commissions and other selling expenses will eat into any profits you make on the sale.

Home prices may go down. People tend to think of a home as an investment that increases in value over time, but that’s not always the reality. Sometimes, the market price of real estate decreases due to rising interest rates or economic conditions. If the value of your home falls, you could find yourself unable to recoup your investment.


The same Harvard study found that nearly a quarter of adults age 50 and older are renters. Here are some pros and cons of renting.


Someone else takes care of the maintenance. If you own your home, you should be saving around 1%-3% a year of your home’s current market value for maintenance, and that can cut into a senior’s fixed budget.

Renters typically don’t have to worry about covering maintenance and repairs (though the same can be true for condo owners, who likely have an HOA that covers some of the cost). In most states, landlords are responsible for covering repairs, including plumbing, heating, electrical systems, pest control issues and appliances. If the home needs major repairs, like a new roof, being the renter instead of the homeowner can save you thousands in out-of-pocket costs.

You’ll have more flexibility. Renters typically have more flexibility to move closer to family, into more accessible housing or spend part of the year in a different location. All you need to do is notify your landlord that you won’t be renewing your lease.

Your assets won’t be tied up. Homebuyers tie up a portion of their net worth in real estate, whether they pay cash or take out a mortgage. If you rent, you can keep your money invested, and only tap your savings to make your monthly rent payments.


Your decorating options may be limited. For some people, their living space is an expression of their personality. Renting can put a cap on that expression if your landlord isn’t on board with bold paint colors and wallpaper. If you live in a rental, stick to furniture and accessories that you can take with you when you move, or get approval on changes from your landlord.

Finding accessible rental options may be difficult. According to the Harvard study mentioned above, there is a severe shortage of accessible housing options in the U.S. If you’re looking to rent a home that can accommodate independent living as you age, you may have a hard time finding a property that fits your budget.

You may feel like you’re throwing money away. Many older people grew up hearing that renting is “paying someone else’s mortgage.” You might have a hard time with the idea of paying rent each month without earning any equity in the property in return. Just keep in mind that the practical aspects of renting might outweigh the emotional benefits of homeownership. Consider your needs in terms of cash flow, flexibility, accessibility and lifestyle, and make the choice that best fits your situation.

Joe Resendiz is a Research Analyst at ValuePenguin, where he focuses on personal finance and credit research to assist consumers. Previously, Joe specialized on public sector and infrastructure financing at Goldman Sachs. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a BBA in Finance.

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Many people consider moving in retirement, but research shows that the majority of people intend to stay put.
retirees, real estate, buy, rent
Wednesday, 29 January 2020 12:56 PM
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