Many people dream of a carefree retirement. To reduce costs and hassle, many retirees consider changing their living situation by downsizing to a smaller house that requires less care and maintenance. Alternatively, you might evaluate moving to a home that better fits your needs in your retirement years, in terms of location and features.
If you’re trying to decide whether downsizing, moving, or simply remodeling your home is the right move for you, here are some of the key tradeoffs and considerations.
The Implications of Downsizing
The first question to address is whether downsizing is a good choice based on your circumstances. Forty-two percent of individuals eventually plan to downsize to a smaller home or retirement community, according to TD Ameritrade. Many people find the idea of having less property to care for and house to clean appealing. Retirement communities can also be attractive because they can help you forge connections with other people who are similarly situated.
Of course, downsizing also has its difficulties. For one, it can be emotionally and logistically challenging to sort and purge belongings you have accumulated over the years. If you are close with your neighbors and other people in your community, relocating could create more work in maintaining those relationships.
That’s why many retirees choose to stay in their current homes with a few upgrades to simplify living. Depending on the size of the house and number of floors, it might be necessary to think about and plan for long-term possibilities, including not being able to walk up and down stairs easily, and whether you can hire service providers to care for the lawn or clean the house.
Important Financial Considerations Before Moving
If you do decide to move, it’s essential to consider the financial implications of living expenses and nearby healthcare.
As an example, if you dream of moving to a warmer climate like Florida or Arizona, you might find that you need to plan for a significant increase in the cost of living. For an Idaho resident who is used to paying the average home insurance premium of $900 annually, moving to Arizona, where home insurance averages $1,318 is a big jump. Depending on your financial situation, be sure to plan ahead so an increase like this is not a surprise.
Another important factor to consider is the quality and cost of healthcare in your current location compared to another area. According to a report by The Commonwealth Fund, health insurance and out-of-pocket expenses in Michigan, one of the most inexpensive states, came to $5,453, while Florida -- a popular choice for northern retirees--cost $7,827 per year.
When it is time to retire, reviewing the cost of living of where you want to move is critical in making the best choice. Then, you can focus on the home itself and its location benefits.
Valuable Home Amenities for Retirement
Regardless of your decision to age in place or move somewhere new, making sure your home continues to age with you and suit your needs for a long time is essential. There are several amenities that retirees should consider having in a new home or adding to their existing one that make aging easier.
- Move the main bedroom to the first floor.
As some individuals age, they struggle to navigate stairs easily, which can put a strain on their quality of living. Prepare for that possibility at the beginning of retirement by making sure the master bedroom and full bathroom are on the first floor.
- Install ramps.
Ramps are beneficial both outdoors and indoors when possible. They minimize the chance of falls for those that require wheelchairs or walkers to enter and exit the home. Strategically placed ramps can also make it easier to get from one room to the next.
- Expand door frames and hallways.
Traditional door frames and hallways are not wide enough for walkers and wheelchairs to easily navigate. Expanding them before it becomes a necessity allows you to focus on other important things later.
- Update exterior elements.
Maintaining a home over time requires work, but there are things you can do outdoors to lessen the responsibility. Install vinyl siding and molding for easy cleanup along with shrubs that don’t require personal attention.
- Install non-slip flooring.
Non-slip flooring, especially in the bathroom and kitchen, is a major improvement that can help minimize falls or accidents. Look for easy-to-clean options so they won’t require additional work to maintain.
- Embrace smart home technology.
Finally, there is a vast amount of technology available today to make home living even more comfortable. Installing outdoor cameras connected to a smartphone lets you see who is at the door without getting up. In addition, lights, thermostats, and motion sensors that can be controlled remotely can all make life easier as you age.
Maxime Rieman is Product Manager at ValuePenguin. Educating and assisting shoppers about financial products has been Rieman's focus, which led her to joining ValuePenguin, a consumer research and advice company based in New York. Previously, she was product marketing director at CoverWallet and launched the personal insurance team at NerdWallet.
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