Added on July 12, 2017 by Jim_Vogel
When you're ready to begin searching for a home, there are certain aspects you should look for as a senior. To avoid making changes after you purchase your home, you can look for one that already has designs that will allow you to age in place. There are also specific financial considerations to make, especially if you're living off of retirement funds or on a fixed income.
If you're planning on uprooting to a new city, Forbes recommends renting for at least a year. You want to test the city to ensure you like the new community. Also, make sure you're comfortable with the distance between you and your family.
Once you're ready to begin your search, aim for a home that is one level, as even a single step can be an issue for someone using a walker or a wheelchair or if the person has balance issues. Don't just avoid stairs inside; avoids steps going into the home from all entrances: front door, back door, garage, etc. Also, a garage is a nice feature so you're able to enter and exit the car away from any inclement weather.
Opt for open plans with wide hallways and 36-inch doorways. All of these features are friendly for wheelchairs and walkers. Check the bathroom to ensure it's roomy as well, and take a peak in the shower. You want at least one stand-up shower that is curbless.
Be aware of the heights of the appliances, as you may not always be able to bend down to use the dishwasher or the washer and dryer. You may want lower counters in bathrooms and the kitchen for future wheelchair access. Also, ensure that the microwave and refrigerator have easy access.
According to Bankrate, age is not a factor in loan approval, and it's illegal for lenders to discriminate against borrowers on that basis. However, if you're living on a fixed income, it can be harder to get approved for a loan, and even if you meet the lender's guidelines, fixed-income seniors may have more issues making the monthly payments. Furthermore, if you're married, you must consider how you'll cover the mortgage payment if your spouse were to pass or become disabled. Speak to a financial advisor and a mortgage lender before purchasing a home.
Unless you plan on staying in your home for five to 10 years, it's going to cost you more to buy than to rent in the grand scheme of things. Also, buying a new home means you'll need a down payment. If you sell another home for profit before moving, the down payment may not be an issue. However, if you'll need to use your IRAs or other retirement accounts to cover the down payment, you're cutting into the money you'll have for daily living expenses, which could affect your lifestyle.
When you purchase your home, buy less than you can afford. There is no way to know what will happen in the future, regardless of age, but, as U.S. News contributor Teresa Mears notes, "Older people are more likely to experience involuntary unemployment or medical problems." Buying less than you can afford will make it easier to manage any issues that could occur.
If you're concerned about the remainder of your mortgage affecting your children, a financial adviser or attorney can help them map out an estate plan. This way everyone will be prepared when you pass. Also, if you're not comfortable discussing your mortgage with your children now, a real estate agent can help them determine how much the property is worth and how much is owed when you pass.