May 8, 2018

I'm Retired: I Want To Move From My Home: What Are My Choices?


There comes a time when most of us have to ask ourselves this question. No matter how much we love where we live, or how many memories lurk in each room, eventually safety must win out. Aging in place has its limits.

When the hallways and doors are too narrow for a wheelchair or walker, when the stairs make using the second floor difficult, or when kitchen cabinets are too high to reach, we know we should move. When in-home care is not available or too expensive we know we should move.

Our options are determined by several factors: activity level, finances, preferences, closeness of family or relatives, and the availability of more intensive care at some point in the future. For this post, I am assuming that your decision to move is not due to a serious medical problem, but more out of convenience, safety. and planning for your future. In no particular order, let's look at what we may consider:


1) Downsizing: This is an obvious choice. The house that was the perfect size for raising a family is now too big. The home that seemed to be just right for you, your craft room, and vegetable garden out back means too much cleaning and work. How much to downsize is a personal choice. For some, that might mean just thinning out possessions under the theory that the less stuff one owns the less there is to clean, dust, and store. For others, a reduction in physical size makes the most sense. After all, do you still need three bedrooms, a den, a formal dining room, and a living room?

Actually, I know of at least one blog reader who upsized after retiring. Housing was less expensive in their new location, plus he and his wife wanted extra space to indulge in their passions and interests.

2) Change in housing type: Often this happens as a result of downsizing. Instead of a single family home in the suburbs, a smaller condo makes sense. Most of the maintenance is handled by someone else. A townhome near an urban center seems to beckon with its restaurants, museums, clubs, and shopping. Tiny houses call some, while full time RVing is best for others. 


3) Ownership versus renting: Most of us were raised with the belief that owning a house was the ultimate mark of being a grownup. A mortgage came with adulthood. Well, as we age that may not be the best choice. Instead of tying up hundreds of thousands of dollars in something as illiquid as a house sitting on a plot of land, paying a monthly rent suddenly makes sense. Property taxes are no longer your concern. Maintenance? Not your problem. Changes in the tax law may mean a mortgage deduction isn't helpful. Tired of living where you do? Give 30 days notice and move somewhere else. 

4) Cohousing or sharing home with another senior: There is an important difference between these two options. Cohousing communities are a group of maybe 10-20 housing unites (homes or townhomes) built around a common area. Most cohousing setups encourage generational mixing: young families, those with older children, and empty nesters live in the homes. The idea is to avoid the age separation that happens in 55+ communities.

Sharing a home with another senior or two is like the roommate relationship you might have experienced in college. Two or more compatible people live in the same dwelling, sharing experiences, chores, and cooking. This could involve either a private home, or an apartment.

5) Living with relatives: Multi-generational living is more common in other countries and cultures, but America is catching up. Whether in a separate "grandmother" cottage, as a suite with its own bathroom, or simply a bedroom in the home, having mom, dad, or uncle Ed sharing space with family is not all that unusual anymore. Of course, such an arrangement comes with all sorts of consequences and complications that must be worked out ahead of time. 

6) Residential care homes: Think a very small 55+ community. Often, a residential care home looks like a private dwelling on any street in any town in America. Instead of one family, a RCH has a handful of seniors, each living in a private room, but sharing common spaces with others. Usually some limited form of housekeeping, meal service, and care are part of the deal.

7) CCRC: This is a community of 55+ individuals with the full range of housing choices: individual living, assisted living, and nursing care facilities on site. I've written about this choice several times before so I won't list all the pros and cons. But, a CCRC is a favorite choice of many of us when it is time to move.

OK, your turn. Which of these options is likely to be somewhere in your future? Or, do you have another choice I missed?



26 comments:

  1. I know that when the time comes, I will rent rather than own. So that means moving from a rural to an urban center (not necessarily a city). A "granny" cottage has also crossed my mind but it would also have to cross the minds of any relative who would accommodate that!

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    1. Selling a house and renting for a period certainly frees up a lot of cash and ends some of the more difficult and expensive things about home ownership. It is probably the best option for someone who wants to move to a different part of the country. It takes time to become comfortable with the new area and to know where important services and amenities are located.

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  2. Bob, We took the leap and decided to move after being in the same home for 35 years. All 3 kids grew up in that house and it was full of memories.

    If you move, it has to be for the right reasons. In our case it was being closer to the kids and grands. We downsized to a smaller place and most everything we need is within walking distance of our home. The kids and grandkids are just 10 minutes away so we have some "buffer space" you might say. Our dog, Henry gets us out most mornings for a walk and our local church is minutes where we are plugged in.

    We did our research and looked at the financial end if it would work. We also did extended stays to experience the weather during all the seasons. Having PDX airport within minutes gives us another option for travel. We have everything we need such as good medical facilities, retirement options outside of our residence should the transition arise.

    We have many options as to the "Why" to move. Many of my friends have chosen to age in place. In the end, it is what works best for you to enjoy your Satisfying Retirement years.

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    1. In the end, it is what is best for you.

      The Portland area has excellent local transportation options, a beautiful airport, Amtrak service, and all the urban pluses one could want. If you have lived through a Portland winter and are still smiling, then the match seems perfect!

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  3. I sold my home, moved across the country from suburbs of a very large city to live in a large city, and now rent. I invested the proceeds which gives me a very nice nest egg. I don't need to live on it, but I take some income from it each month which I use to have a higher quality lifestyle. Although I would like to settle down somewhere, I also like that I can easily move, which is a good idea when first relocating to a new area and new lifestyle. I have no plans to ever buy a home again.
    I have looked at two retirement communities in my city for the future. One has a lower monthly cost, but there is a large buy-in required up-front. The other is a larger monthly cost without the buy-in. Both are wonderful, really lovely, and they take care of you in many ways and provide a nice quality lifestyle while you live in your own apartment and maintain as much of an outside life as you want. I am sure I will enjoy living in that kind of environment and I'm looking forward to it. I plan to assess each a year whether I am ready to move.

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    1. It is good you have two viable, attractive options for the eventual move to a retirement community.

      And, I agree with you that renting is a necessary first choice when moving to a new area. There is no way to be sure of the best place to live until you experience the new area through all seasons of the year, and really begin to see if the place you picked works for you.

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  4. Hi Bob! I so agree with all your points. As we change and life changes it is important to take steps to adapt to those changes in the best way possible for each of us. And because our needs are so different, I prefer to call that strategy "rightsizing." To me rightsizing sounds more "positive" because most people when they think of downsizing see it as a sacrifice or an enforced change to the negative. My experience of rightsizing my life has been completely positive so it's no wonder I write about it myself! But behind it all is taking the time to think our our unique needs and circumstances. ~Kathy

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  5. Well, since I just had the "life bump" of one of my sons being seriously ill, I will be moving closer to all three sons. I am still working, but will retire in less than four years (or sooner, depending on his health). Yes, I will have to drive a bit further for work, but it is a compromise I am willing to make. I will be putting my current house up for sale. It will sell. I am not picky as far as my living arrangements. I will probably just put a small, used mobile home on my land up there, and "call it good" as we say in these parts. I really do not care. I am not going to be spending a lot on housing, and my kids will inherit the land anyway, so I do not want to build, and they (or their future wives) not like it.

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    1. Good, you raised another option: Manufactured housing, or mobile homes. These are an inexpensive option that can be surprisingly comfortable and well appointed, or rather basic if that is your choice. I don't think I'd own one in Tornado Alley, but they are an answer.

      The housing market right now is pretty hot. The house next to ours sold in 1 day and another farther down the streets sold before going on the market. Now might be a good time.

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  6. We did upsize our housing in retirement in TN, but in fairness it is a one-story home that is easy to navigate due to its internal size and large rooms. But eventually we will need to make other arrangements. If I exit before Deb she will immediately sell the house, since she cannot do the work that I currently do to maintain this abode. If Deb went first I would likely stay and bring in a renter or two. But we do talk about making alternative arrangements all the time while we are still here together. Full-time RV living is one; another is to own nothing and continue our 4-5 months per year of timesharing, augmenting that with AirnbNb and other rental arrangements. I think the latter is of most interest to us since it allows us to have no housing responsibilities to speak of, but would still allow us to stay long periods of time in just a few locations per year. I am just very thankful that we have the opportunity to think about all these differing scenarios, and to act upon them if we choose to or it becomes necessary. Hope you and your readers can stay as blessed as many of us are in this respect, Bob.

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    1. Another intriguing option, albeit expensive, is living full or part time on a cruise ship. With all meals provided, plenty of entertainment, library, classes, housekeeping and some medical care as part of the price, spending 6 months or so on a ship might be a great option for a few years. Renting, long term Airbnb, or living with relatives while a landlubber could make sense for those serious about travel but with most daily responsibilities taken care of.

      I can see Betty and me getting back into the RV lifestyle at some point. Living for 2 months on the road, 2 months in some home base, then back on the road for 2 months, rinse, repeat, sounds attractive to us.

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  7. Hi Bob, my husband and I purchased an apartment at the Gold Coast, Queensland about 3 years ago. We have been living downstairs from my parents-in-law and he was their carer. Now my FIL has passed away and my 92yo MIL is happily and healthily living in aged care. We have a beautiful 2 bedroom apartment near the beach but at the moment are still dividing our time between there and my MIL's house until it is sold. I'm torn because I love the beach lifestyle but my family and friends are in Brisbane. You have provided some good options here for those who need to move but aren't sure what would be the right thing for them.
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

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    1. Beach...family & friends...Family & friends...beach. Yep, a tough one. For what it is worth I'd choose family & friends and visit the beach, rather than the other way around. Of course, I live in the desert!

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  8. I think you've covered the options. We downsized from 2800 sf to 2000 sf, and moved into town. I love being able to walk to the movies and restaurants. But somehow, at least so far, the smaller house and smaller yard do not mean less work. How's that?

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    1. Good question! I answered it by hiring house cleaners and yard people.

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  9. Other option is to remain in denial, as I am. I don't think about any of those choices because I hope to stay where I am, even though my house is not at all suitable for aging in place. I will be one of those folks unprepared when the need arises. I know that, and still I don't plan. Sigh.

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    1. We'll review your options in August! Seriously, your situation is not uncommon. It has hard to consider leaving a place we love but it comes to all of us. Even though I write about it a lot, Betty and I will not be mentally prepared when the time comes for us to do what is necessary.

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  10. Our house isn't that big (1200 sq ft) but in our discussions my wife and I have decided that when the house and property becomes too much or one of us dies then we'll move and rent an apartment. As you said no taxes, maintenance, or most other charges -- it's all in the single rent payment. When something breaks you call the property manager and have it looked after. While this all sounds good I imagine when the time comes (hopefully a while yet) it'll be difficult to move out of our house that we've lived in for 30 years and counting.

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    1. I imagine that move is never easy. It is interesting, but I never considering renting until this post and some of the responses. Now, it seems like a reasonable choice.

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    2. I am currently settling my father's estate (he lived in his own house by himself until the end) and perhaps not having a house to sell on top of everything else is something my children will appreciate.

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  11. I built my home in 2009 and tried to design to age in place. I live on 30 acres in the country. I have no desire to live in an apartment, 55+ community, assisted living etc. Not sure what will happen in the future but I would not be happy with too many people around and I dread the effects of old age which might force me into such a situation.

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    1. Can you get at-home nursing care or a health aid to come to your home when the time comes? That can make aging in place much more feasible and safer for you.

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  12. 5 years ago we found a house with an amazing view. It was larger and more expensive but all of the main living was on one floor. The yard is small and easy to maintain. We bought it and have not regretted it. It has appreciated in value faster than our old home so it is a good investment. We never tire of the view. We are close to everything and on a busline should we ever need it. I never expected to have this for our retirement home but I do love it.

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  13. Having living space on one floor is one of the most important features for a home to work as long as possible. Stairs or narrow hallways become real obstacles later in life.

    It sounds like you have it all at the moment. Enjoy!

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  14. What a great posting for your blog theme! We made the retirement move three years ago by moving to a 55+ Del Webb community just NW of you. Serious downsizing, single level condo, HOA exterior responsibilities, 8 rec centers & golf courses, hundreds of volunteering opportunities and (mostly) like-minded enjoy-retirement-at-its-fullest people.
    Yes, the decision to retire far away from "home" and to live "smaller" was overwhelming before and just after the move. Today, however, I feel like my lifestyle could make a "LIFE IS GOOD" T-shirt drawing.

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