Dollars and Sense: Some Considerations When Buying a Home in Retirement

Douglas Sedam

There is nothing like punching that time clock for the last time as you picture your imminent golden years—full speed ahead to sun, golf, and travel.

The first few years of retirement are usually when people start thinking about downsizing and/or relocating. But in your zeal to “live the dream,” you might overlook a number of common factors that can turn your real estate purchase into a nightmare. Here are six elements you should consider before making that retirement real estate decision.

Your favorite vacation spot might not have the best living conditions.

Many vacationers forget that often what they love about a certain destination is that they are on vacation. You are liable to care far less that there’s traffic or that service is slow or that restaurants are expensive. After all, you are on vacation. But all those minor annoyances can become huge disruptors if you are trying to live in a place clogged with tourists. Or you might find that the place virtually shuts down in the off-season, leaving you with few options for entertainment or dining.

The fix: Visit your potential new location for an extended period. You could even stay in a long-term rental to see what it is like to be a resident rather than a hotel guest. Even once you decide on your destination, renting for a while can be a smart choice.

Your need for amenities might change.

Right now, you likely visit the doctor once a year, drive to the store to get your groceries, and have a vibrant social life based on your work buddies. But all that can change as your needs change—and you might find yourself reliant on public transportation because you can no longer drive or may need to see healthcare specialists more often than you would like.

The fix: Talk to current retirees about the services they use that might not occur to you and make sure that your intended location offers them. Determine if you want things like a top-notch healthcare system, nearby amenities and activities, or favorable weather, and look for an area that has those things.

Your ability to navigate your home might change, too.

More than 90 percent of people wish to age in place, finds the AARP. This means the vast majority of people 65 and older want to live in their own homes and area during retirement. The ability to do this depends on the conditions of your home.

After all, if you have a steep driveway or an upstairs bedroom, it might be harder to navigate the inclines as you get older. And as much as you like to garden now, those rose bushes might become a thorn in your side when you have less energy to devote to active gardening.

The fix: Look into the principles of “universal design” and consider such factors as a main-floor master, wider doorways, and step-free entrances. Think ahead to how much gardening and home maintenance you are going to want to do going forward—less might be more in terms of space.

Douglas Sedam is the Owner/Broker of and can be reached at 520-829-5219.