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When we think about purchasing a new home, we often think about young families looking to expand or people looking to move to a different part of their city (or even across the country). Once a person hits retirement age, we don’t think about them purchasing a new home.
Seniors have plenty of reasons to purchase a new home. There’s no rule that says you’re locked into the house you’re living in once you hit a certain age. If you’re a senior in the market for a new home, there are three basic questions you need to answer before you get started.
Why am I purchasing a new home?
The reason why you’re purchasing a new home should drive the type and location of the house you choose. Many seniors choose to move in their later years to downsize. Maybe you’re living in the house you’ve lived in for decades and it’s simply too much room for you now that the kids are gone. If so, you need to look for a low-maintenance home. Maybe you’re moving because of mobility reasons. If so, you need to make sure that the new home you buy is set up for prime accessibility. Maybe location is what matters most, as you’re moving to be closer to family. Figure out your prime motivation for moving and tailor your home search around it.
How am I going to finance it?
For some seniors, this usually is not a tricky subject. If you’re financially stable, you may choose to finance your new home in the same way you financed your last home – with a standard mortgage.
But for some seniors on fixed incomes, the question of paying for their new home is a little more complicated. It is worrisome to think about paying a large monthly mortgage payment on a fixed income, and worse yet, dipping too heavily into retirement savings.
One popular way to finance a new home if you’re over 62 is with a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), a type of reverse mortgage. Here’s how the American Advisors Group describes it:
“With the HECM for Purchase reverse mortgage, the borrower provides a down payment using the sale of the previous home or other savings. The equity earned through the down payment and the new home’s value is used to calculate the reverse mortgage loan amount. During this process, borrowers may need to meet the loan-to-value ratio requirements with a significant down payment and provide verification of personal income and funds. All or part of the reverse mortgage funds then cover the remaining cost of the home, just like with a traditional mortgage.
The benefit to financing with a reverse mortgage is that instead of paying the loan back every month over time like a traditional mortgage, reverse mortgage repayment is deferred to when the loan matures.”
This means no monthly mortgage payment – payment is due when the house is sold or the inhabitant dies. Keep in mind that you’re not building up equity in that second home, and there could be very little left in equity once the reverse mortgage is paid off.
When you’re thinking about financing, you should also consider what repairs or improvements will be needed in the home for it to be a safe and comfortable place for you to live as you get older. For example, what will the cost be if the bathroom needs a remodeling for it to be more accessible for you or your spouse? Or are there outdated appliances in the home that will need to be replaced soon? It’s important that you’re clear on all the home’s needs before making a buying decision as repair costs can add up quickly.
Remember, you do not have to make these tough financial decisions on your own. It’s best that you talk to a financial advisor to come up with a budget for your new home and to figure out the best way for you to finance your new home.
How am I going to handle the move?
Moving is tough on anyone – regardless of age – but it can be especially taxing on seniors. You need to plan. Don’t be afraid to de-clutter. Hold yard sales and distribute meaningful items to friends and family. Slowly pack boxes as to avoid injury and strain. For most seniors, it may be best to hire professional movers if you don’t have family members that can help you move.
Guest writer: Jim Vogel, at Elderaction
If your senior parent or other loved-one needs to downsize or find a residence better suited for them, a SRES®-designated REALTOR is best trained to handle your loved-one’s real estate needs. PEMCO Realty has a team of Senior Real Estate Specialists ready to assist you or your parents to make this a smooth process.