Dear Ray,

Do you recommend renting or owning for an older, single woman? 

I am recently retired, in my 60s, with good health. I currently own my home. 

I would appreciate your opinion.

— J.M.


Yours is an increasingly popular question among retirees. Demand for senior housing is pushing the housing industry to create more options for seniors. 

Each day, 10,000 baby boomers retire. This is going to continue for the next 20 years. 

The decision whether to rent or own depends upon many factors, including income, health, lifestyle and personal preferences. 

Personally, I’m a big fan of “aging in place.” Aging in place is usually cost-effective, and many seniors prefer the comfort of familiar surroundings. 

Let’s deal with health first. If you are in good health, then you have more options. You can comfortably remain in your present home, so long as it is affordable and fits your lifestyle. 

If your health is compromised, then you may need to modify your home or find another home, apartment or retirement community that can accommodate your health needs. 

Modifications to your home can make it more comfortable, convenient and extend your time there. Modifications can be as simple as installing an assist bar near the bathtub or adding air conditioning, or as involved as a wheelchair ramp. 

If your home has a spare bedroom or basement apartment, you could explore the option of retaining live-in assistance. A little extra help around the house can help you remain independent longer.

 

Rents vs. repairs?

If you are weighing the cost of homeownership vs. renting, you might be surprised to learn that owning your own home can be less expensive than renting. If your home is free of debt, then ownership is definitely the most cost-effective option. 

Rents increased about 5 percent this year, and rents are forecast to rise another 5 percent next year. Rents will continue to increase over time, and within a few years, the initially lower rent won’t be so attractive anymore. 

Will your budget accommodate increasing rents for the next 20 years? Will your budget allow you to maintain the monthly fees in a managed retirement community for a decade or two?

By remaining in your home, you will need to continue to make repairs to maintain your home. You may need to replace the roof, repair the plumbing or make other costly repairs. So you need to have a budget for unexpected home repairs. 

Keep in mind the option of a reverse mortgage.

Reverse mortgages are designed for senior citizens with limited income. A reverse mortgage allows you to stay in your home and receive monthly income or a lump sum so that you can maintain the home until you choose to sell. 

You cannot be evicted or foreclosed on with a reverse mortgage.

 

What kind of home is best?

A more basic question is: Do you like your home, your neighborhood, your town? If you have ample equity in your home, then you have the option of selling and downsizing or relocating. 

Do you have neighbors and good friends that are part of your support network? If so, then moving away may create a void in your life. 

Being single, perhaps you’d enjoy the condo lifestyle, with more activity and people coming and going. 

A condominium also eliminates the majority of responsibility for repairs and maintenance. You pay monthly dues to the homeowners association, and it is responsible for fixing the roof, painting the building and keeping the parking garage clean. 

Condo living is ideal if you plan to travel and be away from home for extended periods.

Then there are considerations such as pets and hobbies. Do you like to garden or have a pet? Many retirees enjoy gardening. Will you miss your garden, and will your pet miss the yard? Or has yard work become a chore that you dread? 

A bimonthly lawn service could alleviate some of the drudgery of yard work, giving you more free time for other things. 

Another option may be a planned retirement community. These communities usually offer several levels of “buy-in,” with varying costs for their services. 

I recommend scheduling a visit to a planned community for retirees. There are special senior housing communities in Seattle, Mercer Island, Redmond and Issaquah. New communities are being developed in Bothell and Kirkland. 

You might like the amenities of a planned community. Some people thrive in these planned housing communities.

 

Do your research

I encourage you to sit down and make a list — pro and con — for staying in your home and for moving to an apartment or retirement community. 

Talk to friends or family who are in your same situation, and those who may have already downsized or moved to an apartment. Their input may confirm that moving is right for you — or you may learn that they regret their decision to move.

Take your time; don’t make a rushed decision. From my experience, you’ll regret a hasty decision. I know several retirees who were unhappy after they had downsized or moved from their familiar home of many years. 

 

RAY AKERS has been a licensed Realtor for more than 25 years and is a lifelong Seattle resident. Send your questions to ray@akerscargill.com or call (206) 723-2800.