When buying a home for retirement, think long term.
Gail and I have owned quite a few houses over the years as our principal residence. It’s interesting that the younger I was the more I thought the house we were buying was our “forever home”. But as you age the chances increase greatly that the home you buy will be your “forever” home. This means that it is more important than ever to consider the factors that will make your home more adaptable to your life as you age in place. Just what are those factors and how do you evaluate them?
Remember, “It’s the campsite not the tent”. The old adage in real estate still holds true: The three most important things are location, location, location. But what is a good location for your forever home? While a condo on the water or a cabin in the woods may seem ideal, long term you should consider just why the location may – or may not – be ideal in the long term.
Climate. This is perhaps the most general of the location criteria. The lack of freezing winters is bringing folks to Florida and the scorching summers are bringing them a bit further north. Of course if your economic situation will allow it, one home in each would be ideal.
Infrastructure. The condition and breadth of the infrastructure may be critical to the long term success for your retirement home. (And if it’s a forever home – you WILL retire in it.) I’m speaking of utilities, transportation, government, and communications. A home in an area that is going to need major investment in these things may wind up not as suitable a retirement home that lies in an area that has well maintained infrastructure that has planned for the long term. Think about things like the problems in Flint, Michigan with their water system or indeed some Florida communities with depleted aquifers for potable water.
Transportation. This category needs its own comments other than the obvious comments on the condition of the existing roads. Indeed, you should look at that, but also look at proximity to airports, public transportation lines, and other public services like libraries, schools, and supplies. in the age of Amazon Shopping make sure UPS, Fed Ex and USPS deliver to your door.
Medicine. You may not need medical care now, but this could change in, unfortunately, a heartbeat, so proximity to good medical care should be a primary consideration. Keep in mind that doctors come and go, so look for depth in the services, not just a good doctor.
The neighbors. I’ve heard this from so many home buyers: “We love our neighborhood now and hate to leave it.” Neighborhoods are about people, the friendships, and the caring and the sense of community. One way to improve this in your forever home is to be a good neighbor yourself. But how do you increase your odds of getting into neighborhoods where you have a better chance to succeed as a community and create one where you are comfortable living forever? It is not an simple task, but if you look hard at your new potential neighborhood you can find the signs. You will have a better chance of a sense of community in neighborhoods that have common areas (like a club house or pool, or a community newsletter). Look for a built in sense of community like gated or planned developments that have their own “brand”. Go to your new neighborhood at night, pon weekends and different times during the day. Walk them during the day, walk your dog there if you have one, and network as much as you can. A good Real Estate agent can help you here and perhaps introduce you to other residents.
Now let’s talk about the house. Assuming you have the right campsite, what about the tent? What features do you look for? ( Good articles here about choices in Florida for homes)
Low cost to own. Being penny wise and pound foolish many home buyers look too much at the cost of buying and not enough at the cost to own and maintain a home. The cost of ownership has a number of factors:
Taxes. In Florida the Save our Homes initiative will control the tax bill will be about 1.4% of the purchase price annually and go up about 3% a year thanks to Save our Homes. Look carefully however on and bond issues that may be attached to a community (also called Community Development District bonds) that the developer may have added to your tax bill so you could sell you the house so cheaply. That house that seems like such a good deal could have and extra $100 a month or more added to the tax bill – f effectively making the house not as good a deal as perhaps you first thought. (again, get a good Real Estate agent in your camp to guide you)
Energy Consumption. There should be no doubt in your mind that the cost of water and electricity will increase annually. Choose an energy efficient home Newer is not always better, but in my experience in the absence of other evidence, go with newer.
Maintenance. Paint, roof, A/C, plumbing, electric, garden. All these things have a cost to maintain. Here is a good article about the rules of thumb of product life. (click here)
Size of the home. The size of course is going to affect all the items above but will also speak to your enjoyment of your home and its ability to ability to your changing lifestyle. Is smaller better? Sometime it is.
Age. Age often dictates not only energy consumption but maintenance costs. Is new better?
Current statistics tell us that we are all living longer. Here re some tips on making that happen.
If you need help finding your forever home, contact your real estate agent. Or give me a call.. I’d love to help.