Senior Housing: A Guide to House Hunting
Every client has their list of must-have qualities they expect to see in their new home. Young couples are often looking for a place in a good school district, while other people view their starter home solely as an investment. But seniors have their own unique list of specific things to consider when buying a home.
1. Your Monthly Budget is Changing
As you get older, your income generally decreases, and your expenses often increase. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, households with Americans 65 years of age and older make an average of $48,035 per year before taxes — not even half of what households with Americans between the ages of 45 and 54 make. At the same time, seniors tend to want more amenities and need more help with household chores and maintenance, all of which costs money.
Take the time to scrutinize your spending and figure out exactly how much mortgage you can afford, and don’t forget to account for extra expenses like property taxes, HOA dues and other miscellaneous fees.
2. Age and Mobility Issues Go Hand in Hand
A 2015 study found nearly one-fourth of adults over the age of 65 use at least one mobility device, a marked increase from the numbers found by a similar survey a decade before. That’s fine in a public or otherwise ADA-compliant environment, but if your home isn’t up to snuff, your quality of life and capacity for self-care is sure to suffer.
Look for a home that has:
- Wide doors
- Wide hallways
- Ramps to the porch instead of stairs
- One story or a master suite on the first floor
- A walk-in tub or shower with a low lip
It’s easy enough to install a few grab bars, but toying with cabinet height and installing new front-operating appliances is costly and can be a significant drain on your financial resources. Choose a mobility-friendly house can be beneficial in the long run.
3. Single-Family Homes Aren’t the Only Option
Standalone homes intended for single-family use certainly have their benefits. You may get more space and privacy, but with that freedom often comes more responsibility and higher price tags. Check out alternatives like townhomes and condominiums; you may have to settle for less space, but that means fewer rooms to clean and little to no outdoor maintenance.
If you’re ready to explore more structured senior living options, know that Wake County is home to a large number of assisted living facilities, with more nearby. Many of those communities offer a rotating schedule of activities, attractive decor, well-kept grounds and services such as shuttle transportation and on-site medical care. These facilities can be an attractive option for retirees who are largely independent but need some extra support.
4. You Deserve Perks and Amenities
It’s important to love your home, but many seniors value access to amenities as well. Some communities offer luxuries like a movie theater, game room, indoor/outdoor pool or fitness center. Others focus on activities, inviting instructors to teach yoga classes or lead arts and crafts. Seniors who work out 30 minutes per day live five years longer, so there’s another reason to prioritize a property with a community gym. Whatever your preferences are, make them known during the house hunt, and ask your Realtor to push qualifying properties to the top of the list.
5. It’s Important to Get Out and About
All this leads to another interesting point: You won’t drive forever. Independent living and driving don’t always go hand in hand. You may choose to live on your own but decide to give up your car, making public transportation paramount.
Americans hopped on public transportation for a staggering total of 10.1 billion trips in 2017. Seniors can take advantage of the existing network of GoDurham! buses to get to doctors’ appointments, the grocery store, senior centers and other events without worrying about getting behind the wheel, but it’s only truly convenient if you buy a home near one of the bus lines.
It's critical to consider budget, amenities, mobility and home layouts before diving into house hunting. Put your list of must-haves together, and share them with your agent. It'll make the process and end result a positive experience.