When you’re looking for the perfect home for your retirement, does it feel as though you have to gaze into a cloudy crystal ball?
How can you buy the perfect home when you don’t know what’s going to happen to you? There are so many aspects to consider: it’s a nightmare. Move or not move? Should you be near your children or would you rather go surfing and just visit them occasionally?
We don’t have magic powers to see into the future, but there are routes through the cloudiness of indecision to the crystal-clear skies of picking your perfect home.
Here’s 9 steps to take, with loads of questions to ask yourself so that you end up with your perfect home.
Step 1: Peeking into the Crystal Ball of Your Future
Gaze into your imagination and visualize what you dream of doing during your older years. Try turning the clouds of your dreams into a clear vision of your future life.
Do you dream of traveling? Then maybe a lock up and leave home is a good choice. But also consider renting out your current home whilst you’re off to those dream destinations.
Or maybe your dream is to have a big garden and grow lots of your own food. Is your current house suitable or do you need to find a place with a bigger back yard?
Your first key way to find your perfect retirement home is to peek into your crystal ball looking for the gaps between your dream and your current reality.
Step 2: Can Budgeting be One of the Quickest Ways to Perfect Home Happiness?
Ugh – who likes budgeting? You’ll probably have a smaller budget when you retire (I know I did). It can take some getting used to and it can really stress you out, thinking that you’re not going to have enough money to live on!
You may dream of a house with views of the mountains, but does your budget run to the heating costs or the cost of extra insulation?
Can you afford to maintain your current home? Does it need renovation or adapting to cope with mobility problems as you age? And don’t forget to factor in taxes which vary according to where you choose to live.
As Mr. Micawber points out in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield, peace of mind comes from living within your budget. It’s vital to your happiness to get out a spreadsheet and write it all down so that you know what you can afford.
Step 3: Raising Money for Your Dream Home
If you’re going to renovate your current house or move, then raising the capital becomes one of the critical factors.
It’s not so difficult if you have a property to sell and the proceeds will cover the costs of the new buy.
Many people use downsizing so that they live mortgage-free and/or have a lump sum to use for that dream holiday. Others use it for investments to yield extra income.
Another possibility is to raid your retirement funds and take out a capital sum to pay for the new property. You’ll save a lot of ongoing costs of a mortgage (if you could get one!)
But take advice on that one, as using capital now means less for income later plus you forego any capital growth in the interim. Be careful about taking on a big mortgage when your income has a chance of doing a rapid nose-dive. It’s harder for older people to find jobs!
Step 4: Weighing the Present Against the Future
And here’s the next question for your crystal ball. When should you move? How far do you want to let the good times roll now and deal with the future when it comes?
There can be advantages to downsizing early so that you have more of your current income to invest in your retirement funds. If you’re downsizing to Thailand, you’ll just have to wait before you give up the day job. But you could sell your house and rent a smaller place until you’re ready to leave.
There is another trade-off between now and the future to be struck.
Check whether opting for your dream house in the country now means that you might need to make a further move when perhaps you aren’t as able to cope with it.
For example, you might need to move nearer town when you can no longer drive to the shops or the doctors.
Tricky questions: So let’s move on to the fun parts of the dream!
Step 5: Location, Location, Location
The newfound freedom of retirement gives you the time to riffle through all those articles about the best places to retire.
Where is your over the rainbow ideal? Such fun to look and to dream of a new life.
However attractive a place may look, in the end, the question is: Do you see yourself living there?
For example, would you rather live near the grandchildren in Alaska or would you prefer a warm climate for your bad hip or wheezy lungs and regular visits to Alaska?
Maybe you’d choose to put up with that niggling rheumatism in exchange for daily hugs from the grandchildren.
Or maybe you’ve already found your forever location – right where you live now.
But even then, it’s a good idea to do a bit of an audit as to whether it’s a good place for you in the longer term.
Step 6: Scrutinize the Amenities of your Dream Location
By now maybe you’ve narrowed down the choice of location. Take a look at the amenities it offers you both in the short term and the longer term. Do this even if you’ve chosen to stay put.
Ask yourself if this place will enhance your life as you age? Is it convenient for grocery shopping? Are there good hospitals and doctors in the area? Are there good transport links? (For me it’s important to be not too far from an airport.)
What about the community? Are there events to attend, places to meet others, clubs and associations in which you can participate?
Social connection becomes more important as you age – loneliness is a fast-growing problem amongst the aging population. And what kind of choice of housing is there on offer within your budget.
Step 7: The Buildings for Your Future Happiness
Now we’re getting closer to selecting our dream home. You’ve settled on an area and a community. The next task is to hone in on the types of building that might fit with your dreams.
If you’re dreaming of:
- Community: Try a co-housing association or a retirement village
- No garden or maintenance to do: Try a condo
- feeling secure: Try sheltered accommodation with a warden on call
- Low running costs: seek out an eco-house or condo (and feel great about contributing to a better environment)
- A big back yard: look for a detached house.
Step 8: Designing Your Dream Home In Your Head
We’re getting down to the real nitty-gritty now. How big should your new home be?
Do you want a place where the family or friends can stay with you?
In that case, you might want a minimum of two bedrooms, but you might want more than that.
Entertaining maybe your thing, so you’d like a big kitchen and dining area. And everyone wants a cozy place to relax.
Is a fireplace an essential feature for you? For me a small office space is vital.
Maybe you’d like a garden to care for or at least access to a communal garden. Sometimes, it’s just nice to sit in the sun with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Would a balcony do it for you? (Check the orientation to the sun!)
Behave as if the Property Brothers are asking for the essential features for your dream home and make a list. Watch their video about modifying your home as you age for some ideas of what to look for by way of future proofing. Add in some of the nice to have items. Keep refining your list.
Step 8: Time for Your Search To Begin
You are armed with your list of essentials and nice to have (for me, it’s a steam cabinet). You’ve briefed the agent and you’re off on your search.
Now you’re measuring your dreams against the realities of your budget. If they don’t match up, will you trade off certain features against the location? For example, you stick with a place with a fabulous view but do without a second bedroom for guests.
Alternatively, how about trying the next town along where prices aren’t so high?
Step 9: Nothing Beats Trying It Out Before You Commit
It can be a big mistake to jump into buying a place straight away. Why not try it out for a while? Rent something that is in the ballpark of what you’d like to achieve.
You’ll learn a lot about what you like and don’t like. And if you don’t like it, you can leave and try somewhere else!
It’s not just a question of the location. You may have found a beautiful condo in a retirement community with a dream gym, swimming pool, activities, and communal dining if you want.
But you find that you can’t stand the rules about no RVs allowed in the parking places or having people to stay with you.
And when you learned about the no-pets rule, it just made it a complete no-no for you, because you’d promised yourself a dog when you retire.
Your Perfect Retirement Home Makes Your Dreams Come True
You’ve done your homework. You worked out your budgets, made your lists and researched all the possibilities. You visited, you tested out. And now, you’ve found it: your perfect retirement home.
Now you can actually live the retirement life of your dreams. You see it wasn’t simply about picking the physical place. The perfect home for you is the one where you make your dreams come true.
Where you can ski down the pistes without feeling guilty about not fixing the roof. Where you’re near your family or a great circle of friends. Where you can live without the stress of constant money worries. So, start gazing into your crystal ball and dream up your perfect home for retirement.