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Why are Retirees Selling Their Forever Homes?

From closing costs to family proximity, here are the things to consider before selling your home to pad your retirement account.

With the residential real estate market at an all-time high, it seems like a no-brainer for retirees to put their homes on the market, capture the equity in their homes and downsize to a less expensive home. Before you call a realtor, there are a number of factors to assess, advises an article from NerdWallet, “Selling Your Home Could Boost Your Nest Egg—But Is It Worth It?”

Selling high is great, especially if you own a home in an expensive area and your plans include a smaller home in a less expensive market or even renting. However, can you afford to purchase a replacement home to suit your current and future needs? A rising tide lifts all ships, and prices for all homes, even modest ones, have risen.

If relocation is on your agenda, a thorough analysis of property taxes and basic costs of living should be part of your planning. While the recent settlement of a class action lawsuit against the National Association of Realtors may mean you’ll spend less on selling and buying a new home, property taxes only go in one direction: up. If purchasing a new home means a new mortgage, interest rates have continued to increase, and for the time being, money is not as cheap as it was a few years ago. A mortgage payment on a smaller house could be the same as the mortgage payment on a larger house purchased before interest rates began rising.

Consider the non-financial aspects of selling your current home to move to another city. For some people, moving to a golf community is a great thing. However, when there is no family nearby, the death of a spouse can mean a return to their previous hometown, regardless of the cost.

The cost of maintaining a pre-retirement home in a region where all the children have left the nest can become overwhelming for fixed-income budgets. An older home will need a new roof, landscaping services and the inevitable replacement of major appliances.

Before you make the final decision, after considering the costs of selling your current home, buying a new one, or living in another community, you may also need to change medical providers. Do your homework to be sure you will be able to receive the same quality of care you require in your new community.

Don’t underestimate the impact of climate in your ideal location. Suppose you’re planning to relocate to Florida or Arizona. In that case, you’ll want to visit for an extended period during the worst seasons, when it’s hot and stormy in Florida and over 110 degrees and dry in Arizona. It’s great to visit Maine or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the summer. However, winters there are long and cold. Be realistic about what kind of weather you’ll want to live with as you and your spouse age.

If you move to a new home in a different state, remember to update all estate planning documents with a local estate planning attorney. The rules for many documents, including Power of Attorney, Last Will and Testament, Advanced Care Directive, Healthcare Proxy and others are different from state to state, and a valid will in one state may not be valid in your new state.

Reference: NerdWallet (March 21, 2024) “Selling Your Home Could Boost Your Nest Egg—But Is It Worth It?”