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5 priorities for home buyers over 60

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | September 27, 2016

One shouldn't generalize about home buyers over 60.

Some over 60 shoppers want to relocate closer to loved ones, especially grandkids, while others may want to downsize to a tiny house when they're not Airbnb-ing around the globe.

Some over 60 buyers don't plan to retire anytime soon, but want an easier commute to work -- like down the hall to a home office. Others are searching for a condo in a 55+ community for the convenience and leisure activities.

One over 60 home buyer might be shopping in a location where the climate encourages sporty outdoor activities for a good part of the year, another may be looking for homes that can accommodate mobility challenges.

Members of the generation that started turning 60 in the past decade don't automatically picture themselves living somewhere in the Sunbelt overlooking a golf course. It's only one of the many possibilities for today's over-60 home buyers.

over 60 homebuyers

Two different over 60 home buyers share their stories

Empty-nesters Bob and Ruth Damrau are downsizing -- selling their sprawling home on 10 acres in rural Nevada. After raising their three children, they are ready to leave the adult kids out West "building their own futures." One of the primary motivators for their move: rejoining older family members in Maryland.

The Damraus are looking for a home with what he calls "typical amenities." He concedes that they might need fewer stairs in the future; however, he says that "mobility assistance features are not a big buying factor." Aging in place renovations will be dependent on "evolving health needs." Because he works from home, they are scouting for a house, not a condo, with "room to stretch and not share a wall," and it will need to include a home office and "operational space."

Jane Giddings retired from a financial job in New York City but she didn't leave the cold weather behind. Instead, she moved to a small, Midwestern urban town near her niece because of the birth of her grandnephew. "My sister passed away when my niece was six years old so I get to fill the grandmother role," she says. "I'm not happy about staying in a cold climate. However, because I no longer go to work if I want to stay home due to the weather, there is no issue."

Giddings has a degenerative disease that causes her to fall easily, so she bought a new construction ranch-style home that she was able to customize with many elements of universal design. Her frequent falls have sometimes required orthopedic surgeries that leave her with temporary mobility issues.

"Not only did I get to choose pretty things like cabinets, flooring and granite," Giddings says, "but I made changes should I be using a walker or wheel chair temporarily after a surgery. Entrances to rooms and doorways are wide enough. All the light switches are lower, not enough to be uncomfortable for people standing, but reachable to those sitting. The master bath is a masterpiece of designer grab bars…I have a walk-in shower with a seat and a special bathtub which I can safely get in and out of. It's elevated with a sliding door." Unlike a walk-in tub, she can lie down in it.

Location, location, location

Both Giddings and the Damraus considered other home search requirements besides family and home design when they decided where to relocate.

Giddings liked the fact that her niece lived in a town with a major university. Though small, she says, "the university has a lot to offer as far as culture and resources" and the town has "one of most things: one art movie theater for independent films; one concert hall; a planetarium and a small downtown area that has restaurants that are not chains."

Damrau wants to expand his business, and Maryland's proximity to Washington, D.C. provides opportunities for businesses like his to pursue government contracts.

5 considerations for home buyers over 60

If you are a home buyer over 60, start your home search by first asking yourself questions about issues such as location, downsizing, home maintenance and compromised mobility:

  1. Family and friends. Is it important for you to live near them? Whether near or far, you may still want a home large enough where you can entertain or put them up for an extended visit.
  2. Home size. Do you want to downsize a little or a lot? Will you spend a lot of time at home, or will you be traveling often? Do you need room for a home office, a caregiver, or family members who need to live with you?
  3. Climate. How crucial is warm or cold weather for your health or for the pursuit of your favorite outdoor sports and exercise? Like many active adults, you may be looking forward to more time spent outdoors now that you're not office-bound.
  4. Aging in place. Do you expect to move again in a few years or remain in this new home for as long as possible? Conventionally designed homes or those with stairs may not be practical a little further down the road unless you can renovate them to add elements of universal design.
  5. Convenience. How important are neighborhood features such as walkability, medical facilities, shopping, leisure activities and cultural venues? Would shorter commute times make life easier if you plan to continue working? Do you want to do your own exterior home maintenance or would you rather buy a condo, villa or townhouse where your condo or HOA fees cover that?

House hunting can be a great adventure, but it can also be exhausting. Do your initial research online and get a buyers' agent to take you house shopping. Look for an agent who listens to your priorities and doesn't simply make assumptions about what you want based solely on your age.

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.