According to the Senior Resource Guide, the term means,

“…that you will be remaining in your own home for the later years of your life; not moving into a smaller home, assisted living, or a retirement community etcetera.”

There is no doubt that you would find comfort staying in a home you’ve lived in for many years instead of moving to a totally unfamiliar or new environment. There is, however, new information that suggests this might not be the best option for everyone. The familiarity of your current home is a positive of aging in place, but the potential financial costs of remodeling or renovating your home might actually be more than the long-term benefits. Perhaps you live in a home that is larger than you need now, or maybe you live in a two-story home and a single-story home would better suit you in your later years.

A recent report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University (JCHS) titled Housing America’s Older Adults explained,

“Given their high home ownership rates, most older adults live in single-family homes. Of the 24 million homeowners age 65 and over, fully 80 percent lived in detached single-family units…The majority of these homes are now at least 40 years old and therefore may present maintenance challenges for their owners.”

If you’re in this place, 40 years ago you may have been raising a growing family. For that reason, you probably purchased a 4-bedroom home on a large piece of property in a child or family-friendly neighborhood. It was a great choice for your family, and you still love that home very much.

Today, your kids are likely grown and have moved out on their own, so you don’t need as many bedrooms. Perhaps the yard maintenance is time consuming and no longer suits your lifestyle. You might be thinking about taking some equity out of your house and converting one of your bedrooms into a massive master bathroom, and maybe another room into an open-space reading nook or maybe even exploring renovating your home to create more of an "open concept floor plan." You might also be thinking about cutting back on lawn maintenance by installing a pool surrounded by beautiful paving stones, or maybe even a spa to soothe increasingly sore muscles as you age gracefully.

It all sounds amazing, doesn’t it? In the short term, you may really enjoy the home upgrades, but you’ll still have to climb those stairs, pay to heat and cool a home that’s larger than what you need, and continue fixing all the things that start to go wrong with a 40-year-old home, including the battle of deferred maintenance.

Last month, in their Retirement ReportKiplinger addressed the point,

“Renovations are just a part of what you need to make aging in place work for you. While it’s typically less expensive to remain in your home than to pay for assisted living, that doesn’t mean it’s a slam dunk to stay put. You’ll still have a long to-do list. Just one example: You need to plan ahead for how you will manage maintenance and care—for your home, and for yourself.”

So, at some point, the time may come when you decide it is time to sell your house anyway. If you’ve already taken cash value out of your home, or taken out a reverse mortgage and used funds for the type of remodeling we mention here, it may be more difficult to sell. Realistically, some changes can actually inadvertently lower the value of your home, especially if you reduce the number of bedrooms, or make changes that may make the space more usable for you, but less desirable for a wide range of buyers. A future family moving into your neighborhood is likely similar to what your family was 40 years ago. They probably have young children and will want the extra bedrooms, and may or may not find a pool appealing.

Bottom Line

If your plan is to age in place, before you spend the money to remodel or renovate your current house, let’s get together to discuss your options. Making a move to a smaller home, even in the same neighborhood, might make the most sense for you. Maybe it's time to move closer to family, or even closer to conveniences like doctors and grocery stores, etc. We are here for you to be a resource. 

Bobby Taylor, Realtor ®, Seniors Real Estate Specialist ®

(916) 989-9989