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Here’s What to Look for in a Home (When You Plan to Age in Place)

Getting older often means less independence, especially when it comes to where you live. So, if you are hoping to avoid a retirement home, it pays to know what to look for when house shopping. If you want to age in place, here are the features to look for.

Take Steps to Prepare

Knowing how much house you can afford is an essential first step. Before you start searching for property listings, use an online affordability calculator. This can show what your mortgage will be based on home price, down payment amount, and other factors. And make sure to consult with an experienced and knowledgeable real estate agent like Leigh Brown who can help provide additional insight.

With these figures in mind, estimate your budget. Make sure to allow for a reduction in income if you’re not yet retired. It’s possible to take out a mortgage in retirement, especially if you receive regular income from Social Security or your retirement savings. Also, consider that lenders may enforce debt-to-income ratios, which could prevent you from qualifying for a loan. Regardless, you should create a budget that allows for a buffer, rather than maxing out your income.

If you have good credit, a conventional loan may be your best option. These loans allow you to choose either a fixed rate or adjustable rate mortgage, and you won’t have to pay for mortgage insurance if you put 20 percent down.

Prioritize Top Accessible Features

When it comes to your new home’s features, you should start by choosing the ideal location. Then, once that’s out of the way, take a good look at the lot. And finally, explore helpful aging-in-place features both within and outside the home.

Be Choosy About Location

Location is often a priority for any homebuyer. However, for older adults especially, proximity to family and amenities may be instrumental in ensuring you can safely age in place. Think about where you’ll shop, how you will get around if you can no longer drive, and whether you’re near enough for family to help out if necessary. Social isolation and transportation concerns can be significant barriers to aging in place safely and comfortably, notes Forbes.

Another location factor is property tax. Property taxes vary widely based on the city, county, and school district you live in — and they can increase unexpectedly, too. Choosing a home in a well-kept neighborhood may also mean homeowner’s association fees on top of other housing costs. And unfortunately, HOA dues can increase at the whim of the board of directors or other decision-makers, says Nolo, so it can be challenging to forecast the expense.

Select a Lot That’s Accessible

The lot your home sits on is another crucial factor when it comes to aging in place. Acreage that requires upkeep — such as brush removal for fire prevention or just a lawn that requires lots of mowing — can be a burden in your golden years.

Most older adults recognize the appeal of a relatively flat lot without a big yard to maintain. Decide what’s most important to you before searching for properties, and start perusing the possibilities within your comfort zone. Exterior modifications can be made to enhance accessibility, but you’ll need to weigh the costs against buying a home that’s ready as-is.

Choose Age-in-Place-Ready Features

Many homeowners choose to renovate their existing properties or newly purchased ones to suit accessibility needs. Remodeling to widen doorways, eliminate stairs, and lower light switches are just a few common retrofitting steps seniors often take. However, depending on your budget, you may want to seek a home that’s already well-equipped for aging in place. 

For example, an open floor plan might be ideal for ensuring you can get around independently in your senior years. A curbless shower is an appealing feature in any master bathroom, and it can also help preserve your independence while bathing. Plus, tub-free bathing areas often mean less scrubbing to keep your bathroom clean.

With the overwhelming majority of older adults planning to age in place, it’s wise to start your property search with accessibility in mind. From your budget to the property location to the must-have features you need for comfort and safety, there’s a lot to consider. Start with these considerations when shopping for a house, and you’ll be sure to find the perfect forever home.

Are you looking for a home in the greater Charlotte area? One Community Real Estate Team Realtors can help! Contact us today so we can help you find your dream home! Call 704-507-5500 or email