Argonaut Newspaper

Tips for Older Couples Looking to Downsize Their Home

The kids are gone, and now you and your spouse have your five-bedroom dream home all to yourselves. It’s just perfect for the weekends and holidays when you have all the kids and grandkids in town or when you want to host all of your old friends during the class reunion. Not!

A large house may have been what you wanted or needed when you initially purchased it, but they become a large, unnecessary expense once you’ve outstayed your home’s usefulness. Even if you want to save the house to pass it down to your kids, it can get lonely when a have too much extra living space.

If you’re a homeowner who has extra rooms that you never use, then you’re wasting money. If you haven’t paid your mortgage loan in full, then you’re paying for a house that you’re not using to its full capacity. Einstein might have included that in his definition of insanity. Maybe it’s time to downsize your home and get rid of some personal belongings that are just taking up space. With the kids gone, it’s time to downsize, shed some of the personal belongings you’ve accumulated along the way that no longer serve you, and start living the life that you always dreamed of having — “one day when the kids are gone.”

Are you financially prepared for the next step?

Because you’ll probably find a new home before you sell yours, you need to start saving for a down payment at least a year before you think you’ll be ready to move out. Most experts will tell you that you should try to save at least 20% of the home’s value for a down payment, but that’s unrealistic for many people. With the average home price in the U.S. being over $200,000, that means you would have to save at least $40,000. It’s not impossible, but if you’re not wealthy, that’s a lot of money. If you’ve finished your mortgage payments on your old home, you can put that money toward the down payment on your new home.

In most cases, lenders will only require you to put down 10% of the home’s value. Of course, the advantaging of putting down 20% as opposed to 10% is that it gives you more home equity and lowers your mortgage payments significantly. You could also opt to shorten your loan term instead of the lower monthly payments by paying more money down.

If you’re living on a fixed income, it may be best for you to go with a fixed-rate mortgage. The main benefit of a fixed-rate mortgage is that your interest rate and monthly payments won’t fluctuate with the market. It will be as steady as your income.

Of course, you also need to work on your credit score before you apply for a mortgage loan. Along with your income, your credit score is one of the most important determining factors of your eligibility as a borrower. If you want to get a picture of your eligibility and what your monthly payments would look like, you should use an online home loan calculator to help you with the math. The calculator will be able to use the amount of your mortgage loan, interest rate, and loan term to figure out exactly how much your mortgage payments will be.

Get from under that big ole house.

The biggest part of downsizing is getting out of your over-sized dwelling and into something more suitable for your smaller world. Many circumstances lead people to curtail their home and lifestyle. Among them are divorce, their kids moving away, bereavement, and finances. Finances and children leaving home are a couple of the more common causes.

Regardless of the reason, selling your home and finding a new home are your top priorities. It usually takes a little longer to sell a house than it does to buy one — that’s how the process works. It will more than likely be easier for you to find a home that suits your needs than it will be for you to find a buyer. That’s why usually when a real estate agent is selling a home, even if the owner previously lived there, the home is empty when home buyers take their tours.

Renovating your house is critical to drawing intrigue. Your front yard should look like the White House lawn, and you should make your home’s exterior look as new as possible. On the outside, your goal should be to make your house look like the one you fell in love with.

Many renovations, while helpful or aesthetically pleasing, don’t even add value to the home. If you’re going to invest in upgrading your home, then the smart money is in the kitchen.

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Your home either will or won’t have what people are looking for in terms of rooms and space, and that’s information they can get without a visit. Even though they’ll check every inch of the house and yard, the kitchen is where they’ll either fall in love or decide to move on.

Where are you going for your next step in life?

When you decide that you no longer need as much house, the question becomes, where will you go? If you’re really serious about downsizing, then maybe your ideal new home isn’t a house at all. Maybe you’re ready to make the switch to a condo. One of the best things about being a condo owner is that it’s the perfect mix between living in a house and an apartment.

Most condos have a condo association, which is the same as the homeowner’s associations you see in many neighborhoods. They also come with amenities like fitness centers and convenient dining and shopping. Another great thing about condominiums is that unlike a house, most condos don’t have a yard, so you don’t have to worry about the HOA being on your case about yard maintenance every two weeks.

If you decide to move into a condo unit, then it’s imperative to get condo insurance to protect yourself from everything from criminals to natural disasters. If you live close to the shore or in a flood zone, you should add flood insurance to your coverage.

If you and your spouse have aged to the point where you can no longer live completely independently, then it’s time to consider assisted living. One way to look at an assisted living facility is like a cross between a condo and a nursing home. In an assisted living facility, you still have some of your independence, but you receive nursing services and transportation to doctor’s appointments and shopping if needed. Of course, if you can still drive, then you could always keep your car.

Downsizing is a mental adjustment as much as a physical one.

It’s easy to overlook the mental health implications of downsizing. On the one hand, it’s about being practical about how much house you really need at this point in your life. On the other hand, it’s also about recognizing that your life has shifted dramatically enough that you no longer need as much physical space for your life as you once did, and these kinds of adjustments can be hard to cope with.

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It makes no difference how many rooms you have in your new home if you don’t have your mental wellness. If you feel like your mental health is suffering due to the major shifts occurring in your life, you owe it to yourself to get help from a mental health professional. When looking at behavioral health care providers, it’s important to determine whether or not they’re in a managed behavioral health services accredited institution. It’s the best way to ensure that you or your loved one receives the high-quality care all patients deserve.