Conzetta Mitchell
Parzel Real Estate

What Seniors Should Look for When Buying a New Home

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About 37 percent of baby boomers plan to move at some point in their lives, and 42 percent of those who wish to move would prefer to downsize. While the desire to downsize is on the rise across the country, seniors are the group most likely to downsize. If you’re a senior who’s moving, you’ll want to consider the location of the home and look for certain modifications in the home and yard. You should also work on decluttering your current home to make the transition of downsizing smoother and more comfortable.

Location

When moving to a new location, many seniors look for an area with lower costs and more attractive lifestyle features, such as better weather, opportunities to stay physically active, a good selection of cultural and educational prospects, and outlets for volunteer work. Seniors also look for cities that put them closer to family. Whatever your wish list is comprised of, be sure your new city meets the mark.

You should also consider choosing a safe neighborhood that’s near adequate healthcare providers, including primary care, specialists, and emergency services. Preventive health care programs and supportive services (like home care) should also be available. At least one of the following transportation options should be present: publication transportation, senior transportation programs, or a walkable neighborhood. Look for a good selection of restaurants, retail outlets, and grocery stores. Opportunities for social activities and intergenerational contact through libraries, museums, colleges, parks, and religious gatherings are also important.

Decluttering

While many people use the packing process as an opportunity to declutter and downsize their inventory of personal belongings, it’s actually more practical to take care of this before you start looking at new homes. When you’ve made the decision to downsize, go ahead and sort through your items so that you'll have an accurate assessment of the space you'll need in the new home.

Sorting items can be overwhelming because it’s a time-consuming and emotional process. Get rid of items that you don’t want or need, that don’t have sentimental value, or that you don’t use often. If you have two items that serve the same purpose, get rid of one of them. There will be items that you want or find sentimental that you’ll need to part with too. Make a list of what you can’t live without for your wants and needs. For sentimental items, reflect on them, and then choose which ones to keep.

Modifications

Around 80 percent of seniors wish to age in place. If you’re in this group, you should look for certain home modifications when searching for a new place. Even if you don’t need mobility assistance now, you should plan for the future. A walker or wheelchair can’t fit through a standard door, so wider doorways are a must. Entrances to the home should be free of stairs and curbs, or the home should feature a ramp into the home and threshold ramps in doorways.

Choose carpeting that has a shorter nap over longer or shag carpet. You’re less likely to trip on shorter-nap carpeting, and it’s easier to navigate when using a walker or wheelchair. Hardwood, tile, laminate, and vinyl floors are smoother, but they tend to be slicker than carpet, which could result in falls. In the kitchen, look for lower countertops and appliances that are in ideal locations. It’s better to find a home with a kitchen that already meets your needs, because updating it yourself is expensive. In Bolingbrook, IL, a complete kitchen remodel is likely to run between $8,500 and $35,000, so opt for one that already has low shelving and countertops (preferably with room for your legs underneath should you ever need to use a wheelchair). In the bathroom, a walk-in shower that’s curbless is ideal, and a walk-in tub is even better. Again, bathroom remodeling jobs are pricey, so try to find a home with bathrooms that need few, if any, senior-friendly updates.

Yard modifications can also be helpful. For example, you may wish to install pathway lighting and motion sensor lights by the doors. Raised planters provide easier access for gardening. Even something as simple as a table beside the door can help. Not only can it be a spot for potted plants (which are easier to tend to), but it can also serve as a space to place belongings while you unlock the door. You may also want to consider choosing a neighborhood that offers yard maintenance.

Moving as a senior gives you the opportunity to find a home that really accommodates you as you age. Try to find a home that will meet your list of needs, whether it’s staying fit or staying connected to your community. If you’re downsizing, start decluttering before the big move.

Also, ensure your home has the proper modifications to keep you safe and comfortable. By looking at the big picture, you are certain to find the right home that fits your lifestyle and needs for years to come.

Claire Wentz