Most likely your home is your biggest asset. It’s also your biggest expense. Unfortunately when it comes to retirement planning, the family home is often last on the list of later-in-life changes.
There are many reasons for this delay. Emotionally it’s difficult to let go of a home filled with memories; moving can be a big process; and downsizing to an apartment may not produce a substantial cash windfall. For these reasons, many retirees delay for years moving into an apartment.
However, in many cases the benefits of downsizing sooner rather than later can be significant.
The financial benefits may seem small initially, but in the long term they can extend the life of your retirement savings. You may hesitate to sell a mortgage-free house and move to an apartment with a monthly rent payment, but with a home many of the expenses are hidden. It’s the ongoing maintenance such as: roof, furnace, windows, grass cutting and landscaping or snow removal — not to mention the annual costs of heat, electricity and taxes on a large older home. These costs add up to a substantial amount.
Selling your home will eliminate any mortgage or other debt and reduce your monthly expenses. Add in the income you will earn from investing the equity of your home and the savings from no home maintenance. Compare that to the monthly rental payment of an apartment.
In many cases retirees are financially better off by renting. If downsizing makes sense, don’t wait. Sometimes people have a hesitation to downsize because they like to keep the family home so when children and grandchildren visit they can stay there. You should carefully consider the cost of this decision. It’s cheaper to pay for a hotel for the relatives than cling to the family home and all its associated costs (taxes, maintenance, heat, etcetera).
Trading the variable and hidden costs of home ownership for the visible cost of an apartment can help with planning and budgeting. You know what your fixed costs will be.
Even without a mortgage, housing will often account for 30 per cent of retirement expenses.
Besides the financial benefits, is simply the practicality. Many people fail to consider how the aging process makes it harder to move. The process is exhausting at a young age. It’s much more daunting for retirees.