Janis Peterson, GRI, ABR, CSP Realtor®
Philadelphia Main Line Homes and Real Estate
Montgomery, Delaware, and Chester Counties
Relocation Specialist
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Subject: Right-Sizing for Retirement

Retirement is a time when many consider moving from long-time family residences to homes that are more modest or homes located in areas known as resort or retirement areas. The concept of downsizing for retirement – moving from a larger, more expensive home to a smaller, less expensive one – is worthy of consideration for a large number of homeowners.

Unfortunately, retirement planning is a matter that not nearly enough of us take seriously. Despite the volumes that are written on the importance of saving from an early age and at every age, many people find themselves nearing retirement with only modest savings and limited retirement income. For these homeowners, the equity in their home may be their most sizeable and significant asset. By moving to a smaller and less expensive home, a significant amount of money may be left over for safe and secure income producing investments.

But the capital generated by downsizing isn't the only benefit. Smaller homes tend to have lower utility costs, reduced maintenance costs and a lower overall cost of homeownership.

Many homeowners find themselves entering retirement with homes that are simply too large for their current needs. Children may have moved away, and recreational interests often change. Extra bedrooms and bonus rooms that may have once constituted the best features of a home go largely unused.

Even those homeowners who have made careful financial plans for retirement may want to consider a downsizing strategy. Since the IRS says that the mortgage interest deduction on income taxes may be applied to "any loan that is secured by your main home or second home," some homeowners in their peak earning years may choose to purchase a second home for retirement even before they retire.

What key factors may influence your choice of a retirement home?

Location. Prior to retirement, proximity to employment is a primary consideration for many homeowners. In retirement, proximity to other community amenities becomes a more important factor. Easy access to quality healthcare services should be considered. The climate afforded by a particular area can make a major impact on lifestyle. Distance from family members and friends enters into the equation as well.

Security. Unfortunately, persons in retirement can become targets for crime. For many persons, the crime rate and security afforded by a particular community or location may be an important consideration. One advantage afforded by many retirement communities, for example, is that neighbors tend to keep an eye out for strangers. Other communities may employ security patrols, guarded gates or neighborhood watch to help reduce the possibility of crime.

The home itself may have security features already built-in, such as alarm systems, security windows and doors, lighting systems, wall safes and advanced communications.

Recreation. Many persons entering retirement are eager to take advantage of added leisure time. Choosing a community that includes easily accessible recreational features such as golf, tennis, watersports, walkways, hiking trails, antique stores, or community arts facilities will need to be carefully considered.

Persons tend to use their homes differently in retirement as well. A craft room or game room may be desirable. A guestroom for visiting grandchildren may be needed. While downsizing is a good idea, you may want to guard against overdoing it, leaving yourself without adequate space to support an active retirement lifestyle.

Not all retirement needs are alike. For example, two-story and split level homes tend to be less popular among those in retirement. With the large number of persons entering retirement years, demand for single story homes has increased remarkably in most markets. Nevertheless, others may enjoy the view afforded by an upper bedroom window.

Persons in retirement often appreciate efficient floorplans. Should mobility become a factor in one's lifestyle, for example, fewer steps from the refrigerator to the kitchen counter can be a blessing. A kitchen that is too small, however, may lack wheelchair accessibility.

When trying to find the right size for your downsize, it makes sense to sit down with your real estate professional and weigh your wants and desires against available options. With careful planning, downsizing to your retirement home can help deliver you the lifestyle options you seek and the financial benefits you need.

"Real Service in Real Estate." For a personal consultation on buying or selling real estate, Janis Peterson, GRI, ABR, CSP Realtor® can be reached at (610) 642-3744, e-mail: jp4re@pahomes.com. Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors® is an independently owned and operated member of The Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc.

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