Selecting Housing for the Eventuality of Retirement

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By Bill Primavera

Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

A while back, I was invited to speak before a meeting of the Retired Municipal Employees Association. As I planned my remarks, I thought about how I was close to an age when some people think about retiring and living differently than they do now.

As for me, I intend never to retire from the enjoyable work I do in the real estate business. I just love matching buyers with their dream homes and helping sellers get the best deal on their major investment.

Nevertheless, my living preferences have changed significantly in the past few years, just as if I were retiring.

When I was still in my twenties and my wife and I moved to a historic home in need of repair, I was eager and ready to restore and maintain it. I was known as the “young guy” on the block who always answered the door with a hammer or paintbrush in hand.

After more than 40 years living there, I found myself wanting to do something other than hammering and painting, so we moved to the no-maintenance convenience of Trump Park Residences in Yorktown. In terms of planning for the future, we consider that the smartest housing decision we ever made for ourselves.

The housing issues facing retired and elderly people can be quite simple, such as finding living space on one level with no steps and being conveniently located to shopping and medical services

Many older people are still in the homes in which they raised their children, married them off and then retired as empty-nesters. These homes may have become too big to rattle around in or maintain, and the tax bill that paid primarily for the education of their children no longer has the same payback.

But they may still want to remain in those homes, no matter how impractical. Surveys by AARP have found that about 80 percent of older persons say that they want to stay in their own homes. This phenomenon has been called the preference to “age in place.”

It’s understandable. After a long period of living in one place, our homes become an extension of who we are and how we express ourselves. Longtime residence is also a connection to the community where people know their neighbors and merchants as well as their houses of worship, libraries and community service.

For a long stretch, our homes have been our principal financial asset, and today, the high demand for homes has made this a good time to cash in on our investments if we want to move.

Others who have paid off their mortgages and have equity can take reverse mortgages to stay put and live more comfortably through their golden years.

Those who decide to downsize must think carefully about the percentage of income they should be paying for housing and still manage to afford other necessities of later life besides food and clothing.

Affordability depends on their individual situations and whether they live with a spouse, alone or with relatives. Today, about 54 percent of older persons live with their spouses, 31 percent live alone, 13 percent live with relatives other than their spouse and 2 percent live with non-relatives.

If the decision is to move later in life, people seem to know what they want. A survey done by the National Association of Realtors in concert with MetLife found that retired and older citizens want easy, comfortable homes with single-story floor plans or homes that offer a first-floor master bedroom. They also like home maintenance and repair as part of their next home purchase, preferably with no necessary outside chores and low maintenance inside, including washers and dryers, storage space, easy-to-open windows and easy-to-use climate controls.

As for my wife and me, we made the decision to downsize, yet upgrade, when we purchased a unit at Trump Park Residences. It affords us all the benefits I’ve listed above. Let the younger folks do as I did in my youth, answering their doors with hammers or paintbrushes in hand.

Interestingly, my daughter recently informed me that she and my son-in-law have discussed the eventuality of my wife and I living with them when the time comes.  I was greatly touched, even though I’m sure we would rather remain independent as long as we can and to seek at-home care should we need it. And while the sentiment expressed by my daughter is lovely, I do wish she had waited another 15 or 20 years before discussing the matter with me.

Bill Primavera, while a publicist and journalist, is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. ( To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

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