My husband says we’ll be ‘homeless’ if we keep renting. We’re 68 and 74 — do we buy a home instead?

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Dear MarketWatch, 

My husband is 68 and I’m 74. He makes $250,000 a year. We’re renting a townhouse in a very upscale suburb in the Houston area, but our last rent increase was $300 a month! 

My husband wants to find a house for not more than $300,000 because he doesn’t want to be a slave to rent increases. We’d have to take out at least a $100,000 mortgage, which he says he can pay off in a year because he currently banks every other paycheck. 

I would rather move into a 55-plus community where we could rent a nice apartment and have amenities, with no property tax or upkeep. He says we will be homeless because our rent keeps going up, and we won’t last long on our combined Social Security.  

What is the best path to take?

See: I’m 53 and hate my job. My husband, 59, and I have two homes, plus $1 million in savings. Can we afford to retire?

Have a question about your own retirement savings? Email us at HelpMeRetire@marketwatch.com

Dear Reader, 

What is best for you both will depend heavily on your finances — that is, your day-to-day spending and your nest egg for retirement. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to retirement housing. In some instances, renting can be the best choice, as there’s no maintenance, renovation or repair fees or taxes to worry about. On the other hand, as you have seen, with an owned home, the value (and any growth in that value) is entirely yours, and you’re not relegated to whatever rent hikes come. 

A 55-plus community isn’t a bad idea, but many of them offer homes for purchase with a maintenance fee, similar to a condo or coop. It sounds like your husband is trying to avoid cost-of-living increases that are out of your control, in which case, this may not be the best option for you two, since a homeowners association can easily increase your maintenance fee or dues from year to year. These locations would likely provide the maintenance for the exterior of your home, including landscaping.

If you do explore this option, ask the homeowners association who is on the board, how often they’ve increased fees, how much funding is in the reverse and if you can participate in community meetings, suggested Rocket Mortgage. 

Buying a home, on the other hand, can be a lot of work, and can take a lot of money. You have to worry about the upkeep — a new roof or boiler, or perhaps amenities to help you age in place, like widened door frames and extra railings, when the time comes. There are also property taxes, as you mentioned, and utility costs.

Also see: Will our Social Security checks be reduced? My wife has a school pension and I’m a veteran.

The median listing home price in Houston is $340,000, while the median sale price is $311,300, according to Redfin, which means it isn’t impossible to find a house in the price range your husband is considering. Before you jump into the housing market, though, get serious about your current and anticipated future budgets. 

Look at your predicted income and expenditure with a new home. Try to get as granular as possible, and include expenses like your mortgage with a realistic interest rate, property taxes, utilities, and other necessities, including groceries, transportation, healthcare, and so on.   

Paying off the mortgage quickly is a fantastic goal, but only if you have extra money saved for emergencies and a retirement nest egg. These two goals should be split — you don’t want to tap into retirement funds for an emergency, so that your retirement assets can grow over the long-term and your emergency assets are liquid in the event you need money immediately.  

If you’re relying heavily on Social Security, as it sounds like you might have to do eventually, it is imperative no matter your choice in housing that you have money to fall back on outside of Social Security. Having Social Security benefits is helpful, but it shouldn’t be your main source of retirement income — especially if you’re considering buying a home. Expenses arise for renters and homeowners alike, and if you’re not financially prepared, you’ll be in trouble no matter what type of housing you choose.

Readers: Do you have suggestions for this reader? Add them in the comments below.

Have a question about your own retirement savings? Email us at HelpMeRetire@marketwatch.com

Source
Las Vegas News Magazine

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