Money in the Middle

Sandwich Generation Talking About Money Up, Down and Across Generations

Picking the Right House as You Age

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If I were moving, what’s the most important feature I’d look for in a new house?  A first floor bedroom and bath.  Why?  Because that means I have the chance to stay in the house as I age and I won’t be forced to move before I’m ready because I can’t maneuver the stairs.

 That flexibility gives me more choices on where I live and how I live. and maybe more money in my pocket since I’m not selling in a panic or down-market.

 Guess I’m not alone.  The five features rated most important by baby boomers and seniors in a survey were:  in home washers and dryers, storage space, windows that easily open, main level master bedrooms and easy-to-use climate controls.

 What else do consumers 55+ want in their homes?

* One third said a close in suburb, another third want an outlying suburb.  One-quarter are heading to the country and just 9% into the city.

* Downsizing?  No thanks – about the same amount of space they have now.

* High speed internet – 83% say it’s a must demonstrating how integral the Internet has come to our lives at all ages.

* 94% say they want more energy efficient homes.

 The baby boomers and seniors weren’t so interested in universal design.  On the other hand builders who were surveyed by the National Association of Home builders and the MetLife Mature Market Institute were adding features they think consumers want and will pay for — lever-handle/door knobs, wider doors and hallways, a full bath at the entry level.

 It all sounds good but the reality is that the list of “wants” reflects some pretty unrealistic expectations about aging.  Especially regarding location.

 “The homes consumers say they want may present difficulties for the long term as they age in place. They prefer the suburbs and the country, but these areas generally lack public transportation. Universal design is not a strong preference, but they’ll need greater accessibility later on. Aside from recognizing that one-story homes will be best for their later years, customers may be somewhat unrealistic,” noted Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

 Many people taking care of aging parents are struggling with housing issues.  Where to move Mom or Dad, how to do it, how to afford it, will they be happy?  The questions abound.

 A bit of pre-planning and realism about aging can make all the difference in how we age and the finances we have available to live the way we want. A recent report from Boston college said that planners, as opposed to reactors, are happier with their choice and financially ahead of the game.  Two good reasons to have a housing plan.

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Written by Laura Rossman

September 16, 2009 at 2:33 pm

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