The National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) annual survey revealed that the average age of repeat homebuyers was 54, the highest in recent years. That indicates that the traditional idea of a homebuyer as a family with young kids and a 30-year mortgage is outmoded and unreflective of current demographics. The NAR also reported that baby boomers between the ages of 52 and 61 made up 16 percent of home purchasers in 2016, while boomers between 62 and 71 accounted for 14 percent of purchases.
These statistics clearly disprove the misconception that lending institutions don’t loan to seniors because of concerns about their age and health. For example, 68 percent of older homeowners financed their purchase in 2016. The baby boomer generation continues to swell the ranks of older homebuyers, which has created a substantial real estate niche market. Baby boomers tend to have the financial resources to enter the housing market but still need to be aware of their financial options and challenges.
Engage a financial advisor and a reliable realtor, preferably someone with experience working with older buyers and a familiarity with the financing options that are available to them. Senior Real Estate Specialists have completed training and have the knowledge necessary to help senior homebuyers and sellers in the above-50 age range. For instance, if the conventional mortgage route isn’t an option, consult with a loan officer and realtor about a reverse mortgage, a second or refinanced mortgage, Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (an FHA-regulated loan that’s similar to a reverse mortgage), or explore a VA loan if one or both of you is a veteran. Some seniors choose to cohabitate with friends and spread out their financial responsibility.
There are also state and federal government-sponsored home loan programs for older adults that can help. There are many safeguards in place aimed at protecting seniors and disabled individuals from discriminatory behavior by lenders. The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act are in place to enforce the rights of any homebuyer, regardless of age or disability.
The right home
Older homebuyers have needs and concerns that others don’t. If it’s your intention to age in place, you may want to focus on single-level properties or one with a first-floor bedroom in case climbing stairs becomes a problem in later years. Bathroom safety is a particular concern as people age. Look for homes with safety precautions such as grab rails and an easy-entry bathtub or shower. It may be worthwhile to look for wide hallways and doorways (36 inches wide) or factor in the expense of having them widened in later years. A level walking grade, wide driveway and level threshold are other accessibility features to bear in mind as you look. Always do your homework and be familiar with the average listing price of homes in your area. Homes in Rockville, Maryland, typically sell for $589,000.
Bear in mind that moving after living for years in the same home is a great opportunity to declutter and downsize. That’ll make it easier to move and start over in a new property with fewer belongings to arrange and store. Look for a moving company that has experience helping older adults move. Many of them can help you downsize and make sure your valuables are well-protected. Your realtor can help you find a reliable and reputable mover.
Thanks to ample financing options and the advice of real estate experts, older adults are purchasing new homes at a higher rate than they have in many years. If you’re considering entering the market, consult with professionals so you fully understand the financing options available to you, and take the time to find a property that will meet your needs in the coming years.