Retirees: Should You Rent or Own? header image

Retirees: Should You Rent or Own?

Retirement brings lots of changes. No more 9 to 5, more free time to do what you love and lots of decisions to make to fit your new lifestyle.

At the top of your list: housing. Renting and owning each come with a laundry list of pros and cons — and choosing becomes more complicated if you’ve already paid off your mortgage or are close to doing so. Factor in a fixed income and the decision becomes even tougher.

Read on for the down-low on rent versus owning and weigh which option is best for you.

Owning: The pros and cons

There’s no denying the stability that comes with owning your home. Plus, a strong attachment to a place you’ve spent years may be enough to swallow higher costs, if you can reasonably afford it.

+ Equity represents a cushion. Having equity in your home gives you the freedom to take out a line of credit if you need it. Your home can also be passed down to relatives at the end of life.

- Your home’s value may go down. Your property is only as valuable as the housing market is healthy. If your home’s value is steadily going up, great. If you’re worried you may lose value over time, talk to a real estate professional about your options.

+ Taxes and repair or maintenance costs may go up, but your mortgage payment will hold steady. If your home is already paid off, you won’t have a mortgage payment at all.

- Look at more than just your mortgage. Once your home is paid off, you’re still responsible for property taxes and homeowners' insurance. These costs can be significant, especially if you’re on a fixed income.

+ Annual upkeep is pricey. If you’ve owned for a significant period of time, you know repairs can add up. Some maintenance is relatively low cost, but if you need a new HVAC system or a new roof, be prepared to spend thousands.

- Expect new costs. As you get older, you may need to outsource work you once handled yourself. Maintaining your pool and lawn may not be feasible later in life. The same goes for your house. As it ages, expect bigger, more costly problems.

+ When you own your home, it’s yours to do with as you please. You can paint, renovate and change in ways you can’t with a rental.

- Homeownership comes with a level of permanence, for better or worse. Moving comes with the stress of finding a buyer, dealing with a realtor and crossing your fingers the market is in your favor. Here’s when to know when to purchase.

Renting: The pros and cons

Owning may not be in the cards financially, or you’re just ready for a change or to downsize.

+ Trade up: The perks of owning your own home may no longer fit your lifestyle. If you’re single or a couple, there’s likely no need for a big yard and extra bedrooms. Look for a new spot with amenities you don’t want to give up and those you don’t have now: Someone else to fix that squeaky door, an on-site gym and a sparkling community pool.

+ Fixed costs: Your housing costs are, largely, set. Renting eliminates variables like costly repairs or maintenance. Things to consider before relocating.

- Maintenance is at your landlord’s discretion. Your landlord or management company is charged with maintaining your rental, giving you have much less control over when and how any repairs are made. If you’re used to the responsibility that comes with owning your own home, this will be an adjustment.

+ Overall cost savings: Though you rent payment may be higher than a monthly mortgage, the total cost will likely be lower factoring in all the other expenses that come with homeownership. Some rentals will even include the cost of utilities and city services, which could run you a few extra hundred dollars a month if you own your home.

- Your rent isn’t guaranteed. Unlike a mortgage, the amount you pay each year may go up. Expect annual raises to your rent. Sure, you can move, but that may cost more in the end with moving expenses and deposits.

+ With a rental, you’re only bound to a lease. This can be freeing, especially if you’ve lived in the same home for decades. If your financial situation changes or you just get tired of your neighborhood, you can switch things up much more easily. Get our moving checklist to make your move as smooth as possible.

- Your payments don’t earn you equity. This can be a mindset shift for those used to paying a mortgage. Your rent is now an expense for a place to live, not a long-term investment. It does, however, free up funds to use in other ways.

+ Less responsibility to keep up your property means more free time, plain and simple. Use that hour you’d spend mowing the lawn to lounge by the pool or visit your grandkids.

Tip: Do your research. See what other renters are saying about a landlord, management company or apartment complex you’re scoping out. Look for red flags (high rent increases, maintenance issues or unhelpful management), and rent accordingly.

After weighing out your options, you should be able to make a decision on whether renting or buying your next home will be best for you — and the next phase of your life.

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