For many major decisions, timing is everything—and that’s no less true if you’re considering relocating when you retire.
So says a Money report, which points out that there are plenty of potential obstacles to choosing the right time to pick a retirement destination. Making the decision at the wrong time can cost you—not just money, but in lots of other ways.
But making a decision like that can be tough, with so many factors to consider—whether you want a resort-like atmosphere in retirement or just want to have a smaller place to take care of; whether you want to stay close to the kids or community you spent years in or break new ground; how your health may affect whatever decision you make.
Still, the report cites findings of a Merrill Lynch/Age Wave study on retiree moves that says nearly two thirds of retirees have moved to a different home or expect to do so.
And 30 percent of those who have moved have upsized, rather than downsized—something that may come as a surprise to would-be retirees who are already envisioning themselves in smaller surroundings.
And when should you start the process? Before you retire? After? How long before or after? And do you think you’ll stay put in your new home, or might you get itchy feet after a while and start looking for another place to live?
Here are some of the questions you should ask yourself before you make any decisions about moving—either now or after you retire. Once you’ve considered all the angles, you’ll be better able to make a decision that will best suit your needs.
7. How far away will I move?
If you’re not planning on staying put, will you leave just your current house—or your comfort zone?
Is your goal to stay in the community where you currently live, with all support systems in place, or do you long for different surroundings, where you can pursue activities that may not be available where you live now?
6. What size home am I looking for?
Some people plan to downsize before they retire, while others actually want a bigger house—either to pursue hobbies that require space or to welcome family and friends for visits and socializing.
Think about your plans after retirement, and try to envision how much room you’ll actually need to act on those plans. Some people end up modifying their existing home and staying put, rather than going through all the upheaval of relocating.
5. How might my health figure into it?
You might find yourself looking for a place with good medical facilities, if you or your spouse have health issues likely to become worse—or, on the flip side, if what you’re looking for is a more active lifestyle, you might be aiming for a place where golf, skiing, boating or hiking are easy activities to pursue.
Either way, you might want to consider viewing a prospective new home for suitability with regard to age-related modifications: ramps, shower bars, wide doorways and other such assists that may become necessary over time.
4. Should I buy a retirement home while still working?
Some people fall in love with a place when they’ve been there on vacation, and fork over the funds for what serves as a second home while they’re still working.
But doing so can not only tie you into house payments and related expenses that can become a burden if your circumstances change, it can create difficulties if you simply change your mind—or if the area you originally fell in love with changes in some way that makes it less desirable to you as a retirement home.
Then there are the other issues with owning a vacation home—what if you can’t get there often enough, while still working, to justify the expense? What if you have trouble finding renters to occupy it while you’re not there, or maintenance personnel to keep it in shape during your absence?
On the positive side, having ties to a community in advance can make settling in much easier when you’re ready to live there full time. You might even decide to move there before retirement and work remotely, if such an arrangement is an option with your employer.
And if the worst happens, and suddenly you or your spouse are moving there alone, you’ll have a support network already in place that can help make the transition easier.
3. Should I wait till after I retire to buy?
Waiting till after retirement to buy means you’ll have more time to research the place, or places, that call to you.
You can rent in the area and take your time looking, which could make it much more likely that you’ll really love the home you end up with.
But again, there can be cons for these pros. If you wait too long after retirement to make the move, you may find that the sheer effort of sorting belongings, packing/getting rid of things and then settling into a new home is really more than you’re able to deal with—either physically or emotionally.
Moving isn’t an easy action to take, and deteriorating health or reduced desire for the process could upend your relocation plans just when you thought you’d be ready to carry them out.
2. Will I move more than once?
Where you choose to retire might be a two-tiered decision, the report says, with an active-lifestyle location your initial goal and a move back to your old stomping grounds planned in the future, so you can once again be near family and old friends.
That can affect how large a home you might want to buy during both stages of retirement, since you might be looking to accommodate more family visits when you return to be near them, and need more room to do so.
1. Will I rent or buy?
You might need to choose between renting and buying. Depending on how long you plan to stay in your new home, and whether you envision an eventual move to an assisted living facility or perhaps instead plan to leave your home to family members, this could be a matter of taste, cost or simple preference.