Should You Move or Remodel?

Loretta Waldman

True to their non-conformist reputation, Boomers are breaking with convention even in retirement. Instead of flocking to sunnier states like their folks did, many Boomers plan to stay put, or age in place.

How do you go about deciding whether to move on or stay in place? Should you modify or renovate the home you’ve lived in for decades or should you move to a new house or condo? The answer, of course, depends on your individual circumstances and needs. Here’s a list of things to keep in mind as you wrestle with this important decision.

Know thyself

There’s a lot to consider when trying to determine whether the house you’re in currently is the right one for you now and in the future. Taking stock of your abilities, priorities and lifestyle is a good first step in trying to identify what your housing needs will be as you age.

For example, are you into DIY or would you rather let someone else repair that broken screen door? Who will mow the lawn, clean the gutters, or shovel snow? If you arrange for a service to manage your home’s upkeep needs, how will you pay for it? Do you plan to travel once you retire, and if so, will you need someone to keep an eye on the house for you?

If you’re unsure of your answers to these questions, discuss them with your family or close friends. Knowing what you want and how you plan to live in the future will impact your decision to stay in place or move.

Know thy house

Next, you need to evaluate the physical features of your home. This will help you determine if it is the right one to grow older in. Ask yourself whether the living spaces in your home are comfortable, convenient and safe for all members of your household.

For example, do you need to climb stairs to enter your home? Are your bedroom and bathroom easily accessible from the ground floor? Are the kitchen cabinets usable? Is there enough storage space?

No matter how sentimentally attached you may be to your home, now is the time to get real. This guide can help you identify opportunities to improve the comfort and safety of your home.

Should I renovate?

If renovations are needed in order for you to remain in your home, you might ask yourself whether they’re worth the cost.

A surge in renovations meant to make homes friendlier for older adults suggests that they are. A recent survey of users on remodeling site Houzz found that 20 percent of homeowners age 60+ staying in their existing homes remodeled their kitchen last year, according to CNBC. Of those, 60 percent made upgrades with aging in mind. Among those who upgraded their bathroom, 69 percent made an aging or accessibility upgrade.

Kitchen renovations, on average, cost about $56,000; bathroom renovations, about $16,000 – but keep in mind that both can cost substantially more depending on the changes you want to make to your home (e.g., installing cabinets vs. removing a load-bearing wall). You should decide whether to renovate based on three questions:

  • Do I have the budget to renovate?
  • Do I have the time and patience to renovate?
  • Does the structural design of my home lend itself to a renovation?

The National Association of Home Builders has a directory of Certified Aging-In-Place contractors who can help you evaluate your needs and estimate the cost of your project.

Could I modify?

A less expensive alternative to renovating is to modify your existing home. For example, you can replace traditional light switches with rocker switches to make it easier to turn on the lights when your hands are full. Or you can switch out cabinet and drawer knobs with D- or U-shaped handles for livable design in the kitchen.

Simple bathroom modifications such as comfort height toilet seats, lever or motion-activated faucets, and grab bars don’t need to cost very much, but can make a huge impact in the livability of the bathroom. Here are some tips that can help you start modifying your home today in preparation for the future.

To create a home that works for everyone, start the planning process sooner rather than later so that whatever home you end up in has livable design features long before you absolutely need them.

Keep Reading: 7 Questions to Ask Before You Add a Second Story

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