Jun 30, 2009

Does Your Other Half Know You Want to Sell (or Keep) Your House in Retirement?

If you're nearing retirement -- or just like to plan ahead -- what you'll do with the house you own is an important topic for discussion with your spouse or partner.

Yes, that sounds obvious. But an astonishing number of couples haven't had that basic conversation, as pointed out by USA TODAY's Sandra Block, in her column entitled "80% of couples disagree when it comes to retirement planning."

Among the statistics she points to, provided by Fidelity Investments: 60% of couples disagree about when to retire, 44% disagree about whether to work in retirement, 42% disagree about their retirement lifestyle, and 44% disagree about whether they'll need to sell real estate to fund their retirement.

This isn't a conversation that should wait until the last minute. For example, perhaps you're thinking about a bathroom remodel.  If you know you'll want to stay in this house during retirement, now might be a great time to take some measurements and make sure it's wheelchair accessible, just in case. But if you know you want to sell the house and move, your focus should be on what changes to the bathroom will add the most to your selling price.

What makes a house suitable for retirement, anyway? Look for features like:
  • accessibility to public transport and shops, in case the time comes when you shouldn't really be driving
  • minimal challenges to a person with limited mobility -- single-level homes with few stairways are best, and
  • easy-to-grip handles and knobs, plus safety railings (these probably aren't there now, but make sure they won't be a problem to add later).
For more on evaluating your house's retirement potential, see Buying a Second Home: Income, Getaway, or Retirement, by Craig Venezia.