The senior dilemma: What should we do with our real estate investment?
Now that we’ve seen our children through elementary school, high school and university, married off and into their own homes, and paid off the mortgage on our home, what do we seniors do with our real estate investment?
What started off as a cozy nest and the family home, with the idea of it becoming our equity growth project into the future, has now become an unsettled issue for us. The idea of the house increasing in value as the years passed and we re-modelled—while also making it more liveable and perhaps more attractive to a buyer—is no longer of real consequence.
Our house is certainly very liveable and, for just two people, more than spacious. The idea of being attractive to a buyer is now really meaningless since it seems the house is of less interest than is “the opportunity to knock it down and build afresh”.
If we don’t care about growing equity and the home’s value is essentially out of our hands since we’re simply at the pleasure of the market, what do we do? Do we stay put, paying the minimal costs inside and out, worrying about the stairs and health issues, watching the neighbourhood change with younger families, and mostly being concerned about the real estate bubble bursting? Or do we take a deep breath, clean out the hoard of valuables never looked at in the basement, and decide….gulp… to return to an apartment or condo, certainly something that we were thrilled to leave when we first bought a house. Ah… that space and that garden.
So we make the decision that it’s smart to grab the purchase price—hopefully after a bidding war—and try to get into condo living. That’s a tough decision mind you, since it means dealing with a different bank branch, dry cleaner, and supermarket, and giving up the short drives to the familiar plaza.
Well that’s all fine, but do we take all of the purchase price and buy a condo where we must accept the monthly expenses that are more than for the house we just left, and the potential structural repairs to a multi-unit building where decisions are made by a group—not just by my wife and me? Or do we look for an apartment rental that won’t be as modern, won’t have a concierge, an indoor pool or a gym facility that I’ll never use (despite what I tell my wife)?
How do you measure the uncertainty that comes with a three- or five-year lease against the ownership of that beautiful new condo? And lest I forget, having used up the money from the sale, I then have to be cautious about using up savings or continuing to work, even part time, to ensure the condo fees are paid and we have some reasonable fashion of a life.
However, if you think I’ve figured any of this out yet, and have good advice…wrong. It’s a dilemma faced by many seniors who, after fifty years have once again to reach a real estate investment decision that has real impact on their future.
The only sensible conclusion is to make sure the decisions made are well thought out and take into account all of the things that matter right now. We still have the dreams of what can be in that new home, just a little less time and energy perhaps to make them work.