More amenities. First-time home buyers are often concerned about space for children and living in a good school district. But retirees need to think about whether their home will continue to be convenient as they age. "As you get older those stairs are not going to be your friend," cautions Julie Schatz, a certified financial planner for Investor's Capital Management in Menlo Park, Calif. Seniors may want to consider a single-level home and proximity to family and friends who can help with household tasks. If you have any type of health problem, it is essential to live near a medical facility.
Art and Barb Thomas, 80 and 76, of Lawrence, Kansas, have downsized twice. The former college professor and middle school teacher sold their home and moved into a three-bedroom, two-bathroom town house shortly before retiring in 1994. "Things like lawn care and snow removal are taken care of for us," says Art. "Neither of us like outside work and it just relieves you of a lot of responsibilities that you don't want to do." The couple then relocated to a two-bedroom unit in a retirement community in February 2010 that provides assisted living and health care services. "We see this as an insurance policy for the future and it relieves our children from the responsibility of having to figure out what to do with us," Art says. When children and grandchildren come to visit, the couple pays for a hotel room. Says Art: "We have found that in many ways, it is just as inexpensive to buy a hotel room for a few nights as it is to maintain more space."