Assessing Housing Needs

As you head into retirement, perhaps one of your biggest concerns will be around your housing needs. Perhaps you’re still making payments on the mortgage into retirement or you find yourself caring for the needs of a very large house with little help. You could also be providing housing for relatives that depend on you for support. Or, you are worried that your home may be unsuitable for independent living as you age.

These are all valid housing concerns that many retired or soon-to-be retired people can relate to. If you don’t want your housing situation to become a source of anxiety for you, it’s a good idea to begin assessing your housing needs as soon as you can. Making plans now means that you will not be backed into a corner, having to make a decision under duress or out of desperation.

Here are some things to consider that can help you plan your housing needs in retirement.

How Much House Do I Need?

If your home is significantly larger than what you require, you may want to consider downsizing or even entering a shared living situation. If cost is a concern, then either of these two options could help you save as much money as you can during your retirement years.

If you believe that you will be responsible for housing relatives (or guest, friends, borders, etc.), then you will want to set up guidelines for this scenario. How many people will live with you? Will your “tenants” pay rent or offer assistance with household duties in exchange for rent payments?

What is My Ability to Maintain a Home?

There are many tasks associated with maintaining a home —  from small chores and DIY projects to larger maintenance and repair needs. Then, there is the financial aspect of making mortgage payments and covering the cost of keeping your home in good condition.

If you foresee your health declining or your desire to maintain a home waning, you’ll need to make arrangements for such an eventuality. This could mean hiring help or ridding yourself of your home altogether.

Put some guidelines in place to help you self-monitor both your mental state as well as the physical condition of your home. For example, if you’ve gone an entire summer without caring for the lawn, that could be a signal to get help or consider getting a smaller place with less maintenance. If you’ve been struggling to pay your mortgage or cover repairs and maintenance for your property, this could also be a sign that you may need to find alternative living arrangements.

Will My Home Meet My Needs as I Age?

Many retirees think about how their current home will suit them as they age. Will their home be suitable for them as they advance in age, or will they need certain adaptations? If adaptations are required, is there enough money in savings to cover the scope of work for these adaptations?

If the answer is no, this, again, is a sign that you will have to reconsider your housing situation to fit your lifestyle both physically and financially.

I Don’t Want to Give Up My Home. What Can I Do?

If, after considering these questions, you’ve come to the conclusion that you must give up your beloved residence, just know that you could have other options if you really do not want to sell your home or move out of it.

For example, you could consider a reverse mortgage. This is a financial product that allows you to tap into your home’s equity and receive money in a lump sum, monthly payments, a line of credit, or any combination of the three. These payments could support your retirement lifestyle by providing money to help you keep, maintain, or even upgrade your home. You could also use the money to pay for in-home care or make home improvements that better suit your physical needs as you age.


Aja McClanahan is a freelance writer and owner of

How to Assess Your Housing Needs in Retirement