This is the question that many Canadian seniors will eventually have to ask themselves, and often the answer is that they do not want to move out of their long-term home. A recent study* indicated that a higher percentage of Canadians over the age of 55 said that they would prefer to renovate and retrofit their current home rather than move to a new one. It found that 47 per cent of pre-retired and 56 per cent of retired respondents stated, ‘staying in my home is critical for my quality of life.’ It can be difficult to let go of a place where you have a lifetime of memories and, most likely, raised your children. However, if seniors don’t opt to downsize, they will face higher costs.
“A good chunk of the money that’s been saved during your working years, can easily be gobbled up if you choose to retrofit your home.”
Most homes need updating
Of the group that was questioned, 58 per cent said that in order for them to remain in their home they would have to make improvements. The two rooms that would need to be upgraded for better accessibility would be the bathroom and the kitchen, and these are the two rooms that are the most expensive to renovate. My parents are currently renovating their bathroom, and so far their cost is upwards of $20,000. Of the respondents, 11 per cent said that their homes would need major renovations in order for them to continue to live in it during their retirement.
Finding the money
A good chunk of the money that’s been saved during your working years, can easily be gobbled up if you choose to retrofit your home. It’s important to consider where the money will come from for home improvements, and how that will impact your long term retirement goals. For those who plan to stay in their current home, 62 per cent will have to access their savings for renovations. The biggest concern, is that some people are willing to go into debt in order to stay put.
Approximately 25 per cent said that they would consider a reverse mortgage product or they would draw on their home equity line of credit. A smaller 7 per cent said that they would use other types of loans for the renovations. Carrying any kind of debt at this time of life can impede your ability to travel, start new hobbies, entertain friends and enjoy your retirement.
One level living
One of the major reasons that seniors choose to move is that they want a living environment on one level. The cost of recreating a singlelevel floorplan, or simplifying the access to the second floor, can be very expensive. AGTA Home Health Care is a company that provides products and services for barrier-free living. They estimate that the cost to improve accessibility from the main floor to the second floor, via a stair glide, starts at around $3,000. The cost to improve access with a ramp from the outside to the inside of the home also starts at around $3,000. And, of course, as my parents have experienced, the cost of creating a full bathroom on the main level is (conservatively) upwards of $10,000.
For emotional and sentimental reasons, it’s easy to understand why many would want to stay in their long-term home. I’ve been encouraging my own parents for close to a decade to downsize, and so far I haven’t had any luck. Take the time to carefully weigh the costs if you decide to stay in your existing home. By moving to a smaller, more economical home, you can free up previously inaccessible wealth to support a more care-free and enjoyable lifestyle.
*The Retirement Study of Canadians aged 55+ was conducted by HomEquity Bank and the Brondesbury Group. Methodology: A sample of 301 Canadian homeowners aged 55+ was interviewed online via the Ipsos i-Say panel. In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/- 6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
As finance editor for HOMES Publishing Group, Rubina Ahmed-Haq also shares her expertise in our sister publication Condo Life. In addition, she is a regular contributor on CBC Radio, blogger at RateSupermarket.ca and has her own website alwayssavemoney.ca