Once, the notion of owning two homes was solely for the wealthy. But now more middle-class baby boomers entering retirement are “trading down” from a big family house to two small abodes in separate states, according to real estate specialists.
“These aren't rich people. … Yet they have traditional pensions that give them enough income to support homes in two parts of the country,” said Margie Casey, a veteran real estate broker and author of “Relocate at Retirement or Not?”
In a typical scenario, a retiring couple will first sell the large family house. Then they'll buy a smaller home nearby for use as their primary residence. Finally, they'll purchase a small, secondary residence in another state, most often in a resort setting.
Wherever they choose to live, most boomers want low maintenance — with exterior upkeep provided through a condo or homeowners association.
Here are a few tips for those considering a two-home retirement dream:
• First check out the financial implications of your plan.
Casey, who reviews retirement communities on her website (www.realestatescorecard.com), said anyone considering two-home ownership should first discuss the financial implications with a professional adviser.
On paper, it should be no more expensive to own two small units than a single large one. But in reality, dual homeownership can be more expensive after you take into account homeowners association fees and transportation costs.
Local taxes are also a big factor, especially in today's tough times, where cash-strapped municipalities are frequently raising them.
• Consider transportation before deciding where to relocate.
Relying on an out-of-the-way airport makes it harder to travel to distant locations for vacation or to see your offspring. It can also add to your transportation bills.
“Try to live near an airport that's a hub for one of the major carriers. That can save you a ton on air travel costs,” Casey said.
Another transportation factor to consider is proximity to major interstate roadways.
“Most retired people want to live within a two-hour drive of their grandchildren,” Casey said.
• Avoid high expectations for visits with your offspring.
“Living near the grandkids is the No. 1 thing for a lot of retirees,” Casey said.
Still, she cautions those choosing a retirement habitat to be realistic about their expectations on how often they'll see family, no matter how close they live.
“Your kids have busy lives. Sure, you can hope to see them often. But don't focus your whole retirement lifestyle on seeing family. First and foremost, choose the lifestyle that works for you,” Casey said.
• Remember the benefits of two-home living.
One reason retirees like owning two abodes is that they can take advantage of two distinct climates — avoiding harsh winters and interminable summers.
By living in two places, Casey said many retirees have “the best of both worlds.” They can choose a primary setting near family and a secondary one that satisfies their desire for intellectual stimulation, perhaps in a college town where they can enjoy classes, lectures and cultural events.
For instance, Casey cites low-cost courses available to seniors on many campuses through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (www.osherfoundation.org). Buying a home near a college town offering such classes can enrich retirement.
To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at email@example.com.