Smart Moves: Own 2 homes for fuller retirement

BY ELLEN JAMES MARTIN Published: April 20, 2012

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 (, 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.