Three Paths to Clarity in House Hunting Over 50

When homebuying after 50, think about retirement and aging in place, but also re-assess your priorities regularly and get your financial house in order.

They say that buying a house comes down to three things: location, location, and location. But when you’re buying a house in the messy middle between “sort of semi-retired” and “elderly,” there’s a whole lot of space in-between. This week, I’m sharing what we’ve learned in our house hunt.

In the past, I’ve written about our search for a new home, and why we’re prioritizing social connections in our selection process. Several months later, that still feels right. The longer our nest is empty, the more we’re realizing the importance of proactively getting and staying connected to others. That’s helped us pick a good spot for settling down.

And now, it gets more complicated. We’re actually looking at houses.

It turns out that this process requires quite a bit of deep thinking. It requires you to:

Re-assess and reorder your priorities, sometimes daily. As we pursue the perfect alchemy of house, location, and price, we’re constantly recalibrating. We check in with each other regularly: A first floor bedroom is more important than a great kitchen, right? (Yes). If it’s a great price and it needs some renovations, do we want to do that work? (Probably not). If it’s got a pool, does that disqualify it? (Depends, but probably). Where do we stand on mature trees? Basements? A walkable neighborhood? With each house that comes on the market, we refine our priorities.

Think about the rest of your life. If you were hoping to delay this contemplation, I’d recommend staying put. Moving to a new home at this stage really forces you to game out all the scenarios. Do we want to try to age in place in this house or will we plan to move again? What happens if one of us becomes ill, infirm, or worse? Do we need one level, or a first floor bedroom (or ability to add one)? Similarly, how do we balance “risk management” in finding this house against “total buzzkill?”

Get your financial house in order. More than ever before, you need a handle on your longer-term financial picture before making the leap. When you did this as a younger person, you could count on your future income stream to help you through the lean times. Now, you need to consider the opposite: if you’ve got retirement in your future, your income stream may shrink. If you haven’t thought about your cash flow in retirement—inflows and outflows—you’ll need to do that now.

Last week, we saw the perfect house (right size, right style, right vibe) in a very imperfect location (on a busy road). As hard as it was to pass on that opportunity, we’re glad that it helped us understand our priorities better. We’re waiting and watching each week. More as it happens!

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Helping you thrive in your 50s and beyond. Advice, tools, and inspiration for navigating midlife and post-work life (with just a tiny bit of travel thrown in).