Seniors Owning vs Renting: When Flexibility Rules
Author: M. Powner, BA Gerontology
There are many reasons why senior retirees prefer renting over owning a home. Retirees may rent to try out living in a new location, or simply because they desire a more flexible lifestyle. This flexibility becomes especially helpful when financial or health situations change, requiring a move to a less expensive place, to a place closer to family, or to a supportive environment. Renters don’t have the burden of selling a home should any issues arise.
As well, apartment living comes without many of the hassles of homeownership. “Many retirees are looking for the same experience as that of their Millennial children or grandchildren — they want to live in an all-inclusive community where they don’t have to worry about maintaining a home,” according to Dale Pineau, Vice President Retirement Living, Sifton Properties Limited. What’s more, renting an apartment might be best for those who want to be within walking distance of cultural activities, stores and restaurants.
Home ownership is the deeply ingrained Great Canadian Dream. Adding to the dream is retiring as a homeowner without debt. Although that dream is alive and well, and something that most retirees hope for, there can be some very good reasons not to be a homeowner in retirement.
You might think differently after considering these scenarios to why you might choose renting over owning:
- You can’t afford it. Either you have never been a homeowner because of the high costs, or you were a homeowner but simply needed the liquidity and access to the capital that was tied up in your home. While there are certainly ways to remain a homeowner and access some of the capital, the greatest access to capital is to sell your home.
- You don’t want the responsibility of maintaining a house. Let it be someone else’s problem. It can be very nice to suddenly realize that the leaking faucet is no longer up to you to fix. It can be even more comforting to know that the roof that needs replacing isn’t going to come out of your pocket.
- You don’t want to be trapped in a home you can’t sell quickly. You don’t know how long you will be staying in your home. By renting, you have much greater flexibility to move, and with far fewer worries than if you own your home. This can be an even bigger worry outside of urban centres where it can take many months or even years to sell a home.
- You want to spend more money while you are healthy enough to enjoy it. With a major amount of money freed up, you may feel more comfortable spending on vacations, cars, boats or other items that you have long dreamed about. Of course, this should be done with a long-term financial plan in place to ensure you can actually afford it. While many retirees can afford to do all of these things, “realizing” the cash in their homes often gives them the psychological comfort to start spending.
- You want to choose when you see your family. Many retirees are happy to finally have their freedom and some independence from family. Others may want or need to move to be closer to children or grandchildren. Renting may allow you the freedom to spend significantly more time with family in other cities without being responsible for real estate back home.
- You want protection and financial peace of mind. In many provinces landlord-tenant laws are in place to offer protection in rental arrangements. Before you rent a unit in a retirement home be aware of what laws apply, like in Ontario, where the Tenant Protection Act protects and safe guard’s retirement residence tenants. Some lease for life or condo purchase arrangements geared to seniors have continuing monthly fees even after tenancy has been completed.
Seniors living offers the ultimate flexibility. It is estimated that approximately 25% of all seniors prefer to rent without the headaches that go with ownership. This makes renting one of the most popular ways of living in retirement in Canada!