Why Renting May Be Better than Buying for Seniors


Charlie and I moved to our senior retirement community four years ago. At the time we had every intention of purchasing the two-level condo as soon as our property in western New York sold.

In the meantime, we were renters with an option to buy. Now, four years have passed, our property sold long ago, and we have become comfortable with being renters.

But, Charlie being Charlie, has become obsessed with the idea that we should buy our condo.

Yes, the rent is high, but whenever an appliance dies it's not our problem – and several have bit the dust since we moved here. When the plumbing fails, we don't have to call the plumber – not our problem. If the air conditioning quits on a 98° day – the company has to deal with it, not us. When the roof needs replacing (the roof is twelve years old and due) the association will be responsible.

There is a lot to be said for renting, especially for senior citizens.

At least once a week Charlie tells me we should talk to the owners about buying our condo. I keep making excuses and putting him off. He just doesn't understand that becoming new property owners at age 79 and 77 really doesn't make too much sense. Something could happen to either one of us at any time and that could mean a long-term care facility of one type or another for one or both of us.

Senior living options are a difficult decision for the elderly. There are so many things to consider, not the least of which is finances.

Ideally, if and when we leave here, we will be able to buy into a facility in the area with extended care options, but we aren't ready for that at this point. However, it is unrealistic for us to think that neither of us will, at some time, require this type of care.

Many condos in our retirement community are currently for sale as the owners have moved on to extended care facilities. And the problem is, the places are not selling. So it really doesn't make any sense for us to buy our condo knowing that sooner, rather than later, we would probably have to sell it and move on.

How do I get this across to Charlie? I don't. I just keep trying to ignore the issue!

As you or your loved ones, face a similar decision, try to look at the long-term problems. Nothing lasts forever. Hopefully, you will be able to make a decision that is in your own or your loved ones best interests.

Marlis describes herself as a “Gramma who loves technology and has a lot to say.” She blogs about whatever catches her interest: food, books, family and more. For AgingCare.com, she writes about the issues facing the elderly and her experiences caring for her husband, Charlie, who suffers from dementia.

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Marlis, I am going through a similar situation, except that I am somewhat younger than you and Charlie(63). My husband (62) has pancreatic cancer, so by the time I'm 65, I will be a widow with no family left. I am actually considering moving into an independent living facility that has assisted living and nursing care available should I get sick. As much as I want to buy a condo or single family home in Arizona, I know that the aging process will eventually catch up with me. I don't know how you are going to convince Charlie that renting is better than buying, but you can certainly tell him my story. In the meantime, I would change the subject each time it comes up and be happy that you still have each other.
I think you are on the right track. Really if he just insists on buying, do it as an LLC or other corporate entity or as a trust, so that it limits your liability.

Whether or not you are thinking of leaving assets to your children or family should be a part of this discussion. You don't mention kids in your story but it is something to consider if that is your situation also.

Where we live, many of us had to start over with homes due to Hurricane Katrina. There is nothing quite so character building as doing this in your 50's, 60's or 70's. What is happening now is that for many who rebuilt back in 2006 & 2007 now are faced with huge unanticipated costs of insurance and maintenance and now are fully retired and on limited incomes or are about to retire. I'm sure this same scenario will be happening to those in the Super Storm Sandy areas of the east coast. Most of these folks would have been better off renting rather than rebuilding or buying a home and assuming a mortgage and the requirements of homeownership in their later years.
I agree about renting.. When my husband now 62 ( I am 58) had to stop working in 2010 due to his PD and dementias we lived on a farm in New Hampshire.. It did not sell and we had to let it default... moved to Florida where one son still owned a home from when he was stationed here, it was a perfect house, no steps much smaller and small yard... We rent from him with the understanding that if any repairs that come up that we pay for them and it comes off of future rent. He is now out of the service but his job takes him around the world. Tho I miss my farm and animals, renting works for us.. It "feels" like its our home, but if anything major comes up, I just call the landlord and we make arrangements. Like the water softening system that is being replaced tomorrow, I'll pay and take the cost off a few months rent so it doesnt hit son all at once. I can do what I want in the house and around the yard. I didnt think I would like renting, but it really is the more practical way for us, and we are not tied to a property if a change is needed in the future.