Does it make more sense to buy or rent when downsizing for retirement?

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I retired two years ago and my husband is retiring this summer at age 69. It appears to me that in looking to downsize to a more appropriate home for our next phase of life, it makes more sense to buy than rent. As buying a condo or duplex would better protect assets should one of us end up in a nursing home, giving the other a home without rent. While there would still be maintenance expenses, it is making sense to me. Would the modest home have to be sold for one spouse to qualify for Medicaid should it come to that? We currently live in Ohio. Please point out the pitfalls.

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jacobsonbob - thank you! Yes, I am finding out very quickly that I definitely do not care to be a homeowner. I'd be perfectly happy in my little rented cabin by the lake, as long as I have wifi so I can work and a big window to watch the lake whilst doing it. Maybe a nice porch or deck so I can drink coffee and look out at the lake in the mornings.

No taxes. No insurance expense (except renter's). No maintenance or repairs.
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SusanA43, that looks reasonable. Quite often people forget about the hassle and expenses of maintenance and repairs, and some people are essentially slaves to their houses. Owning a house isn't for everyone, and it's important to consider the pros and cons of renting vs owning. Renting has worked out very well for me, but it might not for many others due to both financial, practical and personal preferences.
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My plan is to rent for the rest of my life, once I get through this MERP nightmare with my parents' home.

I don't want this house, never have and never will. I may end up staying here out of necessity, but I won't be happy here. I'm tired of dealing with the repairs on a home that has had essentially no maintenance for almost 30 years, other than absolutely necessary things when something stopped working or broke (like the water heater). Roofing, yard maintenance, etc - all was let go, other than weekly mowing.

I'd love to just rent a little house or cabin on a lake somewhere. Then no one else will be burdened with dealing with MERP, repairs, selling or anything else.
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Thank you all so much for the info. We've felt rather tied to our location, due to jobs. Now with retirement, we'd like to live somewhere else--a different part of the country. The medicaid and look-back info was really what I needed. Owning sounded like the answer I needed confirmation with--allowed one home, one car. We're not nomads, and have renovated our 100-year old house with aging in mind, with fewer trip hazards, modified steps that aren't as steep, with sturdy, yet beautiful iron rails.

Life is about options, and we want to option to stay--or go. Right now a relocation sounds like a great adventure, and a more metro area--with all it has to offer in public transportation (being a great consideration as we age) museums, walkways, etc, sounds pretty darned good. 😉
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SuzyQB: Yes, I am very familiar with all of the pitfalls of aging, having just gone through it with my mother. YEARS BEFORE, we had "tried" to prepare for her eventual inability to live alone in her home  in Massachusetts. I live in Maryland and my brother in California with our families. However, she said "I'm glad I stayed in my home." Our responses of course were polar opposites since now we had to figure out a way to assist her, as her "keeping house" abilities were a bad joke. So I had to uproot my life and move there. For my husband and myself, we have thought ahead and have put in place long-term care for ourselves so that our sole heir doesn't have to go through the NIGHTMARE MY MOTHER PUT US THROUGH!
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I believe it depends on the person and the individual circumstances, as there are pros and cons with either choice. Renting allows one to move across town, out of state or overseas if one wants while owning is somewhat of a ball-and-chain. Whether one is married or single (due to one of three possibilities) will be a factor, and whether or not one has heirs is another consideration. If your financial resources are large, then contemplating Medicaid shouldn't be a factor. In my case, I've always rented (which worked out very favorably financially for me but wouldn't for many others) and at almost 65 (and retired 4 years) I don't feel any urge to own unless I could design and build specifically what and where I wanted. Perhaps "downsizing" doesn't have to mean moving immediately to your final residence. It appears that various "communities" expect that you will spend the rest of your life there, so that must be considered, too.
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Llamalover47, we chose to not "live in place" although our home was comfortable and accessible. However, I have worked in long term care and served as an ombudsman in LTC, and the biggest/scariest issue is that often older adults suffer a serious irreversible event such as a fall or a stroke, go to the hospital for treatment and cannot live independently after they are released. So they and their relatives/friends have to find a place for them in a very short time frame. That means, on a very practical level, that they often "settle" for a place that may not give good care because they don't have time to do enough due diligence, i.e., checking out the quality of nursing homes with available beds. So there is the risk that the elder will be placed in a facility where they may not get the quality care they need, and unfortunately, there are way too many of that type around. So they end up unbathed, or lying in their own waste because they could not get help to get to the bathroom, or they get bedsores. Some are so bad that they abuse the residents. Even in the best skilled nursing facilities, sometimes they have to wait because all the staff is busy helping others. It happens. But in the best facilities, it happens rarely, while in others who don't care about the quality of care they provide, you will find lights and bells on for most of the rooms, and residents crying or yelling for help that doesn't come. Is that the kind of place you would want your parent (or yourself) to have to live in? Old people get to the point where they are no longer able to care for themselves. That is the reality. And sometimes family can't care for the (it's a very difficult job) and sometimes they want to protect their children from having to make those difficult rushed decisions. That's why WE moved to a continuing care retirement community, with a stellar reputation for quality care, so our children would not be forced to deal with it should an emergency arise.
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Why wouldn't you choose to "live in place," modifying the home to fit the needs of the aging couple?
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The previous replies mentioning home/condo ownership are right on the money. It makes sense to have property if you can afford it, as it will provide one of you a continued place to live, that cannot be appropriated by Medicaid should one spouse have to enter LTC.

Beyond that - if you have any sort of assets that can be protected and/or can be left to heirs if you have any, put them into a trust ASAP. Elder care lawyers will suggest this and it's good advice.

My father-in-law passed away 3 1/2 years ago, unexpectedly, at age 70, and my mother-in-law, now almost 78, suffers from vascular dementia and still lives at home. They had nothing beyond wills and POA set up, and unbeknownst to my MIL and anyone else, my FIL had saved quite a considerable amount of money for retirement. After sorting everything out after his death, we set up a trust to protect for her (and thus for my only-child wife and only grandchild) what assets we could. However, we're only two years into the trust so if she needs to be moved to a facility in the near future, all those assets will be fair game to use before she would be Medicaid-eligible.

So, bottom line, having property is good, but having a plan to protect what you've worked so hard for is even better!
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Here is my opinion. First, I'm 67 and my husband is 70. We own as home. We aren't selling at this point because we can't get what it is worth. We have talked about downsizing and renting an apartment. Mainly because of upkeep and here in NJ taxes. I have been dealing with my Mom's house for two years. I wish she had gone to an apartment when my Dad died. Because of Medicaid, the house is going to be abandoned. Once I filed for Medicaid I was told to stop paying taxes. Once she is on Medicaid, there will be no money for upkeep on a house I haven't been able to sell. So, it will go for unpaid taxes or Medicaid lean because I can't afford the taxes and upkeep. So what I'm saying is renting would be my choice. If you have children, downsizing will get rid of stuff you don't need. When you reach gone, all they need to do is clean out ur rental. Nothing to sell and just have utilities shut off. I like life as simple as possible for my girls too.
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