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Retirement Communities: The “Paid-in-full” illusion

Editor’s Note: Cross Keys Village -The Brethren Community financially sponsors Gettysburg Connection

“My house is paid off. Why would I want to join a program with a monthly service fee attached?” After assisting hundreds of families with their Senior Living decision, I have learned to help visitors put their house into perspective.

couple sitting on pathway

First, you may be mortgage-free and own a clear title to your property, but houses are never paid in full. Think of the money you have spent recently (or need to spend in the next couple of years) on the roof, gutters, deck, windows, blacktop, and heating and cooling system. Don’t forget the major appliances: some will need a repair or to be replaced altogether. And remember the yard work, parts of which you will not enjoy doing yourself forever. All of the above comes at a cost. This cost may actually be greater than your former mortgage payments, even before adding on another big one: your real estate taxes. Instead of keeping you up at night, those costs will be combined into a regular and predictable amount if you move to a retirement community.

Next, let’s think about what your house can and cannot do for you. Yes, hopefully, your house has been a fine investment (in addition to being a roof over your head during all those years) and you can sell it for more than what you bought it for. But it is an illiquid investment. Today’s favorable real estate landscape can change overnight because of some event overseas, or on Wall Street… or next door: What if three houses go on sale on your block at once? What if your neighbors let their property go to seed? What then of your investment?

And now comes the clincher: does your house keep you company? Does it offer to deliver you meals, teach you classes, take you on trips, or put drops in your eyes after cataract surgery? We aren’t claiming that a move to a retirement community is the solution for everyone, but for many, it is the logical chapter following the “Raising a Family and Having a Career” chapter. If anything, selling your house with the right spirit and at the right time can bring relief and a sense of accomplishment. You can look back at the long-time home mostly with fondness – and few regrets – then move on forward to many more years of worry-free living.

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Oliver Hazan is Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Cross Keys Village – The Brethren Home Community.

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