Is Your Loved One’s Home Still the “Right Size”?

Communication is key if you think it’s time for a more manageable living space.

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Family members using wooden blocks to form a house.

Sonya Edwards is the Director of Financial Counseling at Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People, a subsidiary of Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging

Maybe you’ve noticed that your loved one has been having trouble navigating the stairs at home, or that the yard work and repairs have fallen by the wayside. It could be that home-related bills have piled up, or that the dishes and laundry aren’t getting done. As hard as it may be for both of you to accept, it may be time for your loved one to move to a living space that’s the “right size”—in other words, one that’s more manageable. Since the decision is weighty, it’s important that the two of you discuss the issue openly, and with careful consideration. The following tips may help:

Strike the Right Tone: 

• Find an opening. It’s ideal if your loved one broaches the subject first and asks for help. If not, wait for a time when everyone is relaxed.

• Be open to hearing all of your loved one’s concerns.

Pose the Right Questions:

• Ask your loved one about his or her ability to handle upkeep, repairs and yard work. Is there enough money to pay someone to do the work?

• Can he or she easily navigate every necessary part of the home, such as bedrooms, bathrooms, the kitchen or the laundry room? 

• Is it still possible to get around outside the home in order to stay socially active? Is it feasible to attend church, visit friends and family, get to the local senior center, etc.?

• Are the bills manageable? Can your loved one pay his or her current mortgage payment (if any), property taxes, insurance, utility bills, etc.? 

• What sort of help would be required for your loved one to stay at home? Would it be necessary for someone to handle the cleaning, cooking, personal care, shopping, bill paying, medication assistance, transportation, etc.?

Select the Right Loan:  

You may want to consider a loan to make your loved one’s housing goals both affordable and sustainable. The right loan could be helpful, whether he or she wants to downsize, or prefers to stay in place while refinancing or making modifications. Loan types you may consider include:

Single Purpose Loans: These are special loans to help homeowners with specific repairs or modifications that the program allows. These loans typically carry lower costs and can be forgiven over time.

Home Equity Line of Credit: This loan works similarly to a credit card. You can withdraw up to a certain amount over a defined timeframe and you pay back principal and interest on the outstanding balance over the repayment period. This loan is best for those who want to complete smaller projects one at a time instead of tackling work on the entire home.

Home Equity Loan: With this loan, you receive a set amount of money in lump sum and you pay it back over a specified number of payments, with fixed monthly payments that include principal and interest. This loan is best for large projects that will be completed at one time, such as a large renovation project. Be aware that the terms can be longer, similar to that of a mortgage when you purchase a home.

Reverse Mortgage: These are loans designed for homeowners age 62 and older where the lender pays the homeowner. The homeowner is still responsible for the property taxes, insurance and maintenance on the property. This is the best option for those who have equity on their home, but do not have enough resources to meet their monthly obligations. Some lenders will allow the purchase of a new home using a reverse mortgage.

Find the Right Help:

Nonprofit HUD Housing Counseling Agencies. Organizations like Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People, a subsidiary of the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, are available throughout the nation to offer FREE guidance and assistance to anyone wanting to explore their housing options, regardless of income or age. You can find a counseling agency near you using this locator.

Real estate professionals. Take advantage of the expertise of lenders, real estate agents, tax experts and attorneys when making a housing decision. Be sure to do your research before hiring any professional.

When it comes to determining the “Right Size” home for an older adult, remember that one size does not fit all. Whether your loved one decides to move into a smaller house, condo, apartment or assisted living facility should depend on his or her very specific needs. The best way to reach a decision is by discussing the issue honestly and openly with one another. Let other family members and friends weigh in, if you think doing so would be beneficial. For additional support in facilitating a dialogue, don’t hesitate to contact a housing counseling agency or geriatric case manager. 

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