Contributed by Mike Longsdon
It's never too late to pack your first set of moving boxes.
Perhaps you inherited your parents' home or have been an apartment-living city dweller your entire life. Whatever the reason, don't let age bar you from slicing your own piece of the American pie and entering the world of home-ownership. Buying a first home is an exciting time, and one that far too few seniors get a chance to enjoy.
Chances are, your adult children will protest, citing advanced age, proximity, or concern over finances. Maintain an open line of communication, but remain firm in your decision if buying a home is what you really want. If health is a potential issue, work with your family to determine which features are best for your new house. Do you need a single story home with a walk-in bathtub? Find a local realtor who is knowledgeable about the area and can help you locate the ideal property. Economically, today's real estate market means that buying a home may be a better investment than the stock market.
Paying for new home
Being on a fixed income doesn't necessarily prevent you from qualifying for a mortgage. There are a number of homebuyer assistance programs that can help. The United States Government Accountability Office along with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development offer a host of financial aid option for seniors, including Section 502 Guaranteed Rural Housing Loans. Your credit history goes a long way toward qualifying for non-government-sponsored loan programs, with a score of 640 or higher being necessary to get the best rates. Many home loan programs allow you to use your retirement accounts as income, so your debt-to-income ratio will be lower, meaning access to additional funding options without touching your life savings.
Managing the logistics
Moving involves a number of people and organizations. Between the real estate agent, the mortgage broker, and property inspectors, many people forget about the biggest challenge: the actual move. Seniors especially should consider hiring a reputable moving company like HireAHelper, which will help with everything from heavy lifting to picking the right moving boxes for your personal items. A moving coordinator is a valuable asset when moving into a new first home as he or she will manage the most important (and tedious) tasks, including taking inventory, creating a map of where items belong in the new home, and scheduling times when you should begin packing certain rooms and items. Whether you choose to hire a professional coordinator or not, don't forgo gathering estimates – and make sure they are estimates based on a thorough evaluation of your space, furniture size, and distance moved. Don't rely on an over-the-phone "guestimate" of x-amount of hours; you will get stuck with on open-ended, per-hour contract the moving company can stretch out for longer than necessary.
Getting ready for the big day
New home picked. Check. Moving boxes ready. Check. Now to begin the least desirable part of the process, packing up. Start by purging your personal collection of anything you don't use or doesn't have sentimental meaning. Sort by category and find a local charity willing to pick up your excess clothing, furniture, and electronics for free. Not only will you make space in the moving truck, you will enter your new home clutter-free with an extra tax deduction come the end of the year. Pack clothes in special moving boxes, which are extra-sturdy and contain a hanging rack; other items should be packed according to room, marked clearly, and taped at all seams.
Most importantly, get excited. This is a major step, no matter how old you are, and one that will leave a legacy for your loved ones.