Part of being successful with aging in place is putting yourself in the optimum situation to be able to financially, socially and of course physically age safely at home. We were in the same house for 30 plus years and started planning 5 years ago to move after quitting our full time jobs. We wanted to move to a place closer to family that was less financially demanding and more age friendly in terms of less traffic congestion and more available services. You need to look at your own decision point list ( coming later in surveys) if downsizing/ moving is your best option.
So if your alternative to the 55 plus or buy in a long term care community is a nice little rancher, then be prepared for the brutal real estate competitive game to get that said rancher. We were fortunate to sell our former home in a matter of days but when we got down to bidding on the object of our desire, we went through quite a heart pounding quest.
Ranchers tend to be in distinct areas, many built in the 50’s and 60’s but zero barrier access is not always a slam dunk. We looked at ranchers with step downs here and there as they were ramblers ( built on two elevations but basically live on one level). Even looking in the real estate websites for an advanced search- ranch versus rancher makes a difference depending on where you are. I am proposing a rating scale like walk-ability percentage for individual houses on an age friendly scale. You can only squint so much at the online pictures that don’t show the weak points (very tight bathrooms, killer stairs to the basement etc) Couple that with trying to figure out which homes to visit bid on in a hurry is daunting. Know your real estate agent well and be clear about what you want.
In the end we had to pay cash (Heloc and money markets) despite a solid sale of our own house. We had to deal with bidding over asking and no inspection! Yes that seems crazy…we were lucky in the end as our age in place house already has a walk in shower, laundry on first floor and other age friendly features. But do not assume finding a single family home that is on one level with most of what you want and need is a walk in the park. Look also at the Cape Cod style which usually has at least one bedroom bath on the first floor. Split level homes present their own unique remodeling challenges.Competition for larger two bedroom condos in both suburban and urban areas is also now more competitive as empty nesters compete with millennials.
The latest news is that builders have caught on and are offering a few rancher style homes within their new built two/three story developments. They are not all in the sunny southern states. All the trimmings regarding updated kitchen and finishes, but also an updated price tag.