Many older adults who choose to downsize later in life find renting to be prefered to owning a home due to the reduced maintenance and responsibilities. Becoming a renter, however, may pose some challenges. Here are some tips for becoming a renter after being a long-time homeowner.
Start by knowing what rent you can afford.
If you have owned a home debt free for years, the idea of monthly rent can be a bit of a shock. Calculate your monthly income and expenses to determine what you can afford to pay for monthly rent. Then be sure to leave a cushion for unexpected expenses and possible future rent increases. Tip: While the rental market may be competitive, see if you might be able to work out a discount for a longer lease (which can reduce the risk of vacancy for the landlord). Paying extended periods of time upfront, however, may not be a good idea in the event you have to move unexpectedly (for example, in the event of an injury or to seek care).
Research different communities.
Many older adults that downsize also take the opportunity to move closer to adult children and grandkids. It might seem logical to seek the closest housing to family but keep in mind that multi-family housing (such as apartments and condos) can draw a more transient population. It is a good idea to research several communities around the area and get a feel for their residents (the same applies for senior living communities). Try talking to some of the residents to get a feel for quality of life in that area.
Decide where you can be flexible.
Maybe you really want a community pool to enjoy. Or, maybe you need to be close to public transportation. Whatever your criteria, know where you can be flexible (do you really have to have a fireplace?) and where you can’t (being on the second story and navigating stairs if your mobility is challenged is not a good idea).
Understand the application process.
The rental market can be competitive (especially here in San Diego). Great properties typically do not stay vacant long, so understanding and preparing for the rental application process is a good idea. You will likely need to fill out an application and pay a fee for a credit check (usually about $40). Make sure you have good credit and have proof of income or a bank statement to show you can afford rent in addition to other expenses. Many landlords will also run a background check. You should also be prepared to pay a deposit upfront, typically one month’s rent.
To give yourself an advantage in a competitive market, try submitting a letter of recommendation with your application (either from a previous landlord, previous employer, or other professional who can vouch for you) and have your references lined up. Then, be ready to act fast. If you are not comfortable using the computer for things like completing an application, it might be a good idea to have a trusted family member or friend nearby to assist you through that process so you don’t lose out on an opportunity.
Be prepared to let go of household items.
Once your rental has been secured and the time has come to move, be prepared to let go of unneeded household items. It helps to sketch a floor plan of your new space to know what will fit (and what will not). In addition to furniture items, you will need to emotionally prepare to part with many of your belongings, which can be difficult. One mistake many people make is not parting with enough items initially only to end up with the unexpected expense of a monthly storage unit (usually around $200 per month). The downsizing process goes more smoothly if you go into it with a plan. Here are some Moving Tips for Seniors to get you started.
One last thought: Start your search early to give yourself plenty of time, especially if you are downsizing out of a larger family home. The more you can plan, the less stressful the downsizing move becomes. And, keep in mind that there are professional service providers (such as Senior Move Managers) who can assist you. Good luck!