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Buy or Rent in Retirement? Consider These Issues Before Deciding

buy or rent written in sand on a beach

To buy or not to buy – that is the question. And that one is followed very closely by another: To rent or not to rent? When it comes time to think about relocating or downsizing in retirement, those questions are often at the top of the list for consideration.

When you were young, you may have dreamt about buying a home. But once the kids are grown and retirement is fast approaching (or already in the rear-view mirror), you may find yourself taking a serious look at the housing options in front of you.

Retirement is often the perfect time to move closer to family – or head to a warmer climate. Maybe you’ve thought about downsizing due to health issues or having too much space in your empty nest. Either way, you’ll need to decide whether to buy or rent in retirement. And the answer is not one-size-fits-all.

If you’re retired or on the brink of retirement, you should consider several factors in making that decision. Here are some general guidelines. But remember that, in the end, it’s up to you.

To Buy or Rent in Retirement: Issues to Consider

Age and Health

While a lot of older adults are working longer these days, plenty of people still choose to retire at 55 or even younger. If you expect to own your home for 10-15 years or more, buying is generally the best choice. Over that period of time, you’ll build equity that will benefit you when selling down the road.

But if you or your spouse may need assisted living or memory care in the near future, it might make more sense to rent than go through the hassle of cleaning out and selling another house – and possibly losing money on the deal. In an assisted living facility or memory care facility, you generally rent your living space like an apartment, unless you live in a continuing care retirement community with a buy-in option.


Do you want your children to inherit your house? And, equally important, would they want it? If you’ve built up equity, this could be a great option. On the other hand, if the kids love their own houses, if yours needs a lot of work, if there’s a large mortgage to pay off, or if multiple children will fight over it, then make your decision based on your own preferences. Think about yourself rather than looking ahead to the next generation.

Cash Flow

How much money do you have saved? How much do you feel comfortable spending each month? If you’re selling a home, putting the proceeds into the purchase of a new house can be a good investment for the future. On the other hand, you could use that money to pay rent for an apartment and have a large chunk left over for savings and daily expenses.

Cost of Housing

What is the cost of housing in your desired area? Research the average cost of home sales and apartment rents there. If rental costs are high, you may be better off investing in a house. But if rent is affordable, that’s generally a better choice for retiring seniors. In fact, according to CNN Money, of the 100 U.S. cities with the most residents over age 65, renting made more sense in 98 of those cities.


What would be the property taxes if you buy a house or condo? Are there any homeowner association (HOA) fees you’d have to pay in addition to your mortgage? You may, of course, qualify for some property tax exemptions for seniors, but those vary by state and city based on your age and income. You’ll need to check with revenue offices in the location where you plan to retire.

Length of Stay

How long do you plan to live in your new house, condo, or apartment? The shorter the time, the less advantageous it is to buy, according to Consumer Reports. If you plan to be there less than three or four years, you’re better off renting.

Before You Make Your Buy-or-Rent Decision

couple considering whether to buy or rent in retirement

Take a Trial Run

If you’re making a move to a new city or state, start out renting, even if you think you’ll buy a house later. This will give you a chance to see if you like the city in general and more time to decide on the neighborhood where you’d want to buy or rent long term. Also, for those moving to be near family, renting first gives you a safety net in case your kids end up moving themselves!

Finally, Calculate the Opportunity Cost

If you’re selling your current home, estimate the costs involved with buying a new house – including closing costs, mortgage insurance, taxes, repairs, and general upkeep. Now, consider how much you could earn by investing that same amount of money in stocks, bonds, and savings.

So … is the best financial choice for you to buy or rent in retirement? If there’s a huge difference when you weigh all the factors, you have your answer. If it’s close, then go with your heart.

Buying and Renting on

As you browse retirement communities on®, you’ll find options for buying or renting in many metro areas and cities. Once you choose a location on, just look for the “Refine Your Search” box. You can choose Apartments, Home for Rent, Independent Living, and Assisted Living if you prefer to rent. Choose Homes for Sale if you want to buy. And note that some retirement communities will give you the option of buying or renting.

Related articles:

How Much Money Do You Need to Retire?

How to Set Retirement Savings Goals

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  • Sue Sveum

    About :

    After helping her own parents as they aged, Sue began working with other seniors, and now shares what she learned in her blogs for seniors and their families. She currently writes about seniors and healthcare for several websites but her past includes diverse topics ranging from dogs to weddings to ghosts. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and Golden retriever, Wrigley.


    1. Linda Frierson says:

      Hello I am 63 l am now buying a home. I want to downsize to independent living. I am single. Every one I see here in Dallas area is to expensive. I only get social security. Please advise. Thank you.

    2. sam mastrandrea says:

      Have home -paid for- would like to move to warmer state (az or fla)
      to a not so expensive home, mobile, etc. Live on soc sec/retirement –
      I am single, (divorced) – 83 and active. I live alone now, friends are deceased – need to be where “people” are.
      Do you think buying at this age or renting is the thing to do. ???
      any tips for this lady? THANKS.

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