Resources for Aging Homeowners

The average homeowner is now older, and older owners face distinctive questions, like how long to hold onto their real estate! Some envision moving one day to a single-level home or apartment, a retirement community, or even assisted living. Many begin paring down belongings years in advance and making repairs that might help the house sell more easily. Others would prefer to age in place and only leave their home “toes up”.



Knowing how to adapt a home or personal habits around a change in mobility may be new territory. A Tacoma man recently made $60,000 in modifications so that his wife, suddenly in a wheelchair, could return home from the hospital rather than move to assisted living. The main floor bathroom looked beautiful after the remodel, but sadly none of those beautiful changes made the house more wheelchair accessible!

When the woman came home, the hospital sent along an occupational therapist, Robin, who is also a certified Aging in Place Specialist. Robin knew from professional experience and specific training what modifications would actually help the woman function at home. After a consultation she left them with recommendations for further alterations. She also helped to retrain them around day-to-day activities we take for granted, such as taking a shower.

Ideally, this advice would have come BEFORE a $60,000 remodel!

If you find yourself planning to age in place, we can connect you with Robin with Function First Homes for a consultation. We think it will be money well invested!




Whether buying the retirement home or staying put, some seek to tap the equity they have amassed over decades in order to make ends meet in retirement. Enter the reverse mortgage. Yes, there are loan products out there that not only allow existing home owners to use the equity of the home they plan to keep, but also allow the same flexibility to those looking to buy a different home. Buyers must have at least 50% for down payment on a reverse purchase.  The reverse mortgage can pay the monthly payment and also pay income directly to the owner. This is great for someone who has equity but lacks fixed income beyond social security. FHA backs the product, according to Kevin Day of Guild Mortgage. He says the house goes to the heirs upon death and it is non-recourse, so if the balance exceeds the value of the home, the heirs don’t have to make up the difference.

George Lane of Edge Home Finance says that reverse mortgages are big now, but will get bigger in the coming years as an expanding pool of homeowners set out to right-size their budget for retirement.


Many seniors do not know that Pierce County property taxes can be reduced for homeowners who are on a fixed income, provided that income is below current guidelines. Assessed value can effectively be frozen.  It is worth exploring whether you qualify.



Another dilemma is whether to keep or sell long-held rental properties. Many landlords burn out after decades of dealing with tenants and repairs. And recent landlord/tenant laws have angered many landlords in Tacoma. The playing field now features limits around rent increases, evictions, late fees, and more. For several of our clients who own rentals, this was the last straw; they no longer wish to be landlords…  which means selling… and paying capital gains taxes. Most homes are way up in value and were depreciated on paper down to zero, so they are ripe for a big fat gain. Some people just bite the bullet and pay the tax from the sale proceeds, but some look for a clever dodge. One can elude Uncle Sam by using a 1031 exchange, but that just means replacing one investment property with another; it doesn’t actually free you from the investment property business. Our friend at Merrill Lynch has a product that may help some sellers with the clever dodge. They offer a 1031 process that ultimately moves your equity from real property into a REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust). While the rate of return is not stellar, this is for owners whose aim is to cease being a landlord while avoiding capital gains! If you would like to explore this option, we can put you in touch with Matt!

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