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Aging boomers, elderly face difficult housing market

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Elderly lady typing on laptop. Shallow DOF.

Konstantin Sutyagin

In our regular housing conversations with Dennis Rodkin, we spend a considerable amount of time talking about first-time buyers: what they’re looking for and how they can leverage the sagging market. Monday on Eight Forty-Eight, we look at “last-time” owners, i.e. retirees and seniors looking to sell their home and either downsize, move in with family members or into retirement communities.

In the boom years, retirees could depend on real estate to bankroll their retirement years, but sinking property values have changed the equation. Young families, having heard the horror stories of home ownership, aren’t as eager to buy the properties boomers are selling. Banks, wary of fixed incomes, often turn down retirees looking to refinance their mortgages.

Rodkin, who writes the Deal Estate column for Chicago magazine, advises boomers to ask themselves several questions when deciding where to live and whether to sell or stay put: Does your neighborhood have good transit options? How safe is it? If your mobility is impaired, can you install upgrades to make your current home more senior-friendly?

“Selling can be a very emotional experience for seniors,” said Mike Rickert, chair of the Senior Service Task Force for the MainStreet Organization of Realtors and a guest on Monday’s Eight Forty-Eight. “They’re leaving the home where they raised their kids.” For individuals moving into a form of assisted living, they’re struggling with the loss of independence.

Rickert and other members of the senior task force regularly meet with nursing homes, lawyers who specialize in living wills and tax accountants to better understand the housing needs of the elderly.

He says a lot of real estate agents don’t want to work with seniors because many aren’t looking to buy. The numbers indicate that agents may have to adapt. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, 26 million boomers plan to sell by 2030.

Are you of retirement age and considering selling your home? Are the child of a senior parent who is no longer self-sufficient? To share your experience, call 312.923.9239.

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