(Written by Susan Doktor, Money.com)
How long have you been looking forward to your retirement?
You know what we’re talking about. Saying sayonara to your morning commute and hello to a relaxing cup of coffee—or two—on your porch. Bidding contentious coworkers a final farewell. Deleting weekly staff meetings from your calendar permanently and scheduling things that really matter to you. No doubt you’ve been painting your own picture-perfect vision of what life will be like when you stop working for some years. But how long have you been preparing financially to make your dream come true?
If you aren’t entirely confident that you’re in the best position to retire, you’re not alone.
Nearly a quarter of all workers in the US have no retirement savings whatsoever. And 72% of Americans feel they haven’t saved enough to retire comfortably. That’s why many retirees look closely at their housing arrangements to find ways to save.
For many of us, our homes represent our single greatest asset—and our single largest expense. How can you make the money you spend on housing work harder for you during retirement? It could be time to downsize—and moving into a manufactured home may well be the ideal solution.
Why Do Retirees Downsize?
Our kids grow up and leave us with too many bedrooms. Or our backs start to ache and mowing an acre of lawn isn’t much fun anymore. Some of us lived in expensive urban settings just to be closer to our jobs—jobs we don’t have anymore.
There are dozens of popular reasons for downsizing and just as many creative ways to do it.
And right now, with mortgage interest rates near record lows and home prices soaring, it’s a seller’s market out there. Making a move now could be the ticket to your retirement dreams. You may have way more equity in your home than you did just a year or two ago because homes are fetching such high prices.
Many retirees are reaping the benefit of today’s hot real estate market by selling their site-built homes for top dollar then purchasing a manufactured home for cash, thereby eliminating their mortgage payments completely.
Waking up every day to no mortgage payment? That would make any retiree sleep easier.
Why Consider a Manufactured Home?
For one thing, it’s important to look at all of your options. What you don’t know can wind up hurting you in the pocketbook. Let’s look at just one stark comparison.
On average, it costs about $240,000 to build a modest, 1200 square foot traditional home in Florida—and that’s in addition to what you’ll pay for a lot to put it on.
Did you know you could purchase a comparably sized manufactured home with two bedrooms and two baths for under $40,000? You might even find one situated in a lovely lakeside adult or senior community for that price.
What could you do with an extra $200,000? Many smart seniors are finding out they can sell the homes they’ve owned for years and settle into a manufactured home community that offers a lifestyle they love at a price they can manage.
Florida is full of manufactured home retirement communities that make retirement a blast. You’ll find swimming pools, golf courses, a place to park your boat, indoor fitness centers, and more in many of the communities we represent at Four Star Homes. You’ll also find friends: people just like you who are looking forward to many years of fun and relaxation now that they’ve retired.
Essential Calculations for Retirees
Choosing a place to live is both a rational and an emotional decision. So consult both sides of your brain as you consider your options. The great news is that living in a manufactured home retirement community can satisfy your desire for fun and freedom while also taking into account the reality of living on a fixed income.
Retirement is a great time—no, make that an essential time—to carefully evaluate your personal finances. In fact, it’s time to break out the fine-tooth comb.
Let’s start with your income. How large a social security check can you expect each month? How much can you comfortably withdraw monthly from your 401K? Do you own stocks that pay regular dividends you should account for in your income calculations?
The next step is to identify all of your expenses. Put them into two categories: essential and discretionary. Putting a roof over your head, food on the table, and gas in your tank clearly fall into the first bucket, but housing is the biggie. The average retiree spends about $17,000 on housing. That’s an amount almost equal to what the average retiree receives annually in Social Security benefits.
It’s plain to see why reducing your housing expenses is key to a comfortable retirement.
Ready to Start Shopping?
How much home can you afford? You’ll find out when you take all of your expenses into account. Many retirees find, once they’re no longer collecting a paycheck, that trimming their discretionary spending is sensible or even imperative.
When it comes to cost-cutting, it pays to start with some fundamental lifestyle questions:
- How many cars do you own and how much does it cost to keep them insured and running smoothly? Some retiring couples decide to downsize what’s in their garage, too.
- How many times a month do you typically eat out? Now that you have more time on your hands, cooking at home can be much easier than it was when you were working.
- How much do you spend on vacations, club memberships, and other forms of entertainment? You might spend much less if the community you lived in provided you with the social opportunities and leisure activities you enjoy so much.
All of these questions should figure into your calculations. A balanced budget can take many forms.
Once you’ve come up with a number—the amount you can comfortably afford to spend on housing—you can begin to narrow your choice of homes. Two bedrooms or three? Waterfront or inland? You might choose to buy a smaller home in a community that offers more amenities. Every manufactured home community has its own special sauce. Which one looks tastier to you?
Then there’s the question of whether to opt for a new home. Many seniors choose to pay a premium and buy new. They want a fresh start. They don’t want to hassle with older home repair costs.
But used manufactured homes are a less expensive option you may want to seriously consider. Some pre-loved manufactured homes even come with home warranties that can rein in home maintenance costs.
At Four Star Homes, we’ve helped thousands of seniors find a lifestyle they love at a price they can afford.
You want choices. We have options. Let’s see where the two intersect and put the keys to your Florida dream home in your pocket.
Susan Doktor is a journalist, business strategist, and principal at Branddoktor. She writes about a wide variety of topics, including real estate, personal finance, and family life. Contact her on Twitter @branddoktor.