Saturday, March 26, 2016

The “Forever Home” Search When You Have a Chronic Condition

After living for many years in the “forever home” a friend had designed and her husband built, they were “taxed out” and having to move. Because it could accommodate their eventual aging, and not everyone wants a doorway big enough for a wheelchair, they were finding it a difficult sell. At the same time, another friend, who has multiple chronic conditions, is coming to visit to see if this could be their “forever home.”

When we reach a point in our life where we want to put down permanent roots for the long haul, hence the name “forever home,” there are many factors to consider. Should I own or rent? Is it a community I can afford to live in now and in the future? Can I do the things there I want to do? Weather, friends, schools, church, family, jobs, volunteer opportunities, transportation etc. need to be thought about. However, when you are affected by a chronic condition(s) it’s also important to consider the following:

Reason for Moving: Be clear about your reasons for moving. Are you moving to be closer to family or friends? Do you find your current home difficult to manage, or does it have aspects that seem to be making your health issues worse instead of better? Whatever the reason, write it down so that as you go looking for new property you can check back to see if the new house is meeting your needs.

If you like your current living situation, look for solutions to the issues that are making you consider a move. A roommate can help with expenses, while a college student can provide chore services in exchange for a place to live. If the issue is accessibility, contact your states Independent Living Center,  or the local chapter of a condition specific organization  (e.g. American Lung Association) who can help arrange for an assessment as well as corrective measures.

Location- Community/Neighborhood/State: If you are considering moving to a different state, it’s important to know what kind of programs are available for people with chronic conditions, tax structure both income and property, and other issues that might be relevant to your situation.  Contact the local chapter of your condition specific organization e.g American Diabetes Association to learn as much as possible about resources. The state’s 2-1-1 directory  can also be a good resource as well as the state’s office on aging. While websites offer a lot of information, they can also be outdated and not accurately reflect changes in programs. It’s important to make calls and talk to people.

Other things to consider include:
• Is there an infrastructure to accommodate your needs as they change?
• Are friends/family nearby that are willing to help out if you need it?
• Do like the community?
• Is Public transportation or other mobility options readily available so car dependence is not an issue? Neighborhoods with bike lanes and sidewalks that connect homes have much higher activity levels, with fitter and more social residents.
• Could the climate pose a problem?
• Are there recreational activities and other activities of interest that are readily available?
• What about medical services that you require now and may need in the future?
• Is it affordable? Be sure to check whether the state: taxes pensions and/or social security; provides property and income tax relief for veterans, disabled and/or seniors.
• Are job and/or volunteer opportunities readily available?

Housing: There are all kinds of housing options from an apartment/condo in an intentional community to a large house located off a dirt road. It’s important to consider current needs as well as what you might experience in the coming years. Such options can include
- Age restricted communities, also known as active adult (usually over 55)
- Senior Apartments: Will often be handicap accessible
- Cohousing: Residents privately own their homes but there are common facilities for daily use. Decisions are made cooperatively, rather than by top-down hierarchy or majority-rules voting.
- Continuing Care Retirement: These facilities feature independent-living apartments and homes and offer the various social, recreational, and cultural activities of other retirement communities. They also have assisted-living and nursing-level care.
- Tiny House: Very popular, these are very small homes which can be located on limited space and are often made to be mobile. MedCottage  creates small modular homes specifically for those with medical or aging issues. With sizes ranging from approximately 300 to 600 square, prices are between $40,000 to $60,000. There are lots of companies getting into the business, so it’s best to research carefully.

• Location, location, location. Is the property located in such a way that you can take advantage of what your community offers?  What are the immediate surroundings like? If it’s an apartment or condo, a first floor may be easier to handle than a sixth floor walk up. Be sure to visit the property at various times of day-the sunlit windows during the day could become a major privacy issue at night.

• Don’t buy the best house on the block: Generally speaking, it's much better to buy the worst house in the neighborhood than the best. The worst can only go up in value but the best is as good as it's going to get. If you buy the worst house, you can improve it to meet your needs and add value to it.

• Is it handicap accessible? If it’s not, what will it cost to make it so that it can accommodate eventual need? Be sure to check entrance widths since it become very expensive if you need to widen doorways to accommodate a wheelchair. Accessibility can be designed and built in without drawing attention to it.

• Understand what you are buying: If the listing states the property is to be sold “as is,” it usually means repairs will be required and the seller isn't making them. If you aren't willing to take on a project, it's best to keep looking. Have a home inspection done before purchase so you know exactly what the issues are.

• When considering costs, be sure to factor in taxes, condo fees, homeowner association fees etc. Ask to see utility bills so you know what to expect. Also ask to see tax bills for the last several years.  Is this a property where re appraisals are frequent? Look at local news and talk to your Realtor about how taxes are used in this area. In some cities, schools are substantially funded through property taxes, which means you can count on yours increasing regularly.

• Check news sources: Examine the factors you can’t see. For example, perhaps the municipal water well has high levels of contaminants, or a perhaps a high-voltage power line may soon be coming through your back yard. You can also check with the city or county to see if there are any proposed projects.

• Talk to the people who live there: What do they see as the pros and cons.

• Telecommunications are important. Who is the Internet carrier for the area? Will you be able to use a cell phone? What are speeds like. 

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