8 Ways to Cut Housing Costs in Retirement

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on NewRetirement.

It’s not unusual for people to look for ways to cut housing costs, and it’s especially true of older adults who may be looking for ways to retire early or make life on a fixed income more comfortable.

From the traditional approach of downsizing to the more adventurous option of retiring abroad, there are many ways for you to cut housing costs in retirement.

Read on for eight ways to lower your housing expenses.

1. Plan for Multiple Phases of Your Retirement

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You will likely live a long time in retirement. And, the home that is right for you at 50 or 60 might not be right for you at 70 or 80, let alone when you are 90.

You can do a better job of predicting and perhaps lowering your housing costs by planning ahead. You may want to stay in your family home now, but downsize when you hit a certain milestone. Or, conversely, perhaps you want to sell your current home — cash in on your home equity now — and live an adventurous life abroad for a few years before returning to a downsized location later on.

Because housing is such a massive retirement expense, planning for these types of changes can have a significant impact on your overall retirement wealth and security. The NewRetirement Planner is a comprehensive and highly personalized planning platform that enables you to model these types of scenarios and see the impact of your housing costs on your current and future finances.

2. Home Sharing

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If you’re single – or even if you’re not – home sharing is one way to lower housing expenses by splitting them with others.

For older people with large homes that are being under-utilized, it could make sense to have someone else move in, whether it’s someone of a similar age or a college student attending a nearby university. The National Shared Housing Resource Center offers more information.

3. Downsize

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Downsizing is another option to consider if you don’t like the idea of sharing your home but recognize that you don’t really need all those extra bedrooms.

By selling your current home and buying a smaller one, you may even end up with no mortgage or extra cash left over after buying your new home. Additional benefits of downsizing can include lower property taxes and fewer home maintenance needs.

4. Get a Reverse Mortgage

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If you’re still making monthly payments on your “forward” mortgage, here’s a way to cut your housing costs: Get a reverse mortgage.

The federally-insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program allows homeowners aged 62 and older to borrow against the value they’ve built up in their homes. Borrowers can use their proceeds to pay off the remainder of their existing mortgage, which is also one of the loan’s requirements.

Any remaining funds can then be used at the borrower’s discretion. Use a reverse mortgage calculator to estimate how much you could qualify for with a reverse mortgage.

5. Move to a Retiree-Tax-Friendly Location

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Many times, families move into areas with high property tax rates to make sure their kids can get the best education. If your kids are grown and you’re no longer utilizing the public school system, it could make sense to move to another district with lower property taxes.

Some states are known for being retiree-friendly, with low or even no sales or income taxes. Others have a lower cost of living that can benefit people living on a fixed income.

Here are the most tax-friendly states for retirement.

6. Sell Your House and Travel or Retire Abroad

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Another option is retiring abroad, as other countries can offer lower costs of living and temperate climates often favored by retirees.

Panama, Mexico, Costa Rica and Colombia were the top four countries for American retirees in 2021, primarily because of their low monthly costs of living — thanks to affordable housing and inexpensive food along with warm weather and cultural attractions.

Portugal came in at No. 5 because of its top-notch public health system and old-world European charm. Asia is another popular destination, with Malaysia and Vietnam being top choices in that region.

7. Refinance Your Mortgage

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While they may be rising, interest rates are low right now.

If you have a mortgage, it may be incredibly profitable for you to refinance to a lower interest rate.

Just be sure to consider closing costs.

8. Be Sure to Consider Your Potential Need for Long-Term Care

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No one wants to think they’ll need long-term care in the future, but not planning for it can be devastating to your finances. Long-term care is not covered by Medicare. It is covered by Medicaid, but you have to be pretty much totally out of money to qualify.

And, while you don’t want to need it, the odds are that you will. About 70% of people who turn age 65 will need some type of long-term care in their lifetime, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Having a plan is important for both your financial, emotional and physical well-being.