Planning for Later Life: A Housing Dilemma


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When it came to housing, Susan Apel and Keith Irwin thought they had planned astutely for their later years. Nearly a quarter of a century ago, they invested in a four-bedroom house nestled on two acres in Lebanon, N.H. Prior to retiring, they diligently paid off the mortgage, aiming to leverage the built-up home equity of approximately $700,000 for a downsized abode when the time was right.

Now, the time has come. At 71 years old, Ms. Apel, a retired law professor, finds climbing stairs increasingly challenging. Her partner, Mr. Irwin, also 71 and formerly an account manager, is growing weary of the demands of yard work and snow shoveling. Securing assistance for these tasks has proven to be a daunting feat.

“We’re beginning to understand the signs,” Ms. Apel acknowledged. The couple has embarked on a quest for a cozy two-bedroom condominium featuring a small den, all conveniently situated on a single level.

However, their search has hit a roadblock. Local developers seem focused on erecting four-level townhouses with even more stairs. The scant few single-floor residences that meet their criteria are swiftly snatched off the market. The influx of urban residents seeking refuge from the pandemic has inflated housing prices. In a recent exploration, the couple encountered a unit priced at $950,000, requiring substantial renovation. Even the most modest accommodations are commanding prices upwards of $600,000.

“We cherished our time in this charming abode and took pride in fully owning our home,” Ms. Apel reflected. “Yet, we never fathomed that this would not afford us the flexibility to transition to a new living space.”

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