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Housing Options for Seniors

Canada has many housing options available for seniors that suit a wide range of budgets, health needs and personal preferences. Asking the right questions and understanding the different options will help you make an informed decision if you decide to move.

What are You Looking for in a Home?

Take time to think about your current and future housing needs. Consider downsizing or “rightsizing” if your current home is unable to meet your changing health or mobility needs.

If you decide it’s time to move, consider the following:

  • What will your monthly budget for housing expenses be in your retirement?
  • What are some of your housing must-haves?
  • Will you want to be closer to family or friends?
  • Will you want to be close to any specific services or facilities?
  • Will you need convenient access to public transit now or in the future?
  • Will you need specific accommodations for health or mobility needs?
  • How much home or yard maintenance will you want to do?
  • How much space will you need?

Housing Options

Depending on your needs and preferences, you may want to explore some popular housing options for seniors that offer more support.

  • Co-housing
    Co-housing involves sharing a home with a friend or family member. In addition to cutting costs, sharing a home can provide mutual benefits like companionship, help with daily tasks and extra support in case of an emergency.
  • Co-operative Housing (Co-ops)
    Co-ops are legal associations that provide housing in return for a share in the maintenance or other tasks. Some co-ops cater specifically to seniors and may be seniors-only buildings.
  • Life Lease Housing
    Religious or charitable organizations often operate this condominium-like option. Residents pay upfront and monthly fees for the right to live in the home for a specific period.
  • Supportive Housing
    Supportive housing refers to independent apartments with access to services like housekeeping, personal support and healthcare available for free or at a reduced cost. Residents usually pay their own rent and any other living expenses.
  • Retirement Communities
    These residences combine independent living with access to support and recreational facilities. They provide a community setting for active seniors.
  • Retirement Homes
    Retirement homes are for-profit businesses that offer a full range of accommodations, services and healthcare support. The costs vary depending on the facilities and the level of service and support offered.
  • Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities
    These are similar to retirement homes but are sometimes operated as not-for-profit residences by the federal government. They also offer a wider range of healthcare and support services for seniors with more demanding care needs

Mortgage Financing Options for People 55+

If you’re a homeowner over the age of 55 with no major debts, you may be able to access the equity in your home without having to move or sell. Understanding the different mortgage financing options will help you make the best decision for your situation, whether you need extra money for maintenance or to update your home.

Types of Mortgage Financing

There are several mortgage financing options in Canada, and 3 recommended specifically for seniors.

  • Refinancing
    This is usually the simplest option if you have the resources to cover monthly mortgage payments. It allows you to borrow up to 80% of your home’s value. You then repay the loan in monthly instalments over 25 or 30 years. This option often provides the best interest rate.
  • Home Equity Line of Credit
    This gives you the flexibility to borrow as much or as little money as you need, up to 65% of your home’s value. The minimum monthly payments are simply the interest on what you’ve borrowed, so it may take more time and discipline to pay back the loan. The interest rate for this option is variable, and the line of credit can be combined with a regular mortgage to a maximum of 80% of your home’s appraised value.
  • Reverse Mortgage
    This option has a more complex contract. It lets you borrow up to 55% of your home’s value all at once or as fixed monthly payments. In most cases, the amount of the loan and the accumulated interest are only repaid when you sell your home or pass away. This option is ultimately more expensive, and seeking independent legal advice is highly recommended.

Making your Decision

Your decision will depend on your needs and situation, and on the policies of the different lenders. Consider the following questions as you review your options:

  • Would you prefer to receive the loan as a single “lump sum” payment, in smaller monthly payments, or to use it as an annuity or a line of credit?
  • What happens if you want to sell your home in the future?
  • How will this decision affect your spouse or children?
  • What happens if the amount you owe is more than the value of your house when it’s time to pay it back?
  • Will there be penalties if you decide to pay off the loan early?
  • Is there a “cooling off” period so you can cancel the agreement if you change your mind?

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