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  • Bob Shannon,

What to Know Before You Retire to a Small Town

After years in the suburbs, you're ready to retire to a quiet piece of land where you can grow a garden, raise a flock of chickens, and enjoy the slower pace of small-town living.

Moving to the country is a popular dream for older adults who want a relaxed lifestyle and lower costs in retirement, but rural living comes with tradeoffs. When you're ready to swap your compact urban home for a big house in a small town, make sure you're prepared for these challenges of rural retirement. Hope Renovations has some tips to help you out.

4 Big Challenges of Small-Town Retirement

Amenities may be scarce

The biggest challenge of rural retirement is that small towns are, well, small. Many rural areas have limited access to healthcare facilities, transportation, and reliable internet and cell phone service. This may worsen health outcomes for rural seniors, especially those who don’t drive.

Luckily, this isn't true of every small town. Carrboro, North Carolina, the home of Hope Renovations, is a great example of a small town with big-city amenities. When searching for the ideal place to retire, consider access to healthcare, transportation, social and cultural activities, outdoor recreation, and other amenities that keep life rich in retirement.

Small towns are competitive, too

Don't assume small towns are immune from the housing crunch. Homes in rural areas are selling nearly a month faster than last year. Rural homes have also seen the largest jump in median sale price compared to urban and suburban homes.

With limited housing stock in small towns, buyers need to move quickly after finding a home. Not only does that mean knowing exactly what you want before searching, but it also means contingencies are out. That's challenging for buyers who need to sell their previous home before buying a new one. Consider selling your old home first and finding a temporary place to live. If you're confident your home will sell quickly, you can use a home equity line of credit (HELOC) to make a down payment on a new home.

Should you build instead?

Building, rather than buying, is one way to evade the competition. Building to spec also avoids the challenges of finding a home suitable for aging in place.

There's one problem with buying vacant land: it's nearly impossible to get a loan for the land itself. Buyers should prepare to pay cash for land, and then use a construction loan for the house build.

The housing stock is aging

Most older adults factor in a remodeling budget when buying a home. Even brand-new homes may need aging-in-place improvements like ramped entrances or walk-in showers.

Rural buyers, however, should prepare to invest a bit more. The rural housing stock is aging and many properties need improvements to energy efficiency, safety, and appearance. Retirees with plans to homestead on their property may also choose to invest in improvements like:

● Workshops, sheds, and barns.

● Water well installation or rehabilitation.

● Land improvements.

● Accessory dwellings for guests and/or workers.

How to pay for home improvements

Several mortgage loan programs exist to help homeowners pay for necessary renovations including:

● Fannie Mae HomeStyle Renovation

● Freddie Mac CHOICERenovation

● FHA 203(k) Rehabilitation

● VA Renovation

● USDA Rural Rehabilitation and Repair

Rolling renovation costs into a mortgage helps buyers understand exactly what they can afford. Aim to keep your total housing payment, including renovations, under 28 percent of your gross monthly income.

It's hard to find the right contractor

You've got the home and the loan. Now, you just need a contractor to turn the new property into your dream home.

When choosing a contractor, older adults should pay attention to a contractor's aging-in-place knowledge in addition to price and reputation. Unfortunately, Certified Aging in Place Specialists can be hard to come by in small towns. Carrboro area residents are lucky to have the local expertise of Hope Renovations. If you live outside the Triangle area, use the National Association of Home Builders' search tool to find a CAPS contractor near you.

After working hard your whole life, you deserve your dream retirement. Instead of letting these challenges scare you away from small-town living, use them to step into your home search fully prepared. And when you're ready to turn that big country house into your dream home, contact Hope Renovations to make that dream an age-friendly reality that you can enjoy safely and comfortably for the rest of your life.

Bob Shannon and his wife didn't want to downsize in retirement - they wanted a home big enough to welcome all their family and friends, pursue new hobbies, and make a legacy of memories. Bob works with

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