Buying and Selling in the Golden Years

Whether you’re downsizing, hopping an RV to Florida, or relocating, buying and selling property after retirement requires a lot of planning. Here are some circumstances, best practices, and key terms to be on the lookout for.

Selling After Passing of Spouse

People in their Golden Years may face circumstances and decisions they might not have had to face before; one of them is the passing of the spouse. Normally when a spouse passes, the living spouse assumes full ownership of the property, assuming both names were on the deed. If only one spouse’s name is on the deed, when that spouse passes first, the non-owning spouse does not assume full ownership of the property. Instead, ownership passes by inheritance to the children of the deceased, or however that person’s last will and testament directs the property be vested. Most of the time it will be to the non-owning spouse, but if not, the non-owning spouse still has some inherent rights to the property (such as the right to inhabit). However, they can’t sell or borrow money on the property unless the children (or other persons) sign to make appropriate changes.


One option to consider when you’re retired, or nearing retirement, is to put the property into a trust (as an estate planning tool). The owner should consult an estate planning attorney or consultant to learn all the details and ensure it’s a good idea under their circumstances. As with any long-term planning, the more thought, effort, and research put into the process, the safer the outcome is likely to be. Always consult a professional.

Reverse Mortgages

Another option for seniors is to take out a reverse mortgage on the property. In this case the bank takes a mortgage out on a property and pays the owner monthly. In this case, a senior can use the equity in their house as monthly income, verses selling and receiving one large lump sum. We’ll touch more on reverse mortgages in another blog piece this summer.

Relocation vs. Cost of Living

Whether downsizing or moving into an RV is a good idea for a person will depend on several things: taxes paid when selling, cost of living in new location, cost of relocation, etc. Bear in mind: selling a nice, $300,000 house in Arkansas won’t buy near the same property in California, Florida, or Massachusetts. On the flip side, that makes Arkansas a nice option for retirees from states with a higher cost of living.