In retirement, is it better to own or rent?

October 12, 2023

We run into lots of fellow seniors as we line dance our way around town, and we’re always running into discussions about whether — as retirees — we should ditch the family home and rent, or hang on.

Save with SPP decided to see what others have to say on this topic, which seems to become more and more important with each passing birthday.

The folks at MoneySense took a look at this topic a few years ago, and had some interesting thoughts.

“Those who criticize renting over home ownership often ignore some costs of owning a home. Beyond a mortgage payment and property tax, home insurance is higher when owning versus renting. Condo fees may also apply. There are maintenance costs, repairs and renovations. If mortgage rates rise to more normal levels, you can expect your mortgage payment to be higher in the future. Home ownership has costs as well as benefits,” the article tells us.

An article in The Globe and Mail looks at the issue a little differently.

Noting that two-thirds of Canadians own their own homes, the article asks if home ownership still makes financial sense for the older folks among us.

“With many older Canadians approaching retirement with little savings – and some even carrying significant debt – selling the family home and renting may mean the difference between just getting by and living a life free from financial worry,” the article suggests.

The article quotes Scott Plaskett of Ironshield Financial Planning as saying those of us with homes “can be equity-rich and cash-poor: you are worth $5 million on paper, but you can’t pay for dinner because you have no liquidity.”

Selling the house and then renting fixes the liquidity problem, the article contends.

There are pros and cons to renting, writes Jean-François Venne for Sun Life.

He quotes real estate broker Marie-Hélène Ouellette as saying “you first have to consider the pros and cons of being an owner versus a renter. The biggest difference between the options is in the level of responsibility and freedom.”

“You obviously have more freedom when renting since you can leave when your lease is up. And you have fewer responsibilities because the owner takes care of the maintenance. But renters can also have less control than owners over things like decorating, repairs and even pets. And if you’ve been a homeowner for a long time, losing control and choice isn’t always easy to handle,” she states in the article.

The article makes the point that while owning a home usually means its value increases over time, “values do sometimes drop. And as a retiree, you won’t have a lot of time to make up for a decline in value.”

As well, your money can be tied up for a while when you sell or purchase a property, the article adds.

In the article, financial planner Josée Jeffrey says that it can be an unpleasant surprise, for those who have paid off their mortgage, to have to pay rent again. And, she adds, while you no longer are paying property taxes, they may be built into your rent, which usually goes up every year.

There’s a lot to unpack here. Owning means a long commitment to paying a mortgage, as well as property taxes, maintenance, but also your heat, light, and water bill. If there’s a driveway or a lawn it’s on you to clear away the snow and weed-whack the lawn. “Maintenance” involves fixing things that break, like toilets or garage doors or ovens and fridges.

Renting liberates you from many of these responsibilities. But rent can go up — and go up quite a bit if, for instance, the place you’re renting changes ownership. Not all landlords are quick to fix things that break (some are, and bless them), and it’s true — if you are used to owning prior to renting, you’ll have an inescapable urge to bang a few nails into the wall and hang up some artwork, which is typically frowned upon.

So this is a decision you will have to think long and carefully about, concludes an article in Yahoo! Finance.

“Don’t discount emotional issues when making this important decision,” the article advises. “Do you love the idea of owning your own place and fixing it up the way you want? Or will it be a big relief after years of ownership not to worry about the lawn or a broken sump pump?”

The article concludes by stating “while your decision needs to be financially sound, make the decision that makes the most sense for you. Not being a homeowner can be freeing, scary or both. Your home, its location and amenities should fit the life you lead now.”

If you are renting or paying for a mortgage, be sure to still put something away for retirement. A little extra money when you’re older will help with things like future property tax or rental increases. A wonderful retirement savings program open to all Canadians with registered retirement savings plan room is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. A not-for-profit, open, voluntary defined contribution plan, SPP has investment experts who will invest your retirement savings in a low-cost, pooled fund. When you’re over the walls and away from work, SPP can help you convert those savings into income — including the possibility of a lifetime monthly annuity payment. Check out SPP today!

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Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

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