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A Senior Guide to House Hunting in San Diego

staging your home to sell

Home buying is a complicated process no matter what your age, but for seniors searching for a property for retirement and beyond, there are a number of special considerations in play. Whether you’re new to the San Diego area and just beginning to look at properties or a local in the midst of downsizing, here are a few things you should keep in mind.

Picking the Right Location


San Diego is a big city made up of a lot of small neighborhoods. Depending on where you live, you may rarely need to leave the area around your home, or you might spend your whole day commuting. For seniors, travel times are less about getting back and forth to a job and more about proximity to hospitals, senior centers, and amenities. Before putting in an offer on your favorite property, take a look at what’s nearby, and think about how you’d get there. If you’ll be driving, you have a bit more freedom, but if you’ll be relying on public transportation, it’s essential to know which stores and parks are on the MTS routes.

Every neighborhood in San Diego comes with its own distinct vibe, too. Get artsy on the mural-lined streets of La Jolla, enjoy convenient access to the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park in Hillcrest, embrace your bohemian side in Encinitas or keep exploring until you find the spot that feels right.

All About Amenities


Speaking of getting around, there’s a reason most retirement communities have clubhouses and other key amenities. The more amenities there are, less transportation becomes an issue. Some communities keep it simple with a pool, gym and game room, while others go all out and include everything from a movie theater to a salon. If you love the great outdoors, look for a home with HOA-tended parks and walking trails. If you prefer spending your time indoors puzzling or reading, put a community library and arts-and-crafts studio at the top of your list.

Mind Your Budget


There’s a difference between how much you’ll pay for your mortgage each month and how much you’ll pay in total housing expenses. When you’re calculating your budget, remember the following:

-Property taxes

-HOA fees

-Landscaping and property maintenance

-Home insurance

-Utility bills

-Activity of facility bills (more common in retirement communities)

While many of these expenses apply to all home buyers, seniors are more likely to have a limited income and less able to accommodate sudden expenses. Living by the ocean is an incredible experience, but it comes at a cost. San Diego’s cost of living is above the national average, making it especially important to accurately estimate monthly expenses and choose a property accordingly.

Account for Accessibility and Mobility

Before you decide on a home, think about your current mobility needs and how you may be restricted in the future. Approximately 39.5 million Americans have some type of physical difficulty, and those struggles tend to increase in severity as we age. Choose a home you’ll be able to navigate even if you’re physically limited. Single-level homes are a good choice thanks to the lack of stairs, or, if you’re interested in a condominium or townhouse, look for units close to the elevator and parking.

Don’t Ignore Resale Value

Your opinion is the most important factor in your home-buying decision, but chances are you won’t be in your home forever. When you’re ready to try something new — a new city, neighborhood or style of living — it’ll be easier to offload a property that has wide appeal. San Diego may soon be a buyer’s market, and a home customized to your tastes or with polarizing features is less likely to draw offers. Choose a popular neighborhood, invest in amenities and weigh those unique attributes against your desire to one day make a quick and stress-free sale.

If you do eventually decide to transition from fully independent housing to more supportive senior care accommodations, you’ll have plenty of options. There are 77 assisted living facilities in San Diego proper and another 30 in the surrounding area.

Buying a home is a huge deal, but with a little forethought and a few compromises, you can retire in style and still enjoy all that San Diego has to offer.

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