Depending on the status of the real estate market the advice regarding renting versus owning can fluctuate, but for older adults ready to make a move, the state of the economy isn't the only consideration.

For some they have been living in the same location for decades and the hope is their next move will be their last — so it can be a very daunting and emotional decision.

The Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University, released America's Rental Housing study in 2011. Not surprisingly, the study says baby boomers will continue to heavily influence housing trends. At the time of the study older adults made up 13 percent of the country's rental market, though baby boomers are expected to increase the number of renters to 2 million by the year 2020, according to the study.

Lisa Davis, a Realtor with Baird & Warner, knows firsthand the myriad considerations to be weighed before making a decision. She says the answer to rent vs. buy typically comes down to four factors: age, health, lifestyle and finances.


What's age got to do with it?

There is no magic age to answer the question: would buying or renting be more beneficial? With retirement age more scattered than in generations past there is no typical delineation.

So, health also needs to be factored in when considering living independently. Are there any physical limitations now or that can be foreseen in the future? Would buying even a small single family home keep you busy or become a burden?

There are some octogenarians who run three miles a day and experience very few health problems, explains Davis.

"They say 60 is the new 40, so some boomers reaching traditional retirement age still enjoy their careers or are finding part time work," she says. "Life expectancies are up and many 50 and older folks realize that retiring in their 60s is neither desirable nor feasible."


What does your future look like?

For many weighing renting against buying involves looking at the range of lifestyle options — not just current lifestyle, but what that lifestyle might look like in this next phase of life.

"If you want to travel and see the world during your retirement, a mortgage could strap you," says Davis. "On the other hand, many seniors are opting to buy into active, independent 50 plus luxurious communities. Here they enjoy maintenance free living, fitness centers, swimming pools, tennis courts, and daily activities —from bocce to badminton, painting to pinochle — with like-minded seniors "

Sylvia Virnich, 88, chose a 50 plus retirement community — Concord Place in Northlake — but liked that she could rent there instead of purchasing.

"I owned a home and loved it, but I was tired of keeping up the house," she says.

Looking at both options, Virnich says renting gave her more flexibility. For example, she says, she can change her living quarters if she wants. Judging from the downturn in the housing market the past few years, Virnich says she feels like she made the right decision.

"I'm alone and yet I'm not alone," she says of living in a retirement community in her own apartment. "I have all the freedom I want and I'm still very active, but there's no shoveling snow or cutting grass. I have a cleaning service once a week."

For those who plan to travel in their retirement, complexes and communities are often a good choice, Davis says.

"For snowbirds who live in the Chicago area, it's easier to leave behind an apartment in a multi-unit building versus a detached home regardless of whether they own or rent," she says. "They can leave their apartment with little or no heat for long durations and not worry about pipes freezing or bursting."