Quiz: Best Options for Buying or Selling a House


Test your real estate knowledge before you pick your next home

by Josh Garskof, AARP Bulletin, June 2018

If you’re thinking about selling your home, you’ll need to know more than what you can read on an agent’s flier.

What do you think the best advice is for these people who are looking to buy or sell a home?

Q: I’m retiring early, selling my home in Ohio and moving someplace warm. I have decades ahead of me. Should I buy?

A. Yes, you have time to build more equity.

B. No, invest your profits and rent instead.

C. Maybe, but not right away. 

Answer: C. Buying usually makes more sense than renting if you plan to be in a place for a decade or more. But you might change your mind, especially if you are moving far away.

Q: We are getting married and both own fully paid-off houses in the same city. Which one should we call home?

A. Choose the house that is better equipped for aging in place.

B. You’re better off in the house that’s located in a more walkable neighborhood.

C. Pick the house that’s in better condition and is less of a money pit.

Answer: B. You can modernize a home and make it accessible by renovating, but you can’t remodel the neighborhood.


Q: We found a nice condominium that we can afford, and know we need to review the board’s minutes and other condo documents before saying yes. What in particular should we be looking for?

A. Make sure there are detailed, well-kept minutes of regularly held meetings.

B. Look for plans for big infrastructure projects, including how they’ll be funded.

C. Examine the size of the reserve funds, and whether they’re invested conservatively.

D. See if the condo association fees have been stable or have risen drastically.

E. Look at whether a clear majority of units are occupied by owners.

Answer: All of the 5 options are correct.



Q: We have been offered a seller-financed mortgage for a house we’d like to buy. Should we take it?

A. Yes, if the loan terms are competitive and doing so helps you land the house you want.

B. No. Sellers sometimes offer this because banks won’t lend money to buy a particular home.

C. Maybe. If your credit rating is poor—or the bank doesn’t like your retirement income level—you may do better with a loan from the seller.

Answer: Any of the options may be true, depending on your particular situation.


Q. We want a vacation home that will be a gathering place for our children and their families. Where should we buy to motivate the family to visit for many years to come?

A. Choose a location that’s convenient to everyone so nobody has to take a long road trip or pay airfare.

B. Buy near an attraction that is natural (ocean) or man-made (theme park) so that your vacation home will be a reliable draw for family.

C. Don’t buy. Instead, use your money to provide a range of vacation experiences for your family over the years.

Answer: Your adult children may relocate, and your own ability to hike, ski or climb over dunes may decline.


Q. I’m in my 60s and buying what I hope to be my last home. A 30-year mortgage is so much more affordable, but a 15-year would let me build up equity faster and even pay off the home. Which is smarter?

A. Take a 15-year mortgage so you can pay off your house relatively quickly and leave the property to your kids.

B. Take a 30-year loan to shrink your mortgage payments and minimize your monthly expenses in retirement.

C. Forget the fixed-term mortgage. Go for an adjustable rate in order to reduce your monthly costs even more. Plan to refinance later.

D. Don’t take a loan. Liquidate investments, other real estate and  even retirement accounts so you can pay cash.

Answer: B. Unless you can pay cash and still have enough left over to fully fund your retirement, a 30-year mortgage gives you the security of a fixed rate with payments far lower than those of a 15-year mortgage.



Q: After overhearing my sister-in-law in New Jersey talk about the joys of her NORC, I have a simple question I was too embarrassed to ask her: What is a NORC?

A. It’s short for “new old-residents club,” a welcome wagon for people ages 60 and over.

B. It’s how people in New Jersey pronounce the city opposite Manhattan that has a big airport.

C. It’s an acronym for “naturally occurring retirement community,” an apartment or condo building where a high number of people are 55 plus.

Answer: C. Researchers estimate that a third to half of people over 55 already live in a “naturally occurring retirement community.”


Q: How can I cut my living expenses without moving to a cheaper area or lowering my standard of living?

A. Find a smaller place in your current neighborhood.

B. Buy a multifamily home where you live, move into one unit and rent out the rest. Your tenants will cover your housing costs.

C. Replace your central heating and central air-conditioning with space heaters and window air-conditioning units.

D. Give your house to your children via an irrevocable trust (enlist a trust and estate attorney). Then rent the house and live there.

E.Sell your home to your kids and live there — maybe paying rent, maybe not.

Answer: D and E are both correct. Gifting or selling your house to your children, and then living there, is the only option that will both maintain your lifestyle and reduce your costs.