Despite the benefits of homeownership, there's one huge drawback to owning property in retirement, and it's committing yourself to a variable expense while living on a fixed income. Even if your mortgage itself is paid off by the time you enter retirement, you'll still have property taxes to contend with. And those have a tendency to rise over time, even during periods when home values don't follow suit.
There's also maintenance and repairs to think about, and that's where a lot of retirees who own homes get into trouble. The average homeowner spends 1% to 4% of his or her home's value on standard annual upkeep. Now being a retiree doesn't automatically mean you'll own an aging home. But if yours is on the older side, you should plan on hitting the top end of that range, which could really eat into your limited budget.
Furthermore, while that 1% to 4% range applies to regular maintenance, it doesn't include major repairs that could spring up on you without notice. I'm talking about things like your heating system going kaput or a pipe bursting in your basement -- expenses that could really hurt you financially when your income doesn't allow for too many surprises.
And there lies the danger of owning a home in retirement: You just don't know what to expect. And while renting certainly isn't without risk -- you could see your rent go up from year to year or find yourself suddenly on the hunt for a new home when your landlord unexpectedly decides to sell -- when you rent, you lock yourself into a fixed cost for the duration of your lease. Sign a series of long-term, affordable leases, and you eliminate much of the worry that comes with owning.
Ultimately, the decision to own a home during retirement boils down to how much risk you're willing to take on. If you love your home, adore your neighborhood, and don't want to deal with the hassle and uncertainly of renting, then by all means, stay in your home. Just make sure you have a decent chunk of savings -- both emergency and otherwise -- to protect yourself from the various unknowns involved.