According to a Town Chart 2014 report, widows comprise 13-percent of Pinellas County’s population; in St. Petersburg they are 7-percent of the population.
For the recently widowed, the choice of what to do with the family home is one of the most crucial decisions to be made. Although there is no statistical breakdown on how many make what choices, decisions rest on four main factors:
- Widow’s health
- Size of the current family home
- Where children live
- Personal finances
Waiting six to eight months before making housing decisions seems to be the best guideline. It takes time to adjust to a new lifestyle.
Because many older widows (and widowers) may have bought homes for $15,000 to $20,000 in the 50’s that are now worth $250,000, there is a lot of money available from the sale of the house, but only if the widowed person feels comfortable selling.
An article in the New York Times details a problem that is growing in foreclosure ferocity for some baby boomers and senior citizens: widows who find their homes in foreclosure because only the deceased husbands’ name was on the mortgage.
The problem is a classic Catch-22. The widow cannot receive help in lowering payments or modifying the mortgage until her name is added to the note, but many lenders refuse to make those modifications unless payments are current.
While there is no specific data on how many widows have been affected by foreclosure, statistics put together by AARP estimate that foreclosure among homeowners over 50 increased by 23% between 2007 and 2011, making that demographic the hardest-hit in the crisis.
Housing advocates are in the process of petitioning the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to develop policies that lenders must put in place when dealing with surviving relatives. But until the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau firms up the guidelines, seniors or those helping with the problem must work primarily with lenders, many of whom still possess widely-varying policies.
- Home-Sale Profit Rules for Widows and Widowers – Kiplinger; www.kiplinger.com
- To Rent or Buy? Retirement Savings Real Estate Dilemma – AARP; www.aarp.org
- New Widows Have Another Concern: Their Finances – The New York Times; www.nytimes.com
- Living Life After Divorce & Widowhood: Financial Planning, Skills, and Strategies for When the Unthinkable Happens by Maurcia DeLean Houck