Can you use Assets as Income to Qualify for a Conventional Mortgage?

Recently I was talking to a friend who's a Mortgage Consultant about the challenges retirees face when trying to obtain a conventional mortgage.  He explained how assets can be used as income to qualify for a conventional mortgage.  Here's how it works. 

When a borrower is preparing to finance a new home purchase or refinance one of the key pieces of information a Mortgage Consultant uses for loan qualification purposes is the ratio of their debts to their income (DTI).   Relying on the debt to income ratio can pose unique challenges to retirees as they are relying on alternative sources of income than a traditional paycheck.  The three most common sources of retirement income for a retiree are Social Security, defined-benefits pension plans, and personal savings.   Social Security and traditional defined-benefits pension plans provide a stable income source and are easy to treat as income, but for many people, this is only two thirds of the picture.  Many borrowers have saved significant assets over their working lives with the expectation that they will consume those assets over time to supplement Social Security and pension income.   How does a Mortgage Consultant account for the depletion of personal savings to calculate income level in retirement?  The answer is Asset Dissipation.

Asset Dissipation is an income stream resulting from the assumed liquidation of certain asset types to meet the living expenses of the borrower.  This can be used in addition to other income streams like Social Security and/or pension income to qualify for conventional mortgages.  

Let’s work though the example of Sally, a recent retiree, to see how Asset Dissipation works.  

Sally is retirement age and has $150,000 saved up in a 401K that she can draw on penalty free.  To determine how much monthly income can be estimated to come from this asset we take 70% of the account balance to correct for fluctuations in the stock market and divide the remainder by 360.  So…

150,000 x 0.70 divided by 360 = 291.67

The $291 generated through asset dissipation would be added to Sally’s Social Security income and pension income to more accurately capture her true monthly income.

If you're retired and interested in buying a home with a mortgage, please contact me and I can put you in touch with a mortgage consultant who can explain this and other options you might have.

Central Parke at Victoria Falls, a 55+ Community in Laurel

 Entrance to the clubhouse at Central Parke at Victoria Falls

Entrance to the clubhouse at Central Parke at Victoria Falls

As I wrote in my earlier article about 55+ Communities, there are actually many communities in the area to choose from.  I already wrote about Leisure World.  Another community that is very close to the DC area is Central Park at Victoria Falls in Laurel, conveniently located right at I-95 and I-200.

Victoria Falls was constructed beginning in 2006.  It contains a variety of home styles – 112 detached single-family homes, 247 attached villas, and 250 condominiums.  There are presently nine homes for sale at Victoria Falls.  These range from a 2-bedroom condo with 1673 square feet, listed at 250K, to a 4-bedroom detached single family home with a double garage with 2177 square feet, listed at 495K.  The single-family homes and villas all have a large master bedroom suite on the first floor, and at least a one-car garage.  The condos all have elevators and parking in a covered garage at the bottom of the building.

Central Parke at Victoria Falls has a wonderful clubhouse that contains a large indoor pool, a library with computers, a fitness center, several meeting rooms, and a ballroom.  The community also has a large outdoor pool, tennis courts, and walking trails.  There are activities scheduled each day for residents, as well as field trips to different area attractions several times a month.

 The fitness center at Central Parke at Victoria Falls.

The fitness center at Central Parke at Victoria Falls.

 

The community takes care of all outdoor maintenance of the homes, including snow removal, lawn care, and gutter cleaning.  And, from what the staff has told me, unlike many 55+ communities, people can live there who are under 55, as long as all members of the household are at least 19, and one member is over 55.  That offers some flexibility for families that might have adult children living with them.

Please contact me at Catherine.soffronoff@lnf.com or 202-352-4899 if you’d like to learn more about Central Parke at Victoria Falls, or other communities you could downsize into in the DC area.

 Indoor pool at Central Park at Victoria Falls.  You an see the outdoor pool beyond it.

Indoor pool at Central Park at Victoria Falls.  You an see the outdoor pool beyond it.

Thinking about Condo or HOA Fees

I work with many people who want to buy a condominium or townhome, often because they don’t want the trouble of caring for and maintaining a yard, and all that entails (mowing, snow removal, etc.).   Usually if you buy into a place with a management company (typically a condo or townhome), you will pay a fairly large condo or HOA fee.  It is rare that I see these fees under $300 a month.  These fees are not tax deductible, unlike your mortgage interest.  When thinking about buying a condo or townhome, you need to factor the monthly fee into your monthly payment, when trying to decide what you can afford.  So, high condo fees can sometimes depress what you might be able to buy.  They can also depress what you might be able to sell the condo for, when the time comes.  It is something to think about.

 

When you look at condo fees, it’s important to understand what they include.  A $300 dollar fee that only includes snow and trash removal, can be a worse deal than an $800 dollar fee that includes all utilities and your real estate taxes, in addition to the general services you would expect.  So, I wouldn’t necessarily advocate for a policy of only looking at homes with fees below a certain amount.  Look at each place you’re interested in separately, so that you can see what the fee includes.

 

Some examples of what the fee could include are a pool (indoor or outdoor), a fitness center, a party room, a rooftop deck, a 24-hour concierge, utilities, your real estate taxes, covered parking, etc.  Almost all fees include snow removal, trash removal, exterior building maintenance, and a master insurance policy for the building.  Many include water.   But think about what you want and what you will use.   If you buy a single-family home but are going to pay for a gym, a pool, and a lawn service, maybe what you'd pay would equal or exceed the condo fees of a place you’d like that has all of those things on-site or taken care of.

 

The other issue to think about is that condo fees rarely decrease.  They usually only go up.  They might go up very slowly over many years, or they might quickly increase.  When you put a contract on a condo or townhome, the sellers are legally required to order you a resale package (also known as condo docs) from the management company of the community.  These documents will tell you about the financial health of the community, how it is managed, the by-laws, etc..  They will detail what is covered by your monthly fee and what is your responsibility.   You have a certain number of days (it varies by state), to examine these documents and decide if you still want to follow through with buying the property.  It’s important to look carefully at these documents and ask the management company any questions that you have, before this time period ends. 

 

This article in the Washington Post does a good job of detailing how condo fees can get out of control with buildings that are old and need a lot of maintenance.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/condominiums-in-crisis-financial-troubles-put-many-communities-at-risk/2016/09/17/07ba32ac-6972-11e6-ba32-5a4bf5aad4fa_story.html?utm_term=.3539c8333cdf

 

In the end, a condo might be the right fit for you.  But make sure you do your homework before you buy.

Steps to Buying a Home

1. Find a Real Estate Agent to Represent You

It can be intimidating to know where to begin when thinking about buying a home.  The first step is to find a good real estate agent!  If you think you might like to work with me, please give me a call or send me an e-mail.  I can come and meet with you and we can get to know one another, and see if we would be a good fit.  You can also meet real estate agents, and get a feel for working with them, at open houses.  Or, you can ask around for referrals.  If you don’t live in the DC metro area, feel free to contact me and tell me what you’re looking for in an agent, and I’ll do my best to connect you with a good one in your area.

 

2. Get Pre-Approved for a Loan

Your real estate agent can recommend to you good loan officers that you can contact about getting pre-approved for a loan.  In order to get pre-approved for a loan, you’ll need to provide the loan officer with various financial information so they can see how much money you are qualified to borrow.  They’ll want to see pay stubs, W-2s, bank account statements, etc.  They will be looking at your credit score, your debt-to-income ratio, what funds you might have for a down payment, etc. to decide you if can qualify for a loan.   There are many programs available to help people buy a home, so don’t assume you won’t be able to qualify for a loan.  Once you qualify, you’ll know how much you can afford to spend on a home, and you’re ready to get out there and start looking!

 

3. Find a Home you Want 

Once you’re pre-qualified for a home, you can start house hunting!  Think about how many bedrooms and bathrooms you want and need, and where you might want to live.  Think about what you want to spend (it might very well be less than what a bank or mortgage broker says they will loan you).  Then, get out there and start looking.  Keep an open mind, and be prepared for the possibility that you’ll change your mind about what you want in a house and where you want to be.  Sometimes you have to see several homes to better narrow down what you want.  I recommend not seeing more than 4 or 5 homes at a time, so that you can keep them straight in your head and not get overtired.  I also recommend thinking critically about each home as you finish looking at it.  What did you like about it?  What didn’t you like?  How would you rate it on a scale of 1 – 5?  I’ve had buyers buy the first house they looked at, and I’ve had buyers who have looked for years without buying anything.  But in general, once you’ve seenaround 15 homes, you should have a good idea of what’s out there in your price range, and know when you’ve seen something you really like.  Then it’s time to…

 

4. Write an Offer

We are currently (as of my writing this in March 2017) in a seller’s market.  That means if you find a home you really like, chances are there are several other buyers who feel the same way about the home.  So, by having the pre-approval letter already, you can write an offer on a home you like right away.  Your realtor can look at comparable homes and help you figure out whether the home is over or underpriced.  They can help you structure your offer in such a way as to be competitive with other offers as possible.  And they can help you decide what contingencies you should place into the contract (like home inspection, financing, and appraisal contingencies).  They also help sell your offer to the selling agent and the sellers.

 

5. Work through the Contingencies

Usually when you buy a home, your agent will put into the contract that you will do a home inspection within a few days of the sellers accepting your offer.  This is a blog topic on its own, but basically you want an inspector to check and make sure there are no major issues with the home you’re buying.  If issues do come up, you can either ask the seller to fix them, or cancel the contract.  If you’re getting a loan, you’ll also need time built into the contract to make sure your loan is secured, and time to get the home appraised and make sure the home is worth the money you have offered for it (the appraisal is done by a professional appraiser).   If it’s a detached home (not a condominium), you should also get a termite inspection.  In general you need at least 30 days from the time a contract is accepted until you can close on and move into a house, because you need to have time for these contingencies.

 

6. The Walk-through

Within a few days of settlement, you’ll walk through your new home with your agent and make sure everything looks the same as it did before (generally at the time you did the home inspection, though it’s flexible as to what “before” you are specifying).  You want to make sure the seller didn’t take anything that was supposed to stay with the house, that everything is still in working order, and that it is cleared out and “broom clean.”  This is just an extra step to make sure no adjustments need to be made before settlement. 

 

7. Settlement

This is the day you officially get the keys to your new home!  Most settlement companies now expect the money for the home and your closing costs (closing costs include taxes, title, deed, and loan charges, generally about 2 to 3% of the price of the home) to be wired to them the day before the settlement.  They will tell you exactly how much you owe (cost of the home plus closing costs) about 3 business days before you go to settlement.  So, at the settlement itself, you are just signing all of the relevant paperwork—there’s a lot!—and getting the keys for your new home.  Often, in these days of e-mail and texting, it’s the first time you will meet the sellers of the home, though sometimes they’ve arranged to settle at a different time or do their signing through the mail, if they’ve already moved away.  In any case, this is an exciting day!  Plan to spend about an hour at settlement.  Then, you officially own the home and you can move in whenever you like!

 

Leisure World of Maryland

Leisure World

 

Leisure World is the only 55+ community in Montgomery County, MD.  It’s located about 10 minutes north of the last stop on metro’s Red Line (Glenmont), and is about 30 – 45 minutes north of downtown Washington, DC by car.  It is a very popular place for seniors in the area to live.

In order to live in Leisure World, at least one homeowner must be at least 55, and any other person living with the homeowner must be at least 50.  There are more than 8000 residents in Leisure World, living in a variety of homes, from 1 bedrooms in high-rise buildings to 3 or more bedrooms in large detached homes.  Prices range from the low 100Ks to the 500Ks or more.  Every homeowner must pay a monthly homeowners association fee (which varies according to where you live), which includes basic cable tv, utilities, real estate taxes, snow removal, trash removal, yard care, and much more.

What else does the fee include?  There are two clubhouses on the property, which house 3 restaurants, a fitness center, several indoor pools, an outdoor pool, an auditorium, game rooms, meeting rooms, and a ballroom.  Outdoor activities include tennis courts, shuffleboard courts, lawn bowling, bocce, and croquet.  There is also a beautiful 18-hole golf course and a driving range, though there is an extra fee involved with joining the golf course.

There is a medical center right on campus, with various doctors and nurses (and they take lots of different insurance plans).  There is also a bank and a post office, and a shuttle system that brings you all around Leisure World.  Right outside the Leisure World gates is a shopping plaza with a grocery store, a beer/wine/liquor store, and several restaurants, among other things.

Within Leisure World there are tons of clubs and activities to take part in.  There are card-playing groups, drama and comedy clubs, political organizations, service organizations, gardening clubs, art groups, book clubs, etc.  It is easy to make friends and stay busy at Leisure World.

It’s important to note that Leisure World is not an assisted-living community.  Residents can bring in their own home health aides if they wish, but if they need care above and beyond what they are able to bring in, they might need to move to an assisted living community (there are several nearby ones, if residents don’t want to go too far from the friends they’ve made at Leisure World).

If you’d like to learn more about Leisure World, or see what’s available there, please feel free to contact me!

If Elderly or in Poor Health, Consider Moving BEFORE Putting Your Home on the Market

This past fall, I was showing homes to a couple who were looking for a bigger home for their family.  We went to go and see two homes on the same street that were the exact same lay-out and design (this happens a lot in the DC area).  The price of the homes, however, was 150K different, and we were curious as to why.  The first home was vacant and the kitchens and bathrooms had been redone.  That was the higher-priced home.  They liked it a lot.  We went into the second home with high hopes that they could buy it for a lot less and redo what they wanted to redo in their own style and taste.

 

The agent of the second home had told me that the seller would be home, along with a housekeeper.  There were no cars in front of the home, but we knocked several times and waited.  Then we decided the seller must have left for the showing, and I used the key from the lockbox to enter the home.  I called out “Realtor! Hello?” when entering, as I always do in an occupied home.  No answer.

 

This home was obviously lived in, and nothing had been done to prepare the home for sale.  There were mounds of papers and knick-knacks piled on every available surface.  The house was dark.  My buyers felt ill-at-ease, but wanted to give the place a chance.  After a few minutes of looking at the kitchen and family room, one of my buyers headed down the hall to look at the bedrooms.  She came back in a terrible hurry.  “There’s a man in the bed back there!” she whispered.  The buyers immediately wanted to leave, so we did.   Out in the front yard we ran into the “housekeeper” who was actually a home health aide.  She had left for a few minutes and was just returning.

 

The listing agent for this home was obviously not used to working with elderly clients.   Rather than simply telling me someone would be home, she should have explained the situation to me, i.e. there’s a bed-ridden man living there and he will be in such and such bedroom.  Then I could’ve prepared my clients and it wouldn’t have been such a shock.  Also, she had said the house would be messy, as they were preparing for an estate sale.  I think it would’ve been better to do the sale and then put the home on the market.  It is very hard for most buyers to look past a ton of clutter in a home.  It is not an advantage to put a home on the market a few weeks earlier in the fall if the home is not really ready to be shown.

 

Perhaps it just wasn’t financially feasible for the man to move (I assume to an assisted living or long-term care community) before the house went on the market.  But most of the time someone can swing a couple of months of a house payment (if there’s still a mortgage on the home), and a couple of months of assisted living.  Then, they don’t have to worry about leaving any time the home is shown (which is extremely hard for many elderly or ill people).  And they don’t have to worry about being home when buyers are coming to look at the home, which is an awkward situation for everyone.  Also, the house is likely to be empty, or at least emptier, which will show much better than a cluttered home.  As at the listing agent, if an elderly person is still living at home, I am very reluctant to move any furniture around for staging purposes, because I don’t want them to trip and fall because of the new furniture arrangement.

 

In the end, I think the elderly person makes up for briefly paying for the old home and the new home at the same time, because the home they’re selling will sell faster and for more money if it isn’t cluttered and no one is home during the showings.  So if you or a loved one is in the situation where you need or want to move, consider moving before your home goes on the market.

 

If you have any questions or would like to talk further about this or other senior moving issues, please contact me at Catherine.S@lnf.com or 202-352-4899.

Brightview West End - Coming Soon

Brightview is opening a new senior living community in the heart of downtown Rockville.  It will open in August 2017.  A few weeks ago I met with Wendy Papuchis, the sales director, to learn about the lifestyle and service offerings the community has to offer.

Brightview West End will be walkable to many spots in downtown Rockville,including the library and the metro.  It will have four different retail spaces of its own that can be used by residents as well as customers from outside the community.  These include a café, a restaurant, and a salon.  The community’s goal is to integrate itself into the city of Rockville.  They hope to adopt a nearby elementary school and partner with them for various events.

There will be 195 apartments in total in the seven-story builiding.  The community will include independent living, assisted living, and dementia care floors.  There will be an underground parking garage for residents.  Independent living will be on floors 4 – 7, and the seventh floor will be a concierge floor, with 24-hour concierge service and a turn-down service each evening.  Assisted Living will be on floors two and three and include Enhanced Care, which is the highest level of care that assisted living communities can contain.

Brightview West End will be a leasing community.  There is no large entrance fee.  Residents will pay month-to-month, and simply need to give 30-days notice if they’d like to move out.  The monthly rent is all-inclusive and includes all activities, transportation, housekeeping and linen service, and a flexible meal plan (for independent living the rent includes 30 meals a month (lunches or dinners) as well as a meal credit at the café for breakfast or lunch.  Assisted Living and Dementia Care residents receive a full meal plan in addition to personalized care.  A nurse will also be available 24 hours a day.

I look forward to visiting Brightview West End again when construction has been completed!

 

Using a "Whole" Life Insurance Policy as an Alternative to Long-Term Care Insurance

When planning for retirement you may face many uncertainties. How much income will you need year to year? Will you and / or your spouse experience a chronic illness? Or will you die prematurely? Many people rely on life insurance to provide a death benefit. But, did you know that some life insurance policies can also provide “living benefits”? A “whole” life insurance policy can do several things:

(1) it can accumulate money over time that may be taken out tax free in retirement,

(2) it can provide an increasing death benefit for a surviving spouse, thus allowing a retiree to spend and enjoy more of their wealth during retirement and

(3) a portion of the death benefit may be “accelerated” and used for costs associated with a critical / chronic illness.

If none of these scenarios arises, the death benefit can be used to leave a legacy to family, friends, or favored charity / education institution. Multiple solutions from one policy can simplify family finances and add value.

Using an accelerated death benefit to pay for costs associated with a chronic illness is an attractive feature for many retirees. Chronic illness onset and severe cognitive impairment are agerelated conditions – about 40% of those over age 85 have some form of cognitive impairment. It is estimated that by 2020, 81 million people (the majority older than age 65) will have two or more chronic conditions. The financial burden of care can be significant for family members and Medicare / Medicaid rules related to long term care are complex.

A life insurance policy with a long term care supplement can help a family cope with the costs of a chronic illness. Rather than spend from accumulated wealth ‐‐ IRAs, 401ks, investments – policy owners can simply take an “advance” on the death benefit.

Although rare, chronic illness can strike at a younger age. This long term care benefit is available to policy owners beginning at any age and can be accessed quickly and easily by completing a simple claim form. Many features make a life insurance policy more attractive than a long term care insurance policy. A “whole” life insurance policy has a guaranteed fixed premium for the life of the policy, whereas long term care insurance policy premiums may not be guaranteed fixed and can become unaffordable over time. Also, some owners of long term care insurance may never actually use the policy – and premiums paid will have been “wasted.” A “whole” life policy will always pay out – either for long term care, as a death benefit, or as a source of income in retirement.

This has been a guest post by Kathleen Finn, CFP®, EA.  If you'd like to learn more about this topic, please contact Kathleen at  kath@kfinnfinancial.com / 202-262-6085

Five Star Premier Residences of Chevy Chase

 A lounge in the Five Star Premier Residences of Chevy Chase

A lounge in the Five Star Premier Residences of Chevy Chase

During the first week of January, I got the opportunity to tour the Five Star Premier Residences of Chevy Chase.  It’s located on Connecticut Avenue, just inside the beltway.  Cindy Miller, a sales counselor there, was my able tour guide.  Cindy has worked at Five Star for more than 22 years!

Five Star is a high-rise apartment building with one floor of assisted-living apartments, and the rest independent-living apartments.   The independent-living floors have four different floor plans to choose from- a one bedroom, a one bedroom with study, a one bedroom with den, or a two bedroom apartment.  Despite its location close to the city, many of the apartments have gorgeous wooded views of the property, or of their neighbor, Columbia County Club.  Five Star is a leasing community—rates currently run from around 4,000 a month up to about 7,700 a month, depending on the size of the apartment.  There’s a one-time community fee (currently $4000), when you move in.  As with most senior leasing communities, residents can choose to move out with only 30 days notice.

Five Star has many different amenities located in the building.  There is underground parking, an indoor pool, a beauty salon, a convenience store, an arts studio, a fitness center, and more!  There’s a health center where doctors and physical therapists make regular visits to see residents.  Independent Living has 24-hour concierge service available, and bi-weekly linen service and housekeeping.  In order to make sure their independent living residents are safe, there are motion detectors in each apartment, as well as pull cords.  Residents can also wear a pendant that has a button to push if they need help.  Breakfast and dinner are provided daily to all residents in Five Star’s lovely dining room.  Residents can also purchase lunch there, or choose to make their own lunch (as each apartment has a full kitchen).  There is also a full calendar of activities and trips so that residents have lots of options for things to do.

 The indoor pool at Five Star

The indoor pool at Five Star

Assisted Living is one floor in the building, and is generally filled by residents who need to move there from independent living.  Assisted living residents can no longer live on their own safely, but also do not require complex, round-the-clock medical care.  They are provided with assistance with the activities of daily life, such as personal care, transportation, and medication reminders.

A unique option that Five Star offers is a chance to try out life there without making a commitment.  They have a couple different furnished apartments available for someone that might want to come and live there for a month to see if it’s for them.  The person can stay for a month (and pay the month’s rent), and then decide if they’d like to move there permanently.  I’ve met so many people who have a loved one who they think would be happier in a senior residence, but their loved one is reluctant to give up everything they know for the unknown.  This is a great way to give someone a taste of life in this community without them having to make an immediate commitment.

Finally, I should mention that I got to have lunch in the dining room, and the food was delicious.  I had a greek salad and a brownie sundae(!) but there were many options available.  Five Star’s head chef formerly was a chef at Jaleo in the District.

For more information or to schedule a tour, please go to www.fivestarpremier-chevychase.com or call 301-915-9217.   Or, if you’re thinking of downsizing and just want to discuss your options, feel free to contact me!

55-Plus (Active Adult) Communities in the Washington, DC Metro Area

There are so many options of where and how to live once you become a senior.  I’ve already written lots of posts detailing different independent and assisted living communities in the area.  I’ve also written about senior villages, which offer you a way to stay in your home or move to one-level living in a mixed-age neighborhood, but still be able to take advantage of activities and resources for seniors.  Now I’d like to examine more closely the 55-Plus (or Active Adult) Communities in the Washington, DC Metro Area.

55-Plus communities are for seniors who are in reasonably good health, and can live independently.  At least one owner or resident must be 55 or older in order to qualify to live in a 55-plus community, and many have rules that prohibit children from living in the community.   55-plus communities offer seniors a way to be free of many home maintenance chores, to enjoy convenient classes, groups, and amenities that are aimed at them, and to make new friends with other like-minded people.  Typically people would buy a home (or condo) in a 55-Plus community just like they would buy a home in a multi-age neighborhood, but the home association or condo fees are higher, in order to pay for the many amenities and services available in the community.  There are also usually rentals available in 55-Plus communities, by individual owners.

I live in Montgomery County, MD, and many of the people around here are under the impression that there are no 55-plus communities in the area, other than Leisure World in north Silver Spring.  There are actually lots of 55-plus communities in this area, but they are almost all 30 minutes or more from downtown Washington, DC.  I will cover many of the communities in detail in future posts, but for now I just want to give you an overview of where they are.

In Maryland, there are 55-plus communities located in Silver Spring, Ellicott City, Laurel, Columbia, Odenton, Annapolis, Gambrills, Fallston, Marriottsville, Elkridge, Jessup, White Plains, New Market, Dowell, Bel Air, Waldorf, Catonsville, Severna Park, Frederick, Upper Marlboro, and Edgewater.  As of now, there are at least thirty-five 55-plus communities located in the Washington-Baltimore Metro Area in Maryland.  In the Metro Washington DC area in Virginia there are at least twenty 55-plus communities.  They are in Fairfax, Woodbridge, West Springfield, Sterling, Lorton, Manassas, Ashburn, Bristow, Dumfries, Gainesville, Haymarket, Lansdowne, and Warrenton.

So, if you are willing to live in the suburbs of Washington, DC, there are a huge number or 55-plus communities to choose from.  Please contact me with any questions or if I can help you begin a 55-plus (or other) home search in the DC area.

 

AlfredHouse

 The lobby of House 5 at AlfredHouse.

The lobby of House 5 at AlfredHouse.

Shortly before the holidays I toured several homes of AlfredHouse, a boutique assisted living community based in Rockville, MD.  AlfredHouse provides care for people experiencing aging cognitive challenges such as dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  Rhonda Thomas, the Marketing and Family Relations Director, was my enthusiastic and able tour guide.

AlfredHouse is somewhat unique in that it’s actually made up of a series of small homes—it is not one big building or complex.  There are six homes in Rockville, two homes in Silver Spring, and one home in Derwood, with another under construction.  These small homes have a more intimate, family-like feel than larger assisted living communities often do.  That might make them a better fit for some people who are suffering from cognitive decline.  The homes range in size from those that have 5 apartments, to their newest home, under construction, which will have 34 apartments.  The apartments come in a range of different sizes and layouts.  All of AlfredHouse’s homes have a staff-to-resident ratio of 1 to 4, so there is plenty of personal care and attention for each resident.  There are daily activities for all residents, as well as home-cooked meals and snacks.

While at AlfredHouse, I was able to tour their newest (under construction) home, which is called Symphony House.  Symphony House is unique in that it is designed for elderly people who have mental health challenges as well as cognitive challenges.  Its design tries to incorporate as much natural light as possible.  There will be a therapy room to deliver music, light, and massage therapy to residents.  AlfredHouse will partner with CounterPoint Health Services, a leading behavioral health and memory care provider, to provide care to residents.  Symphony House will be opening in early 2017.

 There are large windows in each apartment of symphony house to bring in an abundance of natural light

There are large windows in each apartment of symphony house to bring in an abundance of natural light

Before leaving I was able to spend some time with Dr. Veena Alfred, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of AlfredHouse.  Her passion for AlfredHouse and its mission was evident.  AlfredHouse is definitely worth a look if you or a loved one might prefer a smaller-scale assisted living community, with an emphasis on a high staff-to-resident ratio.