Q: My husband is 67 year old and I am 63 years old. We have lived in our house for 35 years.
We’ve had no mortgage for about the last 15 years. We want to buy in an “adult community” we would put about $100,000 down with a short term mortgage until we sell our home.
Should we wait to sell our home until the housing market gets better? Should we put our house up for sale anyway and see what happens? We could probably carry both houses for a year.
A: I don’t think you should go into the sale of your home thinking that it will take you a year to sell. While it’s smart to plan for that, I’d like you to focus on ways that you can sell your house relatively quickly. The first thing to know is that while the housing market is tough in many places around the country, people are still buying and selling homes. If you want yours to be one of those homes that is sold relatively quickly, you’ll need to do a few things to your house to make it shine against the competition. First, you’ll need to really deep-clean the house, inside and out. Throw away old, worn-out furnishings, pack away most of your knick-knacks, books, and art work, and repaint your interior. Clean your carpets (or replace them with builder-grade carpet if yours are beyond salvageable), sand down your wood floors, and regrout the tile in your bathrooms. Talk to a couple of local real estate agents to see if it would be worthwhile for you to do a minor upgrade of the bathrooms or kitchen. New knobs, new cabinet facings (or painting or staining the original ones), and new appliances can make all the difference.
You may even want to hire a stager to come in and give your home a makeover. You’ll pay perhaps $1,000 to $2,000 per day plus expenses for the stager, but he or she can transform the way your home looks. I recently watched a stager come into a townhouse and in the space of a day (plus $600 in materials) completely transform the space from something that was just “okay” to a home that made the real estate agent say “Wow, this looks terrific!”
Outside, you’ll want to give your landscaping a professional makeover, and, depending on where you live, take advantage of the climate in any way you can. If you live in the southern half of the country, plant some new container gardens and put in some colorful annuals to help spruce up the yard. Consider repainting or tuckpointing the exterior of your home in order to make your home look as beautiful and as well-cared for as possible.
Once your home looks as good as it can, you’ll want to price it competitively for your neighborhood. It should look twice as good as other houses priced in the same range, and your house should be priced at the low end of the spectrum. That’s as compelling a package as you can put together. Then, you’ll hire an aggressive agent and see what happens. On the buying side, you can certainly take out a home equity loan or refinance with a low interest rate 3-year adjustable rate mortgage. You might even want to consider an interest-only loan, which will keep your payments to a minimum. It sounds like you have plenty of equity in the property, so repaying the principal balance isn’t a big issue for you at the moment. I don’t think you should wait to move on with your life. And, you’ll never buy low and sell high in the same area at the same time. If I had to choose, I’d rather sell a little lower and buy a little lower.
I hope that’s what you’re able to do.
Jan. 23, 2008