“If you’re a seller, it’s your time to shine,” says Todd Howard, president of Howard Homes, a Keller Williams Realty agency operating out of Carmel. “Some homes are selling in a day, which is pretty rare for the Midwest.” And many seniors own ranch-style homes, which are particularly in demand.
If you’re even considering selling your home—especially if you’re moving to a retirement community and don’t have to experience this market from the other side of the negotiation table—now’s the time to get that “For Sale” sign in the yard. But where to begin?
First step: Find a realtor who understands you.
Senior Real Estate Specialists like Howard (less than 1 percent of realtors have this designation) have an intimate understanding of the seniors’ market. Essentially a “one-stop shop” for senior real estate, these experts can advise you on how your retirement funds and pensions are impacted by the sale of your home and connect you with experts and organizations you’ll need, including elder law attorneys, Central Indiana’s Area Agency on Aging for a variety of services, senior moving companies to help with planning, sorting, packing and even unpacking, and so much more!
One closet at a time.
Next it’s time to get your house “show ready.” And after accumulating 40 or 50 years of stuff, Howard says that decluttering is one of the first things you need to tackle. Take it one closet and one cabinet at a time, sorting all those books, photo albums, Christmas decorations, family china and jewelry into four piles: Keep, Trash, Sell, Donate (if you decide to donate, remember that Goodwill will do the heavy lifting and transport for free).
In exchange for first pick of your stamp or snow globe collection, ask your kids and grandkids to devote a couple hours or days of their time helping with this mammoth project. If you don’t have family in the area, enlist the skills of a senior moving company or professional organizer to give you a hand. It’s well worth the investment!
Small changes can make a big difference.
At the very least, buyers will want to move into a house with clean, updated carpet and freshly painted walls without years of nail holes. If you decide not to make these investments, Howard advises that you should be prepared to address these expenses in your price.
Gordon Elston, owner of Seniors Handyman in Indianapolis, points out that the size and price range of many seniors’ homes are especially attractive to younger, first-time homebuyers, primarily because many seniors have lived in these homes since they were first-time homebuyers themselves. For that reason, it’s important to remove grab bars, wheelchair ramps and other aging-in-place features to “open it [your home] up to a wider market,” says Elston, who is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS).
If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
When you live in a home for years, it’s easy to become comfortable and have no need—or even desire—to upgrade a perfectly good cabinet knob, much less the whole cabinet. But just because you find your harvest gold appliances or baby blue bathroom tiles charming, doesn’t mean everyone else will.
“If you update a little in the kitchen and the bath,” says Elston, “you’ll recoup it on the back end.” Wiring is also important. Before putting your house on the market, be sure your electrical system is up to code.
“We just don’t know what we’re going to be facing [in the market] in another four or five months,” says Howard, not to mention that moves will become more challenging as the weather gets more inclement.
While opportunity is knocking on your front door, take advantage of this seller’s market before it’s too late!