By Sherry Jackson
Buying or selling a home can be a stressful and sometimes scary undertaking. Home sellers need to find a realtor, possibly get repairs done to the house to get it on the market, and worry about having strangers traipsing through the home during showings. On the buying side, the decisions are countless. House or condo? Yard or no yard? What neighborhood? What amenities? The list goes on and on.
For those over 50, there are even more things to consider. Will you be downsizing? Are you looking for an active-adult community or a regular neighborhood? Does the home need to be single-story? What kind of amenities will you use?
Fortunately, there are resources and people that can assist. Here are some tips from local realtors on the do’s and don’ts of buying and selling a home.
First, think about what kind of lifestyle you’re looking for, says David Newcombe, co-founder of Scottsdale-based Launch Real Estate, which focuses on Scottsdale and Phoenix condo communities. “We’re seeing empty nesters wanting to have an exciting lifestyle after they retire and after the kids are out of the house,” he says. “People are looking for a more urban location where they have everything within a very easy reach – things that are fun, exciting and intellectually challenging.”
Sarah Anderson, a realtor with Chandler Re/Max Infinity who works primarily with older adults, agrees. “Understand what you’re looking for in a neighborhood. What amenities, socialization and planned activities are you looking for? Visit the communities at different times of the day, go into the clubhouse and the facilities. Look at the people so you know what your future neighbors might be like.”
Also think about your physical needs, says Linda Carlson and Janice Delong, SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist) designated realtors with Real Estate for Retirement and HomeSmart. Do you need a one-story home or one that is handicap accessible? What kind of safety or security do you want? Do you need to be close to medical services?
Determine if the home is going to be a second home or primary one. Many clients today want a “lock and leave” lifestyle, Newcombe says, so they can have a home in the Valley and a second home in other parts of the country or world.
Think about what amenities are important. “People want to have a good gym, swimming pool and some open spaces,” Newcombe says. “The convenience of a lobby or dry-cleaning service is also something previously expected only from hotels but are becoming desirable amenities in condo buildings.”
Maintenance, storage space and security, along with garages, wide hallways and wide doorways, are other important amenities that seniors today are looking for, according to Carlson and Delong.
Do give a lot of thought to location. Downtown cores are becoming increasingly attractive to older adults, Newcombe says. Walkability to restaurants, shopping and other amenities without having to get into a car is not just for the Millennial crowd. “You’re buying a home in the middle of a lifestyle that suits you,” he says.
Consider your budget, especially if you’re no longer working or your income is going to be dropping significantly when you retire. “You may want to downsize and get into a lower priced property,” Carlson and Delong say. “There are all kind of options to creatively get loans. Reverse mortgages, low-down payment mortgages and using cash out of the existing home are all options.”
Do de-clutter. Now. Before moving, particularly if you’re right-sizing or going into a smaller home, Newcombe says. “It’s just stuff and sometimes it’s a bit of a heartache to get rid of it. But at 50, you want your life to be about your life, not about your stuff. You want to have fun.”
Do think about buying or selling a home before you quit your job, Anderson says. Financing can get trickier once you’re no longer working, so it may be beneficial to plan the move before retiring and losing the paycheck.
Don’t comprise. Move somewhere you love. You don’t need to worry about a yard for the kids or being in the best school district. “It’s about you again,” Newcombe says.
Don’t discount a home just because it needs some work. “Many active-adult communities are aging, and you need to be prepared, especially if you want a specific location,” Anderson says. “Don’t expect a perfect house.”
Don’t buy more home than you need or buy something that’s going to be hard to sell. Even though you may be looking at this as your forever home, you may get sick and need to move or sell the home for financial reasons. “You don’t want to get into a situation where you can’t sell your home if you need to,” Anderson says.
Don’t get sticker shock at the HOA fees. “The biggest financial shift in owning a condo as opposed to a single-family home is the amount of HOA dues you pay,” Newcombe says. “That can be a hefty monthly sum, but people need to realize what that actually pays for. In a condo, it very often pays for everything except electricity.”
Don’t think you have to go into a senior or active-adult community. “There’s a generational shift now,” Anderson says. “Whether you want to be in a community with a good mix of different age groups or communities that are age-restricted but don’t have any amenities, there are plenty of options.”
Don’t have unrealistic expectations when selling your home. If you’ve been in the home for a long time, it’s especially important to have a really good conversation with your real estate professional to determine what repairs and updates need to be made to the home before selling to get the best value from the home, Newcombe advises.
Don’t choose just any realtor to assist with buying or selling your home. “Choosing a realtor that understands senior needs is important,” Carlson and Delong say. “There are unique financial, tax and legal implications for this age group. If a realtor isn’t familiar with those, it could be a very big mistake.”