guide to buy and sell a home in retirement

Your Two Year Plan To Buy and Sell

Your Two Year Plan To Buy and Sell

Written by Ken Tritle, Realtor® (Questions? Call/Text 760-798-9024)

Often, home buyers hesitate involving real estate agents early in their home search, for fear of high pressure being applied to them by the agent. This is especially true when they aren’t close to being ready to make the move. 

We understand this and want to share with you that we are used to long time-frames in our real estate business. Working with seniors who want to move to San Diego from all over the country has taught us that the process cannot be rushed. We often work with seniors who are still 2-4 years away from making the move.

To that end, here is a helpful 2 year plan to help you prepare for this same type of move. Need this plan to cover 3 or 4 years? Simply extend the time periods appropriate to your planned schedule. 

Why do so many seniors want to move here? Southern California – namely San Diego and Orange Counties are highly desirable locations for seniors to purchase their ‘forever’ home due to the area’s wonderful weather and abundance of healthy activities. 

But, that is not the only reason that seniors move. 

Seniors also move to:

  • get closer to family – children/grandchildren
  • downsize physically/financially
  • to place a higher priority on health
  • to find a place with a real sense of community

Get closer to family:

As we age, many of us long to return to the loving arms of our children and grandchildren. Being with our grandchildren revitalizes us. Our inner child returns with glee to play with grandchildren. This recent pandemic has also made this need and desire much stronger.

Downsize physically and financially:

Following closely behind lack of dollars – downsizing physically is such a daunting task and source of stress that it causes many seniors to remain in homes that are unsafe/unhealthy for them for far too long – sometimes forever.

Some seniors also live in homes that they love as they have lived in it for decades, but, they know they eventually won’t be able to take care of a larger house/or land, and the extremely cool/hot weather during winters and summers are becoming unbearable.

Most people have no idea of where to begin with the ominous task of sorting through decades of accumulated possessions in an attempt to decide what to whittle down to keep and, or donate.

As one of our clients said; “I had to get rid of 80% of my things and donated much of them to Goodwill. Then after returning home, I always wanted to hurry to the store and buy it all back.”

Like most things, downsizing can be approached with a DIY mentality or you could hire the entire process out to a Senior Move Specialist.

Senior Move Specialists will help you sort through your possessions, get rid of all that needs to go, pack everything, store it all, deliver it when your new house is ready, unpack, clean – yes, even the dishes! – and set up the entire home so that it is move-in-ready for you. They do all of this while remaining sensitive to their client’s attachments to these items.

To place a higher priority on health:

Studies have shown that many things contribute to increasing a healthy state for our bodies and minds. Lower levels of stress. Being close to, and included in, the lives of loved ones. Being part of a real community. Having the ability and motivation to exercise. Living in a community that affords a restful, quiet and safe environment. 

To find a place with a real sense of community:

Being surrounded by people of your age and similar interests has a number of benefits. There are shared experiences and talking points. Friendships are more easily forged, and along with these friendships come empathy and care. Residents will find new walking buddies, pet friends, sports partners and a myriad of social activities infused with friendships. 

Where to begin?

Even though it is well established that this type of move is necessary and in your best interests both financially and health-wise, still, nearly everyone is intimidated by the process. 

Our extensive experience in working with seniors doing this exact move, has shown us, time and time again, that those who are able to break the process down into individual steps keep their momentum moving forward, have less stress, and, most importantly, see the process through to a successful end. 

Determine your purchase budget up front:

You may not be able to get the amount accurate down to the penny. But knowing a reasonably conservative number is a good start. If you need to sell your home, use some online tools to determine what the fair market value of your house. Then subtract total selling costs, usually about 10-12%, to arrive at your approximated net proceeds from the sale. 

If you are within a year of making the purchase, reach out to a lender now to get pre-approved for a loan. There is no cost, or obligation for this. But, you will need to provide documentation for the lender in order for them to determine how much you will qualify for. Loan pre-approvals do expire. However, they can easily be reactivated with updated documentation.

Knowing how much you are pre-approved for is the best way to go about home shopping, as it creates a crystal clear road-map of exactly what you should be shopping for. 

Begin the process of verifying that your target area is really the best fit for you:

Make a Pros and Cons list.

Be sure to include weather in this list. We have seen, all too often, the decision based almost entirely on home price. This can be a major mistake, as home prices are often lowest in areas where the weather is the worst – the desert, where it seems to get hotter and sandier every year – or, areas that are hurricane prone, and seem to get more, and bigger storms every year. 

Many buyer’s goal is to become more active and healthy. This is much easier to achieve, a lot more fun, fulfilling, and stands the best chance of becoming a sustainable habit with agreeable weather in the great outdoors. 

If possible, schedule a trip to the area to check out the vibe and verify if you would feel comfortable in the general community. 

The steps, simplified:

Once you have a reasonably accurate idea of how much your purchase budget is, and feel comfortable with the thought of living in the targeted area, then proceed to the following steps.

Find a local agent familiar with this type of real estate inventory to help you:

This agent will be your go-to for answering questions about specific communities on your possibilities list. After learning about you and your desires this agent should also be able to make recommendations for communities that they believe would be a good fit for you. This step can, and should, save you weeks or months of on-line home shopping. Be clear about your time-line to purchase so that everyone understands.

Visit potential communities and homes:

Initially, most of your ‘shopping’ will be done online, reviewing listings and their photos. This is a great way to get familiarized with communities and the beginnings of adding or eliminating communities from your possibilities list. 

TIP: Type, or copy and paste potential property addresses into Google Maps.

Once there, switch to Satellite View and zoom in to look at the subject property as well as neighboring properties to learn more about the immediate neighborhood. Be sure to also click into Street View to zoom and pan around the area. This could reveal how the world looks from the subject home, and whether you feel comfortable pursuing it further. 

Once your possible communities list is nearing completion, it is time to begin visiting communities in person. 

If your target communities are NOT gated; it would be best to visit without your agent on the first trip. The best way to gauge whether a community is a good fit for you, is to park your car and walk through the community. While doing so, there is a high probability that you will encounter residents walking their pets. Stop and chat with these folks. Tell them that you’re thinking about possibly purchasing a home there, ask them about what their experience is like living there, and whether or not they would buy there again, if they could turn back the hands of time. 

If available, check out the clubhouse and amenities. This is also an opportunity to meet residents and have a chat. 

TIP: the best time to visit is usually mornings and afternoons. Avoid mid-day, as this is when most residents are home lunching and resting. 

If your target communities ARE gated: You will need your real estate agent to accompany you into the community. Hopefully there will be a home or two that you could visit together, in addition to the clubhouse and amenities. After viewing these, it would be your opportunity to do your community walk and meet a few residents.

Now would also be a good time to call the respective Homeowners Associations of the communities on your short list.

All of these communities have HOAs, each with their own unique rules and restrictions. A number of things that you will want to discuss is what their restrictions are in relation to pets, parking, approved vehicles, landscaping, visitation lengths for children/grandchildren, rental policies.

It would also be prudent to inquire about any planned special assessments and, or, HOA dues increases. 

Have to sell your current home before buying new?

Most buyers need to sell a home before purchasing their “forever” home. It seems counterintuitive that one would offer their current home for sale before purchasing their next home (where would you live!), but, in reality, this is what often occurs. 

Selling your home requires preparation, beyond choosing the right real estate agent to help you get it done. Deferred maintenance needs to be addressed, and a general sprucing up needs to be completed. Then, for some, the most challenging part of the entire process: years of accumulated items need to be purged. 

Preparing your home to sell

Declutter your current home which is, or will soon be, actively for sale on the local multiple listing service (MLS). Empty your rooms of all unnecessary items, to better show how spacious your home is. Utilize your garage as your storage space. Pack it full if need be. Most potential home buyers are used to seeing full garages – theirs is likely full too.  

Getting rid of excess belongings can be done in many ways:

First decide if you want to DIY it, or hire professionals to help.

If considering hiring it out, find a Senior Mover to make it easy for you. A Senior Mover will help you sort through and decide what to get rid of. Having an impartial second voice can make a huge difference. Once the items are separated, the Senior Mover will take away, or help you sell, the excess items. The Senior Mover will also pack and store all of the possessions that you will keep.

Once your forever home is purchased, the Senior Mover will bring your items to your home, unpack, wash, and totally set up your home so that you can simply walk in and start living. 

If you intend to DIY it, then you might just become the most popular person at your local donation center for a time period. Separate the items that you will not keep. This is hard, we know. Get rid of more than you think you should. Then get rid of a bit more. You want to simplify your life in your new home. Achieving this is much easier when arriving with less baggage. 

It is not even necessary to haul your donations if you don’t want to. Many non-profits have regularly scheduled pick up days in your neighborhood. A good plan would be to make pick up reservations scheduled for each week of the next month. Then, have a load prepared for pick up each week. 

If some of your outgoing possessions hold value, and you have enough of them, you might be a good candidate for an estate sale. An estate sale representative will come out to assess your situation to see if you are a good candidate. They will do this free of charge. Just be sure to have all of your items separated so that they can easily inspect them. 

Many seniors desire to have some of their important family pieces, even if they are not heirlooms, be passed along to their children and other family members. Doing this now may be a blessing in disguise. You will delight your family by giving these items, and doing so will open up many opportunities for reminiscing and ongoing shared family reflections. 

You will find numerous other vendors locally who can help. For lack of a better term, search for Junk Removal. These companies will pick up your unwanted items and remove them, for a fee. These items normally end up as donations, with very little of it going into landfills. 

Alternatively, you can pack these items into rented storage space, rented PODS, or use space that family or friends may afford you, temporarily. 

How to manage interim housing:

Make the sale of your current home contingent on you finding suitable replacement housing. This puts your potential buyers on alert that finalizing the purchase of your home might take a bit longer, or that a certain level of flexibility might be necessary. 

You might also have your listing agent negotiate a ‘rent back’ period from your buyer – they finalize the purchase with the agreement that you will rent the home back from them for a specific period of time until you can move into your new home. This can be a win-win situation for both parties. The buyers get the home that they want, while renting to someone that they know already loves the home and will take very good care of it. 

We have had other buyer clients use a variety of locations to satisfy their need for interim housing. 

Among these are, vacation rentals: AirBnB and VRBO, short-term rental apartments, and we’ve even had some live in campers for several months. 

This might be a good time to schedule a long dreamed of, extended vacation

When it’s safe, travel around the country, take a cruise, or tour another continent. Then, return to begin life in your new home and community, relaxed and refreshed…

To be continued…

Written by Ken Tritle, Realtor® (Questions? Call/Text 760-798-9024)

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Thanks for visiting DreamWellHomes.com | Find Homes For Sale Here | Need help finding the right property? Got questions regarding selling your home? Please contact Jean and Ken Tritle, DreamWell Homes, Call/Text 760-798-9024, Real Estate Broker DRE#01777754 | Realtor® DRE# 01892793.

Written by Ken Tritle, Realtor® (Questions? Call/Text 760-798-9024)

guide to buy and sell a home in retirement