Sell, Rent or Hold: Three Real Estate Plays for Seniors Who Want to Downsize
Sell, rent or hold? Seniors who want to downsize often face a universal dilemma: what to do with their property.
Three common solutions include selling the home, renting it to another party or reconfiguring it so they can remain in their home as they age. Each scenario offers benefits and drawbacks and should be carefully considered before making your decision.
When moving into senior housing, a popular strategy is to transition completely from one property to the next. In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors, Americans aged 66 to 95 represent 19 percent of recent buyers. But selling your home can present a host of challenges, and before you begin the process, you’ll need to be properly prepared.
First and foremost, it’s important to evaluate your finances and take a good look at what’s happening in the housing market in your area. Learning about prices, location, what sells and what doesn’t will give you a huge leg up when it comes to deciding how much to list your property for.
Your best bet is to connect with an experienced real estate agent who can help you determine a reasonable asking price. Bonus points if your agent is a senior real estate specialist (SRES). Someone with this expertise can be an invaluable ally when you’re trying to transition from single family homeownership to senior living. Oftentimes, they can save you money, help find great deals and identify suitable accommodations for your next step.
Preparing your property to be sold is an undertaking in and of itself. You may need to complete a number of improvements to increase the value of your property, but these don’t have to be overly expensive. A fresh lick of paint, new carpet or some landscaping are all tried and true ways of sprucing up a home. Again, experts in your marketplace will know what buyers are looking for in your area and which improvements will get you the most bang for your buck when selling.
Renting one’s home is an attractive prospect for a lot of seniors. If you can manage the administration and upkeep, rental income can help support a new living arrangement and future expenses. Becoming a landlord, however, is no simple feat and comes with its own costs and time constraints. If you’re considering this option, make sure you’re financially and physically capable of managing your property.
The regular upkeep of a property often includes a lot of physical work. You are responsible for repairs, whether major or minor, and cleaning the premises between tenants or guests. If your rental property has a plumbing problem, for example, you’ll need to hire a local plumber. To find reputable contractors and customer feedback, search for “best plumbing services near me.” Avoid hiring unlicensed and inexperienced contractors. Firsthand referrals from friends and neighbors are also a great way to go.
If you can’t commit to maintaining your rental or if this upkeep simply seems too stressful, it’s possible to hire services for help. Property management agencies handle everything from applicant screening to rent collection to the maintenance of the property in-between. By handing over some responsibilities, you’ll have a reduced income, but you’ll also have fewer responsibilities. Be sure to understand the exact fees an agency will charge, usually calculated on a percentage basis, and get a detailed agreement of what they will and will not handle for you.
If you need to complete some repairs to make your property more attractive for tenants, consider refinancing and using the extra cash to make improvements. Veterans may have access to VA IRRRL refinancing, which allows them to refinance with limited paperwork and closing costs.
Holding on to your property can be tempting for many seniors. Maybe you want to pass your property down to a loved one. But passing down a home isn’t always straightforward. To make this a smooth transaction, you’ll have to consider a few options and their potential drawbacks. Alternatively, you may want to gift the property via an irrevocable trust. This method is affordable but plays to a binding agreement, meaning there are some inflexibilities.
However you decide to pass down the property, keep in mind you should still sell the property at market rate to protect your own financial needs in the future.
And finally, another option is to remain living in the property yourself but make modifications to improve its comfort and accessibility. Modifications don’t have to cost a fortune. Many times, you can live comfortably in your own home with daily assistance and by converting the living space to your needs.
While downsizing can feel like a step down, it can also be incredibly liberating. Whatever you decide to do with your property, base the decision with your future health and comfort in mind. Go for it and you’ll be home free!
Our thanks to contributing writer Jim McKinley at MoneyWithJim.org for this article. Click here for more articles on downsizing.