Fewer seniors are selling their homes these days with two-thirds planning on staying in the family home and making the changes to the home to accommodate their evolving needs, according to a 2017 Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing. This has created a deficit of older homes coming to the market that tends to create a pool for a more affordable starter home. In turn, slowing down millennials coming into the market even though there are newer homes and communities in the area that are easier for senior living in Birmingham.
For seniors that do choose to sell their home, in 2017, Birmingham was listed as one of Zillow’s top 10 cities for home buyers. This is the ideal environment for seniors in the Birmingham Metro area who do choose to maximize return on their largest investment, their home.
Your Investment, Selling Your Home, Oh the Questions!
Looking at the memories on the walls of the place you have called home for so many years, you wonder… Can I leave this place? Should I leave this place? Would it make more sense for me to remodel and stay? If I do sell, where will I go? How will I (we) move all of this stuff? How do I coordinate the timing of the move? What are the steps to take? Can I leave my friends and the surroundings that are so familiar to me?
As a real estate agent with a SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist) designation and Birmingham’s exclusive agent for 55Places.com, a website specifically focused on finding senior living in Birmingham or any city in the country. I hear these swirling questions all too often from seniors who have spent their entire lives in the Birmingham Metro, and as well as, from seniors considering relocation from other states to be close to family or to save money on taxes and housing or just because Birmingham appeals to them. Whatever the reason, sometimes getting to the right conclusion about the next steps to take just requires a good sounding board and some professional insight. So no more worries, let’s just walk through it.
Should I remodel and stay in my home?
Often remodeling isn’t the question at all, but will I be able to modify my home to meet my changing needs in the next 5, 10 or 15 years? Are there too many stairs for me? Is the driveway too steep to bring my trash to the curb? Is the upkeep of my home something I can manage over time? What are the systems that would need to be updated (electrical, plumbing, HVAC, roof, foundation, etc) and do those numbers make sense? Is the yard a manageable size? What am I currently spending in lawn and exterior maintenance? These are the real questions and your answers will tell you whether looking at other housing options beyond your current home is the next step.
How do I get from point A to point B?
Once one concludes that selling is the right move, the next nagging question is typically HOW?! Timing, stuff, and money are usually at the core this phase of questioning.
This is when you need a sounding board. Family and friends are typically where most people start, as well we should. But, sometimes the emotional connections of our well-intentioned advisors create more confusion about where to go next. That’s when you and your family may want to consult the professionals. Among the professionals that can offer guidance are accountants, investment manager/financial advisor, lender and a trusted real estate agent. Who to call first?
Typically, the most overwhelming, confusing questions center around timing. Bridging the gap from here to there. Can I buy my next home before selling my current home? How long will it take to sell my current house? What do I need to do to get my house ready to sell?
An experienced real estate agent can guide you through these questions easily. An experienced real estate agent can help you plot the course for finding your next home, get you in touch with trusted lenders who will answer your questions. They also have a suitcase full of tried and true resources that can help prepare your house for market to optimize your return.
Preparing your home for market
Older homes, often have become more personalized to the owner’s taste. To maximize your investment making certain changes may be more desirable to current Birmingham buyers and therefore bring much more of a return than the updates cost. Staging, Painting, changing out fixtures, and flooring like older carpets can be some of the quickest changes to your home that will make it more appealing to those in the market for a home today.
Where do I go from here?
Do I stay in the state or city that I currently reside or do I move closer to children, family or specialized medical care? What about taxes? How will taxes impact my monthly income?
We do not often think about taxes when thinking about moving from state to state, but taxes have a real impact on seniors fixed monthly incomes.
The good news is that Alabama ranks among the most senior-friendly states when it comes to property taxes, state taxes, and pension or social security income taxations.
Alabama’s senior friendly tax code is especially kind those who are 65+years old. At 65 years old, Alabamians are entitled to an exemption from the STATE portion of the property taxes. You may also be entitled to additional exemptions based on your income. The net annual taxable income for the person claiming the exemption and that of his or her spouse is $12,000 or less. In some cases, depending on this income, Alabama’s older residents pay no property taxes. (Code of Alabama 1975, §40-9-21)
For any age, overall Alabama is one of the most affordable states for property taxes at .33% of the property’s value. Louisiana is the cheapest with property taxes at .18% of the property’s value, according to www.tax-rates.org.
If you are torn between one particular state or another, here is a very handy tool from Kiplinger to help you compare the states you are considering and the tax impact on a limited retirement income.
Finding the Right Real Estate Agent
If you decide that moving to another state is the right thing to do here are some tips for choosing the right agent.
Look for agents with experience and who have earned the public’s trust. You can identify these agents by reviews, awards or personal referrals from friends. You may also want to look for a Realtor™ who has a SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist) designation. Agents who spent the time to earn this designation shows it was important to them to deepen their understanding and knowledge on the financial and emotional needs of seniors. If you need further help identifying agents in the new city, talk to an experienced local agent. They can help you find your real estate agent in the new state. Choosing blindly or circumstantially could land you with an agent who may be inexperienced or too busy to guide you thoughtfully through the process.
You will find, when you choose the right agent, the right agent will come with a suitcase full of helpful resources.
What are other resources you can use?
There are websites for everything these days and with a quick search you can find the answers to almost anything, but can you always trust your sources? When selling and buying a home, trust is paramount, and this is no less true or seniors. Websites like 55Places.com and A Place for Mom that give seniors and their families a starting point to locate the variety of communities focused on senior living in Birmingham or in the city of their choice. 55Places.com will give you reviews, descriptions of the amenities, available housing, and even Realtors who work with communities. These communities include neighborhoods and housing that are senior friendly, but not necessarily senior living in Birmingham. A Place for Mom focuses more on finding homes for seniors who may have more assistance.
Feeling less overwhelmed?
Every stage in life has different needs. Buying your first home in not like buying your second home. Selling your family home after retirement comes with unique challenges and needs. Doing this alone or with an under-qualified agent can make the process more stressful and even less successful. That is why finding a real estate agent who understands these differences in finances, accommodations, and emotional connections are important for transitioning to senior living in Birmingham.
After reading this blog, if you are feeling less overwhelmed and the stress has diminished, consider that 9/10th’s of a good real estate agent’s job.
© Christina James and BirminghamWelcomeHome.com, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Christina James and BirminghamWelcomeHome.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.