About the Author: Ted Symanski and his wife Peggy, from Hope, NJ, began their search for an area to retire to five years ago. After many visits to many areas and many communities, they happily selected Ocean Ridge Plantation in Ocean Isle Beach, NC. Currently their home is under design with Plan View Design and they are meeting with builders to receive quotes on building their Dream Home.
We are on the mailing list for the brand new eNewsletter Carolina Dreamin’, and since we have numerous friends also getting ready to retire, we forwarded Carolina Dreamin’ to a bunch of them. We’ve received some very positive feedback on Doug Terhune ‘s new website www.TheRetirementHandbook.com , and our friends are saying that there are some nice little “reminders” and “ah-ha’s” that they may not have thought of.
For the past year or so, we have been working on the house-sale prep stage and are getting ready to put our house on the market in the Spring of 2013. It’s a labor of love to go through 30 some odd years of junk in room after room, but we know that we only have one first opportunity to make a good impression on our local real estate Brokers and potential clients, so on we trudge.
One question that will always be asked once you’ve decided to relocate is: When do I sell?
The real estate market is not necessarily similar across the country. As indicated in “The Handbook”, the market in coastal North Carolina is picking up, yet in many areas – particularly the Northeast, the market is still lagging behind. Only you will know best what’s happening in your area, and there are some things to consider when making the decision as to when to sell.
Know your market.
Housing prices, while starting to trend in the upward direction, are not necessarily consistent across the country. In particular, the Northeast has not been following the upward trend, and while there are certain pockets of improvement, the positive trend is not occurring everywhere.
A good way to determine the trends for your current housing market is to talk to a reputable real estate agent. They can tell you what the market is like in your neighborhood and surrounding towns. Here in Northwest NJ, the housing prices have actually been falling for quite some time and have been lagging behind the rest of NJ where prices are starting to inch up. You should ask a local agent about the trends in your area; if closings are picking up or if houses are sitting on the market for an extended period of time. Also, do some online research; pick a couple of houses in your area that are for sale and watch how they progress through the sales process. If they linger, perhaps they’re priced incorrectly or they have other problems. If you can start to assess homes for sale in your price and home style range, you’ll get an idea of what the market is like.
Know what needs to be fixed before you put it on the market.
As part of our 5-year plan, we assessed the big-ticket items like the septic system, roof and the removal of our underground fuel oil tank. For example we were able to take advantage of a grant offered by the state of NJ for our tank removal and it turned out to be a very inexpensive part of our home sale prep that could have been a “show-stopper” later. You’ll also get some good tips from a realtor, and the “Handbook” also has some good ideas as well. The sooner you start assessing the things that could become “show-stoppers” in your sale, the less pressure you’ll put on yourself once that time comes. It’s always cheaper to be able to shop around for a roofer before you start the sale process than in that crunch period before closing.
Know your potential buyer.
You might want to think back and try to remember why you bought your current home – was it a good school system; more bedrooms for a growing family; more property for some much needed “elbow-room” – whatever the reason, there’s probably a potential buyer out there that is looking for the same things you were looking for when you bought your home. Also, determine where your potential buyer is coming from. In our case, house prices in our area have been lagging behind the rest of the state and in fact have been losing value on a monthly basis for some time. However, the Eastern part of NJ is starting show an increase in house values.
We feel that potential buyers would probably be coming from portions of the state that have been seeing increases in house prices, so we think that might turn out as a positive for our sale. Also, for perhaps an extra 10-15 minute commute, the house prices in your neighborhood might make it worth it. If you determine that your neighborhood is a particular draw for people, and if they can start getting better prices for their homes, it will make it easier to purchase a home out in your neck of the woods. Hopefully that will stimulate the prices, and the pricing situation will improve for everyone. Bottom line is: if you are reluctant to sell, think of where your prospective buyer might be coming from and take that into consideration. It might not be as bleak as you think.
Know what it costs to live in your current house.
Another thing to think about is what it costs to live in your current home. In certain cases, particularly in New Jersey, the monthly property tax bill can be larger than the monthly mortgage payment. It’s not unheard of to have 5-digit property taxes in some towns, so keep in mind that even if you don’t have a mortgage, you still have to crack the property tax nut every quarter.
If you’ve started using the “Martini Principle” and have started researching an area to resettle, you should be able to get an idea of the usual monthly living expenses – electric, heat, groceries, etc. Assuming the usual monthly costs are a wash, you might find that the monthly cost of living where you are now could pretty much cover those of where you are relocating, and you could use your property tax “windfall” by renting a house or condo while you look for your next home or while your dream home is being built.
Also, keep in mind that the longer you wait, the more wear-and-tear can occur in your current home. Your roof, septic system, exterior paint, appliances and many other items that require regular maintenance won’t get any younger, so perhaps waiting for that “right price” might take longer than you expect. Many realtors will tell you that the rebound from this housing slump is going to take years. You also may be able to compensate for accepting a lower sale price than you expected by taking that big lump sum from the sale of your house and maybe making up some of the sale price difference by investing it wisely during the house-hunting or building stage. As mentioned above, if your current house value is not increasing or is still actually falling, you may find that waiting until the housing market improves could be a long, frustrating, and expensive experience.
There are other helpful articles available in this Handbook on preparing your house for sale and your local realtor can provide lots of helpful information on the sale of your house. However, if you have already followed the “Martini Theory” as we did and are ready to take the leap, it may not be worth waiting until all of the “planets are aligned” to put the home on the market, after all, sometimes there’s no better time than now!