7 Tips for Seniors Selling a Home

Selling your home after retiring: advice for older adults by a knowledgeable Realtor®

Younger woman salesperson greeting senior at her door

Retirement is an exciting opportunity – finally, a break from work and raising a family allows time to pursue passions.

Rightsizing your life and moving into a new home is often a part of that transition, but it doesn’t always come with the same amount of enthusiasm. Even if a two-story, three-bedroom house is too much to take care of – especially if the basement floods and seasonal tasks like cleaning gutters have gotten out of reach – it can be hard to let go of a familiar place where so many special moments were shared. This is where working with a knowledgeable Realtor® can be beneficial.

To help older adults get the most out of their home and feel eager about taking their next step, our guest expert, Louisville, Kentucky Realtor Nick Graziose, breaks down how to sell a home and feel good about it. Read on to learn his top tips for getting the most out of your move.


1. Find a Realtor.

One of the most important things for older adults to do when they start contemplating selling a home is find a Realtor they know, like and trust. Referrals from family and friends are the best way to find these skilled agents whose clients have had such a positive prior experience that they’re now willing to advocate for them.

If you don’t have a recommendation, look up reviews. Most Realtors will have a presence on sites like Google. Visit a few websites and see if the agent/seller relationship is a good fit. You should feel comfortable asking questions about the process and learning about the Realtor’s experience.

Ask questions like: “Have you had success helping anyone else in my situation in this location before?” “What does your process look like?”

If the Realtor doesn’t have a clear process, that’s a red flag. You don’t want to be an experiment.

When I work with new clients, there are a few questions I always ask:

  • “Why are you selling your home?” This helps clients think about the process and how to ease the transition from a home they’ve loved for many years.
  • “Where are you going?” Selling isn’t the end goal, it’s a step along the way. Knowing how soon you need to be in your next home puts a timeline in place.Selling a house typically takes 60-90 days if things go smoothly.
  • “If you could wave a magic wand and have things go exactly how you’d like them to, what would that look like?” It’s helpful for me to know what people think would constitute a successful sale. Don’t be afraid to share your best-case scenario with your Realtor.

In the end, being comfortable asking questions and having good communication is important. You don’t want to feel like you’re in the dark.

2. Prepare to sell the home.

I like to focus on the person and how they’re working through the situation. But ultimately, you’ve got to have the house ready to sell as well as it can.

A big part of the process of selling the house is decluttering. I often tell clients, “You’ve spent 30 years turning this house into a home – if you want to get top dollar for it, you have to spend time turning it back into a house that will appeal to as broad an audience as possible.”

One example of this is family photographs. Even when you’ve got really cute ones, people don’t want to see a lot of photos in the space because it makes it hard for them to imagine their family there. When you can appeal to the most buyers, you’ll get the best price for your house.

3. Take time to pack.

The biggest challenge for older adults looking to move is often letting go of a home they’ve lived in for a long time. They raised their family there.

One way of dealing with this change is mental preparation. The longer you have to make the change, the less stressful it will be. Work toward downsizing in small bites. If you can do it without time constraints it will be a much better experience. You can take time to sort your belongings and figure out what you want to do with them.

If you go from a 4,000 square-foot house to a 1,000 square-foot condo, a lot of things can’t go with you. It’s a matter of gifting special items to grandchildren, donating to thrift stores or selling things – the longer you can take to go through that process, the less stressful it will be.

4. Explore your options.

Homeownership has many hidden costs associated with it that people just get used to over the years. One of the best alternatives to buying a new home is moving into a retirement community.

In a senior living community, there’s less stress. There are no property taxes, insurance bills, or upkeep and maintenance costs. It’s all just taken care of. That means you can enjoy your time – which at the end of the day is the most valuable resource we have. You want to spend that time doing enriching and meaningful things, not paying property tax bills and chasing roofers and contractors.

As for selling the house itself, there are a few options. Some people prefer to do it themselves – and depending on your time and patience and knowledge of contracts, it can be successful. I find that a lot of the time it doesn’t go well, though. If the seller and buyer are inexperienced, there’s a lot of opportunity for communication breakdown and for things to go awry.

Traditionally, people go through a Realtor. They’ll make the process less stressful and help you get the most money, as well as provide advice on all the little things to do to the house to increase the value.

5. Test your retirement.

If you’re planning a big move to a new city, find a short-term rental for a few weeks – senior living actually offers monthly leases so you’re not locked in to anything. Try it out. See if you like the lifestyle and if it’s a good fit. That way it’s less of an experiment when you actually move in, and you’ll have some knowledge of what the place is like.

In fact, try a couple of places. If Florida is your first choice, try it – and make some stops along the way. Stop in South Carolina. Charleston is a beautiful city. There are great places all along the Eastern Seaboard. When you have unlimited options, just try them out.

6. Get the most out of your sale.

It’s especially important for older adults to get the most out of a home sale because that income is significant for financing retirement. An important step in getting a home ready for sale is to eliminate all the little reasons for someone not to buy for list price – or even higher.

This includes making sure you maintain the home – there are no problems or deferred maintenance issues, like baseboards chewed by dogs or a screen door with a hinge that’s falling off. All these little things you’ve learned to live with will make a new person think, ‘If they weren’t willing to fix this obvious issue, what else is wrong with the house?’

Knowing when to list is also key. That means knowing your market, or trusting someone else who does. Each local market has its own seasonality. In the central U.S. where I am, the biggest surge of new buyers is in March or April, so that’s the best time to list if you have the flexibility to pick your date. There’s little inventory left from the winter, and that inventory seems a little stale. When people have seen the same houses on the market for a while, they’re much more focused on new properties coming on.

If you’re in a place like Florida though, the fall – going into winter – may be a better time, since people want to be warm. If you’re in a vacation destination, summer – when people are there on vacation and having a great time – might be the best time. Finding that Realtor who knows your local market and can give you good advice is the most important thing to finding that right timing.

7. Respect the selling of a parent’s home.

If you’re selling a parent’s home, it’s important to maintain a healthy level of respect for their experience. They’ve spent time, energy and love taking care of you and tending to this house.

This is an opportunity to give back some of that time. Slow down. Don’t make it so transactional. Make yourself a part of the process. Moving can be challenging for all of us, and reliving memories can be an important part of leaving a long-time home.

Senior real estate planning

No matter where you are in life, moving can be a lot of work – but it can also be the beginning of a fun, new adventure. For older adults selling a home, this is an opportunity to go wherever you want, free from considerations like school districts and commute times.

As Graziose notes above, wherever you’re headed after the sale of a home, a few tips can make a big difference in helping the process go smoothly:

  • Maintain proactive communication with your Realtor. An open channel of communication will save you from wondering what’s going on with your own home.
  • Get the most out of your home sale by turning your home back into a house. This lets the next owner have the experience of making it a special place for their family, just like you did.
  • Know what you want out of the sale of your home, and where you want to go next. Knowing what a successful move looks like for you will help keep you on track to meeting your goals.

Still exploring your senior living options? Visit a Holiday by Atria residence near you and learn how older adults thrive with one monthly rent that covers your apartment, meals and local transportation – plus see the all-inclusive amenities and priceless connections you’ll find in a community of great neighbors.

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