A couple of months ago, I offered advice to first time homebuyers. Today, it's time to turn to those who are selling their homes, because the market dynamics may have shifted while you were trying to decide whether or not to pull the trigger.
In many areas of the country, the advantage has shifted to the buyer. After a number of years where annual prices rose by 5 to 6 percent, the pace has slowed. Even with a downshift in activity, there are still plenty of homeowners who have ample equity in their homes that, when tapped, can provide liquidity and peace of mind.
If you are ready to sell, the first step before you list is to consider where you will live next. Are you thinking about a different neighborhood, town, state or region? If so, conduct research as to what it will cost to make the move and to be a homeowner in the new location. Don't forget to add in travel to see family, if that's an issue.
For near and current retirees, who are hoping to downsize, be careful. You may discover that reducing square footage from the old house may not cover the amenities that you would like to have in the new one. You may not be saving as much as you think you will by buying a new, smaller home.
In fact, as many older Americans calculate the cost of living in the next phase, they are seeing the upside of renting. According to a report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, the median age of renters has increased from 38 in 2006 to 40 in 2016. In addition to the roughly one-third of renters under age 35, nearly as many are now age 50 and over.
In fact, renters in their 50s and 60s are the fastest-growing segment of renters across the United States. For many of these folks, having quick and easy access to their money (liquidity) is far more important than more space, a back yard to maintain and all of the other headaches that homeownership demands.
Renting is not throwing money out the window, rather it is buying flexibility, a concept that becomes more important as people consider whether or not they want to move to a different part of the country to be close to relatives, to try a new adventure or to sample what living in a warmer climate entails.
OK, back to the actual selling of your house. The most important factor is to set the right price. The first three weeks of a home's entrance on the market are the most crucial for creating interest and attracting buyers.
The longer a home stays on the market, the greater the chance the selling price will be lower, both in absolute dollars and as a percentage of list price. If there hasn't been a bite for three to four weeks, it's probably time for a price cut.
If you really want to move the house, you may need to drop below the price you had hoped to get. Try to keep the emotions out of your decision and focus on the long-term goal.
Finally, if you are on the fence, maybe this bit of data will help. According to a new ATTOM Data Solutions analysis of sales of residential real estate between 2011 and 2018 (including single family homes and condominiums), June is a huge month for sellers. Those who sign contracts in June enjoyed a 9.2 percent premium above market value — making it the most lucrative month of the year.