June 2009 Archives

June 30, 2009

Does Your Other Half Know You Want to Sell (or Keep) Your House in Retirement?

If you're nearing retirement -- or just like to plan ahead -- what you'll do with the house you own is an important topic for discussion with your spouse or partner.

Yes, that sounds obvious. But an astonishing number of couples haven't had that basic conversation, as pointed out by USA TODAY's Sandra Block, in her column entitled "80% of couples disagree when it comes to retirement planning."

Among the statistics she points to, provided by Fidelity Investments: 60% of couples disagree about when to retire, 44% disagree about whether to work in retirement, 42% disagree about their retirement lifestyle, and 44% disagree about whether they'll need to sell real estate to fund their retirement.

This isn't a conversation that should wait until the last minute. For example, perhaps you're thinking about a bathroom remodel.  If you know you'll want to stay in this house during retirement, now might be a great time to take some measurements and make sure it's wheelchair accessible, just in case. But if you know you want to sell the house and move, your focus should be on what changes to the bathroom will add the most to your selling price.

What makes a house suitable for retirement, anyway? Look for features like:
  • accessibility to public transport and shops, in case the time comes when you shouldn't really be driving
  • minimal challenges to a person with limited mobility -- single-level homes with few stairways are best, and
  • easy-to-grip handles and knobs, plus safety railings (these probably aren't there now, but make sure they won't be a problem to add later).
For more on evaluating your house's retirement potential, see Buying a Second Home: Income, Getaway, or Retirement, by Craig Venezia.
June 23, 2009

Best of Everything Lists for Real Estate

I love "best" lists, because they're usually:
1) short and snappy.
2) based on a decent amount of research, and
3) give you a sense (maybe artificial) that the world can be ranked in an orderly way.

And this seems to be the season for best lists. For example, Forbes magazine has named its ten best retirement spots. Yes, Florida is on there, but not in the first three, which include:
1) Montgomery County, Pennsylvania
2) Nassau County, New York, and
3) Pima County, Arizona.

U.S. News & World Report magazine has named its 2009 ten best places to live in the U.S. based on factors like strong economies, low costs of living, access to healthcare and education, and recreation. Its top three are:
1) Albuquerque, New Mexico
2) Auburn, Alabama, and
3) Austin, Texas.
(Apparently, use of the letter "A" in the name was a criterion as well.)

And not to be outdone, Kiplinger's magazine has named the ten top U.S. cities for stable employment and new career opportunities. Start packing your bags for:
1) Huntsville, Alabama
2) Albuquerque, New Mexico, or
3) Washington, D.C.

Hey, Albuquerque made two out of the three lists! Maybe I should start packing.
June 9, 2009

House Listings Good for Laughs

Thanks go to Money magazine's annual "Best List" for mentioning this website in its "Best Way Not to Sell Your House" category: Lovelylisting.com.

My coworkers have probably wondering why I've been giggling at my desk for the last ten minutes, and this is it. The website collects listing photos that would cause most home buyers to run in the other direction; you'll see photos dedicated to showing off giant cracks in the flooring, cleaning equipment seemingly tumbling down a steep staircase, obviously Photoshopped giant tulips in an otherwise drab yard, and more.

There were times when I was writing our recent book, Selling Your House in a Tough Market, that I worried our advice about making the place look good was too obvious to merit space on the page... but I've just put those fears to rest.
June 5, 2009

Selling in a Down Market: Tips

DOWN1.jpgIt's no secret that now is not the best time in recent history to sell a house. Prices are down in most areas of the U.S., buyers are taking their time and asking for lots of concessions, and the economy is keeping everyone cautious.

But life moves on, and many people can't wait for a turnaround to sell their home -- particularly those moving to a place where they can find work, moving to a retirement home, or needing a bigger house for a growing family.

That's why we wrote our most recent Nolo book, Selling Your House in a Tough Market. The book provides advice on key aspects of the process, like getting to know the local market (some are better than others for sellers), setting the right price (so the house doesn't stagnate on the market), staging it to look its best, and much more. And you can hear free tips from the authors, Alayna Schroeder and me, Ilona Bray, by listening to a podcast interview (click here).