So your kids have moved out and have started their own lives, and you are left with an empty home. Now what? Many are moving out of the suburbs and into the city. If you are thinking about downsizing, here are a few tips to get you started.
Step One: Call In the Expert
Once the kids grow up and move out and you’re staring at empty bedrooms, you may be thinking about a change, says NAR President Tom Salomone, broker-owner of Real Estate II Inc. in Coral Springs, Florida.
“You’ll always have the memories you made in that home, no matter where you live, so don’t let the fear of losing them keep you somewhere that doesn’t fit your needs. Selling a home can be an emotionally draining process, especially if a seller has raised their family there. It can be difficult to think about all the work you’ll have to do to sell and leave your home—the decluttering, packing, and home improvements—but that’s why your first move should be to call a Realtor. A Realtor can help break everything down for you and give you helpful tips on how to handle this very stressful time,” Salomone says.
Step Two: Declutter and Minimize
Many couples look to downsize from the sprawling suburban house into a smaller, but perhaps sleeker, city condo or apartment. This means getting serious about clearing out the clutter. Make two piles, says Salomone:
- First, the things that could never be replaced. Think photographs, your children’s first drawings, or your wedding dress.
- The second pile can include “items you are fond of but that may be duplicative or that you could still buy if you wanted. Obviously, that second group of items carried some importance at one time, but you’d be surprised at how many things you can let go.”
Step Three: Dollars and Cents
If you’ve been in a home a long time, you might have equity in it, meaning you can walk away with more money after the sale than you would have if you had sold after a couple years, Salomone says. “That will be helpful in putting a sizable amount down on your next home, if that’s how you choose to spend that money. But if you’re not using these funds from your home sale on another home, be aware of possible capital gains tax. If you make a big profit on your home—selling it for $400,000 when you paid $100,000 for it many years ago, or more than $250,000 profit for a single person—you may be taxed on some of that profit if it isn’t used toward the purchase of a new home,” he explains.
Sellers should also know that after a long time in a home, there are often some repairs and home improvement projects that need to be tackled—meaning a little money may need to be spent, Salomone says. “Just because you’ve learned to deal with something undesirable in a home doesn’t mean buyers will be so tolerant.”
Step Four: Spruce Up Your Curb Appeal
Curb appeal always has been and always will be important. It’s your home’s first impression, says Salomone.
“Potential buyers often cruise neighborhoods and homes for sale before even calling a Realtor, so ensure your place looks equally amazing from the outside.” He offers these tips:
- Mow the lawn and tend the garden
- Wash the windows
- Clean the gutters and sweep the sidewalk, front steps, and walkway
- Repaint or power-wash
- Spend a few bucks on spiffy new house numbers or a new clean mailbox
- Consider a fence
- Dazzle at night with bright and inviting lighting
Step Five: Enjoy Your New Life
Downsizing can be a great thing. “After all, did you really need all those bedrooms and bathrooms to clean with no one occupying them? You can certainly find something that is less work and money to maintain. And while it’s not always the case, your new place will likely be less expensive since you’re considering less space—although if you want a penthouse suite in a ritzy building, that’s probably not true. If you’re sick of all that weekend landscaping taking up so much time, you can opt for a home where that is taken care of for you. The world is your oyster!” Salomone concludes.
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