After hitting age 60, a small business owner and his school administrator wife longed to retire and travel abroad.
But to fulfill their round-the-world plans, the couple first had to sell their 40-acre country place - complete with its 4,500-square-foot house and two large barns where once they'd kept horses; this ended up taking nine months.
Donna Clark, the real estate broker who sold their property, says the couple's long selling time could have been cut in half had they responded more quickly to her recommendations for a few upgrades to their house.
"At first they didn't realize just how important these changes were. They failed to see the point of spending money on the home to make it sell faster," says Clark, who is affiliated with the Council of Residential Specialists (www.crs.net).
Ultimately, Clark convinced the owners to repaint the home's interior, refinish its hardwood floors and update its worn kitchen countertops with granite. She also persuaded them to remove from their crowded rooms excess accumulations, allowing prospective buyers to more fully appreciate the spacious domain.
"They had to empty the house of a great deal of furniture - from eclectic antiques to over-stuffed chairs," Clark says.
Like this couple, people of retirement age often have a strong desire to sell, yet a resistance to taking the necessary steps. Here are several pointers for sellers in this position.
- Focus on your ultimate goal.
Retirement dreams vary widely. Though many wish to travel, throughout the U.S. if not around the world, others have a less expansive vision. Some simply seek to downsize to a much smaller house or a condo where they have fewer upkeep obligations. Others want to live closer to their grandchildren.
"Lots of retirees want to escape to a better climate," says Sid Davis, a real estate broker and author of "A Survival Guide for Buying a Home."
Staying focused on retirement plans should help keep your spirits up as you do the hard work of preparing your property for market. To maintain your focus, Davis says you may even wish to take a brief vacation to the area where you'd like to live, whether that's a foreign country or a nearby town.
- Tour a few model homes.
Have you lived in your current home for many years? If so, you're likely very comfortable with your interior design and see no need to update it. But that's usually a mistake, says Clark, who's sold homes for more than 30 years.
One way to picture the sort of decor contemporary buyers prefer is to tour model homes in new subdivisions.
"This is a shortcut to seeing the kinds of colors and designs younger buyers look for. You'll also see how well a house can look when it's free of clutter," Clark says.
- Focus on upgrades that should increase your odds of a successful sale.
Would-be retirees who are eager to sell their properties should view key improvements as a wise investment rather than a needless sacrifice, Clark says.
"A house is like a business. Sometimes you have to put some money into it to get more money out of it," she says.
Obviously, you're unlikely to recoup your outlays for major improvements, like putting on an addition or installing a new fireplace. But Clark says several less expensive upgrades could be extremely helpful in promoting the sale of your home.
For instance, she says you'll want to refinish hardwood floors if they're beat up. And you'll want to replace carpeting in an out-of-date color.
Likewise, she says most sellers with vibrantly colored walls should repaint them in neutral tones.
"Pink walls don't belong in any house you're trying to sell. Nor do walls in deep red, vivid green or periwinkle blue," Clark says.
- Don't play pricing games.
Many a couple heading toward retirement and the proposed sale of their home rejects the pricing recommendation of their listing agent. In pursuit of more money, they decide to test the market with a higher price than their agent has proposed. After all, they reason, they could always cut the price later if necessary.
But this seemingly logical idea usually backfires, Clark says, because nowadays buyers are acutely sensitive to housing values. They respond negatively to an overpriced property and may become so annoyed that they won't even visit the place.
"The first two weeks after you list your house are key. If you don't price it right from the start, possible buyers will lose interest. Then even after you drop the price you may have to wait a long, long time to get it sold," she says.