It's June which means a whole new crop of birds have just graduated from high school and are about to leave the nest . . . Congratulations! (It also means we are entering our summer market.) Baby birds no longer, these kids are about to soar - some off to college in distant locals, while others will take a gap year, volunteering as they defer their higher education.
Still, others, will attend a community college much closer to home, will grab a backpack and travel, or will find gainful employment (it could happen). Whatever they do, it's sure to be met with both excitement and anxiety (by both the kids and their parents)!
It's also a time when empty-nesters begin to think seriously about whether staying in their now too-large home still makes sense? Some homeowners will downsize within their current neighborhoods, some will consider moving out of state, and others will move to less expensive communities within the Bay Area. (Does this sound at all familiar?) Some of you will absolutely stay put, preserving your family homes for the next generation (lucky you.)
Having crossed this narrow bridge myself just a few short years ago, I can categorically state that it wasn't necessarily an easy decision to leave.(Pulling up roots never is.) Our egos are attached to our homes and so are our memories, (Don't worry, you get to take your memories with you.) but given the fantastic sales results during the last few years, NOW may be a perfect time to sell BEFORE a shift in home values takes place. Historically, the climb is already well past the normal 7-year cycle.
And just for the record, you needn't wait until your last child graduates from high school in order to maintain his or her "senior privilege." We moved the summer before Tristan's senior year and took advantage of the inner-district rules that allow high-school seniors to finish out their final year with their current class, even if they are no longer reside in the district. (Sweet!)
But bringing your home to market takes more than just sending your flock off to college and clearing our their rooms. Often, our nests have been neglected for far too long and then a Realtor comes in and hands over a long punch list of items that really should be addressed before the home hits the market. (Ouch; that's no fun.)
The disconnect (and discomfort) for many potential Sellers is that such discoveries aren't necessarily new; they've just been moved to the forefront by an Agent. If you weren't considering selling, these overlooked "To Dos" would still need to be repaired. Instead, they're often left ignored until an impending sale forces us to come to an understanding about such deferred maintenance . . . which can, and does, translate to an unwelcome expense just as we are getting ready to say good-bye. So, while it may seem foolish to spend hard-earned dollars on the brink of departure, think of it as value added in the higher return that these improvements are likely to produce.
Not that all home repairs are created equal (they're not). Some simply remove hurdles that are bound to get in the way of the deal (rotted shingles, sewer laterals, or asbestos covered pipes), while others absolutely pay you back in spades (fresh paint, staging, new lighting). Others are probably a push at best (new toilets, leaning fences, irrigation), AND poor design choices will actually result in a noted loss (ugly tile, cheap cabinets, brightly colored exterior paint). So yes, you DO want to be judicious about where your dollars are spent.
Still, the hard truth is that most homeowners don't budget what they really should - on an annual basis - to keep their homes in tip-top condition, but almost always expect top dollar when they go to sell. If that's the goal, then there's going to be some real investment on your part to get there. But to be fair, we should amortize the cost of these repairs - based on the years in the house - not on the last few months when your Realtor arrives and bluntly states, "You're going to need to paint the entire interior, replace the carpets and refinish the floors." (Say what?!?)
BUT, if convenience is more important to you than the full-scale production and expense a listing invariably involves, you can always make the choice to fully disclose and sell your home "AS IS," IF you are also willing to concede that NOT repairing any glaring issues will reduce your return and very likely bring you less. As Sellers, that's the choice you get to make and I'll happily market your home either way, as long as your expectations appropriately align with one of these two outcomes (more vs. less).
Don't have the extra money available to address such items?
I understand, especially with college tuition looming, so this is where a home- equity line can make a huge difference, (DON'T mention to your banker that you're taking the line out in order to sell your home in the near future. Lenders will balk if they think the house is going on the market soon.) but DO start the process early; it takes a little time to put these funds in place. Also, you might ask the vendors if they'll consider taking the payment out of escrow. Once you sell the home, you'll easily pay back the debt and then move on to a property that better fits your current needs.
Still unclear on what you should or shouldn't do in preparation of a sale?
Feel free to give me a call, I've been working with a couple for a few years now and they invite me up every six months or so to see their progress and confirm their choices. It's a very proactive way to prepare and not at all unusual in my line of work. I'm happy to help you early on (in fact, I prefer it) and then you can choose to take my advice - or not. (It is still your nest after all - birds or no birds.) Just please don't shoot the messenger; I've got birds too and they still need their mother (at least I hope they do)!
How can I help you?
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 18 years and has published more than 725 humorous but always informative, essays on life and real estate.