Seniors: Surrendering Your Second Home

Feb 9th, 2011 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Perhaps you have been fortunate enough to own or rent or lease a second home.  Ordinarily this is done for purposes of avoiding severe winters or dreadfully uncomfortable summers or both.  Having enjoyed a dual residence situation for a number of years, I can attest there are both advantages and some downsides to the luxury.  However, many are finding themselves in the predicament of needing to downsize to one location, principally because of the disadvantage of having too much tied up in the current real estate market.

Leasing or renting presents a whole different picture.  If resources are sufficient to be able to move from one location to another, particularly with seasonal changes, that is a very comfortable and desirable “state” to be in.  Our home in the Phoenix area leaves us with the opportunity to enjoy weather that is most often very comfortable, seldom inclement, and the chance to associate with friends and family whom we have enjoyed for years. The downside of this opportunity is having to sustain the costs involved in keeping the leased or rented property or going through the hassle of identifying a desirable location each year.  If the facility is furnished, that makes for fewer challenges.  If you have pets, that must always be a consideration and adds to the deposit and perhaps monthly rent.  If you are supplying your own furnishings, then the matter of moving and the costs associated with that move will be another issue requiring determining whether you will want to lease or rent unfurnished.  Having some idea what your term of stay will be will help in creating a time line that includes having your own furnishings or not.  Purchasing things like washer-dryers can be done at reasonable cost, particularly if buying used, and reselling upon your departure.

The advantage to choosing a furnished location is the flexibility it allows.  That is also true if you can project your lease in a way that, if you wish, you may be able to terminate the lease at six months, which offers the chance to try another location.  

Purchasing property, a second home, is fraught with its own perils, particularly in the present housing market.  This is another topic which will be dealt with here in more detail on another occasion.

However, today’s emphasis is really aimed more at the situation of some in today’s housing dilemma who are needing to unload their second home.  Ordinarily, when speaking of a second home, the second home is one in which less time is spent annually, there is less overhead and upkeep, there is comfort, but may not offer all the amenities of a primary residence.  Some people choose a condo, an apartment, a town home, a duplex, or a small stand alone cottage.  Each comes with its own set of advantages and each will present its own challenges. 

Whatever property you own, short of a time share, today’s market will require careful identification of a qualified realtor to walk you through agreeing to a listing, being clear that your asking price is within an appropriate range of possibility for selling, having some idea what is going on in the neighborhoods immediately surrounding your home, and being comfortable with an extended listing that may exceed several months.  Of course, you may also want to consider putting your own property up for lease or rent.  If doing so, that will require a variety of decisions which will help protect you and perhaps enable your having some income.  It is often difficult both to lease and try to sell simultaneously.  So you likely will need to decide what is doable in your situation. 

Projections in states like Arizona for real estate sales in the years between now and 2015 are not encouraging.  While that may apply more to residential, i.e. one home owner situations, it likely will not spell encouraging outcomes for persons who have their second home listed, unless the price is low enough to draw a variety of potential buyers. Selling your own home, particularly if you are residing in it, is not well advised.  Exploring the availability of a well known realtor whose expertise and acquaintance with the market and its ups and downs offers a stronger position for your selling your property.  For Sale by Owner, while often attempted, seems eventually to end up with a real estate agent. 

If you are selling your furniture with the house, price accordingly, but do not price it out of reason.  If you are selling your property as turn key, particularly in a second home ownership situation, that may very well work to your benefit.  Not having to move furniture in is often a strong advantage, particularly for an older or retired couple.

Being sure the house has been made attractive, is fresh and clean, and all its amenities are emphasized, e.g. an outdoor patio with comfortable seating, offering a pleasant place for potential buyers to sit for a while and imagine themselves in that environment.  Matters like lawn care, zero lot lines, watering systems, ample and pleasant walking lanes will help sell your property, although not a part of your real estate.  Be sure the buyer has all the information regarding a Home Owner’s Association, so no untoward surprises are introduced later. 

When asked, if you are present when the house is shown, why you are moving, it is best to be vague.  The best way to accomplish that is not to be present and leave all the questions and concerns to the realtor.  Being straight forward has its advantages, but may get the client to thinking whether your reason could be their reason in a few years. 

If you live some distance away, do not fail to find appropriate ways to let persons in your primary residential neighborhood  know you are selling.  That may often lead to a person who will be interested in your property, and who knows, may buy it. 

Finally, when you have sold and signed, be sure you let it go.  Our cabin in Colorado, of a few years back, had been our second home for 18 years.  It was hard to say good bye, but once we did we knew we had made the correct decision and celebrated with the buyers their joy at having found just what they wanted.



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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Susan Carter, Rod Landlord. Rod Landlord said: Seniors: Surrendering Your Second Home | Senior Citizen Journal http://bit.ly/goyDEQ cool blog – [...]

  2. [...] different people. Most Internet articles agree that the biggest obstacle to downsizing is having an emotional attachment to property, both personal and homestead/land. Steve Santiago writes, “‘Most retirees [...]

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