Almaden Senior Home Seller with Mt UmFor retirees or senior home owners in Almaden who’ve been in their houses a very long time, the prospect of selling that beloved San Jose home can be quite daunting.  The longer you’ve been there, the more memories you’ve created and most of the time the harder it is to decide to sell and then do all the work needed to maximize that decision. This article is intended as a help for Almaden senior home sellers, their families and friends.

In today’s post we’ll go over the decision to sell the home (or not), the timing elements for selling and getting help in doing so.

Deciding it’s time to sell your Almaden Valley home

Perhaps the biggest hurdle is not the physical work involved with preparing a home for the real estate market or moving, but instead is the difficult decision of whether or not to move (and if so, when to do it).

As people age, there are a lot of losses.  There may be retirement that wasn’t chosen, but forced.  Loved ones pass away.  Vision diminishes.  It may become necessary to limit driving, or worse, give it up altogether. It is not hard for those over 65, 70  or 80 years of age to feel like it’s one unhappy challenge after the next. There’s a lot of change but it’s not all positive.

The prospect of also changing one’s residence can seem like one of the biggest, toughest and most unwelcome of all.    

Some home owners will elect to stay put.  I’ve been told more than once, “the only way I’m leaving this place is if they carry me out in a box!”  For them, perhaps home health care or live in help will enable them to remain in their house for the rest of their lives. Perhaps they can have family members move in with them. With a 2 story home, you can now add a chair lift, too, providing more options for those who want to “age in place”.  They may consider a reverse mortgage if their financial situation requires more income to pay for that help.

For others, though, the prospect of downsizing to something more manageable (such as a condo or apartment or even an independent senior residence) looks like an attractive option.  When my grandmother was about 90, she suggested to my grandfather that he had been retired for many years, but she was still cooking and cleaning, and that either they needed more help or they needed to move out of their large house.  It was not an easy choice, but they eventually did move from their beloved Pasatiempo home to an independent senior place in Santa Cruz, Dominican Oaks. For her, it was like a wonderful new chapter of her life in the sense that she had a whole lot of new friends whereas at home she had become more isolated since by then she wasn’t driving any more.

Whether to sell the house and move or stay put is a decision that should not be made lightly and should be made with all kinds of supporting information.  I strongly suggest talking it over with your tax professional (a CPA or enrolled agent who understands your tax liability for both choices) and if you have one, your financial adviser too.  It is probably wise to also learn what your closest family members think would be in your best interest.  In some cases, they may ask if you’d consider moving closer to them so that they can help you as your needs change.  (This is actually very common.)

Often, putting the pieces together (financial, personal, practical) will make it fairly clear what’s best.  If selling your Almaden Valley home looks like the right decision for you, the next big question is timing.

When to sell your Almaden Valley home:  timing issues

There are multiple elements to the timing facet for senior home sellers.

  • how long does it take to get ready to sell my home?
  • is there a best time of year to put my house up for sale?
  • how long will it be before a buyer makes an offer on my house?
  • how fast will I have to move once my property is under contract?

It is hard to pinpoint how long the first job will take as it varies tremendously from one household to the next and depends on whether things have been occasionally purged or if the house has had a one-way flow of traffic: in.

It’s extremely helpful if you can get family members to assist you with the initial part of preparing your home to sell, which is downsizing and de-cluttering.  Most of us have things we’ve held onto for decades, sometimes unknowingly, and it may be time to give some of those items away, toss or sell them.  This enormous job can take forever to do without help.  Each box may reopen forgotten memories and stop you in your tracks.

There are people you can hire to help you move through this stage too; they are called professional organizers in most areas and can be immensely helpful!

How long does it take to get ready to sellSo how long does this take for most Almaden senior home sellers? Depending on how much help you have and how much stuff you have, it could take anywhere from a couple of weeks or a month to well more than a year to thin out your belongings.  If you are thinking that sometime in the next 5 years you will want to downsize, you can do yourself an immense favor and begin to thin out your possessions starting today.

The best time of year to sell is often said to be spring (between February and April or May) but each year it varies a little so it’s not an exact science.  It is very possible to sell your home at ANY time of year if your house is priced right, in good shape, staged well and marketed well.  For retirees, seniors or elderly home owners, I would say that the first priority probably ought to be when the timing is best for them to move above all else.

Can we predict how long it will take to sell a home in Almaden? Somewhat, yes.  We know that if it’s well priced, staged, marketed, and easily accessible*, it should sell fairly quickly. The trick is in being fully prepared and fully competitive at every level, especially as the market softens.  If your property backs to high voltage lines or a busy road, you cannot price it the same as if it had a greenbelt view.  The biggest mistake made by some Almaden senior home sellers that I see is overpricing because the seller believes that his or her property is worth more than the market will really bear.  That is the #1 reason why most homes either don’t sell at all or sell only after a very long time, for seniors or anyone else.

*Regarding being able to make the home easily accessible, many sellers (of all ages) now move out and have their homes professionally staged. Selling your home this way often results in a faster sale at a higher price than if you continued to live there during the showings and escrow.  For many, it also feels safer as they and their possessions are not in reach of the home buying public.

The Almaden Real Estate Market & Pricing

To understand the market conditions in the 95120 (Almaden) area, it’s important to first see the ratio of listings to homes that actually sell and close escrow.  Without studying the statistics, you might think that every home eventually sells.  But actually that’s not the case!  Even in the hottest market, not every home sells.  It’s imperative to understand things like the absorption rate (days, weeks, or months of inventory)  and the ratio of list price to sales price.  If you are overpriced, the odds are greater that you won’t be successful in selling.

I should add here that while there’s a lot of info about recent home sales online, it’s not all either accurate or helpful. A “sale” might show up on the web when in fact it’s a price for a refinance, which is smaller.  A sales price might list a number, but the comments which real estate agents can see may indicate the reason or that the “net” price was actually higher.   I might be able to see the comps and know that one house sold low because it was a short sale, and another high because the sellers carried the loan.  An agent familiar with Almaden knows that a “radius search” is somewhat helpful, but sometimes the comparable sales on the online sites may pull from a different school district or lesser location and not adjust at all for that.  So it’s good to get professional help with the price analysis on your house.

When everything is “just right”, homes usually sell within a month.

Check the current real estate market report on my RE Report for Almaden (statistics, trends and data).

How long is escrow? How soon will I have to move once the house sells?

Most Silicon Valley homes which sell (where a buyer writes an offer and you accept it) close escrow about a month later. Sometimes, if the buyer is using FHA backed financing (somewhat unlikely in Almaden), it may be 45 days.  Sometimes sellers want a longer escrow so that they have more time to move, but there are risks with longer escrows so most Realtors will advise against it.

If the market is a hot seller’s market when you have the for sale sign put in your front lawn, you may be able to get a short rent back after close of escrow.  This can enable you to move knowing that the money is in the bank and to make sure that there’s no rush in getting the house and yard cleaned up for your move-out.  If it’s a normal market when you sell, though, you’ll probably have to move out of the house at least a few days prior to closing the sale (more if your home needs fumigation and the  market is so soft that sellers are paying for those again – if so, plan for nearly a week).

Getting help to make the most from your Almaden home sale

In addition to the weeding out of possessions, it’s also going to be necessary to get the home into show-ready state if you want to maximize the amount of money you get from your home sale.  In many cases, it may really be easiest for you to consider moving out of the house prior to selling it.  Why would you do that?

Homes sell for more if buyers think that it’s “turnkey” or ready just as it is.  Sellers tend to think “but they may not like my colors” or “buyers will want to personalize the home, so that’s a waste”.  But in actuality, most buyers cannot imagine how the home might look, they only know how it looks now.  To get you the most from your home’s sale, then, we need to make it look the way it will help the buyer to best envision himself or herself in the house. That is why de-personalizing is so crucial. Professional stagers can help set the stage for a best possible sale price.  And they can do that best if the home is vacant.

Most of the time that means, at the very least, new carpet (very difficult to do if you’re still living there) and paint if you’ve been in the property more than 10 years. Many times there will be more extensive things which need to be done, but this has to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Do what makes for a good return on interest

In my own real estate practice, my goal is that for every dollar spent, my clients will make 2-3 back at least.  It works and is not “a waste”!

To do the pre-sale preparation, it will be important to get help: gardeners, stagers, people to scrub the house to a fare-thee-well and more.  When you hire your Realtor, he or she can usually suggest people to help with all of this.  In the majority of cases, it goes much better all around if you hire people to assist with all of this rather than go it alone. It does not cost more if you hire a Realtor early in the process!  In fact, you get more value out of your relationship if you do hire early so that your Realtor can give you advice on the many choices you make to prepare the home for sale.

There are many decisions and milestones along the way for older Almaden Valley residents who choose to move and sell their home.  It’s an easier journey if you have good help from the beginning.  I am very familiar with Almaden, have sold homes here since the early 90s and have tremendous experience working with senior home sellers and their families.  (To make sure I wasn’t missing anything which my experience had provided, years ago I obtained the SRES or Seniors Real Estate Specialist designation.)  If you or a family member is interested in talking more with me about a possible home sale in Almaden, San Jose, Los Gatos or anywhere nearby in Santa Clara County, please call or email me.  I’d be very happy to hear from you.

For more reading, please also see:

When A Parent Has To Sell The House

What Do Silicon Valley Seniors Need to Know About Moving Their Property Tax Basis When Selling a Home?

What are the options for senior housing in Silicon Valley?

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