About two weeks ago I received a call from a reporter for main area newspapers (Bucks County Courier Time, Intelligencer, and Burlington County Times) in the Lifestyles section. She requested to interview us about Downsizing and she had heard about our Home Selling Seminar. So we spoke in detail about the seminars and what they offered. And I am happy to report that the article was published on Sunday. Here is a link and the article:
Don't get caught by surprise when it's time to downsize
Real estate brokers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey say those who envision downsizing their homes in the not-so-distant future should be aware that selling a house for top dollar may mean putting time, effort, and money into home improvements. Furthermore, they say that process should start long before the house is put on the market.
“It puts the seller in the driver’s seat,” said Christina Swain, who, with her mother, Carol, is the Swain Real Estate Team at Keller Williams in Langhorne.
Mature sellers who wait until they are forced to downsize, either because of health or finances or both, can face a daunting task with too little time, energy, tolerance and money to do it.
“It’s a lot easier to do it earlier,” said real estate broker Kevin Bayzath of Remax Connections in Marlton, Medford and the surrounding areas. “But, sometimes, you don’t have the luxury of time. The process can be expensive and invasive.”
“It’s so much and it’s overwhelming,” said Swain, who has clients in Bucks and Montgomery counties in Pennsylvania and Burlington, Mercer, and Camden counties in New Jersey. “They are paralyzed.”
Both Carol Swain and Bayzath have the Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation from the National Association of Realtors. The designation is given by the association to those who “are specially qualified to address the real estate needs of those age 50+,” according to the association’s SRES website. Those specialized needs can involve, for example, working with not only the seller but the seller’s family when marketing a house.
“It’s a team effort,” Bayzath said.
Some of the needs of the mature seller are not all that different than the needs of younger sellers. For example, all sellers – no matter the age – must declutter and depersonalize their homes if they want to get top dollar in a sale. However, for those who have lived in a home for decades and have displayed proudly on their walls photographs that memorialize family milestones, that can be a change that is particularly difficult to accommodate.
“I try to explain that buyers want to come in and visualize their belongings in the house,” Bayzath said. With the sellers’ mementos displayed, prospective buyers “feel like they’re invading someone else’s space.”
Another point Bayzath makes is that sellers reluctant to take down photographs of their grandchildren, put away trophies from high school, or pack away collections of knickknacks need to think about what they have liked in the homes they have toured on their own house hunts. Usually the homes they have liked are the ones that have been decluttered and depersonalized.
“When you walk up to that apartment that is the model, you know how nice it appears,” Bayzath said.
In addition to decluttering and depersonalizing, both Bayzath and Christina Swain recommend that sellers – particularly those who have not redecorated the family home in a while – do some updating. Remove shag carpet. Take down brown paneling and flocked wallpaper. Also, neutralize. That means removing from view any political or religious items because prospective buyers may consider them controversial. It also may mean taking down wallpaper, which often appeals to very specific decorating tastes, and painting walls in neutral tones, such as light beige and soft gray. Paint is an inexpensive way to freshen home décor, Bayzath said. However, Swain warned, choose colors wisely, staying away from bold and pastel shades.
“Peach,” Swain said, “does not sell.”
Swain also advises sellers to get a pre-sale home inspection. Depending on the size and age of the house, such an inspection can cost about $500. Once the report is in, the sellers can decide what they want to fix and what they do not want to fix, understanding that a buyer will want to pay less for the house if repairs are left undone. If a seller gets the inspection done a few years before planning to sell, then he or she has time to spread out the repair costs over time in a more budget-friendly manner. Sellers run into problems, Swain said, when they do not make a plan in advance to fix up their home for sale and must handle repairs and updating all at once.
Sellers over 55 can get help to execute their plan. Some firms specialize in working with seniors to find suitable housing and with packing up and moving. Most real estate agents, including Bayzath and the Swains, can refer sellers to contractors when home repairs are necessary. In addition, some real estate professionals offer workshops to advise sellers of all ages on the best ways to prepare for a successful home sale. For example, the Swains have three free seminars scheduled for the fall: a lunchtime workshop Sept. 27 at the Bucks County Institute of Technology on Wistar Road in Fairless Hills, a seminar 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Lower Southampton Library on Bridgetown Pike in Feasterville, and a 7 to 9 p.m. seminar Oct. 12 at the Northampton Library on Upper Holland Road in Richboro.
Thinking about how to best prepare for a future sale only makes sense, particularly for seniors, Swain said.
“Your home is your largest asset,” she explained. “You should protect your money because you need that money to move on. It’s just plain and simple.”