When an Elder Should Sell a Long-time Home

An elderly man with glasses stands indoors, looking thoughtfully out of a window. He is wearing a grey sweater over a blue collared shirt, with his hands on his hips. As he contemplates when to sell his long-time home, greenery and a red rose outside are illuminated by the sunlight streaming through the window.

By Sydney Clevenger

The housing market is a far cry from the peak of two springs ago, with interest rates surging again, homes on average taking three months to go pending, and price growth either negative or anemic. Should elders sit out the current market watching and waiting for better times? Or should they look for other indicators to guide their decision on when to sell a long-time family home?

“I think a common sign that it may be time to move is if you start feeling afraid in your home,” said Cedar Sinai Park’s Rose Schnitzer Manor Active Assisted Living Community Outreach Coordinator Catherine Quoyeser. “Beyond changes in feelings of personal security, if an elder finds upkeep onerous, or if the condition of the home is obviously suffering, it may be time to think about selling.”

Formerly a licensed realtor in Oregon with a certification as a senior real estate specialist, Quoyeser is used to advising elders on their home sales. When you have many years and lots of equity or ownership in a home – maybe even having paid off the mortgage – Quoyeser said there is little advantage in trying to time the market or wait for “the perfect time” to sell.

“For people who have been in their homes many years, I would tend to let the emotional factors guide decision-making, as opposed to what the market is doing at the moment,” said Quoyeser.

“Even though it’s less a seller’s market than it has been, local homeowners have seen excellent appreciation over the past 20 to 30 years. The key to realizing these gains is to keep your home well-maintained until whenever you’re ready to sell.”

Quoyeser said selecting a realtor, downsizing, packing, and moving can be overwhelming for many elders. It’s important to take the process in small steps.

For example, “it can be hard for people to winnow their accumulated belongings,” said Quoyeser. “But that process will help your home to sell faster and for a higher price since almost all buyers are drawn to properties that are tidy and minimalist inside and out.”

Quoyeser said seniors should also remember that they don’t have to go through the moving process alone.

“There are many folks out there who can help with downsizing, packing, and moving; and the best ones have different service offerings so you can choose how much help you need, whether it’s consulting for a few hours to create a plan that you can execute at your own pace, or someone who can come in and take care of the entire process from start to finish,” she said.

Managed Moves is one full-service organization dedicated to seniors that offers different packages, depending upon what type of help is needed, and the budget available. Big Rocks Organizing is another reputable local company that helps with organizing, estate clearing, and moving.

Quoyeser also advises elders to work with a senior real estate specialist—that is, someone who is familiar with the distinctive needs of their age group.

“Typically, a senior real estate specialist will be familiar with elder services and be more sensitive and skilled in helping elders weather the challenges of a move,” she said, “and reach their goals for the next chapter of their lives.”