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A retirement community, which provides amenities such as on-site storage facilities, walking paths, golf courses, swimming pools, and clubhouses with activities, is not the same type of housing as a residential care home or assisted living. Many people move into a “55+ community” or “active adult community” intending to stay, but life makes other plans.
So, there may come a time when you’ll need to sell your condo, townhouse, or single-family home in a retirement community geared to active seniors for a number of reasons, such as relocating closer to family or moving into an assisted living facility.
With over 49 million seniors living in the United States—and that population expected to nearly double by 2060—you’d think you’d have no problem finding a buyer. But resales in 55 and over communities can be quite different from the regular real estate market.
To start, you’ll need to navigate your community’s bylaws around resales and compete against any brand new construction in the area. Let’s go over these considerations and more (with the help of a top-selling agent in America’s most popular state for retirees) so that you’ll know the best way to sell a retirement home should you need to do so.
Research the resale value of properties in the community before you buy
You’re certain to have a larger number of potential buyers for your active retirement community home if you live in an area with a large number of seniors. According to the Administration for Community Living (ACL), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than half of the population of persons age 65 and older in 2016 lived in ten states: California, Florida, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, and New Jersey.
If you’d rather get an expert’s opinion, an experienced real estate professional can advise you on the projected resale value of this type of housing before you buy, which should put you more at ease should you need to sell.
Uli Wills, a real estate agent in the Sarasota, Fla., area, said retirement community homes throughout Florida as well as Arizona tend to have good resale value.
“For obvious reasons, they are very popular, and we get specific requests from clients that are looking for 55-plus because they want to be around folks their own age. They don’t want to have a bunch of partying teenagers and screaming kids by the pool,” said Wills, who has 20 years of experience and is a Seniors Real Estate Specialist, skilled in handling transactions for senior residents.
Find out: Does your community have any rules around selling homes?
Like other deed restricted communities, those that cater to residents ages 55 and older have specific rules—including about how to sell your home. “You may not be able to do a ‘For Sale’ sign,” Wills said. “You generally can do open houses; not all of them allow signage.”
Whether potential buyers can park on the street or in your driveway is but one hurdle, however. Remember what you went through before buying your particular retirement home.
Did your community require you to submit to health and financial screenings? With features such as a full-service spa and outdoor activities such as cycling, boating, and fly-fishing, these communities are typically not equipped to provide health-related services or increased care, so they want assurance that residents can take care of themselves.
At the least, potential buyers must be old enough. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says that an age-restricted community aimed at people age 55 and older must have housing where at least one person is that age in at least 80 percent of occupied units. Anyone under age 19 cannot be a permanent resident.
Another possible deal breaker? Whether your community allows pets. Because many seniors have companion pets, homes in communities that allow pets are easier to sell than ones that don’t, Wills said. “That’s always an issue with resales.”
You also may find that interested buyers may be put off by your community’s restrictions. Homeowners Association (HOA) documents tend to be meticulous in general, but they’re more restrictive in communities catering to people ages 55 and older.
“There are advantages because it’s regulated, so it keeps your property values stable,” Wills said, but not everyone wants to be told where they can park their car or how they can decorate their home’s exterior. “If you decide to move into a 55-plus community, what I tell my clients [is], I give them the rules and regulations before I write any offers to make sure they’re comfortable with all the rules.”
Check the policy around hiring an outside agent
This depends on your particular community. Some have internal sales offices, such as The Villages, a 55-plus active adult retirement community of about 32 square miles in Central Florida.
Others have a real estate office within the community or nearby that services the community, Wills said. “Most of them are open market, and it will sell.”
Be prepared to face competition from new development
New construction is the main competition for retirement homes, Wills said—and no wonder.
Maintenance can be a chore and an expense that the older homeowner often can’t manage. For homeowners age 75 and older in 2015, the median year of their homes’ construction was 1969, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Among those homes, 3.5% had moderate to severe problems with heating, plumbing, electrical issues, and upkeep.
NAR statistics show that homebuyers age 73 to 93 in 2018 purchased some of the newest homes, with a median age of 1996. This group bought new homes at 14 percent, compared to other age groups of homebuyers; 23 percent noted they wanted the amenities of new home construction communities.
Work with a real esteate agent who has experience in selling this type of property
When choosing a real estate agent, check that your agent has expertise both in the particular restrictions that retirement communities might have for home sellers, as well as experience working with seniors.
“Not to generalize, but you have to work with seniors a little bit differently,” Wills said, noting that she often needs to be flexible, especially regarding how to handle paperwork and technology.
Some clients are comfortable signing documents electronically while others prefer a pen and hard copies.
“I have others that don’t even use a cell phone,” she said. “I was at a client’s home just yesterday to help them with some paperwork. They had a computer, but when I said, ‘Well, let’s print the form,’ it turns out they didn’t have a printer.”
Selling a retirement home can be daunting, especially if you need to list it because your health or family circumstances change.
As important as it is to research resale value and how your retirement community compares to others, it’s also valuable to find an agent who sympathizes with the emotions and stress you might be experiencing. You want someone who helps you to feel comfortable every step of the way.
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