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Real Estate 101: Downsizing and Selling During Unprecedented Times

Couple holding moving boxes

While a lot has changed in the world since the beginning of 2020, one thing hasn’t changed: people are still buying homes. While home sales in Westchester County stalled in April and May, they’ve picked right back up again – and demand has never been higher than it is right now.

“By now, most people have probably heard about the flow of people coming from the city into Westchester County as a result of COVID-19,” says Pamela Klapproth, CEO of Kendal on Hudson, a Life Plan Community serving older adults in Sleepy Hollow, NY. “People are looking for options and looking ahead, especially families with young children who may have been cooped up in an apartment for months. Not being able to go out and do the things we’ve been used to doing have caused a lot of families to spend some time thinking about what’s important, and what they want for their future.”

Even before COVID-19, historic lows in interest rates were making buying a home very attractive. The real estate market still held to standard truths at that time, however. Home sales picked up in summer, after school got out and families were looking to move to a certain school district, and tapered off in the cooler months. But according to Compass Real Estate of Westchester County, people are now thinking much more long-term and they’re starting to buy in desirable districts before they even want or need that particular location.

“Because it costs so much to build new construction these days, starter homes aren’t being built – it’s not cost-effective,” says Dawn with Compass Real Estate of Westchester County. “So smaller homes that people with young families would like to buy are in high demand, simply because there aren’t enough to go around. If you’re in a particular price point in a certain area, you can basically name your price and have your home under contract in a matter of days.”

In other words, if you’ve even been considering the idea of selling your home in the future, now is the prime time. “For older adults who’ve been considering downsizing to a retirement community like Kendal on Hudson, this is a great time to take advantage of real estate demand,” says Pamela. “I know some individuals think about renting out their home instead of selling it, but let’s be honest: do you really want to deal with the responsibility of being a landlord at this time in your life? In my expert opinion, the best thing to do is sell your home so you’re free to have the maintenance-free, hassle-free life that awaits you in retirement.”

However, moving is a huge and emotional decision, and requires a little more planning than just sticking a “for sale” sign in the yard. These days, you should start sooner rather than later when it comes to getting your home ready for sale. Going through your possessions will take a lot longer than you anticipate. It’s not something you’ll be able to do in one weekend. Older adults should take at least a month to go through their home, pare down their belongings and determine what will stay and what will go. By giving yourself time to go through your belongings, you’ll be better able to make informed decisions and not have to rush to figure out what to do with personal items.

And that’s just the beginning of the process. Staging and marketing your home is more important than ever in order to get the right eyes on your listing. In order to get the most money for your home, you want to make sure you’re maximizing your space and that you have the features buyers are looking for. For example, buyers are really looking for home offices right now. Sellers are getting creative by transforming bedrooms into an office, or even converting a closet into an office space so that buyers can actually see the potential.

For sellers who are balking at the idea of putting up their home for sale because they don’t want a parade of people coming through their home, you can choose to offer virtual tours instead. Many agents are posting video walk-throughs on the listing, or are doing a livestream showing in place of an open house. Doing this allows buyers – who also don’t want to be opening themselves up to risk – to narrow down homes so that they’re only doing physical showings in homes they’re serious about.

We also encourage setting a “due date” for when you will have gone through all your possessions – even if you aren’t necessarily planning to list your home just yet. Having a deadline will help you go through your possessions in a timely manner.

Pamela encourages older adults to take this time to strongly consider their senior living options and make next steps for their future. “This pandemic is actually the perfect time to make plans for your future moving forward,” she says. “Now is the time to sort through your possessions, do your research and set yourself up for success in your retirement years. That way, when you’re ready and figuratively ready to make the move, you’ll have everything in place to make the transition as smooth as possible.”  For more information, please call 914-922-1000.