Empty Nesters: Best to Remodel or Time to Sell?

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Your children have finally moved out and you and your spouse now live alone in a four-bedroom colonial (or a similar type of house). You have two choices to make:

  1. Remodel your house to fit your current lifestyle and needs
  2. Sell your house and purchase the perfect home

Based on the record of dollars spent on remodeling and renovations, it appears that many homeowners are deciding on number one. But, is that the best long-term solution?

If you currently live in a 3-4-bedroom home, you probably bought it at a time when your children were the major consideration in determining family housing needs. Along with a large home, you more than likely also considered school district, the size of the property and the makeup of other families living in the neighborhood (example: you wanted a block with other kids your children could play with and a backyard large enough to accommodate that).

Remodeling your home to meet your current needs might mean combining two bedrooms to make one beautiful master suite and changing another bedroom into the massive walk-in closet you always wanted. However, if you live in a neighborhood that historically attracts young families, you may be dramatically undermining the value of your house by cutting down the number of bedrooms and making it less desirable to the typical family moving onto your block.

And, according to a recent study, you will recoup only 64.4% of a remodeling project’s investment dollars if you sell in the future.

Your home is probably at its highest value as it stands right now. Instead of remodeling your house, it may make better financial sense to sell your current home and purchase a home that was built specifically to meet your current lifestyle and desires.

In many cases, this well-designed home will give you exactly what you want in less square footage (read less real estate taxes!) than your current home.

Bottom Line

If you are living in a house that no longer fits your needs, at least consider checking out other homes in your area that would meet your lifestyle needs before taking on the cost and hassle of remodeling your current house.

The Importance of Home Equity in Retirement Planning

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We often discuss the difference in family wealth between homeowner households and renter households. Much of that difference is the result of the equity buildup that homeowners experience over the time that they own their home. In a report recently released by the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), they reveal how valuable equity can be in retirement planning.

Craig Copeland, Senior Research Associate at EBRI, recently authored a report, Importance of Individual Account Retirement Plans and Home Equity in Family Total Wealth, in which he reveals:

“Individual account retirement plan assets, plus home equity, represent almost all of what families have to use for retirement expenses outside of Social Security and traditional pensions. Those families without individual account assets typically have very low overall assets, so they have almost nothing to draw from for retirement expenses.”

The report echoed the findings of a working paper, Home Equity Patterns among Older American Households, authored by Barbara Butrica and Stipica Mudrazija of Urban Institute. Fannie Maehighlighted these findings for their blog The Home Story this past winter, quoting Butrica and Mudrazija:

“For most adults near traditional retirement age, a home is their most valuable asset — dwarfing retirement accounts, other financial assets, and other nonfinancial assets. Although relatively few retirees tap into their home equity, having it provides financial security… In fact, many retirement security experts argue that the conventional three-legged stool of retirement resources — Social Security, pensions, and savings — is incomplete because it ignores the home.”

USAToday interviewed two area experts to comment on the EBRI report. Randy Bruns, a private wealth adviser with HighPoint Planning Partners, agreed with the findings:

“Social Security and home equity are major pieces of the retirement puzzle.”

Wade Pfau, Professor of Retirement Income at The American College of Financial Services and author of Reverse Mortgages: How to use Reverse Mortgages to Secure Your Retirement, said having the equity without a plan to use it won’t help:

“Home equity is a very important asset for American retirees, and so it is important to think about how to make best use of home equity in retirement planning.”

Bottom Line

Whether you use the equity in your home through a reverse mortgage or by selling and downsizing to a less expensive home, it should be a crucial piece of your retirement planning.

Love Thy Neighbor

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One of the best thing about being a REALTOR is the opportunity to help people you really love. I had the pleasure of helping my neighbor sell his home of 57 years (original owner) as he moves forward into a new adventure with his life. We were blessed to have Keat as our neighbor and will miss him very much. But, a sweet young couple now takes over to care for a home well loved. While I believe in treating all of my clients like family, Mr. Keat is a special person who I love dearly. This was a good week.