Sell with less hassle (but for less money)
The prospect of selling and leaving your longtime home can seem overwhelming under the best of circumstances.
But it is all the more so if you have lost your spouse, have health or cognitive issues, or need a quick sale so you can move to a better situation, such as assisted living.
The challenge is greater if the home is in poor condition, say, because of long-deferred maintenance.
Your home will fetch the highest price if it’s updated, in good repair, decluttered, cleaned and staged. But that requires time, money, energy and expertise that you — or loved ones who want to help you or will inherit your home — may lack.
In that case, you still have options: You can sell the house for a price that reflects its “as-is” condition through a real estate agent, or for a significant discount to a real-estate investor who can close quickly and for cash. You’ll take away less money in exchange for convenience.
Before you assume anything, talk with a real estate agent who specializes in helping older home sellers and buyers (search for a Seniors Real Estate Specialist, or SRES, certified by the National Association of Realtors).
The agent will visit and assess your home’s attractiveness to prospective buyers, review your situation, and connect you with people who can help with your transition. If you hire the seniors specialist to sell your home, you’ll pay a commission, typically 4 to 6% of the sale price.
You also could spend a few hundred dollars for a professional home inspection, an unbiased assessment of its condition, as well as pay for any needed repairs or replacement.
Selling “as is”
If your home could use a facelift but is functional, you could sell it in “as is” condition, meaning you won’t pay for improvements or repairs requested by a buyer.
Your real estate agent will list the home on the local multiple listing service and market it to buyers — fixer-uppers, flippers and landlords — who can envision it fixed up after they invest their own resources.
Such buyers will expect a bargain. To set the price, your agent will look at recent sales in your area of comparable homes (style, square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms) and adjust for your home’s condition. You must still pay an agent’s commission, and other seller closing costs.
Buyers can add contingencies to their purchase offer for inspection and financing. If their inspection or an appraisal required for FHA or VA financing reveals problems that you won’t pay to fix, buyers can bail out and you’re back to square one.
Furthermore, even if you sell “as is,” you must disclose to buyers any defects you know about.
Find an investor
If deferred maintenance has stacked up and you want the quickest-possible sale with the least hassle and expense, you can sell directly to a real estate investor.
Investors buy houses that aren’t “retail-ready,” said David Hicks, co-president of HomeVestors of America, also known as “We Buy Ugly Houses” — a franchisor of investors operating in 47 states.
Hicks said his investors mostly buy smaller homes built in 1980 or earlier that will appeal to entry-level buyers or renters. Homes built after 2000 generally are too large, nice and high-priced to interest investors.
After you’ve taken everything you want from the house, investors will dispose of the rest. You won’t even need to empty the trash or sweep the floors.
Before making an offer, reputable investors will come by to inspect the home and review your situation with you. They’ll base their offer on what they expect the house to sell for after it’s repaired, minus any remaining mortgage balance or other liens against it, the estimated cost of repairs and their profit. Investors should share and explain their numbers willingly.
“Investors almost always start with a 25% discount to its ultimate [repaired] retail price, simply to get to a 10% profit after the dust settles,” said Dev Horn, vice president of marketing for We Buy Houses, which connects homeowners with its investor-licensees in 30 states and about 100 cities.
Investors usually allow 30 to 60 days for you to respond to their offer, after which they’ll want to re-inspect your property, said Hicks.
If you accept an offer, the investor should make an earnest-money deposit of, say, $500. It should be held by the title company or real estate lawyer the investor hires to conduct a title search and conduct the closing. At closing, you’ll be paid with a cashier’s check or wire transfer.
To find an investor, ask for a referral from a local real estate agent, search by location at HomeVestors.com or WeBuyHouses.com, or respond to one of the “we want to buy your house” or “sell your house fast” solicitations you’ve probably received in the mail.
Look for a well-established business identity — a referral from someone you trust, verifiable references, a rating from the Better Business Bureau, or the backing of a well-established company.
A quick and dirty sale
Working with an investor was a boon for Bonajean McAneney, 53, formerly of Lowell, Massachusetts. Prior to her mother’s death in early 2018, McAneney lived with and cared for her mother for four years and subsequently inherited the family home.
Built in 1960, the house suffered from neglect and was filled with decades of belongings. “We didn’t have the money to keep it up, and it was literally falling apart,” McAneney said. Plus, she was a year behind on property taxes.
Anxious to get out, McAneney called a local real-estate investor, WinWin Properties, a HomeVestors franchisee. She accepted its offer of $115,000.
Based on a neighbor’s recent sale, McAneney knew that, in good condition, the home would have sold for almost three times as much. But selling to WinWin allowed her to take just the items she wanted, leave the rest, and start over in a home of her own, near family in another state.
© 2020 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.