A psychiatrist in his 60s is itching for the sale of his family’s architect-designed contemporary house. But his wife, already retired, is resisting his wish to downsize to an apartment.
As this true tale illustrates, it can be tough for empty nesters to finalize their future housing plans.
“Many older couples just fly by the seat of their pants on the selling decision,” says Eric Tyson, co-author of “Personal Finance After 50 for Dummies.”
Housing analysts say the argument for letting go of a property at this point in the economic cycle is bolstered by statistics.
On average, sellers are now obtaining a 29.7 percent return on investment compared with their original purchase price, says Daren Blomquist, a senior vice president at Attom Data Solutions, (attomdata.com), which tracks housing markets throughout the country.
But Blomquist says the data show that many longtime homeowners, including empty nesters, are resistant to selling.
Cary Carbonaro, a certified financial planner in the field for more than 20 years, says it’s not up to those in her profession to go beyond their role as advisers to clients struggling to reach the right housing choices.
“Where they live is really a personal decision,” says Carbonaro, author of “The Money Queen’s Guide: For Women Who Want to Build Wealth and Banish Fear.”
Here are a few pointers for homeowners torn about selling:
-- Factor lifestyle plans into your decision-making.
As Carbonaro notes, some parents of grown children relish the idea of downscaling to a smaller place that imposes fewer upkeep demands.
But other empty nesters wish to hang on to the large family property where they’ve raised kids because they want to take advantage of the extra space in new ways.
“They turn their kids’ rooms into fun rooms for themselves -- media rooms, hobby rooms or exercise rooms,” she says.
Still, Tyson cautions empty nesters against clinging to the big house with the uncertain hope it will become the hub for many extended family gatherings.
“It’s so hard to project ahead about where your grown children will be living or how much time they’ll have to spend with you once they get busy with their own lives,” he says.
-- Seek outside advice to gain perspective.
By going through a professional group, such as the National Association of Personal Financial Planners (napfa.org), you can locate a planner you can hire for just a few hours to discuss your empty-nest housing issues.
In addition, Tyson recommends that you consider seeking out advice through a certified public accountant who has also been trained as a “Personal Financial Specialist” (PFS). The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants awards this designation. You can locate a PFS in your area by visiting the organization’s website, aicpa.org.
-- Include financial factors in your decision-making.
Obviously, many people reach the kids-are-gone stage with years left in their careers and a strong desire to continue working. But that doesn’t mean they can afford to be oblivious to their future needs for retirement income.
“A fair number of boomers have under-saved for retirement,” Tyson says.
If you’re in this category -- and your home has appreciated substantially -- selling could open the way for investments that are potentially more lucrative.
“I’m talking about freeing up money from your current house by moving to a property that has a smaller mortgage and is less expensive to maintain,” he says.
If your offspring are still in college or grad school, you may have pledged that you’ll cover the full cost of their tuition payments. Still, there could be alternatives open to you.
Maybe you’ll want to meet with financial aid officers at your students’ schools to discuss alternative ways to help offset their tuition costs. For example, maybe they’d be eligible for scholarships, fellowships or work-study programs you didn’t know about previously.
-- Don’t delay charting your housing plans.
Some people appreciate the expanded freedom that comes with an empty-nest life. But others are depressed after the last child leaves.
“A lot of times people are in denial. They run away from making hard choices, such as whether to sell the big house and move,” Tyson says.
He says those in a funk about their new status as empty nesters can squander several years failing to explore and consider alternatives to staying put in their current home.
“It’s a huge mistake to rush into a decision about selling your home. But postponing your plans is also a really bad idea,” Tyson says.
(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)