Housing slump affects all segments, even retireesby Tim Post, Minnesota Public Radio
The current housing slump can mean big problems for retirees. When they sell their home, it is worth less than they thought. That can mean people hoping to fund their retirement by selling a home may have to adjust their plans.
Brainderd, Minn. — Bob and Joan Campbell love their cozy two-bedroom townhome near the Mississippi River on the south side of Brainerd.
Over the past few years the couple has done a lot of work on this place. They have installed plenty of oak trim, put in a new kitchen and laid down shiny wood floors.
But for all this home's charm, the Campbell's needed more space to better accommodate their visiting children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
They bought a four-bedroom condo in the spring in the nearby town of Baxter and put this place on the market.
"When we bought the place over there we thought things were fairly good. And about the time we concluded the deal everything went to pot, so our timing was not good," Bob Campbell says.
At first the Campbell's listed their home for nearly $180,000. After a few months they dropped the price to $169,000.
Just a few days ago, their townhome finally sold after six months on the market. The winning offer came up short of what the Campbells asked for, but they're happy with how things turned out.
While the Campbell's sold their two-bedroom townhome because they want more space, local real estate broker Kevin Goedker says most retirees make a move to downsize.
"Selling their home and going into a nursing home. Or they've bought land to build their retirement home. Or they have downsized to a townhome," Goedker says.
Goedker has dealt with more retirees selling their homes over the last year.
He thinks one reason they feel pressure to sell now is because no one is sure how low the market will actually go.
"If you've got a stock that's going down, it's probably better to get rid of it sooner rather than later. Because you never know when the bottom is," Goedker says.
Selling during a housing slump means less money for what is considered the average person's biggest investment.
Chris Galler with the Minnesota Association of Realtors says that means a change for people hoping to use the equity in their home to help fund retirement.
"What they're finding today is all that equity isn't available to them because the prices have flattened out a little bit and in some marketplaces declined. So that's meant they've had to adjust their plans for that next housing move," Galler says.
But there is something in an older homeowner's favor, even during an equity stealing slump. They've probably lived in their homes for a long time.
Rona Karasik heads up the gerontology program at St. Cloud State University. Karasik says even if a retiree's house sells for tens of thousands of dollars less than it would have two years ago, it is still worth many times more than they paid.
"If they've owned a home for a very long time, it's probably still appreciated even in this softening market. But how much it's appreciated has probably shifted downward in the last few years. So if they were planning to have $300,000 they may have less than that," Karasik says.
Karasik agrees with real estate officials who say older folks ready to sell their home should probably wait a year or so while the market sorts itself out.
- Morning Edition, 12/13/2007, 6:50 a.m.