Reflections 7 Weeks After Selling Our Home and Moving into a 55+ Rental Community  

In my March 10 column (read it at www.JimSmithColumns.com), I announced that Rita and I had decided to sell our Golden home and become renters for the first time in 50 or so years for both of us. A year ago, I could not have predicted such a decision so early in our youthful 70s. I thought you’d like to know how that has worked out for us, in case I got you thinking about a similar move yourself.

Our reasoning was simple. We felt that our home, which we could (and did) sell for 2½ times what we paid for it ten years ago, was unlikely to keep appreciating, and the money we would pocket from selling could more than support us for the rest of our lives. Since I’ll continue making a good income as a Realtor for several more years, we could pay all our living expenses without touching the principal, which we have since invested half in equity stocks and half in a Transamerica annuity with downside protection. (Ask me if you’d like references to our two advisors.)

Zillow and other valuation models show our former home continuing to appreciate, which is good news for our buyer, but it’s hard to predict how much longer that will be true.  I feel we may be at or near the peak of the market. The experience with other listings in the past month suggests that, yes, the market is softening, triggered primarily by the rapid rise in mortgage rates.

So, are Rita and I happy in our new 2-bedroom/2-bath rental? The answer is a qualified “yes.” It definitely was an exercise in “letting go” to move from a 2,639-sq.-ft. home with its 3-car garage and its 2,281-sq.-ft. basement full of “stuff” into our 1,096-sq.-ft. apartment.  I made countless trips to Goodwill, plus targeted donations elsewhere. We gave three unused bicycles plus accessories to the Golden Optimists’ Bicycle Recycle program, gave our gas generator to a Habitat for Humanity group, gave our air compressor to our handyman who uses it to blow out sprinkler systems, and, most helpful of all, included virtually all our furniture in the sale of our home.

It was, in short, quite a process of letting go, not just of miscellaneous possessions accumulated over the years, but also of family heirlooms which had been passed down over the years from our two families.

We had boxes and boxes of artifacts and papers in our basement which we spent many hours culling, recycling most of it. (I didn’t quite finish and have a few boxes in storage that I will get to “sometime.”)

Yes, we rented storage space — both a long-term unit at Public Storage and two small cages in our apartment building a short distance from our apartment for short-term storage — stuff that might otherwise go in a pantry or closet if we had a larger unit.

Long before we had decided to sell and downsize, Rita and I had purchased a week-long cruise of the Mediterranean, which began three weeks after our move into the apartment. We had barely settled in by that time, and the cruise allowed us to experience living in 200 square feet for long enough to make our 1,096-sq.-ft. apartment feel rather spacious when we returned.

As I write this, another 16 days have passed, and we are finally settled in and enjoying our new digs. We spend a lot of time on our south-facing balcony with its view of Green Mountain and the foothills. We watch less TV, having “cut the cord” and subscribed to YouTube TV. We watch much less news and more Netflix movies and programs.

We are also beginning to take advantage of the many programs at Avenida Lakewood, although the press of business is keeping me from taking the yoga and fitness classes which are offered. Shown here is a picture of the sign in our elevator listing the various facilities in the building, to give you an idea of what’s offered. A recent census reported by our community manager said that 70% of the 266 residents in Avenida’s 207 occupied apartments have participated in 9 or more activities, and that 57% of February’s programs were created and led by a resident. There were 314 programs on the March calendar.  Talk about “active living”!

Continental breakfast is served daily except Sunday on the main floor and is one of many opportunities to meet fellow residents. Being on the 4th floor, we also meet people in the elevator, and everyone is super friendly. Residents don’t pass each other, indoors or on the sidewalk, without saying “hello.” This is a contrast from our single-family subdivision, where there were few opportunities to meet our neighbors. I already know more neighbors in this building than I knew in that subdivision.

Rita has made use of the full-service salon, where I have already had a haircut. Rita joined a card game and a Mahjong group, meeting additional neighbors that way. I attended the men’s group where we discussed possible events. I will be driving up Mt. Evans with some of the men after that road opens.

At this time, 95% of the apartments at Avenida Lakewood have been leased. (It was only opened in the summer of 2019.) Soon they will start creating a waiting list. Call me if you’d like to know more or be introduced to the sales staff. Don’t call me if you smoke, however. It’s not permitted anywhere in the building or on the grounds — even within your apartment or on your balcony.

In conclusion, Rita and I feel that we made the right decision. Thanks to the nest egg we created by selling our home, plus Medicare and our long-term care policies, we feel that our future is secure and we can even splurge on more vacations.

I don’t know how many communities there are like Avenida, which charges rent with no “buy-in” that would tie up capital that could otherwise be producing income. Jenn Gomer of CarePatrol told us about Avenida and we didn’t look further. I recommend calling her at 720-788-2364 if you want to know other options.

For Rita and me, we like the flexibility of our one-year lease which gives us the freedom to stay or move a year from now.

With Prices So High, Many Homeowners Are Wondering If It’s Time to Cash Out  

Rita and I are both 74 years old, and, although I have no plans to retire at this time, we have decided for various reasons to sell our home and move into a 55-plus community. Knowing that many of my readers are seniors, I’ve decided to share some of our thinking.

When you’re our age, you can’t predict when you might have to sell, so I have always recommended that seniors do it while they can instead of waiting until they have to. It is also kinder to your heirs to downsize possessions yourself rather than leave that task to them after you die.

The run-up in home prices has been breathtaking, hasn’t it? It’s difficult to predict how much longer it will last, but Rita and I do know that we can be satisfied with the proceeds we will get from selling our home now. The income from those proceeds in a TransAmerica fund that guarantees a certain return despite market fluctuations would help pay the rent for our new apartment. And, since I’m not retiring yet, I’ll continue to have an income on top of that.

Social Security, Medicare and appropriate long-term care policies for each of us can provide additional peace of mind regarding our medical needs as we age.

Our decision to move into a 55-plus community also relieved us of the biggest dilemma facing homeowners who want to capitalize on selling their current home — how to find a place to buy in a very difficult market for buyers.

While it’s nearly impossible and highly frustrating to buy in this crazed seller’s market, and while the renter’s market is also extremely tight and expensive, there are many 55-plus communities like the one we chose that have units available. In addition, it’s the nature of these places that openings become available as other residents die or move into assisted living facilities.

You’ll want a professional to help you evaluate the different 55-plus communities that exist and that are opening every year. Some, like the one we chose, are straight rentals, but others require a 6-figure “buy-in” which can eat up the proceeds from the sale of your home. I suggest hiring Jenn Gomer, who is in the business of helping seniors find the community which is a right “fit” for their specific needs. You don’t pay Jenn for that service — she receives a fee from the community you select.

The dilemma mentioned above is solved by waiting until you have signed a lease on your rental (ours starts on April 1st), then putting your home on the market with a closing date 15 days after your lease begins. That way you have a reasonable amount of time to move into your rental (using Golden Real Estate’s free moving truck, free moving boxes and affordable laborers, if you listed with us). It also gives you time to dispose of your excess “stuff.”

It has been an interesting if exhausting process to let go of the family heirlooms, mementos, and other possessions that have slowly filled our unfinished basement over the years — stuff that we have lugged from one house to the next.

The Marshall fire had a psychological impact on us, too.  We imagined if our own home were to be consumed by fire unexpectedly and we had to start over, losing everything we enjoy daily as well as all that stuff in our basement that we have been dragging along each time we bought a new home. Would we miss it? Of course, but we could live without it, couldn’t we?

There’s a freedom to be gained by releasing the past and living solely in the present. It felt good giving away things to Goodwill and other charities as well as to friends and relatives.

For example, since acquiring an electric bicycle several years ago, the three conventional bicycles we owned had been sitting unused in our basement and were never likely to see the light of day again. So we donated them, along with bicycle parts and accessories such as paniers and pumps, to the “Bicycle Recycle” program of the Golden Optimists Club, which refurbishes bicycles and donates them to low-income people. Making that donation felt great, on top of the feeling we got from clearing them and other stuff from our basement.

We thought about giving most of our furniture to victims of the Marshall fire, but realized that an estate sale was more practical and then we could donate money instead. Except for a few pieces, we’ve decided to purchase all-new furniture for our 2-bedroom/2-bath apartment at Avenida Lakewood.

It’s amazing how many papers were in boxes in our basement. I found tax returns going back to the 1980s which needed to be shredded. We also had the closed transactions of Golden Real Estate going back well beyond the number of years we’re required to retain them, and we were able to move the more recent transactions to the company’s new office in downtown Golden.

We had carpet remnants for carpeting that no longer existed at home and office. Bye-bye! We took multiple carloads of nice things that we didn’t need to Goodwill, which thankfully accepted all of it.

The wheelbarrows and gas generator that we never used but lent to Habitat for Humanity for its pumpkin patch each October are now in that organization’s own storage facility, not in our basement. 

Anyone want to buy our really sweet upright piano?

Home Buyers Have Widely Differing Needs and Motivations

During my two decades as a licensed real estate agent and Realtor, I’ve met and worked with a wide variety of buyers and gotten to know their varying needs and motivations. Allow me to share some of that with you. I’ve identified at least five categories of buyers.

First-time home buyers: This group has always enjoyed a wide variety of programs to meet their special needs. By the way, you are deemed a “first-time” homebuyer if you have not owned a home for at least 3 years.

The primary need for this group is obtainable financing. We can connect first-time buyers with lenders who require as little as $1,000 out-of-pocket to get into a home, and who offer classes for first-time homebuyers to help them succeed as homeowners.

The motivation to change from renter to owner is well understood. Homeownership is the number one method of wealth creation. Not only are the taxes and interest on your home tax deductible (with some limitations now), but your home may well appreciate in value as much as or more than what you pay for it each month. Then, when you sell, your capital gain on it will be mostly or entirely tax free. With such incentives, first-time home buyers are highly motivated and rewarded for buying a home.

Move-up buyers: Homeowners frequently need to buy a bigger home or simply want to buy a more luxurious one. Typically, this is when children are born or adopted, but with Covid-19 we’ve seen homeowners who need more space to work at home, not just temporarily but long-term. Employers have learned that workers can be highly productive working at home, and employees like the lack of commuting time and expense — but they need space for a home office.

Downsizing buyers: Empty nesters rattling around in 5-bedroom homes with lawns to mow and bushes to trim are wanting, if not needing, to have a simpler life in a smaller home — perhaps a “lock-and-leave” home where they can travel and not worry about their home while they’re gone. Many of these homeowners have long ago paid off their mortgages, or their mortgage is small enough that they can buy a newer, smaller home and live mortgage-free. Taking out a home equity line of credit on their paid-off home could provide the cash to buy the replacement home without a contingency on the sale of their current home, which also allows them time to transition from one home to the next. That’s just one strategy that I can share if you are in this group.

Investors: I don’t work much with investors, preferring to work with people who buy a primary residence, but I have broker associates with extensive experience serving this group of buyers. With the bidding wars going on currently, investors, especially fix-and-flippers, are having trouble buying homes with enough margin to make a profit on reselling them, but it can be done.

Relocation buyers: In this column last week I wrote about “climate refugees” relocating to Colorado from areas with high climate risks. Others move here for jobs or family. Such buyers need to find the right city, community and home to buy despite being new to Colorado. That’s where they need us the most. Yes, we can give them tours and answer their questions after carefully listening to their needs and wants. Before they even come to town, I like to send them listings and FaceTime them as I preview homes of particular interest. In just the past month I sold an Arvada listing to a couple from Minnesota and a Denver listing to a couple from Los Angeles. Both went under contract based solely on my video tours and only saw the home in person when they came for the inspection a week or so later. They could have terminated at that time, but they both loved the homes.  I love my job!

Downsizing Safely and Effectively in Your Senior Years

Are you thinking that now’s the time to leave your big-house life behind? If so, you’re in luck. Despite the pandemic, the real estate market is strong, interest rates are low, and it’s still a great time to sell and buy. But you can’t go into the process blindly. Here are some tips to get you started on the right track.

First on your to-do list: Work with an experienced agent like those of us at Golden Real Estate. After all, an agent who knows the area can price your home correctly and help you find the right replacement home for you. We know the local market and whether a neighborhood is senior-friendly. You can ask us questions and get knowledgeable answers about local amenities, such as public transportation, fitness centers, and local senior facilities that will enrich your life.

If you prefer to downsize into a rental unit within a senior community, we can advise you on those communities and that process too, so feel free to ask us.

We can also help you determine a budget. As a buyer, keep in mind that it’s a seller’s market, and having us on your side can help get your foot in the door. If you’re moving locally, we can also save you a bundle with our free moving truck and our in-house movers.

You want to take a look at your budget to determine what you can afford. Our preferred lenders offer free affordability calculators. They allow you to input data, such as your home price, down payment, and monthly expenses. This can help you determine your potential future living expenses.

Once you have an agent and a price range, it’s time to compare what you can afford with what you need, and then make adjustments to your list as necessary. Many seniors, according to Home Tips For Women, look for features including those which lower utility costs. These, along with things like single-level living and wide doorways, allow for greater mobility, an important consideration if you’ve already begun to experience mobility issues.

Something to keep in mind during the downsizing process is that moving into a smaller home will require downsizing your belongings as well. Once you have chosen your future home, you can evaluate the belongings in your current one. This is an emotional process which takes patience, and, ideally, you’ll have cooperation from your friends and family. It’s often best to give certain things to your children and grandchildren now so you’re not tight on space in your new home. You can use our truck for that, too (and for trips to Goodwill).

If you’re moving outside the metro area, choosing the right moving company is something else that deserves special attention. Movers charge different prices, even for what appear to be the same services. Your moving company will factor everything from whether you need an entire truck to how far you’re moving, to the overall weight of your household goods into the price. Previous clients have given us feedback on their experiences which we can share with you.

Finally, make your move while you’re in good health and don’t wait until you have to move. And let yourself enjoy the process. Your retirement is a time of change and to feel all the excitement associated with it. Moving is not always easy, but the end result of downsizing can be more financial freedom and a better quality of life during your senior years.

Downsizing as a senior presents a significant lifestyle change, but it’s one to embrace. If you still have questions, don’t be afraid to reach out to us. My broker associates and I (see below) are here to make the process as seamless as possible and can be a valuable resource not to be overlooked.

Jim Smith— 303-525-1851

Jim Swanson — 303-929-2727

Chuck Brown — 303-885-7855

David Dlugasch — 303-908-4835

Carol Milan — 720-982-4941

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Tyler Scrable — 720-281-6783

Here’s a Good Resource for Seniors

Colorado doesn’t rank high in the percentage of our population that’s 65 and over. In fact, seniors represent only 14.2% of our population, ranking Colorado 46th among the 50 states.

Recently I was made aware of a website with tons of Colorado-specific information for seniors. Here’s that website’s address: https://www.seniorhousingnet.com/seniors/senior-living-us/colorado

Investors Target Seniors & Others, Buying Homes Below Their True Value

As a long-time Realtor serving the Denver metro area, I am committed to protecting homeowners and especially seniors from being cheated out of their home’s true worth by investors who offer to buy homes for cash without putting them on the market.

Unsolicited offers in the mail or by phone should be a red flag for you. These people know what they are doing and depend on you not knowing the true value of your home.

I want to uncover people who seek to cheat you. If you get such a solicitation, call me at 303-525-1851, and I’ll tell you what you’re home is really worth. Keep in mind that investors will only make an offer that leaves room to make a big profit — at your expense.

It’s easy for any investor to go online and identify homeowners who purchased their home 30 or 40 years ago for a fraction of what it’s worth now.  It’s a sure bet that such an owner is a senior and would be impressed by a cash offer of, say, $300,000. But how will you feel a month later when that investor sells your home for $100,000 more without making any significant improvements to it? You’d feel “ripped off” — and rightly so.  Don’t let this happen to you!

You may not even want to sell your home, but the offer of a quick $300,000 could lure you into a sale which you would only regret later.

Seniors in particular can’t afford to be cheated out of their home’s equity. The money they receive needs to last through their remaining lifetime. As a senior myself, I make those same calculations about how much money I need to support Rita and me for as long as we both live.

Don’t feel that you’re imposing on me to ask for my advice, which I give free over the phone. Using my computer, I can tell you within a few minutes whether an unsolicited offer you receive is close to what your home is really worth. My computer is always on, and unless I’m away from it when you call, I can enter your address in two different programs and tell you during the same phone call what those programs say your home is worth.  If you actually do want to sell, I can refine those valuations by looking at your home’s condition and location and studying the sales of comparable homes in your immediate neighborhood. With my years of experience, this is easy for me, so please feel free to ask!

I promise that I won’t ask you to list your home with me. You’d have to raise that subject. I just want to save you from being cheated or scammed. 

In my 18 years of practicing real estate in the metro area, I have come across many scams perpetrated against homeowners of all ages, but especially against seniors.

For example, I remember how one caregiver in Lakewood convinced her elderly client with dementia to add her name to his checking account and to the title of his car and even made her a co-owner of his home. When he passed, this man’s relatives couldn’t do anything about it because all those acts were ruled legal despite the man’s dementia. That “caregiver” drained his checking account, sold the house after his death, and his relatives didn’t get a dime.

If you’re a senior, beware of people who befriend and pretend to love you. They may have ulterior motives. If you are not a senior but have a relative who is elderly and lives alone, keep in touch with him or her and ask questions. Don’t let your relative be scammed — or feel ignored by you. That only plays into the scammer’s hand.

Now, if it is time for you to give up owning a home and move into a senior community where you have no maintenance worries and enjoy the company of others your age, I have a colleague who specializes in helping seniors find the right facility. She will listen to your needs and wants and even take you to visit facilities which best meet your needs. She knows their services and their histories, both good and bad. She’ll keep you from choosing a facility that you’ll regret later. She’s motivated to find you a facility that you like, because the facility only pays her a commission if you stay there for at least 90 days.  She’s a sweet, caring person, and you pay nothing for her services.

Or perhaps you’d just like to downsize into a smaller home or one with the master bedroom, kitchen, living room  and laundry all on the main floor. That’s where I can be of service personally.  I can send you listings like that and show you ones that sound appealing.

Call my cell phone anytime at 303-525-1851.  I answer it day or evening.

Downsizing: One of Those Big Issues That We All Face As We Age

For some of us, our possessions seem to expand along with our waistline as we age.  By the time we start collecting  Social Security and enjoying the benefits of Medicare — woohoo! — our basements are full and we’re living in a house which is way too big for us. 

At least that was true for Rita and me!  Seven years ago we downsized into a two-bedroom one-story home, which will suffice for us until we need to consider assisted living. But our basement is still too full!

I’m pleased to say we’re also downsizing our physical bodies through exercise and diet — but that’s not my topic for this week!

As a Realtor, my expertise is in doing what I did for Rita and me — selling your current house and getting you into a smaller, low-maintenance home with main-floor living — but I also find myself helping with the second aspect, which is to downsize possessions.

There are three categories of possessions — stuff you want to take with you to your next home, even if it’s assisted living; stuff you want to sell because it doesn’t fit in your new home; and stuff you want to get rid of either by giving it to a thrift store or taking it to the dump. We’ve helped our clients with all three of these categories.

Perhaps you’ve considered employing an “estate sale” company to sell unwanted furniture and accessories — everything from dishes to sofas. There are several estate sale companies among the service providers on the Golden Real Estate smartphone app, which you can download on the App Store or Google Play.  Just keep in mind that estate sale companies charge up to 40% commission on the sale of your possessions. I’m not saying they don’t earn what they charge, but I have been successful more than once in getting the buyer of a home to purchase the unwanted furniture in a separate deal outside of the real estate transaction. Let me explain how I do that.

I ask my sellers to list the items (with prices) of everything they want to sell outside of closing and leave that list on their kitchen counter so that prospective buyers can see it. Then, if we get multiple bids by pricing the house right, I can usually get the winning bidder to agree to buy all the furniture at the prices listed. I did that just last month on one of my listings, and I have done it multiple times prior to that. The buyer probably didn’t want the furniture, but agreed to buy it in order to win the bidding war we created by pricing the home to attract multiple offers.

Our free moving truck is useful for the other two categories of stuff that you want to take to a thrift store or dump.  Our clients use our trucks for that purpose all the time, and I love that we’re able to provide these trucks at no cost.

Of course, it can be rather time consuming going through your possessions and deciding what to keep and what to throw away. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” She advises you to look at each item and ask, “Does this give me joy.”  If it doesn’t, get rid of it!

Here are some other thoughts shared by co-housing advocate Deb Kneale:

>Remove the things that distract you from the things you love.

>Unburden yourself and your heirs!

>If you lost this item, would you buy it again?

>Allow important things to have the space they deserve.

>Keep in mind that it feels better to do stuff than to have stuff.

>We wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. If you’re not wearing it, why keep it?

If you’d like to learn more about downsizing or “rightsizing,” there’s a panel discussion with local experts being held on March 10th, 1-3 p.m. at the Arvada Public Library, 7525 W. 57th Ave. It is presented by the Ralston Creek Cohousing community. For more info, call Tori Baker at 303-704-1268 or visit www.DownsizingAdvice.info.