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Seniors Series 2022: Challenges and opportunities for senior homebuyers

Despite real estate market shift, this remains 'a really good time to sell'
David Stark.

Shifting real estate markets in the Bay Area and in Pleasanton and recent state legislation are creating opportunities for seniors who want to buy or sell a home.

"It's a good opportunity to sell. You may not have as many multiple offers as you would have last year, but it is a really good time to sell," said Sheila Cunha, 2022 president of the Bay East Association of Realtors.

Compared with both 2020 and 2021, the number of homes on the market has increased significantly. There were 86 single-family detached homes for sale in Pleasanton during last month, compared with 40 during July 2021 and 51 during July 2020.

More choices for homebuyers, along with buyer concerns about rising interest rates, have led to homes staying on the market longer and sellers adjusting their expectations about how much buyers are willing to pay. However, while sales prices have dropped since March, they are still at record-setting levels. This has led some buyers to back off on purchasing a home.

Cunha said, "While it might take you a bit longer to sell your house today, you can still get a lot more for it than compared with a few years back."

For seniors in Pleasanton who haven't been in a real estate transaction recently, Cunha said selling a home now may be a different experience.

"The selling process is so different than 20 years ago," Cunha said. "You definitely want to get a qualified agent that knows the area, get a pest inspection and a home inspection because that tells you about the condition of your house and lets you know if you need to address any issues while you've been in your home."

Cunha said the more paperwork a seller needs to review also means there's more protection against potential liability. "There's a lot more to selling real estate than putting up a for-sale sign in front of your house. You have to make sure that you're protected and dealing with an ethical Realtor."

Because buyers now have a few more choices, selling a home as-is, especially if the seller is the original owner, may not be the best strategy.

"You need to do a little something to it if you can because people have choices, and if you're going to sell your home as-is, you may not get top dollar," Cunha said. "If you're working with a Realtor who has access to contractors, there are ways to update your home economically. It does make a difference. Decluttering is a great place to start, painting the home and taking a look at the flooring."

Seniors in the market to purchase a home may have an edge on other buyers. California voters approved Proposition 19 in 2020 to allow homeowners aged 55 and older to transfer their property tax rate to another home anywhere in California.

"The fact that you can move anywhere you like now and not take a property tax penalty is good," said Jordan Levine, vice president and chief economist of the California Association of Realtors.

Levine said that senior homebuyers may have other advantages over buyers.

"They have probably accumulated more wealth, have more home equity, and even though inventory has risen, and the market isn't quite as competitive as it was -- it's still pretty competitive." Levine said, adding that seniors may be able to make a larger, more competitive down payment.

Editor's note: David Stark is chief public affairs and communications officer for the Bay East Association of Realtors, based in Pleasanton.

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