The housing market has peaked, according to the mainstream media and some economists who follow home sales closely. Much of the blame, if you can call it that, is laid at the feet of Millennials, those in the 25-to-34 age category who are buying homes at a much lower rate than their predecessor generations. According to the Urban Institute, for example, just 37 percent of those in that age category are homeowners, compared with 45.4 percent of Gen Xers and 45 percent of Baby Boomers when they were in the Millennials’ age range. It stands to reason that if those youngsters are not buying the homes of us oldsters, we are going to have a harder time selling at the prices we want, if at all.
Therefore, many of you reading this who are in the Boomer category are probably asking yourselves if this slowdown in the housing market means that the primary house you have every intention of selling in the next year or two will fetch a lower price than you hoped for, or that it will indeed be tougher to sell...and therefore keep you from following your dream of a warm-weather home. To those concerns I have a simple rejoinder, a broken record I have been playing ever since a much bigger housing recession in 2008: Don’t worry, be happy; sell your house for what the market says it’s worth, not what you think it is worth; and move to your retirement dream location.
Here’s why I sound like Pollyanna. First, if you sell your home in the North for less because of a general housing recession, chances are you will pay less for your home in the sunnier South. There is a price at which anything will sell, and your house is in that category. The market will tell you what is a fair price for your real estate. If someone offers it, take it.
Second, as I have written ad nauseum in the past, the cost to live in the South is almost invariably less than the cost in the higher-taxed North, and the difference is often dramatic. If today you spend, for example, $75,000 per year on food, utilities, transportation, property taxes, entertainment and other living expenses, you could save as much as $20,000 or more on an annual basis living in a Southern golf community, even with homeowner fees. If you stay up North and wait for your primary home to increase in price over, say, two years, you will need it to increase 10 percent over those two years on a $400,000 house to match the $40,000 you might save by moving South. That is not likely to happen in a flat market.
Here’s just one example of the potential savings. According to the cost-of-living comparison tool at BestPlaces.net, a couple currently living in Natick, MA, who chooses to move to the lakeside golf community of Savannah Lakes Village in McCormick, SC – two excellent golf courses, rural setting, adjacent to Lake Thurmond – would save nearly 48% on annual expenses. (Note: Most of that is in real estate costs; the cost of living tool averages the much lower-priced homes in town with home prices inside the community. But still, 48%?)
And, third, and perhaps the most important consideration, a non-financial one: Is waiting a year or more going to make you happy, even if you save a few dollars by selling your home at a slightly higher price? Chances are you have pointed toward a retirement place in a warm weather climate for many of your working years. You owe it to yourself to put "Serious Search for a Golf Home in 2019" on your resolutions list. Let me know if I can help. (Contact me.)