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Think before you sell

By Jennie L. Phipps · Bankrate.com
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

Factoring the value of their homes into their retirement planning was a mistake for some people. Even with real estate on the upswing, values in many communities are still lower than they were before the recent financial meltdown.

If you're considering selling your home and moving elsewhere, do careful research before you make a decision. You may not get enough from the sale to buy an appealing property. And if you are underwater on your mortgage -- or close to it -- having to bring cash to the closing table won't help your situation.

Instead, consider these suggestions from real estate experts for stabilizing your costs.

Are you paying too much in taxes? Appealing a tax assessment is a good use of your time. In most communities, there is a small, annual window of opportunity to appeal assessments. Anyone who plans to appeal should gather evidence that people in similar properties are paying less. Or get help from professionals in the area who offer this service.

Talk to your utility company. Gas and electric companies are getting federal government encouragement to help their customers make their homes more energy efficient. Many of these programs have no income limits. Talk to your utility or go to Benefits.gov and Energy Assistance.

Call your mortgage company. If you're still carrying a mortgage and your rate is higher than 4 percent, see if you can qualify for a low-rate, low-cost refinance. But remember, being mortgage-free is best when you are living in retirement.

Make your home earn its keep. Can you rent out the garage for storage? Do you have an oversize lot that would be good for weekday parking? Check out Airbnb.com or SecondPorch.com if you're willing to occasionally rent out a room or your entire home.

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