Owning a home these days isn't always a blessing. Especially as you near retirement, it can get in the way of moving to a place where you'd rather live. Sometimes you can't sell a house at all. Other times, you can't sell it for enough to pay off the mortgage. And even if there is no mortgage, you may not get enough out of the sale to finance your retirement planning dreams.
Walter Hall, chairman of HouseSavvy, which analyzes housing market trends, says, "It's tough for a lot of people near retirement age. I would say 25 percent to 30 percent of people that age who own homes are between a rock and a hard place. They have no equity; many are underwater; and what they have planned on for retirement has gone away."
If you're one of those people, here's Hall's advice:
Decide whether it's worth it to hold on and sell later. Hall says his company believes that the market will normalize sometime within the next half-dozen years and after that, housing values will climb about 3 percent per year. So if you have a $200,000 house and you stay put for five years, the price may go up $10,000 or maybe more.
What's the condition of your home? If the house isn't in good shape, and you're intent on selling it, Hall recommends adjusting the price accordingly instead of trying to fix the big problems. "Improvements don't mean much of an improvement in price," Hall says. "Buyers just don't attach the same value and don't appreciate what it cost you."
Become a landlord. Rental rates are going up in many areas for the first time in years. Hall says that as long as you don't have a mortgage, have a good rental contract and a network of people who can help maintain the property, the "profits can be attractive."
Face reality and stay where you are. Spending money to add things like a walk-in shower or a higher commode, more insulation and an upgraded heater, or even such luxuries as a first-floor master bedroom suite or an elevator can pay off if it allows you to live comfortably in the same place for another 20 years.