Reader Question: My wife and I plan to move to a retirement community. The plan involves selling our present home, and buying a duplex with monthly costs for services. Can you advise on buying a home in a situation where the agent handles all the details of the transaction? We are on a waiting list (deposit of $1500) that entitles us to information when a vacancy occurs. If we like the floor plan, we submit a bid. One we liked recently attracted three bidders from the waiting list of 13 eligible bidders, according to the agent. The seller asked for $205,000, and, the agent declared the winning buyer paid $240,000. I do not know what to bid when the next duplex becomes available. Do you have any tips on how to manage our bidding? Austin D.
Monty’s Answer: The method you describe sounds like a cross between an auction and a new construction project sale. There are a number of active philosophies for “owning” units in today’s senior housing world. Is this community an active 55 and older, an assisted living or a continuum of care facility? There are some unanswered questions that would be helpful to understand in providing a quality answer:
- Will they be buying your old home? If you are on your own here is an article about owning two homes that you may not need, but you may find helpful. Your offer is weak if you have a home sale contingency.
- Are these duplex units that you own in fee simple? Is the building part of a condominium plat? It sounds like you are buying one unit in a two unit building.
- Does the community employ the agent?
- ”Monthly costs for services” sounds like assisted living. Is it for nursing care or is it for HOA dues? HOA charges may typically cover water, some utilities and common area maintenance.
Knowledge is power – applied
This does not sound like a very good position from which to to negotiate. You are getting comparable sales information from an agent of the owner and it sounds like you cannot verify it. The question about fee simple ownership is that you can verify sales data at the register of deeds office. Property sellers in every state are required to record the conveyance document (deed).
Your overall financial condition is another factor. If you have built a nice nest egg, the advice may be different from someone moving in on a limited budget. The other important factor is your health. Do you have to move now? Are you both able to care for yourselves independently or is one of you wearing yourself out for the other?
6 tips to improve your position
If you have looked at all the senior housing options and this particular community is the first and only choice, you will have to play by their rules and with baby boomers aging they are playing in a sellers market right now. The rules here seem stacked in their favor. It appears they are using the waiting list to start a bidding war. Consider these tactics:
1. Ask to examine the waiting list? Can you see the sales contract for the unit that just sold for $240,000?
2. Determine for sure whether you are buying a home or if you are entering a service contract where you are buying a contract that reduces in value each month?
3. If it is a fee simple home and the agent balks at sharing, get the information from a title company. Otherwise, you are powerless to decide what to bid for the house.
4. Investigate other senior housing opportunities. The choices are limited in smaller communities, but larger cities will have a variety of options. Other parts of the country may offer more suitable options not yet considered.
5. Buy a passed over unit. If there are no other bidders, it may be possible to turn the tables.
6. Searching online for “senior housing advice” turned up many choices. Here are two with good information:
a) http://www.helpguide.org/ – housing options.
b) http://www.leadingage.org/ – a nationwide information source.
With so many options, conflicting definitions and rules of engagement in senior housing decisions, the search requires keen research and thoughtful consideration.