Dear Donna:

My husband and I are about to begin the search for an independent living community in Michigan. We are tired of home maintenance, repairs, and being tied down. Independent living seems like a solution that offers freedom and flexibility.

We are trying to figure out a timeline for everything. We will need to significantly downsize our belongs and sell our house. While we have savings and investments to help supplement our lifestyle for a while, the equity in our home is one of our biggest assets.

As we are working on our plan, we keep getting stuck on when to put our house up for sale. Should we start the process before we find an independent living community to move to or wait until after we’ve made our transition? Any advice would be much appreciated.


Alysha in Grand Haven, MI

When to Sell the House When You Are Downsizing to Senior Living

Dear Alysha:

This is a question we are asked quite often. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. But I can offer you a few suggestions on what you and your husband should consider.

  • How soon will you need the equity from the sale of your house?

Like you mentioned, a house is often a senior’s greatest financial asset. You’ll likely benefit from creating a budget that gives you an idea of when you will need the funds from the sale of your home to help pay your monthly fees.

Then consider the health of your local housing market. In a hot sellers’ market, it may be easy to move first and then sell. You won’t have to worry about when and if your house will sell.

Bridge loans are an option to consider if the market is slower. These allow you to use the equity you have in your house to finance a move to senior living. Many only require you to pay the interest on the loan until the house sells. Once your residence is sold, you can pay off the bridge loan. A variety of banks and lenders offer these programs.

  • Can you keep the house in show-ready condition?

If you’ve ever sold a house before you know how tough it can be to keep it show-ready at all times. You never know when a realtor is going to ask to bring a client by. A clean, clutter-free house generally suggests that the house is well maintained. However, the process of downsizing and packing isn’t usually tidy.

If your budget permits, you might find it less stressful to move, clean out the house, and then hire a staging company. Professional home stagers are experts at creating an environment that attracts buyers and closes deals more quickly. They’ll even bring in enough furniture and décor to help make the home look inviting.

  • Are you willing to accommodate showings at all hours?

Potential buyers might work and have busy family schedules. Or they may be visiting from out of town and have a tight timeline. This often results in requests for early-morning or late-evening showings. When you first list your house, you may even have multiple viewings in one day. While you can restrict access to certain days and times, it might cause you to miss out on a sale.

Also keep in mind that when a home is being shown to potential buyers, the real estate agent often asks the homeowners to be absent. It is important to consider whether these interruptions will pose a hardship.

I hope these tips help you and your husband decide what option is the best fit for your budget and future plans!

Kind regards,


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