Robert and Rose are in their mid 70s. They have lived in Bonner County for 25 years in a solid, three-bedroom, two-bath, 2,400-square-foot home set on a rolling 10 acres.
When they first arrived in North Idaho, Robert had an aggressive plan to make the 10 acres into a rural paradise. He acquired two of the most useful tools for living rural in North Idaho: a chain saw and a small Kubota tractor with a snow plow and backhoe attachments.
Over several years he took out diseased trees and eradicated most of the tansy, knapweed and mullein.
He built raised garden beds for Rose’s vegetables, flowers and herbs. He put up deer fencing to protect the fruit trees they planted.
Rose fulfilled a country living dream of hers, getting a chicken coop with a dozen Rhode Island Reds and Plymouth Rock hens.
At first, the chickens thrived and Robert and Rose enjoyed those bright-orange yolk eggs. Eventually though, the hawks and raccoons and other predators won out, and they turned the chicken run back into a lawn area.
They spent many happy evenings on the deck with a cocktail watching the sun set over the forested hills.
They were not city folks anymore, but they were not farmers either. They simply wanted a slower pace of life in a quiet setting, but still less than 30 minutes to town for groceries, church, health care and the occasional night out.
Twenty-five years is a long period in a time where change is happening at an accelerated pace. Twenty-five years ago it seemed like nothing would shake up the status quo of a small rural area that had not been featured in any glossy magazines and was sufficiently out of the way so as to not attract too much attention.
Twenty-five years is also a long period in the human biological aging process, and Robert began to notice it took him longer and required more effort to maintain their home and the land.
They began to notice an increased amount of traffic up and down the road in front of their property, what had been a seldom used gravel side road where they recognized most of the vehicles going by.
Larger acreages further up the road had been subdivided as those owners retired and moved away or passed on, and the heirs who didn’t live locally disposed of property they would never come to live on. A 20-acre parcel that had one small homestead on it could be subdivided into four 5-acre lots with new and large sprawling country estates.
The web of county backroads was not designed for four times the amount of traffic these were now experiencing.
They also began to feel the erosion in Robert’s fixed level of retirement income: property taxes were rising rapidly as the real estate market reflected a wave of out-of-state buyers all competing for a relatively limited supply of properties for sale. Their property was increasing in value but that was only on paper, whereas the property taxes had to be paid in real money.
With their children having busy lives of their own in distant places, there were fewer family visits, and finally they started to wonder about downsizing.
Maybe it was time to become snowbirds, to have a condo where the maintenance chores were taken care of.
With every Facebook post from their friends having fun in the sun in Arizona, the long cold gray winters of North Idaho started to become less appealing.
But the prospect of organizing and disposing of their stuff accumulated over 25 years was downright daunting.
Sometimes it’s easier to remain in a rut, even if it’s not exactly ideal. And selling their property posed even more challenges. Should they spend savings to modernize so it would sell?
Their home was comfortable, and everything worked, but it lacked the granite countertops and other sizzle elements that every HGTV home show had taught buyers to demand. And the market had turned decisively against sellers.
The first step was to develop a plan. Media headlines that screamed “plummeting market” or someone who knew someone who sold their place for X dollars obscure the facts. So they met with a local Realtor who showed them a list of properties like theirs that sold over the past year, and the properties that were currently on the market comparable to theirs.
Pricing a listing right now is a quantitative analysis. Buyers see everything, and if a property is over-priced, it will not get serious attention. Together, they came up with a series of improvements that did not cost much: re-painting the interior, power-washing the exterior, replacing tired carpet with wood-plank flooring. And de-cluttering! (repeat: de-cluttering!).
It took a few months, but Robert and Rose were able to sell within 5% of the list price.
Moving on is never easy, but it is a necessary fact of life. You can see it as overwhelming, as nothing but challenges, or as the door to new opportunities and adventure.
Seek expert advice and approach it all with patience.
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Raphael Barta is an associate broker with an active practice in residential properties, vacant land, and commercial/investment opportunities. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org