Real Estate Today

Are you moving? Exit plan vs. transition, plus questions to ask

Time to exit or enter? photo: carol issacs

An older woman who was thinking about selling her home of many years said to me: “I want to move, but I am having trouble developing an exit plan.” Hearing the word “exit” I felt myself mentally cringe as she spoke. I could feel her stress. Images of cutting all ties and going into the great unknown were swimming in my head. Simple day-to-day experiences like saying hello to the next door neighbor, walking the dog, or tasks like taking clothes to the dry cleaner take on new meaning. It sounded scary just thinking about it. No wonder this woman was having a difficult time making an exit plan.

Giving more consideration to the idea of moving, I would like to suggest a more positive approach. Think of making a transition plan. Hopefully your anxiety will reduce and possibilities will begin to appear. Whether you are a first-time home buyer, a person who has made many moves, or an older person who is downsizing and possibly moving to a retirement community, there are a number of primary things to consider and steps to be taken to make a successful life transition from one home to another.

Taking one giant exit step is a scary thought, but if you think about a transition plan with many small steps, your move will feel manageable. You may even find that you are feeling excited about your future and moving to your new home. Note my emphasis for the word “transition.” I want you to keep this thought in your mind.


Is your home more than you want to deal with? Are you feeling overwhelmed with home repairs and maintenance? Do you feel like you have moved into a different life stage and your house doesn’t fit who you are today? These are questions that lead up to asking yourself if you really want to move.

Where are you going to move? You have to know where you are going before you can leave where you are. This sounds obvious, but you would be surprised to know that many people talk about moving without having a clue where they will move. It is important to explore neighborhoods and communities, and decide where you will be most happy in the next stage of your life. Once you know where you are going, you can begin to visualize your life transition.

Why sell if you don’t have a place to move? There are folks who say they are going to take their profit and travel for a year or so and then decide what to do next. However, most people are not nomads. They need to know where they will live before they sell their homes. If nothing else, after traveling wears thin it is good to know you have a place to which you can come home.

Plan a budget for your move: Know your price range. Once you sell, do you plan to buy low in another part of the country, or downsize in the Bay Area? If you are over 55, be sure to read Propositions 60 and 90 to find out if you can transfer your tax basis to your new home. There are some counties in California where you can take your tax basis with you when you buy a new home. It is always best to talk to accountants about the tax implications of your move.

There are many choices today in San Francisco: Would you prefer to live in a building with an elevator and a doorman or possibly a retirement community? Would you consider another part of the Bay Area or another state where costs are lower and weather is warmer than San Francisco?

Ask questions about anything and everything that comes to mind: This is generally the best way to eliminate stress and plan a successful transition.


Sellers rule in today’s market, and if you need a month or so after close of escrow, it is not unreasonable to make that known at the time you list your property. Older people often need to take time to downsize their lives. Often this is easier once you know your house is sold. Then you will know how much money you have, where you are going, and what you can take to your new home. Be sure to work with an agent who will negotiate for you to stay in your home for a period of time after close of escrow if this is important to you.

An experienced agent will have a team of people who can clean, paint, stage, and prepare your home for sale. You do not need to do this on your own, and once the job is done go out and look for an agent to sell your home. For most people, doing it themselves would make moving difficult if not impossible. Plus you may spend money on projects around that house that will not pay off in a higher sale price, and in the end you may end up with less money for your next home. Having your agent to support you through the process of preparing and selling your home will smooth your life transition. You will be able to focus on where you are going and your plans for the future.

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Carole Isaacs is a Realtor with McGuire Real Estate, where she is a Top Producer. Follow her on Twitter @CaroleIsaacs or visit her online at or call 415-608-1267.