There are right ways and wrong ways to go about rightsizing, home selling, and selecting your new home, and it’s never fun having to experience the “learning curve,” especially if it’s been many years since you have moved. The process of home selling has changed greatly thanks to technology and the invention of the Internet. Expectations by Buyers are also very different these days, making an experienced agent invaluable for guidance and advocacy. Remember, feeling that the move (the house, the contents, choosing where to move, setting up a new home) will be overwhelming is normal!
In my role as my Team’s senior move specialist, my joy is to work along with our real estate agents to help our older adult clients navigate the entire process with a complete array of resources and services in full support, all the way through settlement and beyond.
Previously in this newsletter, I provided guidance on choosing the right agent, what happens during the home visit by the agent including an examination of market analysis & pricing, timing of the sale, and staging. Next steps for navigating the process?
Where are you going? This is one of the first questions your Agent should ask in order to understand the overview of your needs and to create your best path. Different and common scenarios include moving to a condo or one-level home, in with adult children, moving out of state to retirement meccas such as Florida and Arizona, and moving to local retirement communities. One of my passions is making sure that Sellers are as educated as possible about all of the choices available to them. Many people don’t know the very important differences between 55+, CCRC, Independent or Assisted Living communities and the health and financial formats for each can vary greatly. For example, some communities require health as well as financial clearances, some have buy-in fees and some do not. Some are fee-simple ownership and some have leases, even if they appear to be similar. If you are moving to a location that has not incorporated safety features found in “universal design” construction, be sure to ask for resources for the specialty companies who install grab bars for example, as these can literally be life-savers. Sometimes in-home care is needed if your loved one has been ill and needs help in the interim before the move. I take pride in being able to share these resources as well.
Senior Living Search:
Did you know that there are specialists who can help with your research into the various kinds of senior living communities? Life Care Managers are able to help guide you to the communities that would be your best fit and are also able to provide assessments for level of care, family counseling, and to be a part of the conversation between legal and financial advisors for families when a move is happening quickly or unexpectedly due to health events or the loss of a loved one. Sharing this resource with my clients is often a life-saver for families when events feel overwhelming and an expert is needed.
Downsizing possessions is your next target. Ideally you have been chipping away at this task well ahead of time, as it can be a lot to tackle simultaneously with preparing your actual home. You will want to have a grasp of the square footage and storage you’re leaving and those figures for where you’re moving to, and you’ll also want a space plan to help you decide what you will want to take and, more importantly, what will fit, look great and serve you in your new home. Once you know what you’re taking, decide what you’d
like to offer to family and friends if treasured heirlooms or larger pieces just don’t work in the new space. Hold on to everything else in order to research and have the best outcome from a potential estate sale. The more items you have, the larger the sale, the more likely you are to have a higher-dollar final sale, so don’t let your items be “cherry-picked” prior to having a professional consult with an estate sale expert. Then you can identify what items aren’t saleable and arrange for donation and maybe a tax benefit. Finally, you may need your home to be “cleared” of any last items, which can be done by friends & family or by a professional hauler.
If it’s been years since you have moved, you should rely on your Agent for recommendations for a trusted professional mover who is well-established and also offers short and long-term storage. For short-distance and smaller moves, some real estate firms offer free moving trucks as a convenience and cost-savings to their clients. Move Managers, also called Transitioners or Downsizers, are a relatively new type of moving service and they can be a boon to you if you are overwhelmed, busy, distracted, and in need of “more” than what an ordinary moving company is able to provide. These providers can help coordinate work being done to prepare the home for selling, estate sale processes, space planning the new home, sorting, packing, the actual move, unpacking and setting up on move-in day. Think boxes gone, pictures hung, clothes in closets and beds made. They are an amazing resource and the best ones work closely with your Agent.
Power Of Attorney:
I have many stories about the problems my clients have faced when they did not have a Power of Attorney in place. Many clients have one that turns out to be non-functional due to being old or “stale” or written without sufficient detail such that it is not enforceable. Make sure you have one, and make sure it’s recent and air-tight! Unforeseen health events that cause homeowners to be unable to complete contracts during the home selling process have caused a lot of heartache, trouble, expense and complete destruction of planned-for timelines in the sale/move/purchase timetable. Consulting your current attorney, or better yet, upgrading to an elder law specialist, is one of the best things you can do for yourself, your spouse, and your family.
Even though the demands of selling and moving make you extremely busy in the short term, this is still a time when it is ideal to revisit or create the best financial structure for your future. Think both big and small picture. Having guidance for the savviest ways to handle your homeselling profit, your retirement community’s buy-in expenses, understanding capital gains, etc. are important opportunities to design the best outcome for the long term. For the day-to-day, I like to make sure there is awareness of professionals called Daily Money Managers. They are exactly what they sound like and are an important resource for people who no longer want the tasks associated with managing their finances, who are struggling to maintain them due to health reasons or the demands of technology, and perhaps most importantly for spouses who are at sea if the managing spouse becomes ill and is no longer able to maintain the household accounts. I strongly encourage all of my clients to consult with a Daily Money Manager as part of their pre-crisis planning, and if health issues are already looming, do not wait to learn about this service and put it in place. The opportunity for teamwork between the professional and both spouses is a golden one, and early intervention means that the ill spouse can be a part of the hand-off, and that a non-managing spouse can have peace of mind should anything unexpected occur going forward.
In the spirit of understanding there’s a lot going on when you’re selling your home BUT you don’t want to miss out on any resources to which you are entitled, please know about the Veterans Administration’s “Aid & Attendance Benefit” which can provide monthly income for Veterans and their spouses at the Assisted Living level of care. Having an elder law attorney who is certified to guide you on eligibility and the chance to learn about how he or she can help you to structure your assets to better position you for eligibility is an opportunity you don’t want to miss. Again, think pre-crisis research and planning!
For the past several years, twenty-five percent of all home sellers in the U.S. have been 65 years old or older. Being a home seller is a powerful position to be in both as a group and as an individual! I believe in harnessing all of the resources available to my clients with an emphasis on educating and supporting them along the way. My goal is for my clients to have the smoothest transition possible, with the clearest path to an organized, relaxed, risk-managed new and easier lifestyle!
Victoria Hathaway is the Director of The Silver Group of the Bob Lucido Team of Keller Williams Integrity. She is a Realtor, Certified Senior Advisor (CSA), Certified Senior Housing Professional (CSHP), Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES), Board Member of the Coalition of Geriatric Services (COGS), and serves the Aging Studies Advisory Board, Johns Hopkins University. She may be reached at 410-979-4284 or via email at [email protected]