Frank Talk – Downsizing with Seniors

Downsizing With SeniorsWe all age, and the older we get the tougher life can get-especially when it comes to taking care of our home. So many U.S. Citizens are seniors! It’s estimated that by 2030 over 71 million Americans will be over the age of 65. One of the biggest issues for seniors is downsizing the home to something accessible and manageable and affordable. Brittle bones hate stairs. Eyes get weaker, hearing diminishes as we age and taking care of a large home can be just plain difficult. It’s very hard for many to give up the family manse, where so many memories linger around every corner, behind every door. There’s the rec room with the pool table no one has used in years, the huge China hutch full of grandma’s full set that last saw light a decade ago at the last family Thanksgiving. In some cases there’s the tiny graves in the backyard of family pets. 

This is an emotional life change and I believe you need the best real estate practitioner you can get who understands not just the emotions that go along with moving from the family home but all the details and energy it takes to pack, purge and find a new home/location. I have helped hundreds of seniors in my career and was one of the first REALTORS to not just achieve the ‘Senior Real Estate Specialist’ designation but actually teach REALTORS how to work with senior housing issues and possibilities. Sometimes you’ll move in with family. Other times you just want a smaller home or condo, and even more specifically, a condo or home in a 55+ community or need assisted living. The vibe for some is ‘this is my last big decision before end of life’ and it can be very emotional for everyone in the family. 

Often the senior is so entrenched in the home with a great deal of personal possessions it seems like an impossible task to downsize and move. I know as I had to hire an expert to help me move (I’m a senior) as my storage area was 2000 sq. ft of stuff from as far back as when I was in college!  My friend Linda owns a terrific company similar to the Marie Kondo organizing method and she spent several days with me going through my junk to see if it needed to be packed and moved, stored again, donated to charities or sold through a consignment shop. Originally when I decided to move from a condo to a home all I could do was just look at the piles of stuff and sigh. I have ADHD and couldn’t really accomplish much, so Linda gently took each item and showed it to me and had me decide to keep, donate or try and sell…one by one.  I recommend her to everyone! 

Generally, I sell senior properties in ‘as-is’ condition as often they have not been updated recently. This doesn’t mean the senior should hide any major defects in the property, and per sales protocols in Utah we have you fill out a ‘seller’s property disclosure’ where you answer several pages of questions about the home. That is, if you are the owner and still alive! Otherwise, the heirs can’t usually fill this out because they haven’t lived in the property at all or not for many years. If for example the potential buyer that has an accepted contract by the estate has a home inspection that finds there has been a water leak in the roof that you didn’t know about, you can offer to repair the leak area or give the buyer a monetary concession/price reduction to fix it themselves. 

Most common things found wrong on a home inspection: 1) roof leaks/aged roof, 2) sewer line is cracked/broken, 3) furnace has a cracked combustion chamber so the whole furnace must be replaced, 4) water heater is on its last legs, 5) electrical issues like wires in the attic not in proper junction boxes, double tapping in the main electric panel, 6) plumbing leaks. Sellers have the option to offer a one year Home Warranty to a buyer for mechanical issues that could arise in the property at closing for @$600 that might satisfy a buyer who’s found some issues in the home or condo. Home Warranties do not cover roofing or foundations. 

Sadly, with all the new construction and high rises going up in the Salt Lake Valley (14,000 apartments are under construction), few if any are being built for senior-only living. There are literally just a handful of senior designated housing projects, and units only come on the market once someone has passed or must go to fully assisted living. Most seniors are not aware of housing options because they haven’t shopped for a home in decades. I’m more than happy to tour the senior and/or the family to see different types of options within their price range. 

The senior(s) could also sell their property but find that they don’t have enough funds to purchase something else and might be faced with finding a rental to suit their needs. PLEASE let me help you investigate a Reverse Mortgage-you can BUY with a reverse mortgage and NEVER make another payment again!  How does that work? These loans are insured by FHA:  You don’t need a job or great credit to get this mortgage, but not all lenders are versed enough to counsel you about the RM options so let me refer you to a lender you can talk to about all the details if you think you might want to purchase something using a Reverse Mortgage.

Don’t be overwhelmed, just pick up the 2000lb phone and let’s talk as to how I can help you and/or your senior downsize today!  Finally, here’s some other great local resources:

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