Time to Move on?

By Karen Cifala

The holiday seasons can be a good time to start some thoughtful family discussions while all together. For instance, how can we help guide our parents or our spouse in the decision to sell the family home when staying is no longer a safe or wise choice? It’s sad but true that too many seniors continue to live in homes which do not meet their mental or physical needs.

The main reason to stay for many is the fear of selling their home. Getting to the root of the trepidations is an important aspect in helping a senior make the decision to sell. People worry about becoming “victims” of the lack of comfort and stability. It’s like people who stay in bad marriages, or stressful jobs: they stay because it’s better than the unknown.

The unknown about the future can be very unsettling, and the two biggest fears for most people about the future are health (44%) and finances (26%). Loneliness also plays a role because aging itself can generate loss of independence, along with the death of a spouse, the absence of companionship when someone is ill, and isolation when one can’t get out on one’s own.

Amazingly 68% of seniors live in their homes for more than 30 years!

Years in home % of seniors
0-20 22%
21-30 10%
31-40 26%
41-50 34%
50-60 8%

Fear of change tops the charts when seniors start to think about moving, along with fear of downsizing, as well as emotional and financial concerns. Another question I have uncovered is this: If they sell, do they need to bring their home up to code? It really depends on who buys the house and if there are safety issues that might need to be addressed to satisfy the buyer’s lender. If someone hasn’t bought or sold a home in 30 years, there will be quite a shock with the number of regulations that have been put in place.

Wanting to move is not generally on an older person’s agenda, but creating a new lifestyle might be. The daunting chore of maintaining a home—or health issues—might be a driving force behind a decision to move.


Recommendations for discussing a move with elders

Acknowledging their fears, and dealing with them in a forthright manner.

Gathering information through professionals who can help. These include a financial planner, a senior real estate specialist, and senior placement services that can offer guidance as to which type of housing would best serve them. At some point, it might be time to consult personal property liquidators like an estate sale specialist, a home organizer or downsizers, and appraisers for valuables.

Common questions families might discuss

When is the right time to begin the move process;

Where is the next home going to be;

How much will it cost and what is actually affordable;

What is the current home worth;

Do repairs or maintenance need to be done;

When is the appropriate time to make the move;

Should we rent or sell the family home.

The short answer: It’s never too early to begin the psychological process just because the actual move may be months or years away. Careful planning, along with consultations with family, friends, and advisors will help formulate the answers to these questions. I can tell you from experience that many wrong decisions are made during a crisis. Whether or not the elder is comfortable or capable of handling the prep work to get the house ready to sell will determine when the move should occur.

When considering renting the home you might think about the plans for the house in the future. Also, whether renting out the property is a temporary solution to give a senior “psychological room” to give up their home. Then there is the question about how you or your family feel about being a landlord, and whether the option is economically feasible.

Try to recognize Fantasy Real Estate vs. Real Estate when undertaking a move with an elderly person. They may say they are ready to sell, but the roadblock signs of negative responses to a sales price or making the home difficult to show means they are not really ready. Have a heart to heart talk with a plan in mind, and agree to not proceed until Fantasy becomes Real.

The worst decision is to do nothing. Do not keep the property vacant—this can be problematic in itself and only delay the decision making.

Most importantly, if you are a senior reading this article, consider this a time that you can look inside yourself and ask if your current lifestyle is what you have worked toward all your life and is one you want to sustain. If it’s right, then by all means stay and enjoy the home for years to come. Unfortunately, we never know how long we will live or how long our good health will last, so think clearly and honestly.

Karen Cifala is a realtor and senior real estate specialist who works for REMAX ROOTS in Berryville. She can help with referrals and practical solutions. Reach her by email at kcifala@gmail.com or call her at REMAX 540-955-0911.