Selling Your Parent's House
Selling The Parents House?
After selling homes for over 30 years, I’ve gone through the life cycle of a real estate agent. When I started out, I had a lot of first time homebuyers. Then those buyers needed a bigger house, so they sold their house and purchase another. Midway through the lifecycle, many of my client’s needs started to change. They learned what is important to them and many have had some success in their careers. Their next move is the dreamhouse or the move up house. Maybe some of them now want land or a custom-built home. Maybe they just want a home they finally feel they deserve.
Next, their kids are now graduating and they begin to think about sizing down to a smaller home, a condo, or a combination of a winter home and a smaller home/condo. At the same time, I have started helping their kids find their first home, so the cycle starts again, keeping me young.
Lately, a common situation I seem to be working on is past clients needing to sell their elderly parent’s home. Maybe their parents have passed away or need to go into assisted living. Maybe they just need something much smaller that they can maintain better. This situation is becoming more and more common. The mindset of the sale is much different when I’m visiting the family home, where parents have been for 50 years, than a family needing to get the most value out of their house.
My 25 years as a hospice volunteer helps me prepare for this situation. Most family members are overwhelmed by the process of not only cleaning out the house, but the emotional toll as well. I try to be as empathetic as possible and show patience and understanding knowing that they have to process this situation at their own speed.
More often than not, one family member is stuck with the bulk of the decisions because they are the only person local. Other family members from out of town are quick to give orders about what needs to be done, and at a distance its easy to make decisions. But the sibling who is stuck with the bulk of the work at the house has to decide what to do with family photos, has to decide if it’s worth the time to have the dishes assessed to see if there is any value, or to give up the Christmas collectibles.
The advice I give is largely based on what other clients of mine have done. Sometimes it takes families a year to go through the stuff and remove everything; sometimes it’s two weeks. Dumpster? Auction? Garage/tag sale? Spend money on improvements? Those decisions are pretty easy compared with what to do with the items that have sentimental value, so I never go into the situation with an idea of when the best time to put the house on the market will be. Time will tell when the timing is right.
This is where patience and understanding comes in.
By this time in the process, it’s usually not about the money. The house will sell. The contents will be sold, donated or thrown away. The important part is how the siblings feel after the fact. I hope to bring peace to the situation, ensuring that it’s what the parents would have wanted and leaving the kids with no regrets. If you are coming up on a situation like this, feel free to contact me so we can have a conversation sooner rather than later.