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When You Don’t Think You Are Doing Enough…You’re Doing All You Can

Working with seniors and their children has taught me one thing — moving from a long time home is one of the most difficult moves you can make, especially when age has dictated that move! Many of my articles over the years have focused on planning for the future, seeking out advice so that you are prepared for life’s changes and making sure you avoid crisis management. For some, planning is in their nature and those fortunate people avoid many of life’s difficulties as well as escape crisis management.

When Parents Need Urgent Help With Their Move

Most of us we react to life’s challenges, waiting for the inevitable and then begin our action plans based on the challenge at hand. All too often, the calls my wife Jeanne and I receive are more like 911 calls needing immediate attention and action as a crisis has inspired the caller to seek out our help. The person on the other end of the call is more often the child of a senior who needs immediate help with mom or dad who has had a health change  that may mean a move from their parent’s long time home. The reason we are receiving the majority of calls from the child instead of the senior is partly due to the ‘great recession’ which began in 2006. Yes we are coming out of the real estate downturn, but far too many of us stayed in the home when a move was necessary for health and lifestyle reasons. Many of you decided to ‘wait out’ the recession until home prices rebounded which left far too many older adults in increasingly unhealthy situations. The home that you loved for so many years that was a labor of love slowly morphed into a labor!

I would love to think all of you who have read my articles over the last 10 years have acted on my advice by preparing for the time when a move to a new home is the best answer to your ever-changing lives. Experience has taught me that giving advice is one thing but I have come to understand human nature will do just about anything to avoid change — especially moving from a long time home. In my new book, “Guiding Our Parents in the Right Direction”, I talk about the dynamics of this change and how families can better cope with the move when planning for the most part has not occurred and this change is at your family’s doorstep. Family dynamics are complex and replete with differing viewpoints as to what should be done when an immediate move is necessary. A child of the senior feels that they are not doing enough or don’t know what it is they should do or where to begin to help mom or dad. This can feel like guilt and add to the emotional mix of feelings from the past between siblings who need to come together at this critical time. The parent feels that they are placing an unwanted burden on their children and will do anything to avoid adding to their children’s already busy lives.

Therefore, planning for any event in your lives can be a great sound bite, but living reality is another. Whether you are the parent who is faced with an immediate move, or the child who wants to help mom or dad navigate through this complex process, know there is plenty of help at hand. Know that professionals are ready to assist your family with all of the services you will need. These service providers are available and ready to assist your families through this difficult time by offering the right advice at a critical time in your lives. The point of this article is to let you know that whether you are the child or the senior moving, you are not alone. You are part of the fabric of life that has a common thread which is rich in texture and color and complex in design. You are not alone and know that there is help at hand. Your family will get through this process if you let others help guide you. Professionals are ready to assist and provide the information you need at this critical time. These service providers include: elder law attorneys, financial advisors, social workers, senior real estate specialists, downsizing and packing companies, estate sale companies, contractors, movers and many others. It is critical that you find referrals from those who have already used these companies so that you get the best information possible. Trying to navigate this move on your own is not recommended. By seeking out the right advice and direction from those who offer the advice and services you need, you will get through this challenge in the best way possible. If a moving change is at your doorstep, remember these words as you enter; you are not alone!

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When there is No Help from Your Parents…It’s just You and the home to sell

As our parents are living longer, well into their 80’s and 90’s, far too many older adults have memory issues included several types of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease. Other situation where no help from our parents is available is the passing of both parents and one child designated as the personal representative of the estate or executor of the estate. In both situations, you as the child must make all decisions about the sale of the home with no help from the owner of the home … your mom or dad.

Always Consult the Professionals

It is important to consult professionals who will guide you through the process of probate and other issues affecting the sale of the home you are inheriting. To complicate matters, often there are siblings who will be included in this inheritance and not all are on the same page. I’ve seen so many cases where the child designated as the personal representative of the estate has been entrusted to make all decisions for the liquidation of an estate with siblings and their partners offering advice and in some cases some mistrust of the of the intentions of the executor of the estate.

Therefore, I would first recommend finding an elder law attorney or counsel that specializes in estate probate. In some cases this is not possible due to the minimal proceeds from an estate. I will discuss that in a moment. Assuming the amount of the property and estate is somewhat substantial, have a third party attorney can keep all members of the family on the same page with decisions directed from the professional. There are issues of taxes as well as complying with the laws affecting the location of the property in question. A mistake in this area can be costly and upsetting to all family members who are involved in the inheritance.

Once an attorney is on board, they will direct the personal representative as to what steps to take and when to take them. In regards to a home that must be sold, I would advise calling a Senior Real Estate Specialist to meet at the property and offer a game plan. They will provide comparables so that you will have a choice of fixing up or selling as is. As I always recommend, no matter what the condition, repair any major defects, especially basement issues. If you try to sell a property with a major defect, plan on a substantial drop in price, up to 60%! That is a huge discount when the repair may only cost 2-3% of the sale price. The Realtor will also offer choices as to the different price levels you can expect based on the repairs done or not done.

Now that you have an attorney directing you as well as a Realtor game plan and price, you can then begin the marketing of the home. Make sure all of your siblings are involved in the meetings with the attorney and Realtor so that they are getting the facts correctly and right from the proper source. That way there is no misunderstandings or distrust when decisions are made.

When not having parents to help with decisions, it is all up to you, the personal rep/executor. Do not procrastinate! I have seen properties vacant for years when the home could have sold or rented bringing income for investment. Waiting too long can also be costly as the home deteriorates and is open for pipes freezing, vandalism and other negative events.

In summary, find an attorney specializing in probate/estate liquidation. Obtain a SRES (Senior Real Estate Specialist) to provide information you will need. Consult downsizing companies and get an estate for packing, sorting, estate sales, and moving. They can be your best partner when downsizing a home with so much personal property. If you gather all information through professionals that deal with all of these issues on a daily basis, you will obtain peace of mind as well as a successful closure to the estate.

When the cost of the home is to the point of very little assets available, you can consider donation, rental, or just flat out selling to a cash rehabber for a low price but will get in return peace of mind. Consulting with a Real Estate Professional is a great way to get the right information allowing you to make the right decision.

Selling a home when your parent is alive but not medically competent is one of the most difficult jobs one can get. There is some guessing as to what mom or dad would have wanted, plus differing opinions from those in the family . Know that you are doing your best and your intentions are in the right place. Try not to give into guilt feelings for doing what must be done. In the end, you know that mom or dad would want you to do what is best for them, or best for the siblings in the family. Remember that you were chosen as the personal representative because your parents saw something in you that made their decision of who should handle the estate very easy and simple. You were chosen because you get things done, are organized and will always do the right thing for the remaining family. That is a blessing on many levels from your parents and your family.

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Children’s Best Intentions May Offer Challenges!

Here’s the scenario. Mom is living in a two story home and dad is in the hospital receiving medical attention for chronic ailments. They have approached an age where health becomes a bit more unpredictable. Their children worry about the well being of both parents and have different ideas as to what is best for mom and dad. One child never wants them to move from their home of many years. Another wants to employ ‘in home’ health care providers. The third wants both to move into a senior retirement community. This scene is common and extremely challenging for the entire family!

Most families have dynamics where each child has a role known by the other siblings. One may be the peacemaker, another the authority figure, yet another somewhere in the middle. To complicate matters, all three may live in different cities or states. Many times one of the children lives in the same city as the parents and has a different perspective of mom and dad’s situation. As you may predict, families can come apart at the seams when crisis management enters the picture. All have the welfare of their parents in mind and may have a different solution as what is best for their parent’s aging challenges.

Add to the above description of family unrest the parent’s feelings. From mom and dad’s perspective, they know their children love them and want the best for them, but who knows better about what direction their lives should take then the parents themselves. After all, wasn’t it they who raised this family and made all of the important decisions as the children grew up?

It is uncomfortable and downright annoying having a son or daughter take on the role of the decision maker. It does not conform to the chain of command familiar to so many families as we travel through life.

With this dilemma of health and safety verses well being, how does a family make the right decisions and keep intact the love and communication that the family has enjoyed for most of their lives? It is a difficult solution. However one can be sure that sharing feelings and being open with each other is critical when faced with live altering decisions. Honest communication with each family member is critical. Even if one member has seemed out of the loop in the past, remember they are equally important in decisions affecting the entire family.

One of the siblings is many times closer to the situation. They see mom and dad on a regular basis. It is that child that often bears the responsibility of orchestrating a family meeting to discuss the future living situation of mom or dad or both parents if still together. Sharing each member’s perspective is critical so that all feel equally involved.

Reaching Agreement on How To Help Mom and Dad Move Forward

A consensus may not be reached, but at the very least all will appreciate the chance to voice an opinion. Before talking to the parent or parents, a meeting with a move specialist, senior real estate specialist and senior financial planner would be invaluable. Gather information from these professionals as to the services available related to downsizing, financial options and the process of selling the home. There so many businesses now available to make the transition from a home to senior housing a project that is easily done and not overwhelming. Talk to the senior real estate specialist, senior planner, mover, packing services and discuss costs and logistics. Then it is time for the family meeting. All may attend, or which ever sibling is the spokesman for the family.

A heart to heart talk to the parent or parents is now done with a plan in mind. Offer to accompany them to visit various senior communities and get a feel for the new lifestyle. Explain the advantages of moving before a crisis occurs rather than decisions being made during an emergency. Tell your parents that you want the best for them and want them in control to make the major decision of the next home they will live in. Let them know that all of the children have discussed this subject and all want the best for them. Mom or dad or both may be upset at first, but after the conversation soaks in, it may be the first step to a new freedom. The freedom from home maintenance cost of home repairs, and freedom from fear of a health emergency where there is no help or assistance may be just what the doctor ordered. The candid talk will sink in and a decision to move may follow. This process may not work for every family, but it is the best avenue for honest communication as well as the possibility to avoid crisis management. It is better to say that you tried your best to avoid a bad situation rather than say nothing and suffer the regret of never having approached the subject of mom and dad’s safety and happiness. You’ll be happy as a family unit if you offer this gift of love to mom, dad, or both parents. You as a child will never regret looking out for their best interests.

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Prepare for Success in 2013

The pendulum of the ever-changing real estate market is forever moving from one extreme to the other, sometimes at a fast pace as seen in the boom years in the early 2000’s as well as the great recession of 2008 just a few years later. However, for the majority of history, home sales have moved very slowly either up or down. I believe we are now in one of those very methodical periods where the direction of the real estate market seems somewhat predictable.

Foreclosures (properties eventually owned by the mortgage holder or banks) and short sales (properties sold prior to a foreclosure where the mortgage holder settles for less than what is owed) are fewer and are selling at a faster pace than previous years. Predictions by most pundits agree we may have hit bottom on pricing, and in some areas slight increases in values have been achieved. Most experts feel that 2013 will be a year of stable prices and a slight increase of 3% may be possible. New construction is on the increase but still far below what is considered to be a healthy market. However, the spring of 2013 may be the year builders have waited for as there are many potential buyers who may be ready to begin their new construction plans.

If you are a homeowner who has put off your plans, waiting for that “sign” to make your move, I believe the year of 2013 may just be the time for you to put your moving plans into action!
Interest rates are at all-time lows (3.25% for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage) and may remain at low levels until 2015 as the recovery will likely take a few more years to reach stability and a prosperous economy. These low rates coupled with buyer confidence levels rising, and lower inventories of housing will lead to a positive outlook for spring sales next year.

We have seen a shift in priorities for young buyers starting their families. They will pay a premium price for a home that is “move-in” with updates cosmetically and structurally. Conversely they are not willing to pay market value for a home that shows poorly or one that is dated needing work. The difference from an updated home to one needing rehabilitation can be as much as 50%! Just think about that. A $200,000 home may sell for $100,000 if it needs paint, carpet, kitchen and bath remodeling. It can get even lower if there is a defective basement, roof or furnace.

Therefore, take advantage of this predictable market and prepare your home now as opposed to waiting for the “right moment” which may be the wrong time of year or a year where inventory may increase along with interest rates. Have a Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) stop over and design a game plan for the coming year if you are one of those would be sellers who have put off your plans due to the economy. Have a staging expert stop over to offer ideas and solutions to upgrade your home’s current cosmetic deficiencies. Don’t paint the interior without getting advice from experts as to what young buyers find appealing. An example of penny wise and dollar foolish would be painting your home completely white or neutral. Today’s buyers are completely turned off by colors that were appealing just a few years ago. The same goes for flooring, light fixtures, etc.

Begin the process of preparing your home for sale now. Don’t procrastinate if selling your home would bring you to a better, healthier lifestyle. Proper planning can mean thousands in positive equity. Procrastination can only lead to frustration and more of the same. Remember, we are given a very finite time on this great planet. Waiting for the “right moment” may go on forever, until dreams of today may become regrets of the past.

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Don’t Wait for Crisis Management!

All too often I meet with a baby boomer emotionally drained from the responsibility tied to a parent or parent’s immediate move due to a health change. None of us want to burden our children with decisions that in many cases could have been made while healthy and financially prepared. There are situations which are unavoidable such as a sudden death or a financial event that could not have been avoided. But my concern relates to folks I have met over the years who want to move, know they should move, yet stay in a home that is no longer working for them both physically (such as their parents’ declining health) and emotionally.

When a family enters into ‘crisis management’ due to an immediate health event, decisions have to be made quickly. The senior who has had a stroke or a broken hip from a fall must enter into the hospital or rehab center leaving their long time home unattended if there is no healthy partner still living in the property. Decisions often fall to a child who has been designated as a power of attorney or trustee for their parent and parent’s estate. When there are multiple children, this can cause undue stress among siblings, as not all agree when life changing decisions for their parent are made. When I meet with the child who has been given responsibility to help decide where mom or dad will spend the rest of their days as well as selling their home, and downsizing that home, you can just imagine the stress and sadness affecting that child.

First talk to your trusted advisor

The best advice I can give is to avoid crisis management by planning ahead. This may sound simple, but as we all know it is so difficult to accept change. When we are faced with decisions such as moving to a new community or apartment, our defense mechanisms kick in and we may fall into fear which then leads to procrastination. Information and self-examination is the best defense against crisis management! First talk to your trusted advisors to get an objective and loving sense of your current situation. If your children and friends have been telling you it may be time to find healthier surroundings than just maybe it is time to take a good look at your current situation. Are you living in a healthy and safe environment? Project five years out and be honest with yourself as to your health needs and safety. If you have a spouse, start a dialogue today. Take a ride to various senior communities with your family to see the many living options available. You will be pleasantly surprised as to the comfort and lively atmosphere offered by so many innovative communities.

Connecting to others is the best free medicine out there. Isolation is a leading cause to depression and stress. Start today by letting your children know that you want to be in charge of your life and where you will be in the coming years. Let them know that you are planning ahead so that they are not left with the burden of finding your new home, selling your existing home and downsizing a life’s accumulation of treasures. Meet with your financial consultants as to what you can afford if you do decide to move to a senior community or apartment. Take charge of your life today by making your own decisions for the future so that your children will not suffer the emotional and physical challenges of crisis management.

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A Stager’s Pizzazz Can Bring Great Returns!!

We all know the real estate market has changed drastically over the last 5 years. Much of what worked in the past is no longer relevant to today’s buyers. Purchasers today have a wide assortment of homes and condos to choose from, and therefore their expectations of quality and cosmetic appearance are higher than ever.

Today’s market is a tale of two types of properties. They are at opposite ends of the pricing spectrum At the low end of pricing are foreclosures and homes in need of repair. Pricing may be 25%-30% below a home or condo that has been fully remodeled. Therefore, at the high end are properties that have been fully remodeled, with updated kitchen, baths, flooring, paint, etc They will attract a much higher offer and in a shorter period of time.

If your goal is to get top dollar in today’s market, consider hiring a stager! These are professionals who specialize in guiding a homeowner through the process of making sure the home or condo meets today’s buyer’s expectations of colors, condition, and furniture placement. For a relatively small fee for initial consultation ($150-$300), you will have a consultant helping you choose the best options to bring back the best returns. If furniture and accent pieces are needed, these professionals will stage the home with pieces they own and will charge as a monthly rental fee plus their time invested in the staging process.

Think about it. A $300,000 home showing average, with dated interior may sell for 30% less than a home fully remodeled and staged. If the stager charges 1-2% of the value of your home, it pays to invest in this service as your returns will be much greater than the cost of a stager. Also, time on the market will be greatly reduced if your home stands out over the competition.

Even if you don’t invest in a new kitchen or bath, a staging consultant can bring those rooms to life by changing wall and ceiling colors and adding some accent pieces. When viewing homes, buyers make decisions using all of their senses of smell, sight, and logic. A property that shows well using today’s colors and accents can evoke a sense of satisfaction, peace, and calm. They are not focused on all of the money they will need to spend to bring the condo or home up to today’s standards.

You can always sell your home as is without making any improvements. But understand that buyers today have so many options. They can look at foreclosures selling at 50%-60% below market, needing significant updating. You don’t want a buyer to perceive your home to be competitive with a foreclosure with such great discounts.

To find a reputable staging consultant, you can call your Realtor and ask who they have had success with in the past, and are reasonable in their pricing. You will be amazed at the difference proper color selections and correct furniture placement can make in the final sales price, as well as much shorter time on the market. That old saying about spending money to make money holds true in today’s ever changing real estate market!

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2012 Real Estate Forecast…What to Do?

I am fortunate to have a view of the real estate market which most folks just don’t have. I sell many homes each year and talk to mortgage lenders, buyers, sellers, home inspectors, stagers, contractors and so many others connected in some fashion to the housing market. In my conversations we discuss the current state of the market as well as their prediction or feel for the future based on their client’s comments and views of the present health of our local real estate market as well as the expectations for the future. I want to share those views with you, the reader, so you can make plans for your home sale when the time is right for you. Also, you can share this information with your children and grandchildren who may be on the sidelines waiting for the right time to jump into the housing market for their very first purchase.

The overwhelming sentiment is that we will not see appreciable appreciation of our single family homes for another two to three years. But the good news is that price depreciation is slowing down to a single digit decline and moving towards stabilization. That is very good news, as prices have fallen since 2006. That has been a 5 year fall in home values for an average decline of 20-40%, depending on location. Inventory of homes for sale is also falling which is a sign of recovery. Therefore, do we wait for that moment when we know the bottom is here and prices are on the rise? My experience shows me that Continue reading

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Preparing Your Home Now Can Mean Freedom to Move Later

Have you ever tried to paint the outside of your home in the winter? Not a good idea! All too often, I visit with folks ready to make their move and put the home on the market. They are excited about the apartment or condo they just found, and now it is time to sell their home. However, it is February, and the home needs inside and outside improvements. Downsizing of personal property has not been started, and the interior needs several upgrades before showing the home. Improvements have been avoided because moving seemed so far off until they stumbled into this perfect new home which they don’t want to lose. The excitement has now turned into panic and all the seeds for high stress have been planted by their inaction to prepare their home for sale.

Today’s buyer wants a property that is in great condition both exterior and interior. If you’ve read my past articles, I have stressed to make sure your property does not compete with foreclosures if at all possible. Foreclosures often are homes that have been neglected due to lack of funds, and are selling at up to 70% off the top market value! Therefore, your home must be far superior to the foreclosure competing in your neighborhood. If you know you will be selling sometime in the next 5 years, begin downsizing today! As Realtors, we can begin your process of preparing your home for market by offering the services of a stager. A stager is a professional trained in not only decorating, but placing furniture and artwork to compliment new flooring and carpeting as well as choosing the right colors which are attractive to today’s buyers. There are companies that will assist you in downsizing by packing, sorting, and coordinating estate sales as well as donations.

If your home needs exterior work, do it right now, while it is still warm outside. Don’t procrastinate on exterior work, as you never know when you are going to want to move. If the work on the outside is done now, you can always do the interior improvements in any season. If paint is needed, a stager can help you pick out Continue reading

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Success or Failure…Either/Or…Really!

Many of you had a job that involved sales in various aspects of your career. In so many cases there were “winners” and “losers”. You won an award for selling more than your co-worker. If you didn’t measure up to your employer’s expectations or goals that were set for you, a new job may have been your next destination!

We carry this scenario throughout our lives. In sports, who remembers the “losers” in the Super Bowl? Number one is the goal of so many athletes as finishing second is just not acceptable. One of my friends told me that his daughter won second place in a sales contest. Their were 7,000 sales people across the world in her company. He called to congratulate her, and her response was, “dad, Continue reading

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The Real Estate Market; We Do Have Control!

So many of us are wondering what direction the real estate market will go. Will prices rise, will prices fall? Will foreclosures increase or will they decrease? When will the market stabilize and when will prices recover?

The answers to all of these questions are the same…who knows! Pundits are all over the place as to sales of existing homes in our area. Most agree that it will be 3-5 years before we see equilibrium as to numbers of buyers and sellers. That is the point where values may be more predictable and possibly rise with inflation (1-3% depending on economics at that time). We do however have total control as to how we choose to perceive the market!

If we accept the fact that homes will always sell for what the market supports, in this case what buyers will pay, then we can make peace with where we are today, not tomorrow or 10 years from now. In most areas, properties have adjusted downward by 15-30% on average from prices in 2005-6. I do market estimates in the four county Milwaukee-Metro area. When I am finished with the estimate of value, most sellers thought their home was worth about 10% more than the current market offers. That is normal. We can accept reality that we feel comfortable with, and no more.

If we instead, accept market prices where they truly are, and not where we would like them to be, then make plans based on that figure, you may find that your plans to purchase or move into an apartment or community will work just fine with net dollars you receive. Try to keep in mind what Continue reading

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