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For our older loved ones, there comes a time when they may no longer be able to live on their own at home. In these cases, family members could find themselves dealing with the sale of a property they have not legally inherited while their relative transitions into an assisted-living facility or senior community.
So, what exactly does the process of selling your older relative’s home entail, whether it’s your grandparent or mother or father?
Magda Zecevic, a REALTOR®, Toronto-based master accredited senior agent, and salesperson with Royal LePage Signature, walks us through the important steps of selling a home for an aging or ailing relative.
Recruit the right REALTOR®
Before you sign your listing agreement, there are a few important steps to take when selling a property for a senior or ailing homeowner. This starts with hiring a REALTOR® who specializes in these types of real estate transactions.
You may want to consider working with a REALTOR® who is qualified as a Master Accredited Senior Agent (ASA). A professional who has this accreditation has received specialist training and can provide specific resources and services to assist seniors with their real estate needs, from handling paperwork to recommendations for living accommodations.
“You have to know a lot more than just a regular real estate agent,” said Zecevic. “It’s not just about ‘OK, we’re going to move a few things, get rid of some furniture, fix it up, get a stager, and put up the house for sale.’ You really have to look at what’s in the best interest of the client.”
Zecevic explains there’s no simple, straightforward solution when it comes to working with elderly homeowners—every senior has a unique set of circumstances with their finances, health, family, and property that requires expert attention.
“You might have to roll your sleeves up because you might be dealing with a senior that has no family at all and they’re very scared, nervous, and vulnerable, so you’ve got to dig in there and help them get rid of some of their stuff and prepare for that transition,” she said.
Get all parties involved
At the start of the selling process, Zecevic says she likes to meet with the client and their family to see if they’re of the same mind and intentions, and to determine what their goals are for the sale of the home. This is also an opportunity to decide what the next step will be for the senior and what living needs they may have.
You may also take this time to check for wills, powers of attorney, lawyers, and review where the money from the sale of the property is going, such as towards the expenses of long-term care. In cases where there’s a lot of stress or conflict between family members, you might start the selling process by hiring a counsellor to alleviate tensions and set the groundwork for a successful sale.
When selling a property, it’s common to declutter your space and either sell or throw out possessions. In the case of a senior seller where some valuable or sentimental items may be expected to be left to someone, it’s crucial to review and document these pieces ahead of preparing the property for sale.
“If a senior is still OK, they might will an antique dish set or some other possessions to a certain person. You don’t really know,” said Zecevic. “If they’re cognitively not there, you really need to make sure everybody is on the same page, because let’s say you get rid of a dresser and you sell it and they’ve left it to one of their children, then there could be an argument.”
Prepare both the home and the seller
Putting a home on the market is a stressful event for any homeowner, but it can be especially difficult for vulnerable seniors or ailing relatives.
In some cases, Zecevic explains it may be more beneficial to move the senior out prior to the home being listed. If repairs are needed on the property or people are coming over to assist with packing, Zecevic says she’s present with the senior seller so they’re not nervous with strangers coming and going from the house.
You might be tempted to completely stage and renovate the property prior to listing it. Zecevic explains the priority should be to ensure the property is clean and free of any garbage, with some repairs and touch-ups made on the property where needed, like painting or removing damaged carpet.
“I wouldn’t do any big, big staging and stuff,” she said. “If there’s something that needs to be repaired, again, it might not be worth fixing and just selling it as it is. It depends. [It matters] how the family and senior are involved.”
Take your time with offers
In today’s competitive housing market where there’s a shortage of supply, it doesn’t take long for purchase offers and hopeful buyers to quickly come knocking on your door. When working with a senior homeowner, however, the pace of the offer phase may be different than the norm.
Zecevic says she sees her senior clients in person during the daytime, making sure the offer allows for a couple of days for the client’s lawyer to ensure everything is above board. In some cases, an offer presentation date provides some control over the pace and process of how offers are received and reviewed.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s busy and there are 20 people waiting,” she said. “It doesn’t matter [because] my priority will be strictly the client and what’s in their best interest. If they’re cognitively available, I would sit with them and explain each one.”
When it comes to the process of selling a senior’s home, Zecevic emphasizes it’s important to ask your REALTOR® about their knowledge of senior accommodations where the client may live after the sale is complete.
If you’re starting the process of selling the home of an aging or ailing relative, consult the advice of a REALTOR® in your area.