Friday, September 30, 2011

Selling Your Parent's Home--A Broker's Tips

Van Cooper sells seniors' homes. As a Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) with Windermere in Kirkland, Washington, he helps Boomers and their parents market what is usually the family's largest asset with the most emotional value.

"Lots of feelings can pop up during the process including loss of control and abandonment," he says. "My goal is to treat people fairly, with dignity and respect. My position is to facilitate a sale that's as easy and low stress as possible."

Cooper shares his tips on selling your parent's home.

1. Give your parent as much support as possible. Depending on your situation, you may be handling the decision making yourself, or taking a lesser role. Even if your parent says, "I want to do this on my own," offer your eyes, ears and thoughts, to ask questions and clarify things. Point out that this is a difficult transaction for anyone, and you'd like to help wherever you can.

2. Interview at least three potential real estate agents. Chatting with them will give you a good idea if they're a good emotional fit. During the interviews, they will offer you competitive market analyses, including comparable properties. If some of those homes are still active, ask to drive with the realtor to look and compare them with your parent's home. Another tip: "Ask for a second visit. If he or she is edgy, that's a huge red flag," Cooper says.

3. Ask more questions. Does the agent tell you how much it will cost to update your parent's home, and what updates will boost the selling price the most? Is the agent offering a team of professionals who can do the remodeling, clean the home, stage it, hold estate sales, and do other tasks as needed?

4. Decide on the details of the process. Will your parents move before the house is upgraded and listed, or will they stay in the home? Cooper says both ways work. If your parents continue to live in the home, it's best that viewings are done by appointment, so you or others can take them out of the home while strangers are looking around.

5. Determine how often the agent will communicate with you and in what manner. Emails? Phone calls? Personal visits? Letters and cards? If time goes on, you may need to discuss lowering the price, usually 3 to 5 percent if the property was priced correctly at the beginning.

Is this easy? Probably not. But working with a real estate agent who knows and understands seniors helps tremendously, Cooper says.

Have you heard of an SRES (Senior Real Estate Specialist)? It's an endorsement that requires two days of study, plus fees and exams. "People who get this certification are more likely to have an interest in providing seniors the service they have earned," Cooper says.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Aging Parent Alert: Watch Out for Scams on Veterans Aid & Attendance Program

Phone scams. Mail scams. Just days ago, a client named Vicki told me about another scam that almost got the best of her aging mother. It involved the Veterans Aid and Attendance Program.

The VAA Program is legitimate. If your parent is a veteran who served in wartime, or the surviving spouse of a wartime veteran, he or she may qualify for monthly help of as much as $1644 for a veteran, or $1056 for a surviving spouse, and still more for married veterans. To be eligible, the applicant must have limited assets and income and also need help with activities such as bathing, dressing or medication management.

Unfortunately, some "professionals" are twisting the intent of this program and taking vulnerable seniors for a ride. In Vicki's mom's case, she'd served in Korea years earlier. Recently the 76-year old woman toured a retirement community in rural Southwestern Washington, more than 100 miles away from her daughter.

"My mom was ready to move in," Vicki said. Her mom placed a deposit on an apartment. One huge problem: the monthly fee was $2500. Her income was less than $1500. She had few assets.

"You're a veteran, and I can help you apply for a program that will give you up to $1644 a month," the marketing representative said. She pulled out an application for Aid and Attendance. Once approved, Vicki's mom could receive benefits, retroactively to the date of application. The monthly benefit would help cover her fees.

Over the next few days the marketing rep "helped" Vicki's mom complete the lengthy application and kept assuring the older woman this was a sure thing. But something didn't seem right.

"You walk with a cane, don't you?" Vicki's mom shook her head. "Well, you do now!"

The marketing rep blew out of proportion the older woman's disability. Another troubling thing: Vicki's mom would need to take out a loan or find other funding to help pay her retirement community rent until her application was approved.

By this time, Vicki knew something was amiss. "I discovered that if the application didn't go through, my mother would still be liable for her retirement community rent!"

Vicki pulled her mom's deposit. The story ended happily.

If you think your parent might be eligible for Aid and Assistance, go straight to your nearest Veterans Office. Specially trained service officers can answer your questions and help your and your parent through the application.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Your Aging Parent's Move Prompts Grief? Relief? or Both, Part II

I'd love to have a dollar every time a Boomer confides in me, "I know moving to an assisted living community is best for Mom. But I worry that she might not adjust and be happy."

Grief. Relief. Or some of both. On moving to an assisted living community, elders often experience all or any of the above. "I miss my house, my flowerbeds, and my cat," one woman said. Others grieve the loss of physical ability, their memory and relationships.

On the other hand, others almost jump for joy. "I cooked all my life, and now it's time to give it up," is the sentiment. And yet other elders bounce between grief and relief during those first days and weeks.

How can we help them adjust?

1. Probably the biggest gift we can give our aging parent is to listen, without censorship. While it's easy to answer a complaint like, "I so miss our house!" with, "But it was so big and so difficult to keep up," it's far better if we bite our tongues, and sympathize. A statement like "I know you loved that house. And you took such good care of it," lets your parent know her opinion is valued.

2. Upon move-in, trust your instincts as to how much of your time your parent will need. Often it's best to set up the apartment in advance, so it's ready to go when your parent moves in. Some adult children will sleep the first few nights in their parent's new apartment. Other family members eat meals with their elderly parent as often as possible during the first few days.

3. Give your aging parent time to adjust. Fortunately staff of assisted living communities are used to listening to their new residents' stories: of grief, and of relief. Staff can also distract new residents by getting them involved with Bingo, Bridge or other diversions. After a month or two, given lots of tender, loving care, your mom or dad will begin thinking, "This is my home!"

Do any of you have any other ideas on how to help your aging parent adjust to a new setting, such as assisted living, or a nursing home?
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