If you have an elderly parent or relative still living in their own home, and you’re a Baby Boomer or a Gen-X-er, you’ll need to start thinking about how to support your relative as they head towards old age.
There comes a time when the option of ‘ageing in place’ is no longer viable for your relative, and they will need to downsize their property or move to a retirement village or an aged care facility.
The challenge, however, is you might find (in fact, we know from experience that this happens in most instances) that your relative will show reluctance to even talk about moving.
What’s the big issue about downsizing?
Many elderly people are fearful that their family will “sell the house from under them” and leave them with nowhere to live. Their home is their independence; no one likes getting old and frail and selling the family home is a reminder.
Second, by the time it’s appropriate for an older person to consider selling the family home, they’re overwhelmed by all that entails, including leaving a home that holds precious memories from possibly decades of happy family life.
So, how do you overcome their fears and support them to move to the next stage of their life?
Here are our recommendations for providing the best support for your senior.
Steps for supporting your elderly relative in the home sale
1. Have the conversation about selling the home
If your relative is in good health but health problems are on the horizon (because of family history) then start the conversation early before problems occur. Let them know they’ll have complete control over where they’ll live. Discuss various housing options.
2. Talk to them about their options
In our experience, gradual downsizing ‒ maybe to an apartment or retirement village first ‒ is less daunting as they still feel they have their independence. If you can research possibilities beforehand, and identify suitable properties close to shopping, clubs, cafés, medical facilities and public transport, you’re halfway there to inspiring the person you’re helping to dream of a new life.
3. Let your relative know they’re not alone
Convey to your relative that you’ll be helping them to get the home ready for eventual sale, organising any maintenance, indoor and outdoor cleaning and so on. Start decluttering the home and talk up the advantages of fewer possessions. It’s important, though, that your relative understands that they will still be able to keep their important items.
4. Get all the paperwork in place
The mechanics of selling a home can be overwhelming for anyone. We recommend that you know how to access all the paperwork, professionals and suppliers you need. Consider making sure you have information on details like how to access the will (in the home or with a solicitor?), where to find the title deed of the home, utility suppliers, pension/superannuation paperwork, banking (including any online accounts), and internet or Foxtel accounts. Of course, remember the Australian Taxation Office so you can check the tax status of your relative before and after they sell their home.
5. Find an empathetic agent
Not all real estate agents understand seniors and their fears. It’s important to choose an agent who is sympathetic to seniors, who can offer sound advice on the current market, likely prices achievable and approximate length of time the home will be on the market.
Can we help with advice on downsizing?
Having navigated the home sale and downsizing process not only for our real estate clients but also for members of our own family, it’s an area in which we’ve amassed a wealth of knowledge. So don’t hesitate to seek out our help – no obligations.