We often work with families in various stages of senior housing transitions. Case in point, we are currently working with 5 different families who are moving into assisted living and selling the family home. They are all slightly different, varying from selling a condo to a townhouse to a single family home… and from managing the move themselves, to having help from children and grandchildren to having the project fully managed by nieces and nephews and friends.

The bottom line is, although each situation is unique there are certain things everyone should consider when selling a long-time family home regardless of the circumstances.

1. Find someone who listens to lean on

Making a move from a home where you have lived for a long time is not easy. Even if you are looking forward to a move that will provide you with new experiences (like moving away to college) and freedom from managing a home, expect it to be an emotional transition and find someone to lean on. Don’t be surprised if it is even harder emotionally on your children. For that reason, it could make sense to have the someone you lean on for emotional support be a friend rather than a family member. Every situation is different. The important thing is that you have someone you trust to lean on and provide emotional support throughout the process.

2. Much listening required

Perhaps one of the most important qualities in whoever you choose to work with through the transition (professionals included) is listening. Beware of people who have all the answers and simply tell you what to do. Choose people who listen to YOU.

3. Choose a primary contact

Especially if there are many children involved, it can be difficult knowing who is in charge if you aren’t the primary contact yourself. This may or may not be the person you choose to ‘lean on’ for emotional support. Choose a primary contact who is readily available and responsive for making decisions because there will be what seems like a million decisions to make.

4. Choose your next home

This is often one of the most difficult decisions, and one not to be taken lightly. Not only does your senior living facility need to fit your financial circumstances including whether if qualifies for your long-term care insurance coverage if you have it, but it should also feel right.

When you visit you should be warmly greeted by someone at the front desk, and see residents of varying abilities actively interacting with each other and with staff. Don’t get hung up on it being completely quiet and spotless… it should have a sense of home and a generally peaceful atmosphere.

Once this decision is made, the other pieces fall into place much easier. It is settling to know where you are going, and hopefully it will be someplace you can forward look to. It can be an immense relief letting go of the overwhelming responsibilities of maintaining a home.

When my mother moved to senior housing it made me think of the comaraderie of a college dorm… with the option to be as social or as solitary as you choose. She actually had more freedom as she traded streets for hallways, and was able to get around on her own to spend time and share activities with newfound friends.

5. Move first, sell later if possible

Just moving is hard enough, without having to make your home showing ready and leave for showings to prospective buyers for your home. If you don’t have the liquid assets to finance your move in the short run, maybe a family member can help pay for it up front for reimbursement after you sell. You might also be able to get a home equity line of credit or a bridge loan from your banker if needed.

6. Tax and trust considerations

If you haven’t sold a home in a long time you may not be aware that there is no capital gains tax on the sale of a primary residence for a sale price up to $250,000 for a single person and up to $500,000 for a couple. If your property is held in trust, talk to your attorney about anything you should be aware of when you sell… legal name of the trust, who are authorized trustees and how many must sign, can the proceeds of the sale pass directly to you or do they have to go through a trust account, etc.  There will likely be trust documents for your attorney to prepare for your closing, your title company will make those arrangements.

7. Selling your home

After you have decided where you are going, the difficult task that follows is downsizing and getting rid of the stuff you have spent a lifetime collecting and will no long need in your new home. This is where family and friends can be a big help. But don’t be surprised if they aren’t really interested in your treasures… that is common in today’s more minimalist world.

Services such as Clutter 911 and Gentle Transitions can be of great help in de-cluttering and planning what to take to your new home, with hands-on service from floor planning and downsizing to picture hanging and making the beds in your new home. Empty the Nest will clear out what is left in your home after you move.

Contact us as soon as you are starting to thinking about your transition… we can guide you through it, including downsizing and selling your home. How you prepare your home for sale can vary greatly depending on many factors. We do a lot of listening to help you come up with the best plan for you and your circumstances.

Sharlene Hensrud, RE/MAX Results – Life Transitions Realtor

The HomesMSP Team – SharleneJohnAngela – Twin Cities Realtors


About Sharlene Hensrud

I love what I do! Highly insightful, analytical and creative, there is nothing I love more than helping you find the right solution for your real estate transition. My mission is to serve my clients with honesty and integrity, exceeding their expectations in service and support… and to help others by donating a portion of every transaction to Habitat for Humanity.

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