• For Home Sellers
  • Getting Mom’s house ready to sell

    green carpet
    Green sculpted carpet

    Over the years I have sold three homes for my family.  One of the challenges of selling a home that is or was owned and lived in by an elderly person is making it look as appealing as possible to younger home buyers. Sometimes the homes look as if time stood still.

    The first hurdle can be getting the owners to give up some decorating choices they made long ago. My mom doesn’t know that I had the wallpaper boarder removed from the kitchen repainted or she would be upset about it.  Often “grandmas” house is in good repair and is an excellent opportunity for first time home buyers to fix some of the cosmetics and build equity.

    As a seller I don’t want to put any more money into the home than I have to. Here are some of the things I did that were fairly inexpensive that helped sell grandma’s house:

    1. Clean everything

    2. Repainting in light neutral colors.

    3. Replacing old drapes with sheers in shades of white.

    4.  Replacing any window shade or blind that was anything other than white or just remove them.

    5. Buy new shower curtains, towels and coordinating rugs for the bathrooms.

    6. Replace light fixtures and shades.

    7. Remove wall paper and paint walls.

    8. Remove worn carpeting to expose hardwood floors. It is better to have wood floors that need a little work than worn carpeting.

    9. Remove worn linoleum and replace.

    The list isn’t really prioritized by importance but it is  in order of how much the project is likely to cost. It is important to have budget and to stick with it. If the improvement won’t help sell the home faster or for more money it isn’t worth doing. it is the smallest improvements that give the greatest payback. Cleaning and painting have the highest ROI. Removing a wall paper boarder can have a tremendous impact.

    It is also a good idea to have furnace or boiler serviced and have any repairs done that are needed. As a rule anything that leaks should be fixed and there are usually other obvious repairs too.  Sometimes small maintenance issues result in low offers.


  • For Boomers
  • Will we stay or will we go?

    leafGenerations often get lumped into one big group and we all try to predict what they will do. I am a baby boomer, on the younger end of the generation. The generation covers more than a decade but I am starting some trends among my friends. Some are retiring and some are not. Some are downsizing and others are not. Some are moving in apartments and co-ops and others are not.

    Deciding if we should stay put in our houses for awhile has a lot to do with money and with health and where we live and how large our houses are and how much we owe on them.

    Some of my older friends have retired and taken part time jobs. They are staying put. Their homes are not huge, they live in the city where there are lots of amenities and services, and part time jobs and their homes are paid for. Others have large homes in the burbs and would like less house and more travel and plan to move or “downsize”.

    Others were almost wiped out by the recession after losing jobs and surviving on money saved for retirement. They are working and plan to continue into their 70’s.

    A few of my friends have health problems or “issues” as they say and are going to stop working and retire early. My parents have been retired for 25 years. One of my grandfathers died a few weeks after retirement. For his generation that was more the norm, and may continue to be the norm for those who spent their lives working in low wage jobs.

    The good news is that nobody has to move just because they are old but many can move if they want to. Many will choose to age in place. There is no one size fits all housing or lifestyle solution for the baby boomer generation.

  • For Boomers
  • Homeowners with Alzheimer’s

    Occasionally in my business I meet with people who may have lost the ability to make good decisions, or any decision at all. It isn’t my place to judge anyone else’s decisions but if I see someone who is having trouble I try to help by getting others involved. I have an immediate family member who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and I saw first hand how the person’s ability to make decisions was affected and slowly diminished by the disease and I recognize the signs and symptoms.

    This is from the Alzheimer’s web site about symptoms of the disease:

    Challenges in planning or solving problems
    Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

    What’s a typical age-related change?
    Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.

    I take care not to assume that someone who is older and who forgets something has Alzheimer’s and I favor the idea of aging in place. Sometimes getting more services is a better option than moving out.

    There are times when someone wants me to meet with me and it is clear to me that they want help making a decision. Sometimes they want to move but have trouble processing the information I give them about available housing and as a result they don’t take any action.

    The way I usually handle the situation is I ask the elder if they have a friend or relative that they trust and can bounce ideas off of. I try to get then to get that person involved. I also refer people to Senior Linkage Line where they can get professional guidance on housing options 1-800-333-2433.  The service is free and the people who provide it are not trying to sell anything and they are not getting paid for referrals. There are various businesses that relentlessly pursue elders as potential clients.

    I found training for Alzheimer’s friendly businesses. I like the idea of businesses learning how to treat people with Alzheimer’s with respect, and it really is all about respect. The course is geared toward the retail and hospitality industries and is pretty lightweight but I think it is an excellent way to start a conversation and build awareness.  As our population continues to age there will be more people with various forms of dementia because the longer we live the greater our risk for dementia. See some facts about Alzheimer’s

    Alzheimer’s is not curable and the fatality rate is 100%.


  • For Boomers
  • in-law apartments

    door (2)There are a lot of words and phrases that I can not use to describe housing. I even had to explain to someone why I could not market his condo as a bachelor pad or a place for a single man or woman. Federal fair housing laws forbid any mention of anything or anyone human when marketing a property for sale.

    There are some exceptions we  still have “family rooms” even though we can not advertise a home as being a great place for a family or to raise a family in.

    We still distinguish between single family and multifamily dwellings but can not discriminate against a homebuyer based on family status.

    It wasn’t that long ago that we could list a home on the MLS as having a “mother-in-law’ apartment. Yesterday I noticed the drop down menu options have changed and we now only have “in-law” apartments. I guess the units can be used for a mother-in-law or a father-in-law which pretty much leaves out people who were never married and do not have any in-laws.

    I did a little research and I believe we can still use the term multi-generational when we refer to housing. I would think that would be OK because the generations don’t have to be from the same family. Multigenerational is more inclusive than “in-law”.

    People have gotten used to searching for homes with mother-in-law apartments. We need to start calling them “secondary units” or in some cases “studio or efficiency” apartments that are part of a larger home. They usually have a private entrance and are somewhat private.

    I know people who live in a home with a secondary unit in it and they rent the unit out to someone that they are not related to in any way.

  • For Boomers
  • Happy Mother’s Day

    Mom – Senior picture

    I recently found this photo of my mom taken when she was in high school. My mom has Alzheimer’s disease.  There is no treatment and there is no cure. She knows who I am and is always happy to see me. . . which I guess in a way is an improvement. 🙂

    She doesn’t get many visitors. It seems like people are afraid to go see her.  At 87 she is in excellent health and very active. . except for the fact that Alzheimer’s is fatal 100% of the time.

    She lives in a assisted living suite where they offer memory care. She can not be left alone.  She is happier now than she has been for years. She enjoys the activities that they have where she lives and I take her to visit my father a couple of times a week. He doesn’t completely understand why she abandoned him or why she won’t take care of him anymore. She was always there for him and now she isn’t.

    Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease and I choose mother’s day to mention it because it is very much a woman’s disease and because my mom lives with a lot of people who are mothers and who have the disease. My Grandmother and my great grandmother also had Alzheimer’s.


    If you need help or advice for yourself or for a family member who has Alzheimer’s Association web site is a great place to start: Alz.org . When my mom was diagnosed I was surprised.

    I knew something was wrong but did not understand that her behavior and the changes in her personality are common for people with the disease and wish I had known more about Alzheimer’s a few years ago.

    Also see mom’s refrigerator

  • For Boomers
  • Two much stuff

    boxesI still have too much stuff even though I have been on a mission to have less stuff. When I meet with people who are trying to move or to downsize they are often stressed out about how much stuff they have and what to do with it all.

    If I could turn back the clock 20 years I would be more careful about what I purchase and I would think about getting rid of something before brining something new into the house.

    Relatives have given me stuff that I don’t want and should have said no to. I recently acquired a bunch of stuff while helping my parents downsize. I tried to pawn some of it off on my children but so far I have not had any luck.

    Having less stuff means being able to live more comfortably in a smaller house and sometimes smaller houses cost less which means more money for other things. Stuff not only takes up space in our homes but it takes up space in our heads when we have to think about moving it or storing it.

    There is so little I have that I really need or even want and I am finding that I constantly want less instead of wanting more and somehow that just goes against the natural order of things and I end up with more anyway.

    When I work with first time home buyers they sometimes tell me they don’t have enough stuff to fill all the rooms in a new home. I explain to them that they won’t have to work hard to fill up a house. It is far more of a challenge to keep a one room sparsely furnished or even to have an empty drawer or shelf.  Our stuff tends to take up as much room as we have.

    Less really is more when it comes to stuff and the less we have the more options we have when it comes to housing.