Stairs and old age

Aging doesn’t have to mean moving. Some older Americans choose to age in place.  A home with stairs in it isn’t a bad thing. Walking up and down stairs is great exercise. In fact, some people go to the gym and use a stair stepper and climber equipment to strengthen their legs.

Stairways can be kept safe with lighting, and railings. No-slip strips can be put on indoor or outdoor stairways.

I read an article that states that 66% of ninety-year-olds have trouble with stairs. That means that 34% of 90-year-olds can handle the stairs. Taking the stairs whenever possible at home or work is a great way to keep legs strong for those who want to be in the 34%.


cat on the stairs

Beware of the senior specialist

My parents are 90 years old each apiece. I have dealt with numerous “senior services” over the years. This is from the Minnesota Attorney Generals web site:

Beware of “Senior Specialists.” Fraudsters may imply a certain level of training on issues important to people 55 and older to give you a false sense of security, however, this “training” may be nothing more than a sales tactic. “

There is some truth to this especially when it comes to senior housing.

There are housing advisors who are paid by the companies that have properties to lease.

There are also people like me who make money when we sell real estate and can earn a “Senior Real Estate Specialist” (SRES) designation.

The program is through the national association of Realtors. I am a sales person and there isn’t anything wrong with that unless I pretend to be something else.

I do have actual experience working with seniors and I like to be able to use that experience to help others but the help I can provide is limited to all the details involved in buying or selling real estate.

There is one thing that isn’t taught in the Senior specialist’s classes and that is about Senior LinkAge Line.  It is free and is part of the Minnesota Board on Aging They are not salespeople and do not make money when someone moves.

Seniors who are trying to decide if they want to move to senior housing or sell their home or buy a home should start with a call to Senior Linkage line rather than consulting a real estate agent or a lawyer first.

Sometimes seniors and people of all ages ask for advice on the internet and give away a lot of personal information about themselves and their property to total strangers. It would be much better to call Senior LinkAge Line.

Regular readers may even have noticed that contact information for Senior LinkAge Line is prominently displayed in my right sidebar and has been there for years.

High association dues?


$460 dollars a month for association dues, you have to be kidding!  No, I am not kidding and it looks like a bargain to me, especially in an older building.

I took the dues for a condo in my own neighborhood that is about the same size and age as our home and compared the association dues to our monthly expenses.

The $460 monthly dues cover Heating, hazard insurance, water, sewer, refuse removal, lawn care, snow removal and exterior maintenance.   Our costs for a similar size home are $363 a month for heating, insurance, sewer, water and refuse removal, leaving $97 a month for exterior maintenance, snow removal, and lawn care.

I don’t even have to factor in the cost of lawn care and snow removal to see that the dues are a bargain.  Our exterior maintenance costs spread out over the length of time we have owned our home easily come out to more than $100 dollars a month.

If I factor in the cost of the roof repair we needed, the gutters we had to add to keep the basement dry, the siding we replaced, and the porch we had rebuilt the total monthly exterior maintenance costs for our home are easily more than $100 a month, without including  the cost of plants, landscaping work or the labor costs associated with lawn care and snow removal.  Not to mention the cost of owning and maintaining both a lawn mower and a snow blower.

There is an advantage to paying for exterior maintenance on a monthly basis.  When we need a major repair we need to come up with a major amount of cash all at one time.  Before buying a condo or townhouse, especially a unit in an older building make sure that the association has some reserves so that you don’t have to come up with a large sum of money for repairs.

When buying an older home or any home at all keep in mind that things wear out or even break and budget some reserves for emergency repairs.  Before deciding that association dues are too high compare look at what the dues are paying for.

Will our children ever take their stuff?

StorageDid your children move out and leave some of their stuff behind? Are you over 35 but still, have stuff stored in your parent’s basement?

Some adult children are slow to launch and some fail to launch but either way they seem to store a lot of stuff in their parent’s basement, garage or attic. I see it all the time when I meet with people who want to sell their houses.

Dear person in their twenties, thirties or forties,

It is wonderful that you got that new job and were able to move out of your folks place a mere________ years after you graduated from college. I know it is a big scary world out there and it is hard to move away. Just think of it as a new beginning.

Your parents love you, we always have and we would do almost anything for you and we probably have and we are very proud of you.

There is one thing that you need to know. We are not being honest with you about something. We have kept a secret from you all these years, and it has nothing to do with Auntie  Sue or that one incident a few years back at the water park. We know you did not do that on purpose.

We want to tell you that we are very tired of the boxes and storage bins in the basement and the bike, sports equipment and roller blades in the garage. We understand that you also regret having purchased that tacky piece of furniture that you bought the first time you moved out but left stored in the basement this last time you moved out. We hate it too, and yes you may move back in that is true, even though we had the locks changed and you know the secret about the back door, you will find a way, but I suspect you won’t want to use the furniture as you seem to hate it so.

Even though we love you and would do almost anything for you we don’t want to provide storage for your stuff anymore.  We would like to use our basements and garages and attics for something else now. We have our own tacky furniture that needs to be stored and most of our closets are overflowing as we have not moved in years and have not had any place to put anything in decades.

It would be heavenly to be able to walk to the washer without tripping over something and honestly the furnace and water heater have always wanted a room of their own, they watch and wait silently as the stuff piles up around them.   Last time we had a repairman here he couldn’t even find the furnace, I guess he wasn’t much of a repairman.  I never saw him leave the house, he may still be down in the basement looking for the furnace, I guess we don’t know for sure but hope not because they charge by the hour.

Please come over for dinner tonight.  We promise to cook something you really like and buy a couple of bottles of wine, or maybe you would enjoy a beer instead.   Bring a friend or significant other and a moving van. We will even front you the cash so that you can rent it. After dinner kindly remove your stuff. Don’t make me have to write this twice.  I may be old but I am still your mother and even though you are bigger than I am I can still kick your butt, or at the very least make you feel guilty.

Thanks, your loving mother.

PS if you read this after the garage sale please accept my apologies, I know I should have sent a text message but for some things, 140 characters are not enough.

Oh, and while I am at it I would not mind being a grandmother someday.

. . . If your adult children want to live with you or are moving back in, please contact me about downsizing.

letters from real estate agents

What is up with those letters homeowners get from real estate agents? The letter is from an agent who has buyers looking for a home in your neighborhood or the agent has buyers looking for a home just like yours.

These letters are not exactly truthful but they are very effective. They are a way to get a listing appointment and the opportunity to list your home. There is about a zero percent chance that the agent will have a buyer who is an exact match for your home.

It is likely that the agent does have a client who may want to buy a home in your neighborhood. In the current seller’s market, most of us have buyers that we are struggling to find a home for. That doesn’t mean they can afford your home or that they will like it.

Some homeowners get letters from a few different agents who are soliciting business in the same neighborhood. They end up believing that their neighborhood or property is particularly hot. The letter also boosts seller confidence and the result is an inflated view of what their real estate is worth.

Homeowners who get a lot of letters may fit the profile of someone who is going to move soon. We use predictive analytics these days.

Real estate companies and associations have templates real estate agents can use for this kind of marketing.

Template for a letter to homeowner

Once the agent who has the buyers looking in your neighborhood lists your home it will be another agent who brings in a buyer. That isn’t all bad. If your listing agent does bring the buyer then he or she is acting as a dual agent.

When a home is listed on our MLS agents compete with each other to bring in a buyer. Half of that commission the seller is paying will be paid to a buyers agent if her buyer buys the house.

If you have been getting letters from agents who have buyers you can ask them if they will agree to a one-time showing contract. Under that contract, they can bring in their buyer(s) and if the buyer makes an acceptable offer you may just end up selling your house with almost no hassle and a minimal commission.

The good news is even though agents don’t really know someone personally who will buy your house they keep the idea and mystique alive and in this market, someone will have a buyer for your home.

Will your retirement be mortgage free?


My father used to say that to successfully retire a person needs a few incomes and that owning a house free and clear counts as one income. For many paying off a mortgage is a pre-retirement goal.

I suppose it could if the other costs associated with the home are affordable.  If they are not a home can be sold and the proceeds can be used to buy a more affordable home.

“More Americans are expected to still owe on their mortgage by the time they reach retirement. The share of Americans 65 and older with mortgage debt increased from 22 percent in 2001 to 30 percent in 2011, according to data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau” according to an article in   Realty Times

According to the same article, loan balances have doubled and more people will be making mortgage payments after retirement or will be retiring later because of mortgage payments. A lot of it has to do with all of the refinancing and borrowing and of course with the great recession and the crash of the housing market.

One study found that older American’s did more refinancing than any other group which to be honest kind of makes sense because older Americans own more real estate.

Nearly a third of all American’s own their homes free and clear. [LA Times]  There are two schools of thought on paying off a mortgage. One school says don’t do it and the other says pay it off. Personally I don’t see any advantage to owing money and paying interest on top of it but apparently, some people see it as an advantage.

Many people will hit retirement age and still have a mortgage. The good news is monthly payments may be a bargain compared with rent and are sure to be much lower than assisted living or a nursing home.