Step 1: Understand Your Parents’ Needs
Have an earnest talk. Understand what they hope to achieve and why they want to sell their home. Understand their timing and have an honest discussion about any fears they may have. Clarify how much or little they want you to be involved in the process. Discuss if they want to live in the home while it’s on the market or somewhere else. Determine if they want to make minor investments to improve the value of their home. You’ll also want to know their financial position. Do they have outstanding debt on the house? If so, how much and to whom do they owe. It’s good to be on the same page out of the gates.
Step 2: Plan & Interview Agents
Decide who will interview agents. You, them, or both? An agent will give you a good sense of the current market and trends but here are some important questions to ask:
- How many homes have you sold in the last year? What was your average close price to the original list price? What’s your “average days on the market”?
- What’s your commission? What do you recommend for the buyer agent’s commission?
- How do you help sellers prepare for the market? Do you have a professional stager?
- Do you have a good network of vendors – including handymen, painters, cleaners, organizers, stagers and whomever else you may need to prepare the home for sale?
- Will you (or your team) meet vendors, open doors for showings and open houses and require you to come into their office to sign paperwork and review feedback?
- What’s the typical selling timeline and process for selling?
Also, make sure you communicate the best way to reach you or your parents for showings and updates — phone, text, email, maybe in person?
Step 3: Keep, Sell, Donate, Discard
We often find that aging parents living in a home for a long time tend to have accumulated many belongings. The act of going through their possessions is often one of the hardest and most overwhelming parts about selling and moving. This is a time to be especially sensitive to their emotions. If your parents have a significant accumulation, it may be worthwhile to start this process early and delicately handle the process in stages. Here’s our advice on handling this stage.
- Keep the items they need for their next home; have a very special memory; or something they want to pass on to a family member for friend. On a side note, my dad did something very interesting a few years back. He had each of his children (there are five of us) pick one special piece of furniture, art, quilt, etc. in his home that we loved or had a special memory to us. That gave him comfort that as he downsizes in the future, he’ll know that what he passes along will be cherished and unique to each person.
- Sell items that are valuable but no longer have a use to your parents or another family member. If you are going through an entire house consider hiring a local estate sale company to help with the process. There are also great websites such as Everything But The House that have been gaining traction in the market and will come to the home and create an online marketplace to auction items.
- Donate less valuable items that are in good functional condition. Nationwide charities that pick up furniture directly from homes include: Salvation Army, Goodwill, Amvets, Vietnam Veterans, Arc Donation, and Habitat for Humanity.
- Discard any old, broken or outdated items. Often times you can schedule a free bulk pick up with you local trash company or you can hire a firm that specializes in “junk” removal.
Step 4: Staging
Often homes that have been lived in for a long time are the best maintained and make incredible homes to buy. However, many buyers have a hard time looking past outdated finishes that are fairly inexpensive to fix, leaving aging sellers with a reduced sales price. We suggest engaging a professional stager, especially in this kind of situation to really maximize the home’s value.
The stager will spend about 90-minutes to two hours walking through the home and pointing out updates that have a high return on investment. Stagers understand that sellers are not interested in making a significant investment in a home but changing things like wall colors, a couple of light fixtures, and rearranging belongs can really go a long way. The stager will also provide recommendations on what to keep, what to store, what to donate/sell and how to clean and organize – if that hasn’t already been done.
Step 5: On the Market
Frequently, aging parents opt not to be in the home while it’s on the market. They will permanently or temporarily move out. This is the most ideal scenario for many aging sellers as it lessens the burden of having their home always ready for showings.
However, this isn’t an option for everyone. While the best advice is to always be ready for showings, there is an opportunity to limit showings to a certain schedule and to ask for advance notice before showings. Also, open houses can be scheduled a week or more in advance or eliminated altogether. There are things that you and your agent can do to limit the burden of work for your loved ones. While your parents may find it tempting to want to be home for showings or open houses, encourage them to allow their agent do their work and enjoy time away from the home. This will give buyers a better experience and remove any possible awkward interactions.
Step 6: Reviewing Offers & Inspections
Reading and understanding offers can feel somewhat complicated. It is perfectly reasonable to ask your agent to review offers with you over the phone or in person. Establish what feels comfortable for all parties involved. Once an offer is accepted, it’s good to remind parents that there maybe an inspection(s) which will require access to their home at an agreed upon time. Inspections can last anywhere from one to four hours depending on the size of their home and the inspection. This is another time you’ll want to encourage them to leave.
Step 7: Closing
Work with your parents to determine if they want to attend closing or if they prefer to have someone else sign the final paperwork. They do have the opportunity to set up Power of Attorney to someone trusted that can act on their behalf. This is fairly common and relatively easy to set up if predetermined in advance. You’ll want to make sure your agent and the closing company has this information well in advance.
For anyone, it’s hard to let go of a place you’ve called home – especially one that you have loved for years and holds so many cherished memories. Knowing the steps and having a dedicated real estate team on your side can help lessen the stress and make the experience less of a burden and perhaps a little joy.
If you have any additional questions about the selling process, please don’t hesitate to reach out!
Khalil Alexander El-Ghoul is Principal Broker of Glass House Real Estate. Reach him at 571-235-4821 or email@example.com.