What You Should Know About Selling Your Elderly Parents’ Home

Preparation is key – and early planning in particular can result in less stress later on. Discover advice on selling your elderly parents' home in metro Detroit.

Few stresses in life equate to that of selling your own home. Perhaps one that comes close – or even surpasses it – is selling your elderly parents’ home.

With proper planning, though, this difficult task can be less daunting for the grown children – often dubbed the “sandwich generation” – who undertake this responsibility.

It’s something that Sheryl Markel-Ellenstein, a West Bloomfield Realtor with Real Estate One, understands all too well.

“Many times, it is an inconvenience for the children to take on all the added tasks of selling the parents’ home,” says Markel-Ellenstein, who specializes in selling aging parents’ houses. “They are busy and don’t want – or have – the time needed to give it 100 percent.

“Whereas when they sell their own home, they have a vested interest and many times are willing to put time into fixing things, cleaning it and more – to do what is needed to get the price they are targeting.”

Understanding the market

Markel-Ellenstein has an added credential to her job title – Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES) – that sets her apart from others in her field. As a result, she’s versed in understanding the differences between generations buying and selling homes right now.

Selling a house for millennials, after all, can look quite different than selling one for senior citizens.

“For the elderly, it can be incredibly more stressful, because they tend to be overwhelmed with everything involved with selling a home,” Markel-Ellenstein says. “There are a lot of moving parts going on. Making such a huge change in their lives can be very scary, too.”

It’s vital, she says, that parents are on board with the decision to sell their home.

“(Grown children) need to understand the needs of their parents, what the parents are going through emotionally and psychologically, and, hopefully, do what is best for the parents.”

Key tips for the move

Markel-Ellenstein offers the following tips to individuals considering a move for their parents:

  • Start decluttering NOW. By doing this gradually, grown children will find they have a lot less to do when their parents move or pass away.
  • Emotions can get in the way. Try to respect those feelings but not let them control you. (Read more on how to have difficult conversations with elderly parents.)
  • Be realistic when determining an asking price. “Your home is not the Taj Mahal,” Markel-Ellenstein says. “The market will tell you how much the house is worth.”
  • Know where legal documents are located and make sure they are in order. It’s important that parents have a will.
  • Make gradual changes to the house to make it more desirable to potential buyers when it comes time to sell.

Making those gradual changes

That final bullet point is worth a closer look.

“Many times, elderly people’s homes have not changed in decades,” Markel-Ellenstein says. “By doing things bit by bit, (grown children) aren’t hit with a huge list of things they should do to bring the house into this century – and they can get more money for the home.

“Things like updating fixtures, painting, removing dated wallpaper, replacing worn carpet are (helpful). People are busy, and if the children/relatives are left with selling the house, (often) they don’t have the time to do improvement/updating.

“I see many homes of elderly people sell for a lot less than market value,” she adds, “because they need so much work and no one wants to do it before listing it.”

Patience and a good ‘teammate’

Markel-Ellenstein reminds her clients that when selling a home, it becomes simply an item for sale. Patience is vital, she says, as well as being a good listener.

If working with a Realtor, selecting the right one is of the utmost importance.

“(Select a Realtor) who will be your teammate to help reach your goal of selling the house for the most the market will allow, and within your timeframe,” Markel-Ellenstein says. “This is their area of expertise, so trust them when they give advice.”


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