Keep or Sell? What to do with The Family Home Part 3

What do we do with the family home after Mom moves out?

Keep or Sell after moving to a Senior community?


It’s time for a move to an assisted living community, now what should you do with the family home?  Keep or sell, where do you even start? There are a few factors that will determine the answer and we discuss those on this episode.

Good Reasons to Keep the House After a Move to Senior Care

If someone in the family has an emotional attachment to the home than you’ll need to think through the details that will determine if keeping the home makes sense. Here are some things to think about;

 It makes sense to keep it as an investment.  

The location of the home is a major factor in it’s investment potential. In some markets selling could mean losing more money than you may gain by hanging on to it.  If the market the home is in is increasing in value then keeping it might be a good investment. It’s important to consult a realtor and a CPA/Financial planner who can help you make sense of the financial factors.  Turning the family home into a rental property can help fund our loved ones care. It can also offset the cost of care provided by a family member. A investment property can enable you to make money while you wait to sell.

A family member wants to live there. 

If a child or grandchild wants to inherit the home then there may be no need to sell it.  It can stay in the family and continue to be used. Your parents can know the house they loved is still in loving hands (and maybe visit sometimes) and the family will know that there’s someone to take care of the maintenance and associated costs of keeping the home.

You have a good use for it. 

Keeping the family home for another family member or turning it into an investment property are both good options for your parents home but there could be a third option. If the home is in a central meeting location it may make sense to keep it as a family for family get-togethers. Later you can decide to allow a grandchild or great-grandchild to inherit the home or you can turn it in to an investment property when the time is right.

Important Factors If You Keep The Home

Whatever you decide to do, it’s probably wise to consult a financial planner and a realtor. Regardless of what you decide to do it’s likely you’ll need an appraisal to get the current home value. After you learn that, there are other factors to consider.

Covering monthly costs.  

Even if the mortgage is paid off there are still maintenance issues, on goin upkeep and taxes and insurance that must be paid.  You’ll have to decide as a family how those costs will be covered.  Will all the costs be covered by the rental income if you decide to make it an investment property? If you keep it as a family meeting spot, who will be in charge of maintaining the home and how those costs will be covered.

Finding a tenant.  

Since there is an emotional attachment to the home it’s in everyones best interest to hire a property manger. A good one will be able to find a tenant and coordinate on-going and emergency maintenance with little fuss on your part.  If a family member does the managing there will likely be time involved that should be compensated in some form.

Keeping up with on-going maintenance.

If you don’t hire a property manager you will have to have a family discussion about who will coordinate maintenance issues, manage gardening contractors, etc.  This is not always just a few hours a month. Some maintenance issues may require working with a contractor or handyman.  A good property manager will have a ready supply of people to call to handle all the issues that come up with homes.

To Keep or Sell After a Move to Senior Care

For some families, it will make better financial sense to sell the home regardless of emotional attachments.  Here are just a few reasons that selling may make more sense.

Keeping it is too much work & cost.  

A paid off mortgage is great but there are still regular maintenance, “emergency” maintenance issues, taxes and insurance that must be kept up with.  This is more of an issue if no one is living there. A vacant home can fall pretty to unexpected issues from lack of use.  If no one is nearby and you don’t have a need for a property manager, maintaining the home may be one task too many.

You need the money to pay for senior care.  

Senior Care communities are great, but they do come at a steep cost.  If the value of the home is high enough selling may make sense.  Selling now could benefit the family in how you are taxed.  Checking on the rules about capital gains is important before you make any decisions.  Also, talk to a financial planner to make sure the proceeds from the sale will last your loved ones life.  One of the saddest things is a family running out of money for their seniors care.

Factors To Consider Before Selling

If selling is looking like the most logical option then there are a few important factors to keep in mind.

The condition of the home. 

Older homes always have some issues, some small some large. As we age, home maintenance becomes more challenging and worsening eyesight may mean that regular maintenance has been neglected. You’ll want the home to be in the best condition possible so you get the highest value possible. Consulting a realtor well before you have to make the decision to sell can help you make necessary changes that will maximize the value of the home down the road. Their advice should also prevent you from making changes that lower the value.

The current, local real estate market. 

You’ll need to talk to a realtor to get a true idea of your real estate market. Online valuation websites may be a good place to get a rough idea, but local markets can vary street by street and home floor plan so a local agent is your best bet for getting the value right. It may be tempting to hire someone close to you, but hiring an agent that works in and specializes in the city the home is in will save you a lot of grief. They should also be able to give you a good idea on where the market may be going in the next 2-5 years.

Getting ready to sell.  

While a good realtor can handle a lot of the details of getting the house ready to sell, you’ll still have to declutter and clear out any remaining things.  Someone in the family will have to be prepared to handle those tasks.

Are your parents ready to sell?

After all this discussion and planning it does come down to one simple factor. Are your parents ready to sell? Some seniors may need some psychological room to give up their home. Letting go of it in stages may help them make this crucial transition. Renting it out before selling my help that transition. However, if you simply cannot afford to hang on to it after they move you may have no other options. This is where planning as far in advance your best course of action.

Signs That It’s Time for a Senior to Move to Assisted Living

Useful Past Episodes

Decluttering The Family Home

Making The Home Aging in Place Safe

Aging In Place – What to Know

Other Useful Articles

Signs It’s Time For Assisted Living

8 Things to Do With The House of a Loved One Who Has Died

What Happens to the Mortgage After Death?


John D. Fink Contact

Cynthia Ulricksen Contact


The Family Home – What to do now? Part 2

The Family Home – What to do now? Part 2

Part 1 of this series is here.

Seniors want to age in place, a completely understandable desire which makes it vitally important to do what we can to make their home safe & enjoyable.  There are many things to consider so starting sooner rather than later is important.  Starting now is better than putting it off until there’s an issue.

Challenges dealing with a seniors home.

Home for nearly 47 years.

It’s important to have the home evaluated for safety and accessibility.  There are so many things to consider that getting an outside opinion is honestly a good idea.

To make their home more comfortable and safer, consider the following:
  • Widening doorways; this is especially important for wheelchair and walker users. 
  • Adding more lighting;  as we age, dim lighting makes it very hard to perform everyday tasks & lack of contrast can make memory related confusion worse. 
  • Changing flooring to prevent tripping hazards, throw rugs are especially dangerous.
  • Changing all door knobs to easy-to-use handles. A D ring shape is recommended
  • Adding handrails near the  bed and getting chairs that have an armrest making getting up & down much easier.
  • Raising the height of appliances, and installing pull-out shelves.  Pull down shelves are also a plus in upper cabinets to prevent straining to reach things or the necessity of a step ladder that can pose problems for seniors with balance issues.
  • Installing grab-bars in the shower and around the toilet. You may want to look into an elevated toilet seat. A shower seat is also recommended.

What A List!

This is likely only a partial list of the items to take into consideration. A list like this is why I strongly recommend getting started as soon as possible.  Tackling all these issues at once would be exhausting and costly.  Consult a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), a contractor who has undergone special training to help homeowners make age-related home modifications. I’m sure they can help create a list of items in order of priority and a good specialist should be able guide you in what you can tackle and what is best for a professional to handle.  Safety is the primary concern. 

Some Things To Think About

Before looking for a specialized contractor consider the following:

  • Do I want to add a bathroom and possibly a bedroom to the main level? Main floor master bedrooms are a huge plus and even help with resale value.
  • How can I make my kitchen more functional?  Keep in mind that kitchens can be costly so do only what is absolutely necessary. Staying out of the frills is important unless you have unlimited funds and time.
  • Am I worried about preventing falls?  The answer to this question is always yes.
  • How much money should I budget for this project? Whatever they tell you, double it because we’ve all heard contractor horror stories or seen them on HGTV.
  • Will I need to get a home equity loan?
  • How will other members of my family benefit from modifications?  
  • Can remodeling increase the energy efficiency of my home? Making energy efficient modifications is a good idea if your initial list of changes isn’t too long or costly.
  • Where do I find a professional I can consult with about my needs? 


Safety Is Just As Important Now As When We Were Young

Like baby proofing a home before the baby is mobile it’s important to tackle potential safety issues before something happens.  I didn’t do this until my daughter started crawling and it was literally a race to keep her out of harms way. I ended up baby-proofing on the run.  You don’t want to wait till there’s an issue to tackle getting Moms’ home fixed up. Doing things in advance will give everyone peace of mind.  It also spreads out the work and the cost.

The biggest challenges our home creates for aging in place are multi levels, bathrooms and kitchens.  It’s difficult to “fix” a multi level home but there are some things that can help reduce potential tripping hazards. Again, this is where getting professional advice is really important.

Improvements You May Want To Consider

  • Make sure the stove isn’t a burn hazard. Side or front mounted knobs are better than knobs in the back.
  • Pull down shelves in upper cabinets.  Slide out shelves in lower cabinets.
  • Lazy Susans or pull out shelves in the refrigerator.
  • Have microwaves at eye level if possible, same for ovens. Consider using a large toaster oven as a replacement.
  • Walk in showers with little or no lip.
  • Slip proof tiles.  There are products you can buy to make this happen.
  • Vanities that aren’t too low.
  • Grab bars around the toilet and in the shower.

This is by no means a complete list. Walk around the home, get down low, lie down, sit down, whatever it takes to put yourself in their position. Determining what is a problem now and what may become a problem later is extremely important.

  • Major Modifications
    • zero-threshold entryways
    • wider doorways and halls
    • offset door hinges which make room for wheelchairs or two people walking side by side.
    • light switches that can be reached from a wheelchair or bed
    • a stair climber
    • a frameless walk in shower with a sloped floor instead of a step over threshold
    • a raised toilet seat, grab bars around the toilet & in the shower
    • raising the height of appliances
    • adding pull down shelves in kitchen cabinets
    • moving laundry facilities to the main floor


Great Checklist Link!

Can a house be remodeled to be comfortable but safe for seniors?

The Family Home Part 1 – Decluttering

Start today a little at a time to get the job done.

Decluttering the family home is a gift to everyone.

This week I have a conversation with a professional cleaner and home organizer on how to start the process of getting the family home decluttered so our loved one can age in place safely. Facing a lifetime of memories in one household is overwhelming so Patty’s tips should come in handy.

Patty suggests that you approach the conversation with grace and understanding. It’s also important to forget about the past and focus on right now and moving forward. This process is for the health and safety of aging loved ones which is helpful to keep in mind when emotions start to run high. In our conversation I suggest that you tackle the decluttering process one drawer or cupboard at a time.


Starting sooner rather than later will allow you to go slowly which should keep the emotions from getting out of control. Patty has suggestions for how to make a suggestion sound like a completely natural thought. One thing we didn’t cover is where to start. That’s obviously a personal choice, I would start in the room they spend the most time in or a room that presents challenges to their mobility or daily functioning.

It's not easy, but the end result is worth the effort.

A decluttered family home is calming & peaceful, exactly what you want for aging in place.

As you declutter, consider donating as much as possible to women’s shelters, charity thrift stores, you can even get creative with some things. I donated a huge bag of old, faded towels to a friend who does cat rescue and she shared many of them with the dog rescue people. She was as thrilled to receive these items as I was to get rid of them.

You can use old CDs as a way to help scare off the birds who eat your garden plants or you can Google what to do with old CDs. You’ll find a lot of ways to reuse them in fun and creative ways. Maybe give them to a school with directions for a project, a teacher would love that.

However you go about decluttering the family home remind yourself that the end result is for safety and peace of mind for the entire family. If you have a home that needs decluttering know this; it’s a gift to your children and grandchildren not to leave the entire project to them after your gone. Call a professional organizer to help you stay on task. It’s hard because we attach so many emotions and memories to items, a neutral person will help you navigate them all.

Useful Links & Information on Decluttering The Family Home

ReniRenaissance Cleaning and Staging Services

Decluttering Checklist

More on this topic!

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Book)

Unconditional Love – Therapy Dogs in Action!

Bella the Therapy Dog

Therapy Dogs like Bella offer more than just a sweet face, they provide unconditional love.


Dogs provide us with unconditional love and emotional support that we can’t always get in a human.  My neighbor Bella is a therapy dog and she’s one of the best dogs I’ve ever met.  On today’s episode, Terry, Bella’s human, and I talk about the benefits a therapy dog can bring to hospitalized people, seniors in memory communities and even at-risk children.  It’s a heartwarming conversation we had on a rainy day while drinking tea and talking about all things dog.

What Is A Therapy Dog?

A therapy dog is a dog that might be trained to provide affection, comfort and love to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas. They are defined but not covered or protected under the Federal Housing Act or Americans with Disabilities act. They also do not have public access rights with exception to the specific places they are visiting and working.

Therapy dogs are usually not assistance or service dogs, but can be one or both with some organizations. Many organizations provide evaluation and registration for therapy dogs, sometimes with focus on a particular therapeutic practice such as reading to dogs.

A recent study on elderly nursing home patients now offers scientific support that brief weekly visits from man’s best friend can have a positive therapeutic impact. Terry has experienced this and tells us about it in this episode. It’s one reason I gave it the title of Unconditional Love.

If you want to hear more about seniors and dogs, check out the episode I call Misty Tales. It’s all about my Mom and her dog. I promise, it’s a good one with quite a few laughs. You won’t regret listening to Misty Tales.


Therapy Dogs Seem To Boost Health of Sick & Lonely – National Geographic article