Serena Miller

As families and individuals consider a transition to senior living, they may be searching for ways to afford a high-quality place to live.

For some, the best solution is to sell their current house and use those proceeds toward securing senior living or long-term care. For most homeowners, however, the thought of selling a beloved home — especially after years or decades of cultivating a life there — is a daunting and emotional one.

To make the transition and process more manageable, your community’s marketing and admissions staff members will want to be prepared to answer the typical questions a potential resident may have. Whether their questions are financial or emotional, remember to listen to their concerns and help them make the best decision for themselves or their family members.

Here are some questions you may face from prospective residents, and answers you can tailor as needed:

1. “How can I prepare my home for sale?”

The first step for older adults (or anyone) to prepare a home for sale — and to make a move — is to declutter. When potential buyers visit a home, they need room to envision their own items in the space.

If family members feel unable to commit to this process, then let them know there also are professional services that work with people to simplify and “stage” their homes.

Older adults should not forget to give the house a deep clean: wipe down the surfaces, sinks, tubs, baseboards and floors. Shampoo the carpets, and consider adding a fresh coat of paint to the walls.

Curb appeal makes a difference. The home’s exterior is its first impression, so the front porch should be kept cobweb-free.

Make sure families take the time to:

  • Clean up the yard,
  • Update landscaping,
  • Make any repairs and
  • Touch up paint, if necessary.

Preparing a home for sale takes patience. Moving is stressful at any age — and especially so for older adults, who typically have years’ worth of memories tied to their homes. Expect a turnaround time of two to three months.

2. “How can I find a real estate agent who can help me?”

Finding a good agent relationship may be the key to a successful home sale. Advise potential residents to look for an agent early on and take the time to interview different candidates to find one who is respectful and trustworthy.

You could suggest that they hire a Seniors Real Estate Specialist, or SRES. An SRES is a real estate agent who has completed training to understand issues that affect older homebuyers and sellers, such as:

  • Reverse mortgages,
  • Federal Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA), and
  • How Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security can affect real estate decisions.

3. “How do I get the most out of the sell of my home?”

If the prospective resident lives in a city with a strong real estate market, then he or she may be able to sell the home at a competitive price, resulting in a large lump sum. Refer the older adult to financial professionals who can provide advice.

4. “Should I rent my home rather than sell it to pay for senior living and care?”

Depending on the circumstances and location, selling a home may not be the best financial decision for every family. One alternative may be to rent out the home for a while and use that income to pay for community living.

Being a landlord has its own set of expenses and responsibilities, however, such as collecting rent and home repairs, which could be handled by a property management company. If this option seems like something that interests a potential resident, then suggest that he or she speak to professionals such as property managers, attorneys and financial advisers to obtain more information.

5. “Should I use a reverse mortgage to pay for senior living and care?”

If a married couple only requires assisted living for one spouse, then a reverse mortgage may be a viable option to keep the home while being able to afford care. With most reverse mortgages, the remaining spouse (or family) won’t need to pay back the loan until they decide to sell the home.

Patience and reassurance can go a long way toward helping families navigate this complicated transition. Remind potential residents that senior living may offer them much more freedom in their retirement years. Without the responsibilities of homeownership, they will have more time to devote to their hobbies, friends and family relationships.