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The 30-year itch?

Advice for seniors who are ready to sell, from Realtor® Christine Lovatt

When you’ve lived in your home for a few decades, having to sell can be a daunting prospect indeed. There is a lifetime of items to deal with and, it seems, an equal amount of worry.

Realtor® Christine Lovatt works with a lot of seniors, helping them sell their homes for the first time after having lived in them for 20 to 30 years. 

It’s perfectly normal to experience a bit of a “freak out”. “With older people, they may worry about everything and their nerves may not be up to that. Everything they think they have to do comes at them all at once.”

Lovatt tries to take away as many of those stresses as she can. Over the years, she has built up an impressive network of contacts; she’ll find someone to give the home a good deep-cleaning and to add a fresh coat of paint. She provides giant plastic bins for clients to pack their stuff into. If they’re unable to pack for themselves, she has people who can do that for them, even people who can handle the move itself.

“I take just enough off their shoulders so that they’re not in a panic,” Lovatt explains. “There are so many components when it comes to moving that they get overwhelmed; I try to take the anxiety out of their move.”

This may even include finding seniors a place to go. Many don’t know what their options are, but Lovatt is familiar with them all, whether it’s residence or retirement communities, apartments, houses or one-level homes.

Preparing to sell

Most sellers will indeed need to update or paint before listing their homes. “Some may have done a project or two, but it’s not usually the big things. People may have painted or changed a counter,” says Lovatt. She’ll advise what colour to paint the cabinets and what should be done just to get the most bang for your buck. She would only, for example, recommend renovating a bathroom if it was in terrible condition; in that case, it would be wise to re-do it and have it done professionally because you’ll definitely get that money back in the sale.

Many have more furniture than they know what to do with. For clients who don’t want to move all of it with them, Lovatt recommends Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji. There are also companies that will sell your furniture for you. Some stores will take furniture on consignment, though they’re getting harder to find. Many donate pieces to Habitat for Humanity. If items are too worn to donate or broken, you can call Just Junk or Rent A Bin. 
“I also have a couple of handymen with trailers that can cart things off to the dump!” she says.

“You have to be really willing to throw things out,” the Realtor® advises. 

Choosing a Realtor®

Make sure the agent you’re considering works full-time in real estate. They need to be looking at sales daily, should be up to date with technology, and have experience—whether their own or because they’ve strategically partnered with someone. Also find out their stats and ask how many houses they sell a year; the average agent sells about six, but a good agent will sell 20-25 or more. Do they have a big team? If so, how does it work and will you get the personal attention you may need? Ask for testimonials and read Google reviews. Lastly, make sure they know the market you’re in. 

Anticipating costs

Expect to pay between $2,000 and $3,000 for a lawyer, depending on who you use. The services of a moving van will cost another couple thousand dollars. You’ll also have to factor in the costs for setting up your utilities at the new place, and you may need to adjust the taxes. Lovatt recommends setting aside about $15,000, depending on where you’re moving to; a cross-country move, for example, is much more expensive.

If you’re just selling your home and not buying, the cost for the lawyer will be cut in half. If you don’t have a mortgage, your lawyer won’t have to discharge the old one and arrange for a new one. There’s less paperwork involved and that will save you some money.

Sellers do need a lawyer to act on their behalf—it’s an absolute must, says Lovatt. “There are mobile real estate lawyers that will come to your house. If you don’t leave the house much, especially for older folks, this is a great service,” she says. Real Estate has a fleet of mobile cars and they’ll send a paralegal out who can witness document signing. Ask your favourite lawyer if they offer that service!

Figuring out next steps

Almost half of all clients don’t know where to move to after selling the home they’ve lived in for so long. Many simply haven’t thought about it, though for others it’s a matter of circumstances.

“If they’ve lost their husband or wife, it’s usually a move that they are forced to make,” says Lovatt. “A lot of people don’t know their options and they’ve never thought about moving, so they really have no idea what’s out there.”

She refuses to rush her clients because many may be dealing with a death and are maybe depressed and full of anxiety. “You can’t move like that. You really have to be considerate of seniors and give them time to work through all their feelings,” she says. “They are sort of lost and in shock, especially if they’ve lost a partner. They really just don’t know what to do and depend on your guidance.”

Buying or selling: Which comes first?

Seniors’ homes are usually their biggest investment, so Lovatt takes great care when giving them advice. A lot depends on the property and what it will be priced at.

“You want them to get the most money they can from their home,” she says. She suggests preparing and selling first, while putting in a clause about the seller finding suitable property. The other option is to make sure that they have somewhere to go and someone to stay with, like a family member, so they have a place to stay and can store their stuff, just in case they don’t find a home right away.

“If you buy first and you’re not selling, you could be sorry. That is the most nerve-wracking experience; I’ve been in tears doing that and I was a Realtor®. Unless you are financially able to carry both, I wouldn’t recommend it. It is not for the faint of heart,” says Lovatt.

Packing your belongings

Part of the service that Lovatt provides includes buying 20 large plastic bins for her clients. These large tubs are theirs to keep; they can sell them after the move, give them away or use them for storage. You can, of course, also get moving boxes from a moving company (they’ll usually bring one for clothes that you can hang your garments in and one for pictures to transport your art or photos) or buy flat-packed boxes from big box stores. Lately, she’s even been collecting Amazon boxes because they come with bubble wrap, making them ideal for moving.

For more information, visit List with or call Christine at 705-717-8726.