It is fairly common knowledge that moving is one of the most stressful events in your life. Whether you are buying or selling a home, or doing both at the same time, it can be extremely stressful and tough to navigate. While most people feel they are ready for the anxiety surrounding such events, many struggle because they are totally unaware of just how overwhelming the process can be.
Recently, I went to meet with a couple who had lived in their home for over 25 years. I have learned
that when someone has been that established in one place, it can take from 6 months to 1 year to
prepare for a sale. Not just the process of going through everything, clearing and cleaning, but the
emotional toll of all the memories and comfort they found in their home.
Most of the time, people are ready to move in their mind, but not ready in their heart. They see greener grass in a different place, a ‘new to them’ home, and truly feel it is time to make a transition. However, often they have not fully processed exactly what it will take to make a move. More often than not, one spouse or person in the home is ready to make the change, and the other is just going along with the decision to appease their partner.
Working with older couples, in many instances, where medical problems seem to be driving the decision, the healthier spouse may struggle with the reality of the physical needs of their partner in a home. This also means they procrastinate about the reality that must take place in the near future. As we all age, we must be realistic about the practicality of our home and the possibilities of what will eventually happen.
The idea of moving into a location that would provide more help for the ailing half of the family, can
cause anxiety because the healthy one isn’t ready to shift into that phase of life. This often causes procrastination to sneak in and moving becomes almost an impossibility because of the circumstances.
One couple I worked with, has a situation where the property is so large and needs so much care, that the couple is unable to keep it up. Every day they are losing value because they cannot properly care for their beautiful home and neither is willing to admit the reality of where they need to move to. Downsizing to most people usually means a smaller home. However, for most, they need to move into a situation that could easily transition into assisted living and even nursing care.
Often, depression can spur someone to want to move. They have gone through some major life changes and are unaware they are struggling emotionally, so they think moving into a new situation will ease their pain. Unfortunately, the stress surrounding a sale or purchase of a home can often make their situation worse and can cause even more of an emotional toll.
How do you combat these things?
1. Make a plan early on! Don’t just move because you want to. If you do not own a home,
working to buy one is a smart investment. However, as you get older, prepare and make a plan
for your older years, getting rid of any pre-conceived notions of what retirement living, senior
living, or assisted living is like. Be prepared to shift into a place where you can get the help you
2. Don’t make a quick decision, or any major decision after going through a life changing time. If
you have recently gone through a lot of changes in life, be still for a while, process your grief or
the reality of the new life after those changes, before deciding to move.
3. Be realistic about where you are in life. If you are young, always buy less than you can afford, so
you can enjoy your life. Then save, save, save. If you are wise about your home purchases, you
can eventually be debt free and live in your dream home. If you are middle age, set goals of
downsizing and at what time you want to transition into senior living. Believe me, 70 and 80
comes more quickly than you think.
If you are in your 60’s or 70’s, begin looking at options where you can access care. You do not
need to move into a 2 story home with a large yard and a lot of maintenance when you are in
your ‘golden years.’ While you may be able to pay for the yard work and even to have the
house cleaned, it will still be overwhelming and others, aka your kids, will have to pick up the
My husband and I live on a small amount of acreage in a small home. We downsized a few years
ago and even though we have not hit our 70’s yet, it is already becoming a bit much. It takes a
lot of time to mow and keep up the outside. Many of the projects we used to enjoy, now take a
toll on us physically and we get less and less joy out of them. Now we are beginning to think
about our next phase.
4. Keep it clean! One of the biggest problems I have faced with people who have lived in their
home for long periods of time, is the junk. I’m sorry, I know that these are their ‘things’, to
them, their precious keepsakes, or things they will need for something one day, but it is junk to
the rest of the world.
When meeting with a family wanting to move, it can be very uncomfortable making them realize
or see just how junky their place is. Many people horde things, maybe not as badly as you see
on the docuseries shows, but they have things they hang on to. Being clear with them that they
need to clear out the clutter can offend them, however, in order to get the most money out of
their home sale, they have to clean it out. When there is too much clutter, potential buyers
have a hard time overlooking the stuff and seeing the home.
While walking through a home and a property with a couple recently, the wife quickly became
overwhelmed as she realized just how much stuff there was to clean out. She had been blind
and thoughtless about just how much stuff that she, her husband, kids and grandkids had
brought onto the property. Soon she realized she couldn’t move any time soon because it
would be absolutely impossible to get everything cleaned out and hauled off.
The best way to keep your property value up is to keep it clean. Don’t gather stuff and just let it
sit. If you have ‘collections’, keep it to a minimum and realize that while it may seem valuable to
you, it isn’t to anyone else. Often people have a false view that they can sell it for a profit. However, when they decide to move and try to sell it, they usually cannot find anyone that
wants it. If they do find a buyer, it rarely brings what the seller had in mind. I remember my step-dad trying to sell the expensive Lladro collection he had amassed over the years. It didn’t bring near the value he thought it would.
5. Have someone else involved. If you are planning to move and you are young, get a friend or
family member who is experienced to help walk you through it. Just make sure it is someone
who has dealt with real estate more than once and someone you trust not to blow the deal. I’ve
seen many older parents absolutely ruin a home purchase for their adult child because of their
If you are older, have an adult child or someone else you trust, involved. Dealing with older
people, especially those with health problems or cognitive issues, is really difficult, if an adult
child or family member isn’t involved. There is so much information being thrown at them, they
forget most of what is being said and done, and often cannot even follow what needs to
happen. And sometimes, another family member or friend, will try to interject and actually add
to the stress because of misinformation or bad advice. Having another set of ears involved can
stop any distrust that could form because of this.
I recently had a situation with an older person in very poor health, hard of hearing, on a lot of
medication, whom I knew couldn’t understand half of what I was saying. His grandson was
involved and that helped some, however the grandson is inexperienced, has never handled real
estate in Texas, and was giving the grandfather bad information. The grandfather trusts his
grandson and sticks by him, which can be an impossible situation for me to navigate. I just try to
give as much information as I can and hope we can get through the transaction without too
much unnecessary drama. I know the grandson is trying to protect his loved one, but I need the
grandson to trust that I know what I am doing, so all I can do is just work to gain that trust.
There are so many more things I could say on this topic. However, you get the point. Just use wisdom while walking through one of the biggest stressors in life, buying or selling a home. Get a trusted real estate advisor, even if you don’t want to make the move now. A conversation is free and most realtors want to help you, even if you may not make a move for a year or two. I have many clients that I have been working with for well over 1 or 2 years on one move. It takes time, and it should. It is one of the biggest financial decisions of your life, it should never be done in haste.
Note: As a certified Senior Real Estate Specialist, I have been trained and have worked with many Senior Adults in transitioning into their next phase of life. Please let me help you or your family as they are navigating their golden years.
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