Senior Sellers Require Special Care
By: Scott Pearson, Pearson Realty
January 2013, ENDEAVOR News Magazine
The population of Annandale, like the rest of Fairfax County, is aging. As people move into retirement and their elder years, new options and decisions need to be addressed in a way that reflects their unique needs and circumstances.
For some seniors, staying put in their house with a paid-off mortgage and living out life in a familiar and comfortable environment is the right choice. For others, retirement might signal a time to downsize. A condominium is often alluring with the heavy lifting of yard work eliminated and much of the home maintenance. For still others an independent senior retirement community that offers activities and social functions for persons over 55 might best meet their needs. A final option could be a senior or assisted living facility if health issues so demand.
Whichever choice is made, senior clients need to speak to real estate professionals who will assist them but not make choices for them. Too often, elderly clients are not afforded the respect they deserve in making their own choices. Instead they are surrounded by a swarm of well wishers who are convinced that they know what’s best. This is particularly true when health issues are involved. The best approach is to inform the homeowner of their options and leave the ultimate decision with them.
If an elderly homeowner wishes to stay put, there are government and private services that can significantly assist them. Fairfax County offers an In-Home Care Service which can include housekeeping, grocery shopping, bathing, laundry, medication reminders and more. Some of the services are free and others have a sliding scale of fees based on income. www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dfs/olderadultservices. An excellent private resource is Home Instead Senior Care located in the Annandale Shopping Center. Offering a wide range of services a few of the most utilized are providing assistance with household tasks, shopping and running errands, pet care and transporting seniors to appointments and club meetings.
In fact, the Chamber’s Healthcare Consortium, listed under Resources/Elder Care on the Chamber’s website, www.annandalechamber.com/eldercare.rhtml includes members who specialize in every aspect of senior services from a private chef to an accessible interior designer, from companionship services to in-home nursing care. Real estate professionals should know about these services and provide elderly homeowners with contact information as part of their real estate assessment.
Often a person’s home is their greatest asset and the sale will create a nest egg allowing them to live their lives in comfortable surroundings and with dignity. Supporting and protecting that nest egg is a great responsibility. It must be taken seriously. Protecting the proceeds of sale and negotiating the next residence requires a careful balancing of human and economic conditions. Although real estate agents do not pretend to be estate planners, theywork closely with those professionals as well as estate attorneys so that the homeowners’ objectives are met.
Although family concerns are taken into consideration and cooperation is always fostered and desirable, the focus must be on the client, the senior homeowner. What issues should be considered? Do their children still live in the area? Are they able to maintain their current residence? And what range of housing options can real estate agents present to them, allowing the homeowner to make an informed decision?
If the homeowner decides to sell, the decision often involves an older home that will require some sprucing up or staging to prepare it for listing. Career Real Estate professionals can make recommendations of contractors who will do the work in a cost efficient manner, conscience of the seniors’ budget, while assuring a better return on investment at sale.
This type of real estate work requires patience, understanding and a willingness to listen. This isn’t a time for high pressure sales. Appropriately representing senior homeowners requires professionalism mixed with a dose of compassion and a willingness to put the client’s needs far ahead of a quick commission. But most importantly, it demands respect for senior homeowners and their ability to make important choices for themselves. We may guide our clients, but we don’t tell them what path to take. We hope and trust others will recognize the dignity of our aging population and honor it in commerce.
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