By: Rick Sheppard
As a long-time real estate broker, I have been involved in the sale of many “childhood” homes. That is, homes the sellers bought (or built) quite some time ago, raised their children in, and no longer meet the needs of the sellers.
In general, people decide to sell their homes for a variety of reasons: divorce, death, relocation, need for a bigger home, need for a smaller home, etc. But almost always, somewhere in the equation, there is a financial factor that the seller is considering. Dollars and cents… and the need to use some sense.
Divorce – the home needs to be sold as part of the marriage’s financial settlement.
Death – the surviving spouse simply cannot afford the mortgage, property taxes, insurance, and utilities without the joint income.
Relocation – the current home is sold in order to buy the next home and avoid double housing costs.
Need for a bigger home – that new, 4th child has the family bursting at the home’s seams and the cost of squeezing the family into the current 3-bedroom rancher is just too great. Even if that cost is more of an emotional one than a financial one.
Need for a smaller home – the “empty nest” syndrome. The kids have grown up, moved out and have their own homes now. Sometimes in other states, far away. And the cost (emotional and financial) of keeping up with the 4 bedroom, 3 bath, 2 story colonial on an acre of ground just can’t be justified any more. In fact, these costs may have become cumbersome, even unbearable.
When parents come to the decision that it’s time to downsize and sell their home – your “childhood home” – it’s very likely they have been thinking about this, and analyzing this, for some time. And it’s also very likely that they have factored finances into their decision. They’ve crunched the numbers and know that downsizing to a nice, but smaller, home or apartment will save them money. That savings will mean more in their nest egg for emergencies down the road. And more for quality of life uses as they enter and progress through their golden years. The extra money might mean they can own a more dependable car. Or take 2 nice vacations each year instead of 1 mediocre one. Two nights of Bingo each week instead of 1. You get the idea.
Further, lower housing costs and higher savings could also mean mom and dad are enjoying more peace of mind. Which can lead to less stress and the better overall health that comes with less stress. More money… less stress… better health. Three very good reasons for empty nesters to make the decision to downsize.
Enter you, one of the adult children – the “kids”. Maybe you were asked to be part of this decision process. Or maybe you inserted yourself into the process unsolicited. Either way, it’s important to remember that your childhood home was and still is mom and dad’s home… and possibly their retirement funds. And they benefit or suffer with that home ownership accordingly. Sadly, I’ve seen many instances where adult children put guilt trips on their parents, procrastinated on things like cleaning out their personal items in the garage or basement, and in some cases, made bold attempts at actually sabotaging the house sale.
The usually hidden motives of these adult children vary…
> Sadness at the perceived “loss of their home”.
> Procrastination and an unwillingness to accept change.
> Simple laziness or lack of empathy.
> An acute inability to look beyond their small world and into someone else’s, even when that someone else is a parent.
If empty nester homeowners want to explore selling their home, and ask for help from their adult children, most children will willingly agree – a good thing. So crunch the numbers, consult with a tax professional or financial advisor, meet with a few area realtors, and gather as much information as you can. Then make an informed decision on how best to proceed. Just remember, the parents very likely have some financial factors at play. And they may not have necessarily shared those details with the kids.
Someone new may own your childhood home but you’ll always have the photos and the memories. Find a way to be satisfied with that. Satisfying too is the knowledge that your parents will now be in a position to have more money, less stress, and better health. All good stuff.
The author, Rick Sheppard, is a licensed real estate broker with RE/MAX Achievers, Inc in Collegeville, Pennsylvania and a 33+ year veteran of the real estate trenches. He knows a lot because he’s seen a lot. If you have any questions about this or any real estate related topic, feel free to contact Rick at [email protected] and he’ll do his best to answer your questions.