Helping Your Parents Downsize

It is typically a sudden illness or fall that causes us to be faced with helping our parents to sell their home and move to a safer and more comfortable environment. A time when we are least prepared to deal with clearing out and selling a home. Below are the most important issues to consider when faced with this dilemma.

Legal Considerations

  1. Get a power of attorney so you can sign paperwork for your parents.
  2. Determine whether the mortgage is paid off or if there’s a reverse mortgage.  If it is paid off, you will need to get your hands on a discharge from the bank.
  3. If your parents divorced in the past, you should get hold of the divorce decree, even if it was a long time ago.
  4. If one parent passed before the other, the death certificate for the first parent will be required.  Also make sure probate was filed for the first parent.
  5. If your parent has passed and you’re selling a property, check if there are barriers like liens or back taxes to settle.
  6. If your parent has passed, file probate (unless it is in a trust) and make sure the representative is identified.
  7. Get an Attorney to help with all this.

Financial Considerations

  1. It is best to have your parents moved before their house goes on the market.  Selling the home around them can be stressful for everyone.  If possible, it is best to sell while they are in rehab or move them to their next home.  However, they may need to sell their home in order to have money for the next place.  There are options from bridging loans to finding a buyer who will allow them to stay post-closing until they find a new home.  Your agent can discuss these options with you.
  2. Capital Gains Tax – the taxes are different depending on whether your parents (one or both) are living or passed.  It is so important to speak to an attorney or accountant about this.   If your parent has passed, the cost basis is the value at their passing.  If not, it is what they paid for it plus improvements they made.  If they transfer it to you while alive for a nominal amount, that becomes the cost basis.  You can lose a lot of money if you do not plan for taxes.

Preparing to Sell the Home

  1. Protect the home. If your parent is in the hospital, it is imperative to make sure the house is being watched and cared for. The simpliest way is to engage an agent right away. At the very least, have a neighbor you trust watch the home for you.
  2. Find an Agent who specializes in selling homes of seniors and homes in probate.  That is where we come in.  Provide us with the basic information and we will get back to you right away to help you through the process.
  3. Gather all the information you can about the home’s systems and appliances, repairs, warranties, and so forth. Also list the changes and upgrades that have been made to the property and when the projects were completed. These could include the roof, HVAC system, and appliances, along with renovations, aesthetic improvements, and green (solar panels, energy efficient windows, etc.
  4. Beyond that, your SRES agent can help you clear out the house, stage the house and deal with all the details to take the sale to closing.  The earlier you engage us, the less you will have to do yourself.


Unless your parents can’t make decisions, your role is to help them find the perfect next home.  There are many options ranging from a smaller, accessibility equipped home, to 55+ communities, all the way to assisted living.  Your agent can help you identify these options in your parent’s location.

Right-size Thoughtfully

You may consider your parents’ collections and things a bunch of junk, but to them, objects may hold memories and they may consider certain things treasures. Be gentle and respectful when you’re purging household goods and deciding what to donate, sell or toss.  It can be hard to see that your parents are still the adults they were when they raised you – they can seem child-like to you as they become more dependent on you.  But that often them hold on more fiercely to whatever decisions they have within their power to make. Give them that if you can.

Share the Details with Your Parent

Seniors often are concerned about details of the selling process, especially if they’re still living in the house when it goes on the market. Be certain that your real estate professional is sensitive and outlines the timeline for activities associated with listing and marketing the house. Those include the date the home will go on the market, when flyers and MLS tours will be available, when a lock box will be installed, when broker tours will begin, and what to expect during showings and open house

We are here to help – you do not have to do this alone.  The earlier in the process we get involved, the more we can take off your shoulders.  Contact Us at to talk about what we can do to help.

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