I had a phone call about 9 months ago from an elderly man. His wife had passed away 10 years earlier and his children were grown and all living in other states. He said he called me because he had met me about 15 years ago through his wife. I had worked with his wife, (a former REALTOR) and remembered her well. Years later, he was living alone in the home they had built together and was trying to make the hard decision so many elderly people have to face. Is it time to sell the family home and buy a small condo or perhaps move into a retirement center? His children thought he should sell the home and move while he was in good health. He wanted my advice and an idea of what his home is worth. I was grateful he called me and really wanted to help him make the right decision.
The more we spoke on the phone that night I could tell by some of the things he was saying that he must have been an engineer or at least a high C personality. I ask him what he retired from and he told me he was an engineer. I was delighted once again by the gift I have of understanding people. It helps me help them to know how they process information because everyone is so different. With a keen understanding of his personality I told him he needed to take his time because this is a major life change and I have watched my clients over the years make really good moves and I have also been called numerous times to sell the town home or condo they bought in a hurry and was now miserable. I suggested he get more information. Taking your time and getting more information is music to the ears of this type of personality. And, it is also the only way he will ever be able to make a final decision and have peace about it. Here is what I told him to do. I hope the advice I gave him can help you too if you are facing the same dilemma yourself or with a loved one:
1. I told him to visit all the retirement centers in the area and learn what they have to offer. I also told him of a few that I personally knew of where people were very happy and suggested he start looking there.
2. I suggested he get quotes on what it would cost to improve his home so he could stay there. I gave him names and numbers of people that could help him with maintenance and remodeling needs he has now.
3. I gave him the name of someone who I know and trust that can retro-fit any home for handicap living and suggested he get a quote of what that cost would be should he need it in the future.
4. I offered to spend a few hours and show him what one story condos and town homes look like inside in case he wanted to go that direction.
5. I offered to give him names and numbers of people who were in his age group and living in condos or retirement centers so he could interview them.
6. And of course, I gave him a range of value he could expect his home to sell for.
A lot of this information that I gave him can be found on my web site.
Nine months passed and he called back. He had visited Cypress and was pretty excited about the newest retirement community in our town. He wanted to meet with me to get my advice. We met at my office and when I finally got to put a face with the voice on the phone I remembered him from years back. Who could forget him? He is the kind of gentle spirited man who has eyes that always look like they are smiling. You know the type? It is rare, and unforgettable. He reminded me of my grandfather that had the same eyes. He arrived with a big packet of information. I could tell he had taken my previous advice and had done his homework. He proudly showed me the floor plan, reviewed the cost and wanted me to tell him if I thought it was a good investment and if he would be happy there. I know of a few people who have already bought at the Cypress so I could share their experience with him. As far as investment, any retirement community is going to be a good investment. The baby boomers are living longer and developers can not keep up with the need. Supply and demand is the perfect recipe for all good investments.
We spent time together on the computer pulling up homes on the big flat screen monitor in my office. He was pleased that I could blow everything up so big for him to see and commented on how far technology had come. We searched homes in his neighborhood and surrounding areas so he could get an idea of the price range he could expect. We clicked on photos so I could give him staging advice for his home and talked briefly about how to get his home ready to sale. We only talk a little bit about this subject because I didn’t want to overwhelm him. We also researched the idea of sub-dividing his large lot and without a doubt that data showed he could put more money in his pocket to sell his house on a ½ acre and sell the other ½ acre separately. I ask him at the end of our appointment if our time together helped him. He said yes, he had gotten exactly what he needed. Now he just has to decide if he wants to trade all of this, as he pointed to his home on the big screen, for this, as he pointed to the tiny paper floor plan. I said Andy, I can assure you if you keep asking yourself that question, that way, and your answer will always come up no. You’re not trading real estate for real estate you are trading life style for life style. No one would ever want to trade a life time of memories in a home they built, raised a family in and are use to, for the unknown on a piece of paper. I couldn’t do it. Not if I thought about it that way. I suggested he start asking himself a different question. Ask would I like to trade a lifestyle of living alone for another lifestyle of living with others my age with many social activities to enjoy? If you don’t want to live alone it becomes easier to let go and start looking for what lifestyle fits you the best. It also helps you release the guilt of leaving a home full of memories. I told him to take his time and try to look at it as a lifestyle choice and see if that doesn’t help him know what to do. He said: “I hear what you are saying but, the Cypress is going to have a price increase next month”. I told him to not feel pressured because of a price increase. There will be another Cypress when it is the right time for him. With that he gave me a hug and was on his way to asking new questions. The memory of his hug will go down as one of my best days.
I have a team member named JoAnn who placed her mother in a retirement center 3 years ago. Her mother had been so sick and the family was overwhelmed by the responsibilities of daily care. JoAnn really thought she would never have another Christmas with her mother. By the time a condo at Magnolia Glen finally opened up, her mother could barely walk in the door. Now the two of them are out shopping for a “Senior Prom” dress for the party this month. If you ask JoAnn about retirement centers she would say it saved her mother’s life. JoAnn has said “My mother has so much fun; she now has something to live for”.
I am sure many of you are faced with these same situations right now or will certainly face them in the future. Take a moment to write if you will please. You may be able to help someone else by sharing your story. If I can help you in anyway please ask.