This past fall, I was showing homes to a couple who were looking for a bigger home for their family. We went to go and see two homes on the same street that were the exact same lay-out and design (this happens a lot in the DC area). The price of the homes, however, was 150K different, and we were curious as to why. The first home was vacant and the kitchens and bathrooms had been redone. That was the higher-priced home. They liked it a lot. We went into the second home with high hopes that they could buy it for a lot less and redo what they wanted to redo in their own style and taste.
The agent of the second home had told me that the seller would be home, along with a housekeeper. There were no cars in front of the home, but we knocked several times and waited. Then we decided the seller must have left for the showing, and I used the key from the lockbox to enter the home. I called out “Realtor! Hello?” when entering, as I always do in an occupied home. No answer.
This home was obviously lived in, and nothing had been done to prepare the home for sale. There were mounds of papers and knick-knacks piled on every available surface. The house was dark. My buyers felt ill-at-ease, but wanted to give the place a chance. After a few minutes of looking at the kitchen and family room, one of my buyers headed down the hall to look at the bedrooms. She came back in a terrible hurry. “There’s a man in the bed back there!” she whispered. The buyers immediately wanted to leave, so we did. Out in the front yard we ran into the “housekeeper” who was actually a home health aide. She had left for a few minutes and was just returning.
The listing agent for this home was obviously not used to working with elderly clients. Rather than simply telling me someone would be home, she should have explained the situation to me, i.e. there’s a bed-ridden man living there and he will be in such and such bedroom. Then I could’ve prepared my clients and it wouldn’t have been such a shock. Also, she had said the house would be messy, as they were preparing for an estate sale. I think it would’ve been better to do the sale and then put the home on the market. It is very hard for most buyers to look past a ton of clutter in a home. It is not an advantage to put a home on the market a few weeks earlier in the fall if the home is not really ready to be shown.
Perhaps it just wasn’t financially feasible for the man to move (I assume to an assisted living or long-term care community) before the house went on the market. But most of the time someone can swing a couple of months of a house payment (if there’s still a mortgage on the home), and a couple of months of assisted living. Then, they don’t have to worry about leaving any time the home is shown (which is extremely hard for many elderly or ill people). And they don’t have to worry about being home when buyers are coming to look at the home, which is an awkward situation for everyone. Also, the house is likely to be empty, or at least emptier, which will show much better than a cluttered home. As at the listing agent, if an elderly person is still living at home, I am very reluctant to move any furniture around for staging purposes, because I don’t want them to trip and fall because of the new furniture arrangement.
In the end, I think the elderly person makes up for briefly paying for the old home and the new home at the same time, because the home they’re selling will sell faster and for more money if it isn’t cluttered and no one is home during the showings. So if you or a loved one is in the situation where you need or want to move, consider moving before your home goes on the market.
If you have any questions or would like to talk further about this or other senior moving issues, please contact me at Catherine.S@lnf.com or 202-352-4899.