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Home for the Holidays

 Posted by Jennifer Novak on December 8, 2014 at 10:09 AM

Home for the Holidays

Going home for a holiday visit can provide an opportunity to observe what may be changing in our parents’ lives. Sometimes the changes are good: dad has started a low sodium diet, mom is having her eyesight addressed and the roof is being replaced after 30 years. Other times, we may be dismayed by what we find:  dad can no longer keep up the yard work, furnishings and flooring look stained, dingy and dusty, food is in the pantry or refrigerator is outdated and the furnace does not seem to be working properly.

Once we notice things that make us worry or uncomfortable, we have a tendency to step in and immediately tell our parents what we think they should do. Sometimes that advice is not entirely welcome. Our parents may perceive our advice as criticism and productive conversation may shut down. Of course, if you feel there are immediate health and safety issues in the home, the only responsible action is to try and open a dialogue with your parents regardless of how difficult. However, if you find you are truly uncomfortable with the changes you notice in your parents’ home, a more thoughtful, more respectful approach will yield better results.

During your visit, make a private list of concerns, but do not address them during your holiday weekend. Instead, use the holiday time to enjoy your family and continue observing their overall health, physical and mental abilities. Chances are mom and dad may even raise some concerns on their own.  Like most of their generation, aging parents want to appear capable and independent and often have difficulty letting us know when they need help.

Once the holidays are over, review your list of concerns with siblings, friends, a social worker or care manager.  This may serve as a “reality check” for your own level of concern. Remember, just because our parents have changed the way they live, it does not mean they are incapable of living on their own.

Eventually discuss your more serious concerns with your parents, not as criticism, but as observations. The “Parent Care Conversation”  by Dan Taylor, is one of many books that may help you talk to your parents.

“Do’s” and “Don’ts” of an Estate Sale

 Posted by Jennifer Novak on November 3, 2014 at 6:24 PM

“Do’s” and “Don’ts” of an Estate Sale

One of the challenges consumers face when moving to a smaller space is trying to determine what to do with their downsized possessions.  Today there are more options than ever, including charitable donations, live auctions, online auction sites, tag sales, traditional garage sales and Estate Sales.

For people who have a fair amount of valuable inventory but not a lot of time, an Estate Sale can be a very positive experience.  Estate Sales are run by professionals, who, for an administrative fee and/or a percent of total sales, manage everything for you, including decluttering, home inventory, heavy lifting, pricing, advertising, marketing, and set up. After the sale, qualified experts such as Caring Transitions can also help with move management or help organize clean up, donations, transport or shipping and reconciliation of sales receipts.

DO follow these guidelines

  • Ask for references from any company you employ. You may even want to attend another sale they are holding and see how smoothly it runs. Always use a professional company who is in the business of running Estate Sales.
  • Ask if the company carries liability insurance for business operations and the merchandise they sell, as well as personal injury liability coverage and importantly, workers compensation for employees.
  • Hire the specialist you feel you can trust and discuss payment methods before the contract is signed. Some specialists charge an administrative fee or “minimum” to prepare the sale and others include those same fees in their commissions.
  • Understand that choosing a lower commission percentage does not necessarily mean you will make more money. A skilled professional, with a list of buyers, may make you more money even while charging a higher percentage.
  • Understand it can take days or even a couple weeks to prepare for a sale. Preparation includes, sorting, cleaning, pricing, tagging, merchandising the sale, advertising, arranging for labor and security and selling.
  • Be sure you receive an itemized list of the items in the sale and items sold, after the sale.
  • Discuss the specialist’s process for turning over hidden valuables or personal items found during the sorting process.
  • Allow the specialist to clean the items. Some items are delicate and cleaning may result in damage to valuables.
  • Understand that age does not always equal value in an item. Authenticity is the true guide to value and the item also has to hold its value in today’s market. Your specialist has many resources to help them determine value of special items.
  • Be sure to reserve the items your family wishes to keep and make sure everyone has a list of those items so they are not included in the sale or sales contract.
  • DON’T allow inexperienced or unprofessional people run your sale. This rarely, if ever, produces optimal results and may cost more in the long run as they will have to purchase materials and displays, buy extra advertising, purchase signage and take the time to research prices. The result is usually something like a failed garage sale, leaving you with a lot of unsold items and very little to show for the items that did sell.
  • DON’T be discouraged if an Estate Sale isn’t right for you! Caring Transitions can offer many options to help liquidate, sell, and auction your belongings!

You may also like: Decluttering: Let it Go!

Decluttering: How to “Let it Go!”

 Posted by Jennifer Novak on October 3, 2014 at 2:20 PM

Decluttering: How to “Let it Go!”

At Caring Transitions, we believe “Rightsizing is the art of downsizing with a purpose™”

When you “rightsize” before you move to a new residence, your entire move will progress more smoothly. Your new home will be less cluttered and your current home is more likely to sell.

The point of Rightsizing is to create a new living environment that reflects a meaningful, comfortable lifestyle for the years ahead. Personal possessions that have purpose and meaning are honored and preserved for the new home, while those that have lost their purpose or meaning are respectfully disposed of via sale or donation.

The steps to effective Rightsizing are as follows:

  • Determine the space requirements (via floor plan) for the new residence.
  • Decide what items are actually NEEDED for living safely or comfortably. This includes necessary items such as a bed, place for clothes, eating utensils, and so forth.
  • Add items that we LOVE to the space plan. These are meaningful items that define us as individuals.
  • Choose from what we WANT from the remaining possessions and decide which are most important. Make sure they will fit into the space plan.
  • Review and revise the space plan as necessary.
  • Establish action for selling items of monetary value, gifting those of sentimental value, then donating or disposing of the rest.

The following is a list of items to typically “let go” when you are Rightsizing.

  • Dispose of broken, outdated electronics
  • Reduce items that have too many “multiples.” For example, if you have four 1-quart casserole dishes, release 3. If you have 6 umbrellas, release 4. If you have 3 pair of worn out red wool gloves, you may choose to release them all!
  • Get rid of things that belong to others. For instance, your 40-year old son’s high school project or the heirloom desk you agreed to store for your cousin…10 years ago.
  • Release items you have kept out of guilt or fear. For example, you may have that box of multi-colored knitted scarves that you never wore, but your grandma made, so you just cannot bring yourself to let them go. Now is the time.  Or perhaps you are afraid your neighbor will notice the ant-shaped napkin holder she gave you 15 years ago is now included in the garage sale. In that situation you may wish to donate it instead, but either way, let it go.
  • Finally, donate all the cloths, shoes and coats that never fit, don’t fit or have simply been taking up space for years.
  • Find out of that “special collection” was really worth all the time and energy you once put into it and place it on the market.
  • Sort the linen closet and get rid of everything that doesn’t match, is worn or stained.
  • Give up the many books and magazines that you haven’ read in ages.  In most cases you can rely on digital options or the good old-fashioned library if you ever really wish to read them again.
  • Dump your outdated spices.
  • Do the same with all that accumulated junk mail or newspaper and magazine clippings. Again, the internet provides easy access to all of that information should you ever decide you need it.
  • Find safe outlets for your outdated medications and over the counter products. Most police stations and pharmacies sponsor “take-back” programs.
  • If moving to an apartment or condo, it’s time to sell or donate your lawn , garden and home maintenance items
  • Dump the entire contents of the “junk drawer” (none of it is worth paying a mover to move it!). Keep the car keys and money of course!
  • Reduce your inventory of seasonal décor items.  Try to keep only those that are space efficient or have tremendous sentimental value.

Sometimes “rightsizing” is easier said than done and in those instances, our professional staff is here to help; coast to coast!

Relocation Resources for Older Adults

 Posted by Jennifer Novak on August 1, 2014 at 12:44 PM

Relocation Resources for Older Adults

When it comes to moving an entire home and all its contents, there is good reason to worry about scam artists and rip offs.

Caregivers and adult children of aging parents find themselves in a position to locate qualified resources to help with a pending move and it is often challenging to find truly professional service providers. This is particularly true when trying to help a parent who lives out-of-state.  Fortunately, there are a growing number of professionals who have taken steps to better serve the senior market; improving their skills through national affiliations, training and certification programs.

Realtors:

The National Association of Realtors developed the Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES®) Program in 2006. There are currently about 20,000 SRES® Realtors in the U.S. You can recognize an SRES® by the designation that follows their name, or you may locate one at the SRES website.  Above and beyond regular board certification, this subset of Realtors have been trained to understand the specific needs of older adult clients including housing options, transition resources, financing and other issues facing a later life move from a family home.

Movers:

In conjunction with government agencies, the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) launched their Pro Mover program in 2009 to help the consumer identify and steer clear of moving imposters, known within the industry as “rogue operators.”  The Pro Mover designation gives consumers an easy way to separate reputable, professional movers from con artists out to make a quick buck at their expense. Individuals can determine if their interstate mover has been qualified by looking for the distinctive Pro Mover “M” logo on their business materials and website. The Pro Mover logo is only issued to companies that meet AMSA standards. You may also be contacted directly by a Pro Mover by using AMSA’s mover referral service.

Many state movers’ associations also have their own local programs to help qualify local movers. For more information contact your local mover’s association.

Full-Service Senior Relocation and Estate Liquidation Professionals

Caring Transitions® is the nation’s largest network of full-service relocation, move management and household liquidation professionals.

The organization was founded in 2007 and currently boasts nearly 200 independently-owned offices, serving over 500 U.S. markets. Every Caring Transitions® office has been fully vetted, trained and is industry Certified. Each fully-insured office is staffed with its own W2 employees, who also undergo background screening.

Caring Transitions complete menu of services includes relocation and space planning, sorting, organizing, downsizing, packing, unpacking and household goods liquidation, in the form of professional estate sale or online auction.

Within their expanded network, Caring Transitions® is also able to support families relocating coast-to-coast as easily as those moving within their own zip code. They also are able to coordinate the services of other professionals mentioned above, as well as financing services and VA benefits.  You may find a Caring Transitions® office near you at the company website, www.CaringTransitions.com.

Clearly, as our society changes and the older generations grow even older, there is an important responsibility to establish qualified providers and specialized services to support them.

©Caring Transitions 2014. All rights reserved.

Managing Your Move to Senior Housing

 Posted by Jennifer Novak on June 16, 2014 at 9:38 AM

Once you’ve made a decision to take charge of your own health, safety or social needs by moving to a Senior Living Community,

1. Prepare in advance

Whether choosing to move now or later, you should start putting your home in order today. Begin by evaluating what you really need to keep and then start to downsize, clear out clutter, plan an Estate Sale or make major home repairs. It is a proven fact that homes will sell for a higher price if they are “market ready”, or “Staged”, at the time of listing. (See more about Home Staging) link to BLOG

2. Establish a plan

A good plan can save time and but a professional, well structured plan can help alleviate stress and save money. Establish a relocation timetable as best you can and gather advice from qualified professionals such as movers, realtors, financial advisors and estate sale professionals. You may consider hiring a move manager such as Caring Transitions, who will establish a team approach to ensure a successful senior home transition.

3. Establish a timeline

Start with the date of your intended move and then schedule everything from that time back to present day.  Set some realistic steps and goals for moving forward and don’t try to do everything at once. It can be overwhelming. Establish definitive dates for having meetings, hiring resources or completing projects.

4. Space Plan

Very few moves can be successful without an accurate space plan, especially when moving to late life housing, which is typically much smaller than traditional family homes.  Those who chose to move without a plan are often distraught by the end of a move when they realize their new apartment is cramped and uncomfortable due to too much furniture or poorly planned storage. Professional organizations such as Caring Transitions work closely with clients to understand what is meaningful and important among their possessions. They utilize accurate 3-D space planning tools that help create ideal new environments   and help clients feel at home while saving them the expense of moving unnecessary items.

5. Downsize

Downsizing goes hand-in-hand with space planning for a smaller home, yet it is sometimes the most difficult part of “senior move”.  Many people find it daunting to sort through a lifetime of possessions in order to narrow down the selection of items they will move to a new home.  To help older adults who struggle with those decisions, Industry expert Nan Hayes has spent years teaching companies such as Caring Transitions how to help clients “rightsize” their possessions. Rightsizing helps individuals focus on what is necessary and important to their daily, care, comfort and personal identity and places less importance on sheer “volume” of possessions. In other words, helping clients identify what is personally, but not necessarily materially, valuable.

Many items fall by the wayside  during this rightsizing process  and those that  hold sentimental value are best  given to other as legacy gifts and those that hold material value are best  awarded as inheritances or liquidated through  auction, estate sale or online auction.

6.  Seek support

There can be no doubt that late life home transitions are complex and stressful. You should always seek both personal and professional support throughout the process. Be sure and discuss plans with trusted friends and relatives who have a history of supporting your decisions. The right personal support system can help you evaluate information gathered from professional advisors and create a good sounding board for reviewing choices and making decisions.

Above all, remain focused on what is important for your health, welfare and safety. As long as your medical and financial circumstances allow time to plan, seek the advice and support needed so you can remain in control of this next step in your life.

©Caring Transitions 2000-2014

Just For Seniors: Moving vs. Aging in Place

 Posted by Jennifer Novak on May 15, 2014 at 9:20 AM

Establishing short term and long term housing goals can help families plan ahead for large moving or remodeling projects. It is best to consider changes to home and housing as early as possible in order to avoid situations where last minute decisions may wreak havoc on financial and emotional stability.

Today, individuals are fortunate to have many housing choices, including independent living, assisted living, active adult communities and the ability to continuing living at home with assistance and safety modifications. Reorganizing, remodeling and redesign may also serve to make existing home environments comfortable for years to come.

Moving

While a change in an individual’s functionality often initiates a senior move, many folks simply decide they no longer want to stay in a home that is too large or requires  a great deal of maintenance. Increasingly, older adults choose to move to a residential setting designed exclusively for seniors. This lifestyle choice provides a number of benefits such as safety, security, meal plans and health care services.

Regardless of these benefits, many individuals are overwhelmed at the thought of moving in late life. Fortunately, companies such as Caring Transitions work with closely with Senior Living Communities to help manage the entire move process from start to finish.  A wide range of services are available including space planning, sorting, downsizing, packing, unpacking, plus van line and real estate referrals, as well as liquidation of personal property through professional estate sale and online auction.

Staying at Home

According to AARP, over 85% of older adults prefer to age in their own homes. Today, there are more agencies and tools available that can make your “stay at home” choice a safer and more achievable reality.

Just as with our moving options, older adults need to evaluate their real needs, finances and community/caregiving resources and then formulate a “stay at home” plan.

If you or an older relative decides to stay in his/her own home or apartment but finds household tasks too overwhelming, or needs assistance with personal or health care issues, an array of home care support services are available in most communities. Contacting your local Area Agency on Aging or home health care agencies can help you obtain access to these services.

©Caring Transitions 2000-2014

Five Tips for Family Caregiving

 Posted by Jennifer Novak on May 1, 2014 at 10:56 AM

As the Baby Boomer generation moves into their 60’s and their parents move into their 80’s and 90’s,   more attention has been given to the role of the family caregiver.  An increased number of resources are available in communities and online and within that data, it is evident most experts agree on the basic tools adult child require to help them gain control over stressful family situations.

1. Assess the Situation: You can find out how your parents feel about their changing health and household needs by asking simple, open-ended and non-threatening questions. “How was your last visit to the doctor?”  Parent Conversations are important and you adult children should listen to what parents have to say and gauge their response carefully, so not to patronize or antagonize the older adult.

As you learn more about the situation, consider these three primary areas which may require third-party professional assessment: 1. medical concerns, 2. cognitive concerns and, 3. assessment of functional abilities or “Activities of Daily Living” (ADL’s). This last group includes items such as socialization, personal hygiene and the ability to prepare meals, take medications and manage finances.

2. Organize Information: Family members should discuss the location of important medical, legal and financial documents with parents and determine if they willing to release copies of information. If the older adults prefer to keep paperwork in the hands of legal or financial representatives, that is their prerogative.

3. Gather Support: Long Distance Caregiving often involves a team approach. Resources will vary for every family, and may involve medical professionals, social services, care managers, home care providers, attorneys, financial advisors and more. Additional support for parents is available in the form of relatives, close friends, neighbors, religious leaders and other associates.

4. Establish a Plan: As the conversation progresses, you may discuss short and long term options with your parents. Take into account the advice of professionals along with your parents’ personal wishes. Once areas of necessary support have been identified, communicate with local care givers and/or other family members to make sure things are progressing as planned.

5. Recognize Your Limitations: Frequent travel to visit parents can be stressful and creates difficult situations for jobs and immediate family. Budget your travel funds and set up a network of support through family, friends and child care services to help support your new role. Don’t overlook signs of stress, which are quite common for care givers.

As our parents live longer, many of us will need to develop an entire new caregiving skill set. Fortunately, supportive technology, services and professional resources are developing at rapid pace.

©Caring Transitions 2000-2014

More Things to Consider When Closing the Family Estate

 Posted by Jennifer Novak on April 22, 2014 at 4:47 PM

In the event a homeowner has died, the family often has many more things to consider beyond preparation and sale of the home.

Typically, a family member or family friend has been named Personal Representative of the decedent.  This role is may be referred to as Executor or Administrator and is the fiduciary put in charge of settling the estate. If there is a Last Will and Testament, a probate judge will typically appoint the Personal Representative named in the will as the Executor.

In general, the decedent’s estate planning documents such as the Last Will, funeral plans and living trust, should be organized for the estate attorney. In most cases, set aside three years of tax returns and locate a 3 month inventory of all account statements, such as checking, savings, cd’s, retirement accounts and brokerage accounts. Stock and bond certificates are required, as well as life insurance policies  and the beneficiary designations for payable on death accounts such as insurance and IRAs, real estate deeds,  titles for automobiles and other recreational vehicles, corporate records, household and utility bills, medical bill and funeral bills.  The Executor must also try and identify all creditors and outstanding debts.

The next step is determining the value of the estate at the time of death.  For all items listed on the inventory, this is typically the fair market value of the asset at the time of death. Bank and retirement accounts are listed per the most recent statements.  Real estate may be listed at its value as assessed for real estate taxes. For other property, fair market value is normally “the price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller in the retail market.” Appraisals are often required and the cost of appraisal or advice of accountant in these matters is usually allowable as an administrative cost of the estate.

An account is typically set up for the estate and used to pay estate management expenses and pay the decedent’s outstanding debts. Careful records of all transactions must be kept.

Typically, estate taxes must be filed within a specific time frame. Estate taxes can be very complicated and can have a significant impact on the value of the estate, as well as heirs and beneficiaries.   It is advisable to seek the experience of an estate tax attorney or CPA, who can help determine state and federal liability.

After all else is done,  the executor will distribute the decedent’s assets to the beneficiaries named in the  Last Will, or if there was no will, according to decedent’s heirs at law. The estate is closed by filing a “final accounting” with the court. The Executor also files a “closing statement,” that indicates all taxes and debts have also been paid and all property distributed.

©Caring Transitions

You may also be interested in

  • Home Downsizing to Sell
  • Five Reason to Stage Your Home
  • Ten Steps to Home Staging
  • Caring Transitions Blog Series

Ten Steps to Home Staging

 Posted by Jennifer Novak on April 1, 2014 at 4:28 PM

According to Real Estate Staging Association statistics, staged homes are on the market 67% less time than non-staged homes.

If you are a skilled or impartial seller, the basic steps to home staging may be familiar to you and easy to apply.  Many homeowners, however, find it easier and more effective to hire a professional s or work with an experienced Realtor to prepare a property for listing. The following steps may help you get started.

  1. Focus on the task at hand. Keep in mind your objective is to sell as quickly as possible and at a good price. Understand that living in a staged home is different than living in your home. Once you list your home, your concern should no longer be about your own comfort or decorating preferences, but all about the home buyer’s perception.
  2. Evaluate the home. View every room from the doorway to determine how it looks. Make sure each room has a clear entryway and a spacious feel. Move or eliminate furnishings that may be blocking entry ways, light or seem too bulky or heavy for the space.
  3. View every room for the amount of natural and artificial light. Take steps to add light, clean windows and open or replace window treatments. If the views of the outdoors are pleasing, window treatments may be minimized.
  4. Evaluate your paint colors, busy wallpaper patterns and any structural damage. Neutral colors are best. Hire remodeling professionals and contractors to make improvements in these areas.
  5. Thoroughly clean everything. Cobwebs, skylights, windows, brick work, baseboards, flooring, carpets, corners of appliances and on and on.
  6. Declutter rooms by removing extra pieces of furniture, item in storage spaces, excess or broken electronics, collectibles and other items that create a “cluttered” feel.  Hold a professional Estate Sale to optimize the value of your possessions and offset some of your household move or staging costs.
  7. Don’t fill your storage spaces to help clear out other rooms. Storage space is often an important selling feature and buyers want to know how much space is available. Portable storage units may help you organize excess, but for a permanent and cost-free solution, we recommend “Downsizing to Sell.”
  8. Depersonalize your home. Removing refrigerator magnets, family pictures and religious items make some homeowners feel sad, but in reality it is best if the home buyer can imagine how their belongings will look in the home, rather than yours.
  9. Address any odors. Whether smells are due to age, people or pets, most houses have their own particular odor. Use air cleaners, unscented aerosols and open windows to reduce unpleasant odors.
  10. Don’t forget the outdoors.  Creating “curb appeal” has been a selling practice for many years. Be sure to trim bushes and plant attractive flowers in warm weather; shovel driveways and remove dead foliage when it is cold.  Discuss the need for other repairs and issues with your realtor or home staging professional.

Preparing a house for market may seem daunting,   yet as long as you focus on your overall objective, which is selling quickly for the best possible price, you may learn to apply these home staging basics and achieve excellent results.  Find more “Reasons to Stage Your Home” in this blog series.

©Caring Transitions

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Five Reasons to Stage Your Home

 Posted by Jennifer Novak on February 7, 2014 at 4:25 PM

The concept of “home staging” has been around for a number of years now, but some sellers may not yet realize that preparing their home for sale isn’t just an option, it is a necessity. Similar to sprucing up a used car before listing it for sale, most homes require a good clean and polish before they are placed on the market. Home staging experts agree on several more reasons to stage before you sell:

1. Staging helps sell homes faster. A National Association of Realtors survey found that the longer a home stays on the market, the further below list price it drops. Homes that sold in the first 4 weeks averaged 1% more than the list price; 4 to 12 weeks averaged 5% less; 13 to 24 weeks averaged 6.4% less; than list price; and 24 weeks averaged more than 10% less than list price.

2. Staging investments won’t break the bank. According to other home staging statistics, an average expenditure of $575 for simple cleaning, decluttering, lightening and brightening provides a return of over $2,400 on the sale price of an average home, which is more than a 400% return on investment.

3. Staging provides a market advantage. According to the National Association of Realtors, over 90% of buyers search for homes online before they decide which to visit.  Online real estate videos and photos that reflect nicely staged rooms provide a true advantage over competitors.

4. Staging creates appeal. Residential buyers tend to make emotional decisions when they decide to purchase a home. The potential residence should feel like home as they walk through. Many buyers are simply unable to envision relaxing or raising a family in a home that is dirty, cluttered or in disrepair.

5. Staged homes generate better selling price. According to a National Association of Realtors survey, homes that sold after 4 weeks on the market sold for 6% less than those which sold in the first four weeks. Improving the appearance of your home can help speed up the sale, especially when the home is priced right.

©Caring Transitions 

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