Sometimes, particularly in the lives of senior adults, things change quickly. A fall, an unexpected illness, or loss of a spouse may require the selling of the family home.

But seniors and family members can start preparing early to reduce making mistakes that may adversely affect the home’s sale price.

Let’s look at some of the questions involved in selling a home owned by a senior.

Who Will be Involved in the Sale Process?

Obviously, the senior adult(s) should be involved, unless there is some cognitive impairment that renders them unable to make decisions. Family members, and perhaps friends who may later assist with the move, should also be consulted.

When the process of selling the house begins, should a real estate agent be contacted to represent the sellers? These agents do charge a commission, but unless a member of the family has some expertise in home sales, it is advisable to employ an agent.

A good agent will set a fair and competitive price for the home, show the home to potential buyers, host open houses, prepare promotional information on the home, and handle details of the sale and closing process.

What Needs to be Done to Prepare the Home?

Making the home as attractive as possible will translate into a higher value at sale time.

Begin with the interior. Walk through the home and try to see it through the eyes of a potential buyer.

Clear out the clutter. A huge amount of furniture, photos on the wall and knick-knacks, while precious to the homeowners, are distracting to potential buyers trying to visualize how their belongings would look and fit in the home.

People value closet space, so make sure the closets are not cluttered. Strongly consider discarding or donating an item if it hasn’t been used or looked at for a year.

Some items can be placed in temporary storage. There’s a fee, but a bonus of decluttering is that it can make it easier to move into a smaller home or senior living community.

Make repairs. Few people want to purchase a plumbing problem, sticky windows, damaged carpet, or walls that need painting.

Clean and brighten the interior. Wash the windows and clean drapes. Paint interior walls in more neutral and lighter colors. Consider adding floor lamps or other additional lighting to make the home glow.

Renovations can boost the value of a home. Focus on changes that aren’t strongly tied to particular tastes. A built-in aquarium in the living room? No. A built-in bookcase in the living room? Perhaps so.

Where is Your Home?

Of course you know where the home is, but what are home prices for the neighborhood? A real estate agent can show you the listed prices of comparable homes in the area.

When to Sell the Home?

If there is time to wait, the warmer weather of spring is often the best time to put a home on the market. However, timing can vary from region to region. A local agent will know these trends. Moreover, your senior loved one’s situation may not allow for a choice in this matter.

Why Sell the Home?

This is a question your senior loved one may ask. Most seniors do not want to leave their home even when there are compelling physical or cognitive reasons to do so. Their reluctance may cause the selling process to drag on and on, so the situation may require calling in outside assistance.

Again, your real estate agent can be a source of information, particularly about the financial impact of holding onto a home for too long while it deteriorates for lack of maintenance. Many senior living organizations, including Bethesda, offer professional assistance and guidance in areas of moving. If your loved one ends up moving into a senior living community, make sure you ask whether this service is provided.

In addition, geriatric care managers who are experienced in the needs of seniors can be an unbiased source, and can also provide information and help with the transition of your loved one to a senior living community. This is helpful because a major objection to moving for seniors is just having to deal with all the details.

Selling a home is a major step for anyone. It may involve emotions and memories for the homeowner, many details, some disappointments, and require patience. But planning and preparing should make it more profitable

You should be prepared that your senior loved one will need to sell his or her home, and perhaps sooner than anyone anticipated. Check out our Finance & Planning section of our blog to ensure you’re ready for these life events.