Don’t sell just to accommodate others #722

#722 in a series of true experiences in real estate

All in a bunch this week, we got calls from several elders wanting information and conversation. Anet answered one call from a charming man named Tom who asked right off if there would be a charge to come see us at our office. Tom said he was thinking of selling his house. “Except,” he immediately added, “I really don’t want to sell.”

Anet suggested that Tom tell her more right then while they were connected by phone, and so he did, saying that he’d lived in his house in Rockridge for more than forty years. He and his wife had raised their children there, but they’d all grown up and moved away. Now a widower, Tom lived alone and was getting along fine.

So why think of selling? Anet asked. Well it’s a big house, was the explanation, full of possessions, and since he didn’t expect to live forever, and he has 5 children, Tom is worried about what will happen between them when he is gone.

Had he put his house in a living trust? Anet wanted to know. Yes, he’d named his daughter, the only one of his children who lives locally, as successor trustee. Excellent, Anet told him.

“But” he fretted, “how will my children deal with my property? They’ve all got busy lives and they live in other places. It just doesn’t seem right to leave them this job which should properly be mine to do.”

Tom went on to describe his fears: a house in need of updating, numerous belongings that would need to be sorted, distributed, thrown out. “Wouldn’t it be a kindness,” he asked, “to redo the kitchen, clean out the accumulation, sell the house now?”

But where would you go? Anet asked next. He had no idea. “And you like being where you are?” she queried. She asked if he was getting around ok? Stairs a problem?

“No, no,” said Tom. “I’m getting along just fine.”

“So, the only reason you would go through clearing and cleaning, redoing, selling and moving would be for the sake of your children?” Yes.

“Don’t do it,” was Anet’s advice. She told her new acquaintance that he’d done everything he should do. He had a trust, his daughter was named. “What’s your hurry?” Anet happily asked. “You might easily be around for another twenty years.”

“So go on that vacation, Tom. Enjoy every minute. Live your life,” said Anet. “Besides, Tom, trying to anticipate what should be done to a house when you don’t know when it will be sold just doesn’t make sense. Styles change, preferences, too. Beyond keeping the house in reasonable repair, if the way it is now suits you, nothing else needs to be done.”

As far as moving somewhere else, Anet told Tom, finding and buying, then selling is so complicated and consuming that unless he really needs to move, he shouldn’t even think of putting himself through it. Cleaning out the house would only make sense if it were something Tom wanted to do for himself.

Anet said that it is true that there can be disagreement among siblings over who gets what. But it can also be the case that no one cares. Not long ago we handled the sale of a house that had been left, along with a full complement of contents, to a daughter. She didn’t want a thing. She didn’t even go look at what was there but instead hired an estate liquidator to empty the house.

“Most of all,” Anet pleaded her point, “how far must a parent’s obligation to his children go?” She said that she certainly doesn’t want her own mother to be “fixing things” for her children. Far better that Anet’s mother enjoy every day of her life. When the sad time arrives that Anet and her sister must deal with mom’s affairs, they’ll deal with them then.

We’re both hoping that time won’t come for quite awhile. And we wish the same for Tom and for this week’s other older callers.

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