Apartment an alternative to senior home move #692

#692 in a series of true experiences in real estate

Estelle and Frank lived in their sweet house for forty years. They laughed and loved and raised their child there.

The house provided them warmth and shelter, space for their belongings, a place to invite friends to come. Frank and Estelle took care of the house, kept it very clean, inside and out. Frank regularly climbed up on the roof to level the gravel and cover the edges with protective paint. Estelle washed and wiped, vacuumed and swept every single day.

Time went by. Their child grew up, went to college and moved a fair distance away. She came to visit her parents frequently (they always celebrated their birthdays together), but she lived her own life. Frank and Estelle found other joys.

They joined a hiking club together, went to the movies most every week. Frank took up Bridge, playing mornings twice a week with friends. Estelle enrolled in French and history classes at the senior center.

They bought a little motor home which they parked in front of their house, and occasionally they drove it away on pleasant travels. On other occasions, they boarded an airplane to fly off to foreign lands. While they were away, a neighbor brought in their mail and watered the plants, and when the neighbor was himself on vacation, Estelle and Frank returned the favor.

Gradually they realized that, while still enthusiastic and energetic, they wanted freedom from caring for the house. Frank wasn’t comfortable climbing a ladder and working on the roof. Estelle, still cleaning her heart out, didn’t enjoy cooking anymore; she’d rather eat what someone else had prepared. They decided to look at other places they might live.

They visited senior complexes in the area, quite a number of facilities owned by various churches. Most offered apartments in high-rise buildings with meals, recreation rooms, laundry and room cleaning services. For an entry price plus a monthly fee, many promised lifelong care, including nursing and medical attention, if needed.

This was tempting. Frank and Estelle could sell their house and be able to pay to secure their apartment in the complex of their choosing. It would be smaller than their house, but they could move their own furniture in; someone else would do the vacuuming, provide bed linens, launder their clothes and, best of all, feed them. They would make new friends, watch movies in the common recreation areas, attend exercise classes, and go on organized outings with the other residents.

After the initial buy-in, they would pay a monthly fee from then on. The fee was hefty, and so they were careful. They visited the complex a number of times, talked with staff and residents, ate a number of meals (which they found quite tasty), and checked out the medical plan. Finally they were satisfied. They paid a deposit, selected the color of the carpet that would be installed in their apartment, and signed a contract.

Then they got busy at home. They cleaned out every already-well-organized drawer and closet; sorted, cleared and packed. Frank gave away his bottled collection of nails, screws and other house-handy hardware. Estelle set aside her now little-used cookie sheets and cake pans, tablecloths and extra blankets for sale.

The senior home sent someone to the house to measure their furniture and plot it on an apartment floor plan. The dining room and kitchen tables wouldn’t be needed; the extra bed and couch wouldn’t fit. They’d sell these. Also the motor home. Trips, from now on, would be with tours; France, they were already planning, would be next.

They listed their house for sale with us. We adored them from the first. Sweet, kind, interesting people, we are grateful to know them. We asked if they were sure they wanted to sell. Their house was in very good shape, was all on one level, was in a pleasant, quiet neighborhood, and it cost them very little to live there. Did they really want to go to the senior home?

Yes, it would allow them to travel more. Yes, Estelle wouldn’t have to cook anymore. Yes, there would be no more concern about house maintenance. And so the house was sold.

About ten days after the contract was signed, right in the thick of Estelle and Frank lining up the movers, and after the buyers of their dining and kitchen tables had come, paid and fetched them away, we got a phone call from Frank. He and Estelle had been talking to their daughter and she had been going through their finances. Their house had sold, as many do these days, for more than they expected, and that was a godsend. But, nevertheless, they now had calculated, they would have no money in fifteen years. They’d be flat broke.

God willing, they’d still be alive in fifteen years. If their money was gone, they could apply for public assistance; the senior home would accept these payments and continue to house, feed and care for them. But the very idea of being flat broke was anathema to Frank and Estelle. What, they asked us, could they do?

We asked if they still wanted to sell the house. They did. We asked if they had considered other senior facilities which do not require a large cash payment. They said that in their earlier search they hadn’t found any of these to their liking.

Maybe they should rent a regular apartment, Frank suggested. Except, he remembered, Estelle would still have to cook. But maybe that would be ok. Maybe they would eat out a lot.

We said that they could eat out every day at every meal for quite a long time if they weren’t paying a large up-front fee to the senior home. But they’d be giving up all the other advantages that the home provides. We said we didn’t see how we could weigh these things for them.

That afternoon, as we were wondering how Frank and Estelle could find an apartment if that’s what they decided they wanted, we got another phone call from Frank. He was very excited and cheery. They’d found an apartment, he told us, and they’d rented it!

It was exactly what they wanted: close to their favorite movie house and to Frank’s Bridge game, near the senior center where Estelle takes her classes, and within easy walking distance to restaurants, groceries and buses. All of their furniture would fit, there was a laundry area, even a garage.

It couldn’t be more ideal except for a couple of minor things: They’d sold the dining tables and Estelle would still have to cook. But, they thought, they could work these things out and, we are sure, they will.

Why, by the following afternoon, they’d already bought themselves a new table.

This entry was posted in Seller Stories. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

  • Sign up to receive our newspaper columns: