Mother with Dementia, Father in Denial | A Late-Boomer’s Journey

Boomers and their parents are facing these transitions now.  Some will be proactive, most will be reactive to changing conditions.

old couple kissWorking with aged 50 and older clients to meet their housing needs requires an expert understanding of their lifestyle and financial needs, and my SRES® designation means I take that understanding seriously. But it’s more than that.

My personal experience with my folks, who are both well into their 90s, was filled with anxiety, confusion, frustration, uncertainty and exhaustive energy surrounding a decision to move them into a new residence for optimal safety and health.  It was a profound but necessary endeavor that was literally years in the making because they didn’t want to face their eventual reality…they were getting older…much older.  Their refusal to seriously consider better options ended with our biggest concern.

My mother had another, very serious fall when she was home alone for a brief period of time.  She hit her head on the furniture after losing her balance and then smashed her cheek on the hardwood floor.  She lay face down bleeding profusely, unable to move let alone get up.  We were all shaken to the core.  Coupled with her rapidly devolving dementia, she’d passed the point of no return and could no longer be cared for safely in her own home.

Even in the face of such catastrophic circumstances, my father continued to stall for several months.  I decided to build a 12-month spreadsheet showing their income, regular household expenses, home maintenance needs as well as the astronomical costs for 24-hour home care.  My father was a businessman before retirement and continued to keep meticulous financial records, budgets and projections.  This spreadsheet was a factual black and white study for him to fully understand their situation, if not from a health perspective, then from a financial standpoint.  I knew he would be able to see that home health care, regular daily maintenance and the ongoing expenses associated with their home far exceeded their current annual income.  They had planned very well for a very comfortable retirement, yet their income could only support them in regular circumstances; it could not support well over $17,000 per month in expenses when intensive health and care were needed.

That spreadsheet, with all its undeniable facts, was the instrument that paved the way for my father to see that they only had a few short months before using up all of their available cash.  After that, they would have to begin liquidating investments and it wouldn’t take long to deplete those either.

M&D&Me Cropped
My folks & me about ’67

Sitting with my father, talking through the numbers, was one of the most intimate moments I’ll remember with him.  He was awash with a spectrum of emotions – resignation, sadness, grief, anger and self-blame for not having done “enough” to financially provide for them to stay in their home until death.  He’d done extremely well, but with the cost of home care at unimaginable levels, their investments couldn’t generate enough to keep up.  Aside from the financial realization that he was coming to grips with, he finally understood that my mother’s well being was dependent on an appropriate residence where household assistance, nursing, feeding, bathing and mental stimulation could be provided at all hours.

While my mother took a couple of days to adjust to the inevitable move, she made a positive turn toward the new chapter ahead.  I believe it was easier for her because the house she lived in – my childhood home – was no longer familiar.  In her dementia, she didn’t often know how she got there and she frequently wanted to “go home.”  She grieved the loss of her faculties and ability to be super-active unlike my father, who showed his grief by expressing anger at the thought of leaving their things behind.

IMG_3610We decided to keep the home unoccupied once they moved to their new place because it provided a sense of security during a transitional period. But once my parents were settled, we began the process of going through the closets, sifting through the attic, combing the garage and pulling out everything from under the furniture.  We unpacked every drawer, box and envelope.  It called forth an even different set of emotions from tears to laughter to wonder to relief.  A full 2 weeks later, ceaselessly organizing some 70 years of married life, it was time to interview and hire an estate sale professional who would respect years of collecting beautiful things and building a lovely home.

Any stress or uncertainty I felt when considering the sale of their home was alleviated once I was unexpectedly referred to a friend of the family who was a realtor.  Because he was a generational peer and understood the delicate circumstances, I felt I could trust him to help me every step of the way.  For both professionals, trust was the thing I was looking for and they each delivered exactly that.

The facts are these.  It took catastrophic events for my parents to get fully organized legally by putting updated, appropriate powers of attorney in place as well as creating new wills.  When we thought my mother was on the edge of death a full 3 years before moving from their home, I insisted on purchasing cemetery plots so that such decisions wouldn’t have to be made in the middle of agonizing emotions.  As their financial power of attorney, I simplified and organized every aspect of their financial lives so that I could manage their day-to-day affairs easily.  I made several visits to different assisted living and continuous care residences so that, when the time came, I could present preferred choices according to environment and cost.

As organized and prepared as I became over 3 years, when the day arrived to make the decision to move, it was still extraordinarily stressful, painful and emotionally draining for all of us.  The ensuing process created angst, confusion and intense sadness while demanding long periods of time away from my own life and family.  I can only imagine how a family moves through such a process when not so organized or because of an unexpected life event that forces immediate changes in living circumstances for a parent or a spouse.

Boomers and their parents are facing these transitions now.  Some will be proactive, most will be reactive to changing conditions.  It’s my own unrelenting experience alongside my parents, brothers and family members that caused me to secure my SRES® credential.  As a Seniors Real Estate Specialist®, I consider it a privilege to pay it forward by navigating, in part, such difficult transitions for other elders and their families while establishing trust in facilitating their current and most important needs.  Let’s travel this journey together…you’ll need trusted professionals in your corner.

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4 Reasons to Work with a Real Estate Specialist

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4 Reasons to work with a Real Estate Specialist

A broker who’s earned the Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES®) designation made the choice to assist people who may be unsure about how to navigate life’s transitions.

Older homeowners often face tough choices about where to live.

You’ve probably heard the saying “all real estate is local.” It’s never been more true than in our current changing market in Western Washington. Though home prices can vary dramatically in our new climate, still from street to street, demanding a broker’s expertise to be VERY local.

No matter the dynamics of the market, real estate decisions are also extremely intimate and personal as unique needs arise for every buyer or seller. This is especially true for letting go of or purchasing a home later in life, which may include distinct challenges like floor plans that accommodate aging in place, estate planning or fulfillment considerations or special financing requirements.

If you’re over the age of 50 and making the decision to sell or buy a home – or are assisting someone who is – here are 4 distinct reasons to pick a real estate specialist who chooses to work with older clients:

A broker who’s earned the Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES®) designation made the choice to assist people who may be unsure about how to navigate life’s transitions. Many enjoy the process and have first-hand knowledge about the typical steps involved because they’ve helped parents, neighbors and relatives make similar real estate decisions. It’s all about using a wealth of skills to help others steer down a new path.

Newly retired? Empty nester? Divorced? Spouse has died? Any of these monumental changes can precipitate a huge adjustment in lifestyle which often leads to ‘where to live.’ An SRES® will closely listen to your concerns and share potential solutions and resources to help make some decisions. Real estate brokers who make it part of their business to work with seniors already understand the challenges and know which properties come closest to meeting current needs. You can rely on such a broker to have a toolbox of ideas and resources for every step of the transition.

A senior specialist understands that major life changes are never easy, but they don’t shy away from the difficult topics or emotions that often accompany these decisions. There’s no hurry, no need to make a plan by sundown, no pressure to move quickly. Sometimes we don’t know what the priorities are or how the plan will go, and it often changes as you roll along. A caring broker will stay attuned to unexpected challenges and unusual opportunities while often checking in on your state of being.

Brokers who work with older clients don’t just talk about the issues, they get involved, whether it’s volunteering in the community’s senior-centric activities, developing relationships with vendors or meeting with new care residences, agencies and relevant individuals. It’s all about building the rolodex with other empathetic partners who can also assist clients with their new, transitional goals.

You can count on an SRES® to guide you through the process of buying or selling your home, making the transaction less stressful and more successful. For brokers who choose to work with older clients, a passion for helping people naturally comes with the package.

Hands-Off or Hands-On? When Selling a Home, it’s All about the Plan

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Ballard | A World of History NOT a World Away

I’d been waiting for an “excuse” to get over to Ballard because it always seemed so out of the way.

Version 3Lately, I’ve taken steps outside my comfort zone. On purpose, and, it’s been pretty neat.

After a lengthy afternoon visit to MOHAI, Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry standing squarely on the south bank of Lake Union, I discovered, among many stories of our region’s past, that European influence was significant. Because Washington was a U.S. territory until it reached statehood in 1889, it surprised me that Spain, Great Britain and Russia had laid claim to land so late in our history. Of course, Native tribes and American interests were well entrenched, too.

My time in MOHAI made me want to learn more about how the Pacific Northwest, and specifically Seattle, grew out of a melting pot of natives, immigrants, cultures, work ethics, commerce and opportunity. With a renewed, piqued curiosity, I know there’s so much that goes into our history – Chinese and Japanese immigrants, the Klondike Gold Rush, Chief Seattle of the Duwamish tribe and the arrival of many of our city’s recognizable families.

I zeroed in on Ballard, where many immigrants from Scandinavia landed after first arriving on the east coast. Feeling more at home because of the Evergreen landscape alongside vast stretches of water, seemingly in all directions, many saw the area as ripe for timber production and fisheries.

The new Nordic Museum popped into mind (current exhibit: The Vikings Begin). I’d been waiting for an “excuse” to get over to Ballard because it always seemed so out of the way. All that traffic, the unpredictable raising of the 15th Ave bridge to allow taller boats through Salmon Bay…and, oh the parking…it’s so hard to park “over there.” Spontaneity won the day.

I make it my mission to find all the good bakeries around Seattle, and I just read about Cafe Besalu in Ballard. Just up the street from the Nordic, I stopped in for a mid-morning pain au chocolat and an 8 oz. latte…my favorite combination. All I can say is that Besalu did not disappoint. More on my passion for local bakeries another time.

See more on Cafe Besalu

The Nordic Museum has quite the presence on NW Market Street, the main drag through the center of Ballard. Architecturally, it’s a clean but stark design with minimal landscaping. Plenty of free parking is available along street but ample paid parking behind the museum (really, the front entrance) is nominal.

Nordic Museum ExtAs I approached the entrance, I’m struck even more by its sturdy simplicity and lack of windows, transported, by imagination only, as to how this building was engineered to protect visitors and contents alike from the harsh winds and winters of Scandinavia.

I couldn’t help but notice the bustling Freya café as I walked in. The menu offers excellent presse coffee (imbibed on a return trip a week later…and so good!), fresh salads or other light Nordic favorites. Already satisfied by my stop at Cafe Besalu, I paid the $15 entrance fee and immediately became mesmerized by the towering, all white, wall map of the Nordic countries. The display offered a simple introduction to this part of our world, prompting such questions as “Do you know which countries make up Scandinavia?” Hint: Only three. Answer below (1).

I continued to admire the clean lines of the Nordic’s interior design, the the exhibits taking center stage throughout. I’d no idea just how much the Nordic people had contributed to the Pacific Northwest, particularly in Ballard.

Slowly walking through these new halls of history, displayed in a straightforward, interesting manner, I became enthralled by their journeys, contributions and innovative spirits. Nordic values – openness, social justice, connection to nature and innovation – are identified as persistent threads throughout their ancestral culture, values that trailed these courageous people across the Atlantic, the American West and into our Emerald region as they settled among the trees or along the banks.

Explore the Nordic Museum

As Ballard’s Nordic settlers proclaimed, all of my renewed interest in regional history has created a deeper appreciation for these noble values that are obviously ingrained in local culture today, but also, they acknowledge an intense “awareness of place” whether in Northern Europe or in what they found in the PNW.

The experience I discovered inside the Nordic Museum moved me to consider not only the countless stories of place itself, but to ponder what my place is in the thread of Seattle’s story.

(1) Scandinavia includes Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The Nordic Countries include Scandinavia + Finland and Iceland. The Nordic Council includes the Nordic Countries + Greenland and the Faroe and Aland Islands.

NEAT FACT | Celebrate Chief Seattle every year on August 25th.

Read | My Ballard Blog
Discovering Seattle: 5 Back Doors into the City

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What’s all the Fuss about ADUs?

Seattle is just one of the many ADU-friendly areas* in the U.S. and was a factor in one of my recent listings on historic Capitol Hill.

You’re probably wondering – what’s an ADU? An ADU is an accessory dwelling unit, a legally permitted, rentable, self-contained unit that may or may not be attached to the main home on the property. It provides, at a minimum, all the basic requirements for living – a living area, bedroom area, kitchen and bathroom often incorporating universal design.

Even though government zoning authorities use the official term ADU, individuals commonly give these residences other names like private apartments, guest cottages, in-law suites or income units. As a rule, they generally fall into 3 broad categories:

Interior ADUs – Created by converting existing space inside a primary dwelling usually in a finished basement or attic space.

Detached ADUs – A separate structure built on the same lot as the primary dwelling like a cottage or converted garage.

Attached ADUs – Independent living space built, either out or up, as an extension of the primary home.

Seattle is just one of the many ADU-friendly areas* in the U.S. and was a factor in one of my recent listings on historic Capitol Hill. For younger buyers, the fact that this home, a recent listing of mine, located at 732 17th Avenue E., already had a permitted, finished and well-appointed income unit with a rental history of $2,000/month brought in over 300 people to view the property over 4 days. An offer was accepted after just 7 days on the market. It came from a young couple who considered how this extra income could significantly assist with the payments on their jumbo mortgage loan.

Exterior Rear, Deck, GarageI knew that this Accessory Dwelling Unit could readily provide an avenue for additional income by leasing the apartment to a tenant or play an essential role in solving older individuals’ housing challenges, potentially providing options for aging in place and/or multi-generational living while retaining privacy and independence.

For these reasons – and others – it’s important for a Seniors Real Estate Specialist® to be aware of recent developments concerning ADUs. I make it my mission to understand the needs of older homeowners so that we can create the best plan together.

We never know who will be moved to place an offer on a home, but the added benefits of an official ADU make properties much more attractive and more valuable for new homeowners.

*Other ADU-friendly areas include Portland, Oregon – Asheville, North Carolina – Austin, Texas – Santa Cruz, California – Vancouver, British Columbia and the entire state of New Hampshire.

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Credentials May Matter in a Changing Real Estate Market

Listening is often the Missing Ingredient

My job with any client, or potential client, is to guide, be honest, be respectful, hold hands when necessary and nudge a little when things seem insurmountable.

Canal Cottage

As we completed part 1 of a 2-part process for the privilege of listing a really adorable home in Northern Washington, I was reminded once again just how much is immediately required from the homeowner to get ready for that first day on what continues to be a brisk seller’s market.

My job with any client, or potential client, is to guide, be honest, be respectful, hold hands when necessary and nudge a little when things seem insurmountable.  Most of all, though, besides the obvious legal responsibilities I carry as a licensed broker, a larger part of my experience is to listen to any client.  True listening is a developed skill but an invaluable one…and I would argue, the most essential asset I bring to kick off any relationship.

Our meeting last evening went through all the necessary steps – touring the home, taking diligent notes and discussing the course ahead.  The conversation really wasn’t about the preparations beckoning so much as it was about preparing to let go, sharing excitement about a new chapter in a new home and experiencing the sudden feelings of stress that come with such a big decision, one that requires action, tough bargaining with oneself and others and compromise against what was once entirely personal space.  No longer.  Life has now entered a new reality.

We also spent a lot of time talking about how the rapidly changing real estate market in Greater Seattle affects price, days on market and lingering expectations for multiple offers. Those times appear to be over for the most part. Multiples still happen depending on property, condition of home, location and price point, but it’s the exception rather than the rule. How quickly times change!

I look forward to seeing these lovely friends again on Sunday as we lay out our “listing presentation,” the ways in which we’ll show off their home in person, online, in print.  We’ll also decide together a price and the timeline for how we want it all to go.  And, I’ll continue to listen; hopefully, have a few more laughs.  The sound of laughter truly eases the stress.

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The Shift Toward Balance: 6 Factors Reshaping the Local Real Estate Market