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Gracious Moves    LLC

Senior Transition Specialists

Brooke's Blog


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Flood Insurance - do you really need it?

Posted on May 2, 2013 at 7:31 AM Comments comments (107)
As published in the Savannah Morning News - 4 April 2013
Flood Insurance – do you really need it?
This article was not what I had intended to write, but recent events have prompted me to change it up.  I was going to introduce seniors to active lifestyle communities within the 4 corners of our county, and invite them to some fun community events.  However, I have been asked not to write about particular places, lest I leave some out.  So instead, I will list senior focused events on my website for those who have interest. 
Today, I’ll discuss a concern that affects the housing market, for buyers and sellers.  I actually wrote my State Representative about this issue, asking for action.  This article may cause a flurry of comments from insurance companies, and updates will be forthcoming.
Recently, I was involved in a sales transaction on Skidaway Island, and the sellers represented that flood insurance was required, but did not provide the FEMA National Flood Insurance Program Elevation Certificate (commonly called a flood certificate) for the property.  This is a necessary document that buyers need in order to obtain flood insurance, and is required for loan approval prior to closing. I spent hours trying to get the sellers' insurance company to release the flood certificate so my buyer would not have to pay $300 for an elevation survey needed to obtain a new flood certificate.
The Chatham County records are often outdated.  If the sellers do not possess and provide this document, buyers are forced to pay for a new flood elevation survey for the property they wish to purchase. 
In this case, the sellers provided a copy of the Flood Declaration Page reflecting their $700 annual premium.  I called the 800 number and spoke to the insurance company representative that issued the flood policy.  I was told they did have the certificate, but the local office had to release it.  The local office did not have a copy on file, but days later, after several phone calls and emails, I finally received it.  This should have been a simple procedure, and I was stymied as to why it was so difficult to get this document…but that's not the end of the story.
After obtaining the flood certificate, the buyer's insurance agent informed me that the property was no longer in the 100 year flood plain.  Without the provided flood certificate, my buyer would have been forced to spend $300 for a new elevation certificate just to find that out.  More surprisingly, within days, the seller told me they received a bill to renew their flood insurance, when in fact, it was no longer required!
The lack of cooperation to expeditiously provide the flood certificate, along with the billing of their client for an unnecessary policy, raised red flags for me. 
Realtors and the public rely on insurance companies to find out what policies are needed to protect their property, and if the companies are not required to update their files to reflect the updated FEMA flood map before billing their clients, people are unnecessarily paying for insurance (at exorbitant rates) that they don't need.  
The BIG picture:  Requiring flood insurance on a property is a factor that affects the housing market.  When I am showing homes, some buyers stipulate that they will not buy a house that requires flood insurance because they don’t want the added expense.   I am instructed to eliminate homes that require it.  The cost of flood insurance locks out buyers who are unable to pay or qualify for a higher monthly payment.  This hurts sellers that do not need flood insurance, but mistakenly think they do, and are paying high premiums for it.
Because I live on an island, I choose to have flood insurance even though it is not required, making my policy very inexpensive. This brings me to my next question:  What happens to all the money that is collected by insurance companies for high risk policies on properties that don't require flood insurance?  Is this insurance fraud or a flawed, mismanaged system which needs to be fixed?
Unlike hazard/liability property insurance, the cost for flood insurance is not negotiable and is set by FEMA.  If you don’t need it, it’s cheap.  If you do, it’s expensive.  It could affect a buyer’s desire or ability to purchase your home.  So, Sellers, call your insurance company to see if your property is still in a flood zone. There is a chance you no longer need it.
Next week in Moving Mom…Flood, Part II? Stay tuned!

Choosing the Right Active Community

Posted on May 2, 2013 at 7:25 AM Comments comments (100)
As published in the Savannah Morning News - 17 March 2013
Choosing the Right Active Community
We are living longer, staying healthier and enjoying life to the fullest.  Many seniors are “still in the game” with active lifestyles, and choosing the right community for your retirement home means finding the right fit.
For young retirees, it may mean turning a dream into a reality...moving into a second home that was planned for retirement.  Or perhaps, you are thinking about buying the perfect vacation home that will one day serve that purpose.  Some tips to help you decide on your second home and community:
  • Affordability on retirement income
  • Visit community during all seasons before buying
  • Weather
  • Snow…walking and driving on ice 
  • Access and road conditions
  • Traffic congestion
  • Year round services and shopping
  • Always stuff to do
  • Noisy or disruptive peak season visitors
Top Considerations for Active Communities
  • Range of services
  • Social events
  • Sports: golf, tennis, fitness centers
  • Amenities
  • Social and recreation programs
  • Community center/club house
  • Fitness facilities
  • Computer labs
  • Hobby facilities
  • Gardening plots
  • Library
  • Cultural arts programs
  • Worship
  • Continuing education
  • Information and counseling
  • Restaurants and meal programs
  • Health care programs
  • Transportation
  • Walking & jogging trails
  • Outdoor spaces
  • Lakes, ponds, streams, open water
  • Boating/RV facilities
  • Security
  • Business centers
  • Shopping
Once the community or area has been chosen, the second home may need changes to accommodate a full-time life style, such as larger closets, or certain physical needs.  Last week we talked about aging-in-place considerations and incorporating Universal Design into your retirement home.  Barrier free entry, ground floor living, wide doorways and hallways…all are important to age gracefully, without the need for major renovations.
My mother had a beautiful home in a lovely community in North Carolina, but it was mountainous and most building lots were not level.  It is a fantastic active community with golf courses, ponds and lots of amenities, but because the ground was not level, the early retirees were forced to move away within 7 to 10 years because they could no longer negotiate the mountainous terrain.  Driveways, yards, sidewalks, roads…all required the strength and stamina to climb hills on a daily basis.  Food for thought!
There are many communities that have the aforementioned features without the restrictions of banning children from full time residency, as well as limitations on visitation.  If you want to live within a mix of ages, then you will want to avoid age restricted communities.  Or, you can choose a community that does have those restrictions in place, just check out the rules to see if they will be acceptable with your desires to entertain your family and grandchildren.
The Scoop on Age Restricted Communities:
  • Age 55+:  80% of units must be occupied by at least one person 55 or older per unit.
  • Age 62+:  all residents must be at least 62.
  • Rules and Regulations apply, and these communities must provide certain services and amenities to be able to age discriminate.
The support, friends, activities and opportunities to socialize, without the stress of owning a home that requires ongoing maintanence, is the main attraction of these communities.  Call me to find out about more and what Savannah's retirement communities have to offer. 
Next week in Moving Mom…Savannah’s Active Retirement Communities!  For those looking for fun, action and sports, we’ll cover what Savannah has to offer…Stay tuned! 

Moving Mom...Finding the Perfect "Last" Home

Posted on March 11, 2013 at 11:43 AM Comments comments (0)
As published in the Savannah Morning News - 10 March 2013
Finding the Perfect “Last” Home
Whether you are looking for a vacation home that will become your retirement dream come true, or you want to downsize to simplify your life, or you have a large family that wants to visit all at the same time, there are things to consider when choosing your “last” home. 
Last week we began to discuss certain structural qualities to look for when buying a last home.  A home where you can age-in-place should include wide doorways, clear space for wheelchair mobility, barrier free entrances, with provisions that can be made for features to be adapted as needed.  Ideally, these changes should be able to be made quickly and easily.  For example, bathroom walls may be designed with additional supports for the future installation of grab bars. Cabinets under sinks can be designed to be removable whereby the storage space under the sinks can be utilized for knee space should a wheelchair become necessary.
Essential features to look for are a zero-step entrance, accessible hallways, and bathrooms with doors wide enough for a wheelchair user to enter. Such features can help you adapt should your needs change due to a disability or reduced mobility.
What you want to avoid is becoming trapped in your home or locked out because of a disability that prevents you from being able to physically access your home. Assistive technology, such as environmental control units that allow a person with a disability to turn on and off lights, answer the telephone, and open the door can increase independence. Home modifications, such as ramped porches and bathrooms equipped with grab bars and bath chairs can provide for safety and independence as your needs change.
What we are essentially talking about is Universal Design: 
"Universal Design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design." (Center for Universal Design, North Carolina State University).
There are published guidelines, which can provide you with standard dimensions and features such as door widths, clear space for wheelchair mobility, countertop heights for sinks and kitchens, audible and visual signals, grab bars, switch and outlet height, and more.  There are also builders and architects that specialize in Universal Design and aging in place.  Many times, an existing home or your vacation home can be modified to accommodate aging in place solutions.  Within our network, we can put you in touch with all the right people to make sure your last home is the right choice for your future.
For the next few weeks in Moving Mom…Choosing the Right Active Community!  For those looking for fun, action and sports, we’ll cover what to look for, and what Savannah has to offer…Stay tuned! 

Moving Mom...Finding the Right 2nd Home for Retirement

Posted on March 8, 2013 at 10:27 AM Comments comments (31)
As published in the Savannah Morning News - 3 March 2013
Finding the Right 2nd Home for Retirement
The Azaleas are already blooming in the south, and the snow is still flying in the north.  Dreams of warmer weather and vacations homes are invading the sleep of the snow bound…and many northerners have escaped to our area to find their next, and possibly, “last” home.  With the market improving, downsizing makes sense, so are you thinking about a change?
The good news is, sellers are now more realistic in their pricing, and homes are selling again.  The northern market is moving as well, and the snow birds are here, so if you are thinking of listing your home, this is a great time.  They are down-sizing, up-sizing to accommodate visiting family, or simply making the move to warmer weather. 
We are starting to see a shift from a buyer’s market to a seller’s market.  That’s great news for sellers who have been suffering for the last 6 years.   I am excited to tell you that I am again receiving multiple offers on nice homes that are priced right, which is a sign the buyers are scooping up the cream of the crop.  Short sales and bankruptcy inventories are also shrinking, so things are looking up!
If you are in the mood to make a change, or buy a vacation home that will become your retirement abode, this is a great time to buy while prices are low, money is cheap and inventory is available.  Rising values incentivizes buyers to buy now.  For sellers waiting for your home values to increase, it will be a long wait to return to 7 year old values. Yes, you will sell lower than 7 years ago, but you will be buying low as well.
So, let’s take a look at finding your “last” home.  In order to age-in-place comfortably, choose carefully.
Stairs is the main concern that comes to mind.  Many consider a home with a master bedroom on the ground floor to be the plan for the future.  Yes, it has its advantages, with the guest rooms separated, but no more than a ranch style with a split bedroom plan.  I have sold countless homes that have significant issues on the 2 floor…roof leaks, air conditioner moisture, mold, branches through the roof…the list goes on.  Seniors tend to ignore the upstairs and live on the ground floor, while the mold grows and the house becomes toxic.  If you are not going to visit the upstairs, don’t buy one.
Also, if you are building, install an elevator shaft, even if you don’t need the elevator now.  The space makes a great pantry in the kitchen and walk-in closets on other floors.  When the elevator becomes necessary, you take out the false floors and move forward with the installation.  Planning is the key. 
Installing stair chairs are not the simple answer if a wheelchair is involved. There must be proper space for a person to be able to negotiate from a wheelchair to the stair chair.  If not, both the senior and the caretaker risk injury trying to make that work.
Doorways, counter heights, door lever hardware, level ground around the house are just some of the considerations when choosing your last home.  If it does not have the capability for wheel chair mobility and it can’t be renovated for safe bathroom, shower and hallway maneuverability, then you have the wrong last home.  One fall can change your life in a moment, so make sure your Realtor® helps you choose the right last home where you can age-in-place gracefully.      
Next week in Moving Mom…more on Finding the Perfect “Last” Home!  Stay tuned! 

Moving Mom...Friendship, an Elixir for the Soul.

Posted on March 8, 2013 at 10:19 AM Comments comments (81)
As published in the Savannah Morning News - 17 Sunday 2013
Friendship, an elixir for the soul.
During February, a month about love, I have focused on the advantages of moving on with your life and living life to the fullest.  We talked about falling in love, and how putting yourself out there can allow it to happen.  We addressed the unconditional love of a pet, and how that companionship is so valuable to seniors.  In this article, I’m going to talk about friendship, and how easy it is to turn the page to a new exciting life.
My grandmother, Dorothy (she would NOT be called Grandma!), was 99 when she passed away.  I remember her as a vibrant, fun, social woman, who had a full life and many friends.  She lost my grandfather years earlier, but her friends were an all important part of her life, helping her through her mourning and filling the void left behind.  Then, as her friends had either passed away or moved to be with family, Dorothy became depressed.  I was sad for her, because this gal still had a lot of pep and vinegar, and no one to play with.  We suggested she move to a continuing care retirement community, where she could meet people and age-in-place.
Dorothy wanted to stay in her home as long as she possibly could.  Looking back, and knowing what I know now, that decision was a mistake.  Over the years, the loneliness set in and depression pulled her into a deep, dark hole.
One day, the housekeeper called my father and warned him that my grandmother had been smoking in bed and the sheets had burn holes in them.  It was time to make a change, so Dad moved Dorothy to a nice independent apartment in a continuing care retirement community.  She missed her home for a while, but made friends quickly.  She could still drive, so her convertible red Cadillac was frequently spotted around town, with Dorothy and her new friends having dinner, and, no doubt, getting into trouble. 
Dorothy was the entertainment queen of the retirement community, and she had a ball with her new friends.  Although she never remarried, she had the companionship of a special guy who sported a hat and ascot, and reminded me of my grandpa.  She would take her new friends out in the Caddy and as usual, was the life of the party.  When she started getting lost in a town in which she had lived her whole life, and with a car full of the residents, Dad suggested it was time to take the keys away. 
Well, as you can guess, Dorothy would have no part of it.  She loved that red Caddy and whether she could drive or not, that car was staying.  Eventually, Dad took the battery out of the car, with management’s blessing, and left it in the parking lot so she could visit her beloved Caddy.  We were all relieved that Dorothy and her friends were now safe, and they were frequently seen sitting in the car with the top down, having a cocktail party! (I could swear they made a movie about this!)
Memories of Dorothy make me smile and I could write a book about her escapades.  She lived life to the fullest, and always inspired me and my family to do the same.  As I assist seniors that are in the same situation as my grandmother, I tell them Dorothy’s story…moving forward made all the difference.   You have to know that there are more adventures ahead; it’s not the end of the road.  The rest of your life is ever so precious, so be bold, take the next step, and make it happen!  You’ll be glad you did!
This concludes my tribute to love this month.  Next week in Moving Mom…Choosing the Right 2 Home for Retirement!  Stay tuned! 

Moving Mom...When Cupid's Arrow Strikes

Posted on February 11, 2013 at 12:58 PM Comments comments (0)
As published in The Savannah Morning News - 10 February 2013
When Cupid's Arrow Strikes...
This Valentine’s Day I wanted to share with you a special love story. There would be no story to tell if two friends had not made the choice to move to a retirement community.  Who would have known that sparks could fly, when friendship seemed to be the only thing in the cards.  But for Jon and Barbara Paull, it happened.  This is their story…
Jon, 90 (and looking good!), was a widower when he moved from The Landings to the Marshes of Skidaway Island seven years ago.  Barbara, (age undisclosed!), moved with her husband to the Marshes, where he could be treated at the Oaks for some health issues.  They were all friends who knew each other from church and living in The Landings.
When Barbara’s husband passed away, she said finding another love was not even a consideration.  Jon said he never had dinner with the same woman twice so no one would think he was scouting a new wife.  She and Jon were just friends, but saw each other frequently around the Marshes.    
One day, Barbara called Jon to ask if he would enjoy going to a party at the Jepson Museum, and to their surprise, things changed.
Barbara’s description of that evening was simply, “We had so much fun together, that was it!”  When I asked if they both reached the same conclusion that night, they chimed in together, “Yes!”  They fell in love, right then, right there.   
So, how could this happen to two friends, just like that?  They allowed themselves to have fun, talk and discover their commonalities.  And, of course, the sparks flew.
Barbara and John share the kind of ties that bind.  They both had the heartbreak of losing a life’s partner.  They had three children each:  Barbara with three sons; Jon had three daughters.  They both experienced the unbearable pain of losing a child.
Their common interests drew them together: playing bridge, golf, attending the symphony, special events and travel.  They help each other with crossword puzzles, but say their favorite time together is on Sunday, when they play golf for 25 cents a hole.  She says he’s been good at paying her off!  You go girl!
They dated for four months before tying the knot, and when asked why they married so quickly, Barbara claimed, “There was no point in wasting time at our ages!”  I have to agree with that theory, and asked how their children felt about their marriage.  Jon said they are very supportive, and they all get together as often as they can.  The blended families get along well, with four children and thirteen grandchildren between them. 
What do they love the most about each other?   Without hesitation, Jon replied, “Barbara’s beauty, generosity, caring and thoughtfulness are my favorite things about her.  But most of all, she keeps me young!”  Barbara described Jon as a caring and thoughtful husband.  They laughed often and easily with each other, and suggested that they had more superlatives to add.  None needed, I thought, as they are so obviously in love, and truly enjoy each other’s company.  What a treasure.
Jon and Barbara are an inspiration to all of us…love can happen anywhere, anytime, when you least expect it.  They celebrated their fifth year anniversary on February 9.  Happy Anniversary, Jon and Barbara!  May you enjoy many more wonderful years together!
And, to all of you, I wish you love.  I hope these stories will inspire you to move on with your life, and give yourself a chance to make new friends and meet new people…because love could be just a step away.  Happy Valentine’s Day!   

Moving Mom...Finding Unconditional Love

Posted on February 11, 2013 at 12:52 PM Comments comments (4)
As published in the Savannah Morning News - 3 February 2013
Finding Unconditional Love
February is for lovers, right?  With all the hype of Valentine’s Day, cards, candy and flowers, it’s no wonder the single folks don’t climb back in bed for the whole month and wish it away.  Well, there’s hope for singles to find love again when you least expect it!  Just when you thought romance is over and you have become invisible, think again!
During February, this column will be devoted to living life to the fullest, and that includes romance!  Seniors, when you think your love life is washed up, take another look at the opportunity that awaits you when you become more active and mingle with others.  I will share stories from our local retirement communities, and ooh la la, there are some tales to be told. 
If you have a romance that blossomed after you made the move to a retirement community, please contact me.  I would love to share your story!
Today I want to discuss a different kind of love story, about unconditional love.  Last month, I decided to become a foster parent to dogs that seniors could no longer keep.  Whether it is the inability to take a dog to a skilled nursing facility, or because of an owner’s illness or death, I could not bear the thought that a loving, loyal dog would have to be put down. 
Pets provide seniors with unconditional love and companionship that wards off loneliness.  They are part of the family, so giving up a pet has to be heart breaking for seniors.  As important as pets are in seniors’ lives, if the day comes that they must find their pet a new home, contacting one of our area rescue groups is the answer. Senior’s pets are a great adoption choice, as they are generally gentle, well cared for and house broken. 
I had the pleasure of meeting the good folks at Save-a-Life, and I have fostered Lila, who is available for adoption.  She belonged to a senior that had to give her up.  As you can see in the photo, which was taken the day after we met, Lila is affectionate, quickly bonds and is a very sweet dog.  She is house broken, loves her chew toys, and is not destructive or a digger.  Lila will be 3 this month, is 28 pounds, intelligent and playful.  She would be happiest as a single dog, as she loves all the attention. 
Lila is a Border collie mix with a silky white body, a brown spot on her back, and a fabulous brown and black mask!  She requires a lot of exercise, so is probably not the best match for seniors.  She is definitely a herder, and has taken to herding me and my beagle Molly.  In a recent visit to a park, five of us stood there in awe, as this fearless little dog brought in three big black labs, a huge brown dog, and the full grown Doberman.  She was in her element, and I was amazed. 
Older pets are a great adoption choice if you don’t want to go through the challenging puppy stage.  I have had 2 rescues, and both were grateful and appreciative older dogs.  Finding the right fit is important for anyone who wants to give a pet a loving home.  Pet rescue organizations frequently have information about their adoptee’s past, and they assist you in making a good choice.
If you are a senior moving to one of Savannah’s retirement communities, I have found most communities to be pet friendly, so be sure to ask about pet policies.  It’s not too late to adopt an older, companion pet.  As I checked around, independent living communities have few restrictions, but those restrictions may increase for assisted living facilities.  Check limitations on number of pets, breed and weight.
Save a life today, and give yourself the gift of unconditional love.  It’s awesome!
Visit Pet Smart on Saturdays from 11AM to 2:30PM to meet some of Save-a-Life’s available pets.  To see all pets online, visit  Their hotline: (912) 598-SPAY (7729).
Coming soon…Senior’s Pet Adoptions on, as we team up with area rescue groups to find loving homes for seniors’ pets. 

Moving Mom...How does the Savannah Market Affect You?

Posted on February 11, 2013 at 12:40 PM Comments comments (83)
As published in the Savannah Morning News - 27 January 2013
How does the Savannah Market Affect You?
Should you wait for the market to improve in order to sell your home at a higher price?  The truth is in the numbers.  National statistics are nice to know, but there are inherent differences in communities throughout the country that affect local markets
We have a military presence, a port, and a coastal community that makes Chatham County unique.  We have our own demographics, based on census statistics and area income levels.  This helps determine home pricing and what people can afford to buy.  For that reason, I study our local market more closely, while I keep one eye on national trends.
A few years ago, my broker, Nancy Thompson, warned our agents to pay attention to what was selling.  She said if we weren’t focused on homes in the $300K and under range, our business would suffer.  She was right, not only here, but across the nation. 
As I write this article and utilizing information from the Savannah Area Board of Realtors CoreLogic MarketLinx, there are 2359 active and active/contingent (under contract with contingencies) single family homes, townhomes and condominiums on the market in Chatham County.  There are 8.2 months of inventory, with more listings on the market at this time than in any month (except October) in 2012.
The good news is sale prices crept up last year from an average low sale price of $262K to a high of $316K.  However, the laws of supply and demand are working here, with plenty of homes still on the market.  I believe this increase in active listings is indicative of homes that were held back while sellers waited for market improvement, plus the addition of bank/institution foreclosures.
There were 144 properties listed by banks or institutions in all of 2012, as compared to 191 now on the market.  Foreclosures will continue to pull prices down in our neighborhoods, which affects all of us.
Of the current 2160 active listings, the average list price is $328K, the median, $200K.  I like to focus on the median number, since it levels out the playing field a bit, as the average can be skewed by million dollar property sales. 
The average days on the current market are 244.  Homes that sold last year in 30 days or less sold at 97.9% of the list price, as compared to those that took over 120 days which sold at 92.35% of list price.  A case can then be made for pricing your home right, and presenting it in tip-top condition so your home will stand out with an opportunity to sell more quickly. Plus, by selling quickly, you reduce your carrying costs in taxes, maintenance, insurance, mortgage payments and home owner dues.
If your property falls in the higher, luxury price range, generally, as the list price increases, so do the days on the market. There are simply fewer buyers for high priced homes, and therefore the luxury market merits its own, unique marketing plan.  I will address this subject in a future article. 
In the last 6 years, sellers got a dose of reality, and many became more realistic, spurring sales at reduced prices. Many suffered over the long haul, reducing prices along the way, chasing the market down until their home finally sold. It’s been a long haul, and pricing right is the name of the game. 
Seniors… it may not be worth it to wait for the market to improve it if you don’t have the time to put your life on hold. This will be a slow market recovery.  Since I became a Realtor® in 1985, I have experienced three other market corrections, but none that compare to this one.  It took ten years for things to get back to normal, and if you don’t have that kind of time, then consider the freedom you will gain when you move on with your life. 
Yes, prices are creeping up, and interest rates are at all time lows, so buyers are rallying.  Price it right and make your home available to the buyers that will appreciate your home.  Can you give up years of your life “waiting”?
Any questions on the state of the market, and I’ll be glad to share my data with you!    

Moving Mom...When is the Right Time to Move?

Posted on February 11, 2013 at 12:26 PM Comments comments (83)
As published in the Savannah Morning News - 20 January 2013
When is the Right Time to Move? 
Frequently, I consult with folks that are thinking about moving, but can’t quite take the plunge.  “I’m not ready” is a common comment heard by the retirement communities, and yet the same seniors are calling me to discuss the transition.  Surprisingly, the seniors that finally bite the bullet and make the move are grateful they finally did it.
My heart breaks when I watch seniors become lonely and reclusive, watching their friends move away to be with family or simply into a smaller maintenance-free home or retirement community.  My grandmother refused to move from her condominium in her later years of life, but was deeply depressed that all her close friends had moved to be with family or passed away.  Not until the housekeeper called with concerns about burn holes in the sheets (from smoking in bed) did we have to make the choice for her.  She was in her 90’s, and it was time.
Deciding when to pack up the lawn mower and simplify your life takes some soul searching and weighing in on the responsibilities of keeping up a home and yard.   Sometimes prodding by the family or a spouse helps move the decision along.  I will tell you this:
“I wish I had done it sooner!” is what I hear most frequently after I assist a client with selling their oversized house and moving them to a retirement community.
Their life changes instantly!  They experience freedom from all the time spent taking care of stuff.  It’s a whole new lifestyle, with new friends, activities and no more cooking!  The lonely days are over, and even on moving day, I watch the residents rally around my client and immediately pull them into the fold. 
When I moved my own mom last month, I could not get her through the lobby without half a dozen residents coming up to introduce themselves and make her feel welcome.   I have shared a couple of dinners with her in the dining room, and the same thing happens…lots of friendly people invite her to join their tables. 
Some of my clients have expressed fear of the unknown, of not knowing anyone, and maybe not fitting in.  If you want to make new friends, the opportunity is there. Taking the leap to change your life for the better is all it takes.
After my grandmother moved, she stopped talking about being lonely.  And now, with my mom, I have noticed the gleam return to her eyes.  She dresses every day, puts on her makeup, and heads out the door to participate in the activities offered at the community.  This move has perked her up, given her energy and she looks forward to all the fun things she now has time to do.
Don’t wait for a catastrophic event to facilitate the need to move by necessity. 
That is a mistake often made.  Your choices are minimized, and you may not be able to participate in the decisions being made for you.  Do it while you can enjoy a new chapter in your life, experience all the good things that are there for the taking, and the new friends that will welcome you there.  Who knows, you may even find a bit of romance!  (We’ll talk about Cupid’s arrow in February!)
So, what are you waiting for?  The real estate market is getting better, and homes that are priced right are selling.  Make 2013 the year you take the plunge and get on with living your life to the fullest! 

Moving Mom...Should You Update Before Selling?

Posted on February 11, 2013 at 12:03 PM Comments comments (217)
As published in the Savannah Morning News - 13 January 2013
To update...or not? 
That is theThis is the common question among seniors and their children when making a move.  Many seniors have owned their home for years, and often without updates.  What are your options when you have an “original” that must be sold?  I am not referring to historical treasures…a 70’s ranch is more of what I have in mind.
My advice is unless you have the energy to go through it, don’t.  Even with a project manager or contractor to oversee the updates, it is stress that you don’t need when making a major life transition.  Moving is stressful enough without the added headaches of remodeling a house.
Do I manage updates and staging homes for sale?  Yes.  Can it add value to the home and bring in a higher price?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  It depends on what you do, how much you spend, and how much margin you have between what you perceive the house to be worth, and what you can actually sell it for after the remodel. 
For seniors, it’s more than just updating.  It’s erasing years of memories with the removal of the wall paper.  The kitchen they see as perfect is, well, outdated.  It’s the realization that the home they have lived in and loved for years may not be desirable to others.
I once bought a house that had the most hideous wall paper in the master bathroom.  As I relaxed in the Jacuzzi, I had to close my eyes so I would not get a headache from the busy print.  Removing that paper was the best thing I ever did to preserve my sanity!  As pretty as yours may be, it is not for everyone.
Here are some updating tips:
Paint - If you are going to remove old wall paper, think beige.  Neutral is always good when it comes to resale.  Paint is cheap and easily changed if a buyer wants their own color scheme.  However, tan walls go with anything and a contrasting white trim finishes it off.
Floors - They should also be neutral.  Wood floors may not be in the budget, but if so, wood in the common areas and beige carpet in the bedrooms is a favorite feature among buyers.
Kitchen and Baths - Don’t put in a whole new kitchen or baths if you are preparing a home for sale.  You can replace cabinet doors, hardware, countertops, and/or appliances, but if the cabinet boxes are good, do the cosmetics without replacing the whole thing.  Boxes can be painted, but if you have to replace them, rarely will you get your investment back.
Staging - If occupied, professionally stage the house, inside and out.  If empty and you have the luxury to move out before selling, it will make updating the home easier and less stressful.
Clean - Make sure it is deep cleaned, inside and out.  I’m talking details:  inside cabinets, garage, closets, doors, etc.  Make sure the caulking is fresh, especially in kitchen and bath areas.
Repairs – Do make minor repairs such as leaky faucets.
Add up the numbers.  If the margin is not there, consider selling the house “as is”.  Have it professionally cleaned, and offer the buyer a redecorating or flooring credit.  If the home needs major repairs, reduce the price accordingly and sell it for less.
The trick is to find the magic number that will sell the house in its current (but clean) condition to an end user.  Don’t price it so low that an investor will want to remodel it and flip it for a profit.
Remember the good ol’ days when young couples bought a house, fixed it up and eventually sold it to buy a larger home?  Those days are back.  Homes they could not buy years ago are reduced to now affordable prices.  Mortgage rates are as low as they have ever been, and the market is starting to recover.  Your home may appeal to someone that plans to live in it and update it to their own tastes over time.
So, let’s get on with your life, and give up the lawn mower!  Price it right and they will come!