Ask Peggy: “What’s involved in moving seniors out of their homes?”

The full question posted to me on Twitter was actually a series of questions:

1) What’s involved when you have to move a senior out to put house on market, yet they lost capacity to consent to anything (think degenerative neurological issues).

2) What about know hidden defects and senior no longer recalling? “As is”?

3) Other issues w/ seniors?

Here goes:

1) What’s involved when you have to move a senior out to put house on market, yet they lost capacity to consent to anything (think degenerative neurological issues).

A senior who no longer has the capacity to consent no longer has the capacity to enter into contracts, meaning they can’t even sign a listing agreement. Ideally, they would be represented by someone holding a Power of Attorney over their property. (In those circumstances, they should probably have someone with a Power of Attorney to make decisions concerning their health too, but that’s a different document.)

A Power of Attorney has to be entered into while the person is still able to make decisions and is drawn up by a lawyer. The reason, again, is because of capacity: if the person lacks the ability to consent, they can’t enter into contracts and they can’t agree to a Power of Attorney either. So the best course of action is to have the Power of Attorney drawn up while the person is still compos mentis ie. of sound mind. It’s usually done at the same time the lawyer draws up a will.

If there is one, great. The person with Power of Attorney (POA) steps into the shoes of the seller and signs the listing agreement and related paperwork and takes all steps to have the property put on the market and sold. The listing realtor needs a copy of the written POA for brokerage records and will ask for proof of identification for FINTRAC (money laundering legislation). The listing is drawn up with the seller being “Joe BLOW as POA for Jane DOE.”

If there isn’t a Power of Attorney, then steps would have to be taken to have a guardian appointed by the court who can make decisions for the senior. The steps involved are beyond the scope of this blog, but the first step would be to contact a lawyer.

2) What about know hidden defects and senior no longer recalling? “As is”?

This question is often related to the first, i.e. where a a seller  no longer has cognitive abilities. It’s very common in a POA situation for the listing to indicate that the property is sold “as is” or without any warranties.

A POA can be a relative or an institution, like a bank. Where a bank is acting as Power of Attorney (and many do, as part of the services they provide to customers), they will require that warranty clauses like the seller warrantying that there is no UFFI insulation in the house be struck out of the standard offer because they can’t warranty what they don’t know to be true.

But very often, it’s not that the elderly seller is legally incompetent, it’s that they just don’t remember, and that’s fine. What we will often do in a listing is again state clearly what is warranted and what isn’t. We may add wording to the effect, “seller believes that the windows were installed in 1990; buyer to verify” as an example. Or simply, “property is being sold ‘as is’ without any warranties.”

3) Other issues w/ seniors?

I think one of the biggest issues with seniors is that they have a lot of stuff, and often, when they have to move, it’s because of failing health, so it can be hard for them to cope. Even with family and friends lending a hand, they may feel overwhelmed. I often recommend that they use one of the many services around that can help pack, sort out what should be kept and what needs to find a new home, and actually dispose of things for the senior. Yes, there is a cost, but well worth it.

I have most often worked with MacLean and Associates, which is an auction house in Ottawa that offers downsizing services. Their staff will come in and assess what might be sold, kept, donated etc., pack it up and take care of it. Dizee Lizard, who is with MacLean’s,  indicates that their standard fee is$ 45/hr per associate and movers are $ 125/hr. Once everything is packed up, the home can be emptied in a ten hour day, depending on proximity to the dump. Supplies and dump fees are extra.

In some cases, seniors’ homes can be extremely cluttered and I’ve come across many that were actually hoarders. In that situation, it can be quite expensive to empty those homes out, as it can take up to ten hours per room to go through everything and pack it up. But it should be done, together with any minor cosmetic updates that might be needed to get the home sold for top dollar.

Often seniors don’t have much money to fix up their homes for sale, and the properties can be quite dated. There are companies in town (Westboro Flooring is one)  that will provide services like installing new flooring (in that case, up to  a $10,000. value) to be paid out with in a year or from of proceeds of sale.

As always, the best first step is to get hold of a good realtor who can do a walk through and recommend what might be done. Sometimes we can work with what’s there; sometimes, we suggest the house be emptied out and staged.

Overall, dealing with seniors is a lot like dealing with first time buyers — they can be quite overwhelmed and not sure what to do.  A good realtor is one that is patient, willing to answer lots of questions, reassuring, and willing to lend a hand. I will often drop by with a casserole for my elderly clients while they are in the middle of packing up to help take some of the stress off an already stressful situation.




This entry was posted in Realtors, Seniors and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Ask Peggy: “What’s involved in moving seniors out of their homes?”

  1. Peggy, this is an excellent article. I work with a lot a Seniors some of which have had memory issues. Can I share your post with my blog?

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