Sweet Sorrow

Selling family home does not have to be emotional roller-coaster ride

By Nancy Cardillo

The sale of a childhood home can be an extremely emotional, time consuming and frustrating task. Even if you haven’t lived in the home for many years, chances are your emotions will get the better of you as you “say goodbye” to the many memories made in the house and face the daunting task of cleaning it out. If the sale is the result of a death, that can add to the trauma. If there are multiple decision makers involved, that can slow down the process and negatively affect the sale price, particularly if one or more decision makers live out of town.

But selling the family homestead doesn’t have to be a negative experience. A written, step-by-step plan can save many headaches and help you achieve maximum value in the shortest period of time.

When Bill Goodrich’s parents relocated from the family home in Tonawanda to an assisted living facility in Syracuse, Bill and his three siblings were tasked with cleaning out and selling the nine-room house their parents had lived in for nearly 60 years. Fortunately, Bill and his siblings share a very close relationship; however, Bill is the only sibling still living in Western New York.

“Our parents kept the house updated, but it definitely needed freshening up and, of course, there was 60 years of ‘stuff’ to deal with,” says Goodrich. “We wanted to be sensitive to our parents but, at the same time, get a good price for the house and get through the process as quickly as possible.”

Meeting Michael Olear, Associate Broker at MJ Peterson Real Estate/The Olear Team, through their mutual church made all the difference for the Goodrich family. “Michael took on the task of guiding us through the process of preparing the house, dealing with the contents and selling the house,” says Goodrich. “He took the emotion out of it, brought a calming presence to the situation and handled everything from start to finish. It was a huge relief to me, my siblings and, most of all, to our parents.”

Olear’s Project Management Program is a “one-stop shopping” service whereby a minimal investment results in a sale price that is, on average, 19% higher than the “as is” value. The cost to the client is a one-time flat fee and any compensation to the insured, pre-screened contractors utilized for painting, repairs, estate sales, etc.

“The main goal of this program is to get everyone through this process peacefully, efficiently and with the best value they can achieve,” says Olear, who has more than 30 years in the real estate business as well as a Masters degree in Social Work. “We realize this is one of the most difficult things our clients will ever have to do, so we assist them every step of the way, with the idea of taking as much of the burden off their shoulders as we can. It is, essentially, a blend of social work and real estate techniques,” he says.

The Olear team develops and coordinates the implementation of a written plan to sell not only the house, but also its contents – at the highest value and in the most effective and efficient manner. Clients retain all decision making control over expenditures and bill paying. The Project Management Program utilizes a four-step approach including assessment of the property and the family’s needs; development of a plan with recommendations, associated costs and expected completion time for the estate sale, any impediments to financing and repairs that will maximize value; an analysis of the home’s value and correct pricing in the current market, and scheduling needed repairs and updates.

“There is a process to making the sale go more smoothly and much more quickly,” says Olear. “For example, knowing what repairs and/or updates must be made for code compliance, should be made to avoid financing holdups or could be made to increase the value of the home – and when and how to do all this.

“In terms of the contents, we recommend the family simply ‘thin out’ the house by boxing items and knick knacks and storing them, then sell the house and hold the estate sale while the closing process is taking place.” Says Olear. “The house will generally sell for more if it doesn’t look completely barren and with every imperfection showing.”

“This concept is brilliant,” says Goodrich. “We were overwhelmed, and wondering how we would get through this with everyone scattered all over. Michael and his team did most of the legwork and kept us informed so we all stayed connected and involved and could make informed decisions together much more easily.”

Attorney Jeffrey Katz’ law firm, Katz and Baehre, specializes in estate planning; elder law; trust planning and estate administration. “It’s very common when parents pass away or go into assisted living that their children have to deal with the house and everything in it,” says Katz. “This is a time when family members – who quite often are out of state – have to make very important decisions. They have to decide how much to invest in the house or to sell it as is. They have to handle disseminating all the possessions that have sentimental value. It can be overwhelming.

“A realtor will typically help with the details surrounding the sale of the house, but having a local presence who can coordinate the entire project is a huge relief,” says Katz. “Programs like the Project Management Program help minimize the fuss and stress and maximize the value of the home. My clients are always grateful when I recommend this program.”

Goodrich and his siblings were certainly grateful: based on Olear’s recommendations, they invested some money to beautify the house and increase its value, resulting in multiple offers and a shorter time on the market.

“The care, compassion and attention to detail Michael and his team showed in selling Mom and Dad’s home of 60 years was amazing,” says Goodrich. “We could not have gone through this without them.”