This week I would like to dedicate my article to a sweetheart of a lady whose beloved home no longer meets her needs. I will call her Maggie and I will tell you that she represents a growing number of our relatives, neighbors and friends who are at a crossroads in life that involves “home being where the heart is”.
Maggie called and asked if we would come to her home and provide a price analysis for her. She and her husband had purchased the home nearly forty years ago when they were a much younger couple. Maggie’s husband died in recent years.
When Maggie answered the door to her lovely home she made little eye contact with my associate and me. She led us from one room to the next and had very little to say as if she were showing two strangers someone else’s home and not the property she called home for forty years. By the time we reached the end of our tour, she was standing at the far end of the kitchen with a distance between us.
It did not take a Sigmund Freud to know that we as Realtors represented something disturbing, painful or both to Maggie. We approached her table and asked if we might sit together for a few moments. When Maggie sat down her arms were folded across her chest and she did not pull her chair closer to the table. Maggie’s heart was not “in” real estate pricing or market details at all. Maggie’s heart was in her home.
I looked toward the many family photos and mementos that lined the walls and asked her about her family. She began to tell us about raising her children and grandchildren in the home. We learned where the holiday parties were held and where presents were opened year after year. She unfolded her arms and pulled her chair closer to the table. She said…. “I am overwhelmed.”
After further discussion we learned that Maggie had been living alone in a large home that required much work both interiorly and exteriorly. Her arms ached from raking leaves and her back would ache from shoveling soon. She could hardly keep up with the dusting and vacuuming of so many rooms that she rarely enters anymore. She said “I love my home and I do not want to leave it.” When I asked if she could hire the help she needed to maintain the home without sacrificing her own health, she said she could not afford it. Once again she said “I am overwhelmed.”
Even if Maggie were to make the decision to sell the home, the rest of the news came as a shock to her. Because her neighborhood had little to no turnover, neither she nor her neighbors had a realistic sense as to what they had been hearing and seeing on the news for the past several years of declining prices. Maggie just had no idea that her home’s value had dropped to the level it had. For her, the housing crisis had impacted “others” and it was not easy for Maggie to learn that she was one of those “others”.
Like many folks in Maggie’s position, there are homeowners who planned to downsize one day and use their long term equity as “retirement” funds. The loss of equity in the housing market has impacted every household in one way or another. It is small wonder why Maggie is feeling “overwhelmed”. She is impacted both emotionally and financially.
If you are reading this article and you can identify with Maggie, here are some thoughts for you as we discussed with Maggie:
1. DO NOT SELL YOUR HOME. Explore all the possibilities that may work for you including the renting of space for financial help and assistance with maintenance. Perhaps a family member or friend needs help too. These times present as many opportunities as they do challenges and you may help each other.
2. SELL YOUR HOME. Know that if you purchase another home that does meet your needs you will be making that purchase in the buyers’ market of lower pricing. It may be a financial “wash” for you in the end
3. DO NOT MAKE HASTY DECISIONS. Every property sells at the right price and time……every single one. It is very difficult to make a decision of such magnitude while you are feeling “overwhelmed”. Please hold off until you have gathered information sufficient to make the best decision to meet your needs.
4. RELY ON TRUSTED PROFESSIONALS. A trusted professional will never say “Sign right here.” when he/she recognizes the signs of one who is “overwhelmed”. Timing is everything and as long as the bank is not at the back door, there is plenty of time to learn what you need to know to make the decision of a lifetime no matter what that decision is.
5. REMEMBER WHERE AND WHO YOU ARE. This is America and no matter what has been thrown in the path of Americans, the journey continues for all of us who work hard and get up every morning with the full appreciation that we are the luckiest people in the world.