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Helping Elderly Parents Downsize

Helping Your Parents Move into The Next Phase of Their Real Estate Journey

parents downsize

There comes a time when your parents need to move on in their real estate journey. They might need a smaller place, perhaps something that requires less maintenance or maybe they even want a complete change of scenery. All these reasons are perfectly valid, yet they are all met with challenges and difficulties.

Some parents may not have transacted property in multiple decades, so navigating the modern-day real estate market will be daunting. Armed with your savvy understanding of the real estate market, courtesy of the tips in this Besser + Co blog, you can recognise which stage your parents are currently in, and help them seamlessly.

The Empty Nesting Stage

When children move out of the family home, parents often enter the ‘empty nesting’ phase. This can be a time of exciting new beginnings, with more disposable income and less personal responsibility. It can also be a time of confusion, making the home seem a lot bigger than it did before. This is unknown territory for parents.

They may have first thoughts of wanting to convert their children’s bedrooms into a games room, private TV room or art studio. They may even thing of this time as a chance to get away from the home – overseas holidays, weekend day trips, or even exploring potential new suburbs to call home. Some combat that by creating weekly meals that bring the family together, ensure grandchildren have a family home that’s a constant, and stay at the house for decades to come.

But even when they make all these changes to their life, they miss the regular interaction, the noise and the laughter of their family being close.

Starting the Downsizing Conversation

It’s a touchy subject when we start reversing our roles and talking to parents about their choices in life. Starting the conversation with them to discover what their thoughts are on downsizing is probably good for all – both your parents and your siblings.

Some siblings will be adamant that this is the family home and they must stay, others will be more concerned with their parents’ well-being and health concerns. If your parents bring up the conversation with you, it means they are on their way to knowing that one day, the time will come.

They are already picturing life in something smaller, more manageable. Making the decision to move is the hardest part; because it involves boxing up memories, selling or donating unwanted items and preparing the home for sale. Once that decision has been made to sell or possibly change the family home into a rental property, the physical work is a lot and they will need help, if it’s family help or professional help.

Create a timeline for them to transition from the family home to their next chapter – if its low-maintenance comfort or a stint travelling in a caravan exploring the country, ensure the transitional period stays positive, and that they look forward to their new lifestyle.  If your parents are sitting on the fence about moving out of the family home, enlighten them with positive options to create some excitement about the possibilities. Once you conversation starts, parents often realise that family home is too big for them, and now is possibly the best time to make the move while they are physically able.

Once that decision to move has been made, you often find that they may spend 12-18 months looking for that perfect property, or one just lands in their lap. Be patient, as it’s a mental process that they need to go through to ensure they do the right thing by themselves, their family (because they are still thinking of you!) and their future lifestyle needs.

Right Property Manager

property manager

When your parents are ready to sell or lease out their property, help them interview real estate agents in the area that are the best candidates to sell the family home. Look for an agent who is experienced in dealing with those in their twilight years and have a reputation for assisting in the downsizing process.

You can also consult friends and family for recommendations that seem a strong fit.  You may have already identified an agent, or you might have to look and meet with multiple agencies to determine the best company and agent to support your needs. A good agent may also be able to help you in the search for your next property – by recommending their own properties, or helping you to be more confident with speaking to other agents who have desirable properties on the market.

Moving On

Once the decision to sell has been made, it’s all hands on deck. Your parents need as much support as possible, which means all family members should actively dispose of unwanted items, declutter spaces, do a mini makeover and shift larger items that are difficult to move. It’s also an emotional time, as it’s a time of letting go of the past – a past of happy memories, of comfort and consistency – so you need to be there for a caring hug; when it becomes overwhelming. Make sure to collect all important items and documents before doing any serious clean-outs, including jewellery, wills, certificates, passports and gifts.

Property Searching

investing melbourne property

While packaging and prepping are exhausting, the fun part is looking for their new home – the buying stage. Parents may have already cast an eye over the internet, picked up some agent magazines or roamed the streets looking for boards in their desired area. Depending on their financial situation, some may be able to buy first knowing they have something to look forward to, while others will wait to see how much the family home will sell for before making a commitment.

Either way, define the search first so that both your parents are on the same page, based on the years they plan to spend at this next property. The plan should clarify if they want a small house with land, an apartment, a unit or even move into a retirement village. What we’ve found in the past, is some parents can’t envisage living in an apartment or other forms of mid-high density living, as they are used to living on a classic suburban block.

Talk to them about the possibilities of having a ‘view’ as an alternative – a view of the neighbouring park, the bay or the city, as this can give them the sense of space without worrying about the maintenance. Other conversations could include talking about the process of selling and buying, where they could make an offer subject to the sale of the family home; how much money they need for retirement or if they plan to keep working, and if the proceeds of the family home could be added to their superannuation or invested in other ways.

Now it’s time to celebrate the move and the accomplishment. If you’re looking for expert advice on the best way to transition parents for their particular needs, or if you are looking to transition yourself, get in touch with our experienced real estate team at Besser + Co today.


With decades of experience locally and internationally in both small and large agencies. Proudly serving in Australia since 2009. A trusted property management company by Australians

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