1. Learn about the legal stuff
You need to find out as much as you can about your parents’ home and legal affairs. Do they own the home, or is it owned by a family trust? They may be of the era when there was only one name (usually the man’s) on the title deed – and it may make things easier down the track if that is updated. If the property is owned by a family trust, you’ll need to talk to the trust’s lawyer about how to proceed.
Are your parents’ wills up to date? Is there a power of attorney identified in case they become incapacitated? These can be uncomfortable conversations to have, but it’s far better to discuss these issues now. It may be that your parents haven’t dealt with a lawyer since they bought the house – it’s a good idea to get one on the team now. Under the Anti-Money Laundering legislation, confirming the identity of parties is now a more significant step in property transactions. If your parents don’t have a passport or other modern forms of identification you may need to go through a more involved process with the lawyer. It’s a good idea to find out about this earlier in the process so there are no surprises later on.
2. Learn about the property
It can be helpful to get an idea of the current market value of the home before you start planning to sell – and planning for your parents’ next move. You can research online, pay for a valuation by a registered property valuer or ask local real estate agents for a current market appraisal. Be realistic about what can be done to get the best price and consider whether there are time constraints. We recommend getting a valuation done by a registered property valuer if you or another family member are thinking they might buy the property. This is also useful if family members have differing views of its value.
3. Learn about the process
Do some informal market research about licensed real estate agents in the area and arrange to talk to a couple of them about your parents’ situation. Unless they have specifically requested otherwise, make sure your parents are part of this conversation. Many real estate agents will have had a lot of experience dealing with people in similar situations and they will recognise this is a potentially stressful time.
Licensed real estate agents are obligated to act in good faith and deal fairly with both buyers and sellers. This means they must use their good judgement when dealing with older people. If neither you or your siblings live close by, it can be useful to identify a trusted person who can accompany your parents to any meetings with the real estate agent or lawyer. Ask for all meetings to be documented so you are all on the same page. This can be especially useful if you are having to convey information to other family members. Any documents requiring signing, such as the agency agreement or sale and purchase agreement, should be reviewed by the lawyer first to ensure your parents are making the best decisions.
Before you decide to proceed with an agent, ask them how they propose to market the property and arrange any viewings or open homes.
4. Learn to take one step at a time
Preparing a property for sale can be a big task. If there are minor jobs that need to be done, or major decluttering, work out a plan to get this done in a way that doesn’t cause your parents undue stress. Selling a property is a bit like eating the proverbial elephant. Do it one little bit at a time and you’ll get the job done.