When a parent dies, it is such an incredibly emotional experience. They’ve been there for you, from the very beginning, they understand your past and have shared your most significant memories with you. On top of that loss, you now need to clean out their home and sort through decade’s worth of belongings, dust, and papers. Separating trash from treasures is sometimes very emotional for family members and it can be downright daunting. Here are a few tips to ease the heaviness and burden of this task:
- Recognize that you will go through the stages of grief and many of those stages will happen in the process of cleaning and clearing, touching stuff and talking…consider doing this with other family members as it could create tremendous closeness.
- Next, discuss the home with your real estate agent. Real estate agents can quickly size up the situation in a more realistic fashion and help you understand what takes priority, what has to be done quickly and can give you a realistic price point, once the task is finished.
- Change the locks. The locks have likely never been changed and you don’t know who spare keys were given to.
- Forward all mail to your home or office (and update this annually, just to make sure that you notify friends that may try to contact your parent). This will also help you figure out the budget that was in place, who the creditors were, and if the bills were current.
- Let’s talk about all that paper! Set aside a pile of all financial documents, deeds, bank statements. Look everywhere (under desk drawers and even under the mattress!). Be on the lookout for any Wills, the homeowner’s policy, life insurance, employer’s insurance, stocks and bonds, bank statements, and past-due bills. Then contact all creditors to freeze new charges. Pay all bills.
- Keep the utilities on! Set temperatures more moderate, but leave them on. You have a lot of work to do so you’ll need light, ventilation, and turning off water and AC is not a help to a home. It can cause mildew, mold, and smells that you don’t want to deal with, also.
- Start sorting furniture, clothing, memorabilia. Have 3 piles: Keep, Donate/Sell, Toss. If the estate is being shared between siblings, get valuables appraised and take turns choosing mementos from the Keep pile.
- Patch cracks in the ceiling and paint (dust and smoke accumulate on the ceiling and painting neutralizes odors).
- If there was an outdoor dog house, remove it from the premises.
- Stage it. Get rid of worn and broken furniture. Strip the house of wall hangings, floor coverings, and “character.” Leaving it staged to sell means: clean, simple, and spacious feeling. Very few homes that have been lived in for decades feels like clean and simple; they are filled floor to ceiling with STUFF. The decorations will be too old fashioned and overdone to feel relaxed and spacious. Leaving it the way your parent had it decorated may feel good, but it won’t sell it. The prospective buyer will see hundreds of small ceramic figurines and old-fashioned lace doilies. This won’t help you sell. Replace carpet, refinish floors, and replace broken tiles. Get rid of the heavy drapes or worn window blinds. Homes show better with lots of natural light and a minimum of window treatments.
Yes, preparing your parent’s home to sell can be very emotional and time consuming, but at the end of the day, to get top dollar, you need to do the work. I am here to help, if you need recommendations, seller advice, or are ready to list. My next blog will be about clearing out the home of a parent who was a hoarder. Stay tuned.
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Rolf Kramer, REALTOR®, ABR, SRES, e-PRO 757-564-4455
Licensed in Virginia with Liz Moore and Associates, 5350 Discovery Park Blvd, Williamsburg, VA 23188
Williamsburg has become a Mecca for retirees over the past dozen years because of its history, charm, vacation amenities, proximity to major cities and airports, and affordable cost of living. Check out www.retiringinwilliamsburg.com for information about the Williamsburg community, lifestyles available, and search for homes for sale.