Fred Griffin: Family Discussion: Should "Mama" Sell the House, or Not?

Family Discussion: Should "Mama" Sell the House, or Not?

This is a Big Decision for the Family!  Not my family, but the family of close friends.   Their Mother is a senior citizen and a widow.  She has been in the same house since the 1950's.  Two of the children want "Mama" to sell the house and move in with one of them


House in Tallahassee, Florida


      To "Mama", this place is Home Sweet Home.  She says, "I know I should sell the place, but it's a hard thing for me to do".  One son is defensive and wants his mother to stay put.  The other son and the daughter have built "mother-in-law suites" in their own houses; they fully expect their mother to sell and relocate.



     The Family wanted my advice on selling the house.  We met at the Subject Property. 

     With respect, this house looks like "your Grandmother's house".  Lots of stuff, lots of pictures, lots of bric-a-brac.  Very homey, very personal, very dated.   

     The house itself needs major updates.  The roof looks old, the HVAC system is from the late 1980's, the carpet is worn.  The bathrooms are outdated; so is the kitchen. 


 Family Photo


My advice, should your Mother decide to sell:


     Consult a CPA about the gain on the sale and any other tax or financial issues.  Yes, it appears to be Homestead, no Capital Gains, etc. but you need to hear it from a Professional.  You might also want the CPA's advice (or a Financial Advisor) on where to put the money that Mama nets from the sale (several hundred thousand dollars).


     Retain a Real Estate Attorney.  Ask the Lawyer's advice on getting all the children on board with this.  I've seen bad blood and lawsuits arise between siblings in these situations.  An Attorney can make sure that everyone "agrees in advance". 

     Also ask the Lawyer about getting a Power of Attorney for one or more of the children to sell the house.  If you put the house on the Market, and Mama waffles or has second thoughts, it will be a problem when Offers come in, or when the Closing Process is underway.  If the children can sign Contracts and ultimately sign the Deed, the sale will go a lot smoother.


     Hire a Real Estate Appraiser to determine the List Price.  If any legal issues or legal challenges regarding the sales price are brought by a family member, or if someone simply thinks that, "Mama could have got more money", the Appraisal should protect you.


     Sell the House, "As Is, Subject to Inspections".  If you start updating one thing, you will have to update the next.  You will be looking at tens of thousands of dollars in paint, roofing, air conditioning, appliances, and fixtures.  You can discuss this with the Appraiser; he or she can offer guidance; he or she will most likely address "Condition" in your Appraisal Report.


     Most important, Mama needs to go ahead and move out of the house.  The house can be professionally cleaned and made presentable for sale; it will be easy to show when it is vacant.


House in Tallahassee, Florida


     It can be a very emotional decision for a Senior Citizen to sell their long-time home.  Proceed with caution and seek the advice of Professionals to ensure a smooth sale.


Married Couple Husband and Wife Historic




Frederick Griffin, Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker    850-545-1901


Tallahassee Florida Metropolitan Area

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Frederick Griffin, Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker    850-545-1901


Disclaimer:  Nothing in the above blog article is to be construed as legal advice, tax advice, or financial advice.  For legal advice see an attorney.   For tax advice or financial advice see a tax attorney, certified public accountant, or other qualified professional.


Comment balloon 25 commentsFred Griffin • March 30 2013 07:53PM


It's always tough leaving a home you made lots of memories in, it's always the people and personalities that make a home. :)


Love and light,


Posted by Laura Cerrano, Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher (Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island) over 4 years ago
This is great advice for senior citizens Fred. Senior citizens need a team of professionals to advise them on the best course of action when dealing with such an emotional transaction.
Posted by Sammer Mudawar, OC Real Estate Blog (RE/MAX Prestige) over 4 years ago

Fred good advice.  When making a decision like this it is important to consult professionals like a CPA.  It is always difficult getting all the children to be on the same page.

Posted by Jennifer Fivelsdal, Mid Hudson Valley real estate connection ( JFIVE Home Realty LLC | 845-758-6842|162 Deer Run Rd Red Hook NY 12571) over 4 years ago
Fred-Your approach is outstanding. There can always be emotional issues involved in selling a home but what you described is potentially a family incident just waiting to happen. You are right to get some experts to help in the helping to provide counsel.
Posted by Wayne Johnson, San Antonio REALTOR, San Antonio Homes For Sale (Coldwell Banker D'Ann Harper REALTORS®) over 4 years ago

Fred,  Your advice is great.  All good things that prospective sellers should check out.  I think the hardest part of a move like this is the emotional toll it takes on the mother.  I know; I just went through this, and I hear it all the time down here.  If they can get past the emtions (more the mother than the kids) things should fall into place.   

Posted by Elyse Berman, PA, CRS, Pet-Friendly Realtor, 561-716-7824 (Realty Associates Florida Properties) over 4 years ago

Fred, what a sound advice - this will make any family comfortable - no ill-feelings, no issues and yes, with Mama out of the house, better selling price (more so in this market!)

Posted by Praful Thakkar, Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale (eXp Realty) over 4 years ago
Fred - There's a lot of good advise and things to consider if Mama decides to sell her home.
Posted by Christine Donovan, Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M (Donovan Blatt Realty) over 4 years ago

I had one of those calls today (VM) while I was at the movies about "selling mama's house up at the lake".  First I gotta talk to mama, cause if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) over 4 years ago

These decisions for seniors is very tough. Everything they know is in their home, especially when they lost a spouse. My mother-in-law has her Florida condo on the market and once sold in mover back to Ct, to be near her immediate family.

Posted by Joe Petrowsky, Your Mortgage Consultant for Life (Mortgage Consultant, Right Trac Financial Group, Inc. NMLS # 2709) over 4 years ago

I've been through this with my own family and with clients.  It is tough! Ever since we had to clean out my Mom's house, I've been slowly downsizing. We can control our own future and not end up in the same situation.

Posted by Barbara Tattersall, GRI (Keller Williams Realty Metropolitan (Keene,NH)) over 4 years ago
That is a lot of ground to cover. To be sure, aging parents never want to sell their home, but at some point, practicality takes precedence. It is a conversation that I know kids dread because of the last thread of independence that their parents have.
Posted by Charita Cadenhead, Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama) (Keller Williams Realty) over 4 years ago

Sounds like you handled this situation with class and respect.  It's a very hard thing for mama to sell the home sometimes.  We've been in this situation a few times and always handle it the same way.  With respect and delicacy.  

Posted by Amanda Christiansen, Christiansen Group Realty (Christiansen Group Realty (260)704-0843) over 4 years ago

Fred, excellent handling of what can be a touchy subject.  I prefer to see a Power of Attorney with a single signer, as that simplifies the process a great deal.

Posted by Eric Kodner, Wayzata Lakes Realty: Twin Cities, Madeline Island (Wayzata Lakes Realty: Eric Kodner Sells Twin Cities Homes) over 4 years ago

Fred, good point about getting advice from professionals. The question I would have is "What does Mama want to do?"

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 4 years ago

I've seen this many times and families can turn into monsters when it comes down to selling mom's place.  Most times there are way too many opinions involved. 

Posted by Marc McMaster, Putting my clients before myself (RE/MAX Centre Realty) over 4 years ago

I am so glad you posted on this subject. It is something that we have to broach with my mother in law. When that time comes there will be problems; as previously experienced when my father in law passed away.

Yep there is always one in any family.

Posted by Sussie Sutton, UTR TEXAS Realtors - Rep for buyers and sellers. (UTR Texas Realtors) over 4 years ago

I just had dinner with a senior citizen last night who told me they were going to take her out of her long time home "toes up"!  

It's my experience that when the old folks finally realize that they can't do it on their own, that's when it's time.  In the interim, I would suggest one of those "Help!  I've fallen and I can't get up" systems.  We were dilly dallying on that one when  my mom fell and broke her hip and laid there for several hours before help arrived.

Posted by Valerie Crowell, Broker Associate (Keller Williams) over 4 years ago

Fred, good advice for families in this position should seek the help and advice of professionals before choosing to market and sell a home. Last summer I avoided being dragged in to an unpleasant family conflict. I look at our job to remain neutral; and you present good points to how to market and sell a home. Thanks for your post today,

Posted by Pamela Seley, Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA (West Coast Realty Division) over 4 years ago
Fred, This is a fabulous list. It's not an easy decision at any time! we just helped a mom relocate to a new home by her kids. Know it's not easy and there are a ton of conflicting emotions. All the best, Michelle
Posted by Michelle Francis, Realtor, Buckhead Atlanta Homes for Sale & Lease (Tim Francis Realty LLC) over 4 years ago

Good advice, the bottom line is Mama should do it when she is emotionally ready

Posted by Joan Congilose, Marlboro, Manalapan, Freehold NJ Homes (Century 21 Action Plus Realty ) over 4 years ago

Fred well said, Diane is in Boston due to a similar situation.... Hope the family appreciates the good advice!

Posted by Endre Barath, Jr., Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002 (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices) over 4 years ago

If owning the house is no financial burden, let the heirs sell it.  Ditto for the stuff. What is the hurry unless someone needs the money.  Living in someone else house is stressful.

Posted by Ron Climer (Keller Williams Realty Mountain Partners) over 4 years ago
Fred, all excellent suggestions once the owner has decided to sell. The decision to sell will be the hardest to make!
Posted by Silvia Dukes PA, Broker Associate, CRS, CIPS, SRES, Florida Waterfront and Country Club Living (Tropic Shores Realty - Ich spreche Deutsch!) over 4 years ago

Do you want a listing or a happy grandma? My father in law was a Met-Life agent for over 60 years and over a Sunday dinner I mentioned several listings I had that seemed to be the idea of the kids and not the widow.

My father in law had strong feelings about that. He would stay friends with his policy holders that had a spouse pass, and would have them over to dinner from time to time and he said the most common regret was selling the house and not waiting until they were really ready and needed to. It took an emotional toll on them. Most were the result of good intentions but we know what the road to hell is paved with. Many were the result of the heirs wanting to get their hands on the money one way or another. So the result of my experience was to keep them in the house if there was doubt and not a single case of regret except among greedy heirs.

While we are on the subject, have your clients put their property into a trust, avoid probate.


Posted by Brian Park (Park Realty Investments) over 4 years ago

Hello, Everyone

     Thanks for your comments about this emotional issue.

      You notice that I never did answer the Question, "Should Mama stay, or should Mama move?".  That is a decision that only "Mama" and her family can make.  My requested Advice regarded the Sale of the House, should Mama chose to move.


     In my humble opinion, "Mama" should be able to stay in her home as long as she is of sound mind, and not imposing a burden upon the Family or upon others.


     Some examples from my own Family:


     My Great Aunt lived in her home until she was 99 years old.  Her physical health began to fail; her children(who were in their 70's) could no longer make daily visits to check on her.  She voluntarily went to Assisted Living.  My Aunt passed away at 102.

     Another Senior Relative got Alzheimer's when she was in her early 80's.  The decision about moving or staying was not hers to make.  She simply could not live alone.   She moved in with her oldest daughter (a mother-in-law suite).


     Another Senior Relative who was in her 80's was "advised" by family members to move to Assisted Living, "for her own good".  She refused.  This Lady passed away at her home, in her sleep, when she was in her 90's! 


     Take care of your Senior Family Members!  In time, we ourselves will grow old, and we may be in the position of,  "Should I stay in my home, or should I move?".

Posted by Fred Griffin, Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker (Fred Griffin Real Estate) over 4 years ago