How to help your parents downsize.

Helping your parents downsize is an emotional process for you and for them. With some compassion, tact, preparation, and possibly some outside help, it can be a smooth experience for everyone involved.

Caring Transitions of Northeast Atlanta offers some wonderful tips to help you begin and go through the downsizing process with older loved ones.

Before helping your parents, prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. Sometimes the emotional aspect of downsizing goes overlooked as you focus on the more practical aspects. Checking in with yourself and setting your perspective goes a long way in creating a more positive experience.

Recognize that this won’t be easy. Even with a plan, downsizing can bring up some tough emotions. Expect the process to be a little messy and stressful and be compassionate towards your parents and yourself.

Be patient. Downsizing can be especially difficult if your parents are leaving the family home, or if an upsetting circumstance triggered the downsize. On top of that, it often takes longer than expected, depending on how many possessions must be decluttered. Put yourself in your parents’ shoes as best you can. A little patience goes a long way.

Don’t try to take over. Unless there is an issue of impaired cognitive function, know that your parents are ultimately the decision makers. Trying to force them into anything will only be counterproductive. If your parents are losing cognitive functioning, still be respectful and involve them as much as you reasonably can, so they feel they still have some control.

>>Click here to read the remainder of this important article on how to help your parents and loved ones downsize with many more tips to help you.

5 Tips to Avoid Being Scammed

More than 2 million people in the United States file fraud complaints each year, many of them in the senior population. Here are some tips that can help you identify a scam before falling victim.

If someone contacts you from an organization you trust, verify that they are who they claim to be. You can hang up or stop replying, then contact them using information on the organization’s website.

Verify the organization. Call them back: Scammers want to build trust fast— preferably in a matter of seconds. They often pretend to be from a government agency or another well-known organization such as Apple, Medicare, Amazon, or local utilities companies. These imposter scammers will have specific, personal details that make them seem legitimate. Never give out your credit card or social security details over the phone unless you are the one who initiated the call. 

Be aware of people who present you with a problem or a prize. Never give out personal details or credit card info over email or over the phone during an unexpected, incoming call.

Be skeptical of urgent problems or sudden prizes: If you get a call about a sudden problem (a missed bill, back tax, family health emergency) that until now, you hadn’t known about, be alert. Be skeptical of any unexpected prizes like a sweepstakes or all-inclusive vacation. Oftentimes, scammers will use these scenarios and ask for a “small fee” to claim winnings.

Keep social media accounts private. Never give someone who contacts you remote access to your computer or device.

Avoid oversharing personal details online: Scammers are experts at extracting info. Sometimes they will research their targets beforehand. They might call and know names, hometowns, family members or home purchase prices. This kind of information is available online, and is easy for them to access. Having this information also makes it easy for them to win your trust and get more details from you. After purchasing a home, your personal details may be more readily available online. Be alert.

Even if something is urgent, there is always time for you to verify details online.

Remember, there’s always time to double check: If you or someone you know is being pressured to make an immediate payment, be suspicious. Scammers expect victims to act fast, before anyone can realize they are illegitimate, so they threaten with losses. If you feel nervous, time-pressured, or afraid of losing benefits during a phone call, it may be a scam.

Only use protected, traceable methods of payment. Using a credit card means seniors can dispute payments “after the fact” if a product is not delivered as advertised.

Pay with credit card: Scammers often request specific forms of payment. Anytime someone asks to be paid quickly via wire transfer, gift card or mailed cash, be wary. Most legitimate organizations offer a variety of safe, traceable payment options and let you decide the best form of payment.

To opt-out of marketing calls and easily recognize scams, consider registering your number with the National Do Not Call Registry at Within a month of submission, all legitimate businesses should stop calling you. Scammers will still use your number, but you will know that the calls you receive are no legitimate.

>>Click here for more information on senior scams & safety from the FBI.

Getting ready to list your home?

The article below comes from the National Association of Realtors/SRES. Hilary Walker has earned the Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation and is committed to helping Atlanta-area seniors manage their unique real estate needs.

Preparing a home for sale is always a significant undertaking. For seniors, in particular, the pre-listing process can feel overwhelming. An agent who has earned their Seniors Real Estate Specialist® (SRES®) designation can guide your efforts and help make the transition go as smoothly as possible.

You can trust your SRES® designee to help you:

Map out a plan.

An SRES® understands that each client faces different circumstances and challenges. They can advise you on a sequence of steps tailored to your situation. And they’ll guide you through the process at whatever pace suits your needs. Your SRES® will take a no-pressure approach and look for ways to make your move more manageable and less stressful.

Set priorities.

Please don’t assume that every aspect of your home has to appear picture-perfect before listing it for sale. Your SRES® understands what matters most to buyers in your market and can help you focus on the most critical projects. The top priorities are often decluttering living spaces and cleaning your home thoroughly, immediately before it is listed.

Evaluate renovations.

Is it essential to update your flooring, paint your walls, or replace your appliances? Your SRES® knows local buyers’ top priorities and understands which renovations offer the biggest bang for the buck. They’ll explain your options, but it’s up to you to decide if you want to add these projects to your list.

Suggest trusted resources.

If you need help with any aspect of your move, your SRES® can provide suggestions. They’ve already vetted related service professionals that understand seniors’ concerns and can assist in decluttering, packing, renovating, and more. The choice is always yours, but it’s nice knowing you can turn to these trusted resources.

Discuss staging options.

Many sellers assume they need to stage their home before listing it. Again, this depends on your local real estate market and your personal situation. Often, staging isn’t mandatory. Today’s property marketing options include virtual staging techniques, which might be a good alternative. Your SRES® can discuss your options and offer recommendations tailored to your concerns.

Regardless of when and where you are moving, you’ll have a better experience if you work with an agent who has earned the SRES® designation- someone who is committed to helping seniors navigate their housing transitions successfully

The real estate boom and the baby boomer

If you’re a baby-boomer or senior and you aren’t sure what to do about downsizing, you’re certainly not alone.  In a recent Atlanta Seniors Real Estate survey, we found:

  • 67% of respondents are planning to move
  • 40% of respondents say they will be downsizing
  • 40% say they’re looking for an owner’s suite on the main level or a ranch style home

With inventory low, you know you can easily sell your home, but what then? Where do you go? Will  you be able to find a home that meets your needs? And, with interest rates on the rise, you’ll likely be paying more than you expected just a few months ago.

So, is this a hopeless situation for seniors hoping to sell and move into something smaller?

Absolutely not.

One positive for seniors is that they have seen much higher interest rates in their lifetime, so the fluctuations aren’t as much of a shock to them as it is to younger buyers. And the plusses don’t stop there.

Atlanta Seniors Real Estate owner and Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) Hilary Walker, says her clients are in a strong situation if they can just find a home they like and are comfortable moving into. She explains, “In the case of these kinds of buyers, interest rates don’t bother them too much since, in most cases, they plan to use the equity they have in their current home to purchase the next home or they only plan to keep the mortgage for a few years before they pay it off and live mortgage free. In a couple of cases, they are choosing to use a Reverse Mortgage to help stretch their wealth, therefore, the interest rate is not an issue since they can choose not to make any mortgage payments on a monthly basis.

True that higher interest rates will not necessarily mean more houses on the market, but it may mean 10 offers instead of 20. So, don’t hesitate to begin the process and sign on to work with an SRES agent who is familiar with all of the issues associated with baby-boomers selling and buying real estate.

Contact Hilary Walker today for a complimentary consultation.

>>You can still participate in the Atlanta Seniors Real Estate survey and qualify for a $25 Visa Gift Card. Click here to take part in the brief survey.

What is an iBuyer and should you use one?

Increasingly, we’re hearing of home sellers being approached by iBuyers – those companies who purchase your home quickly without you having to list and have showings. The largest iBuyers include Zillow, Opendoor, Offerpad, Simple Sale and Redfin Now. It’s a tempting approach for many appearing to be simple and fast, but is it really worth it? I know from experience that working with an iBuyer can mean that you’re leaving money on the table. If you have questions about iBuyers, contact me and I can tell you more.

For some basic information about today’s iBuyers, check out the article below from Nerdwallet.

An iBuyer, or “instant buyer,” is a real estate company that uses algorithms and technology to buy and resell homes quickly. When selling a home to an iBuyer, you may get a cash offer in as little as 24 hours without the hassle of staging and repeatedly showing the home.

You can also buy a home from an iBuyer. The companies’ websites or apps let home buyers view available properties, schedule tours and request information to get started. Closing may occur more quickly with an iBuyer because you don’t have to accommodate a traditional seller’s timeline.

What will rising interest rates mean for senior home sellers and buyers?

What my clients are saying

My mature and experienced clients know that rates have been much higher than they are today (just 20 years ago they may have purchased a house with a 7% rate). So, today’s rate at just over 5% is still a good rate in their minds, although we’ve been spoiled with those extremely low 3% rates in recent years.

These clients are savvy and experienced to know also that increasing rates can be a detraction for buyers who want to buy now or very soon. So, now the baby boomers and older homeowners in my circle are calling to ask the very serious question…”How quickly do you think my home will sell if we put it on the market now and where do I go if I sell now?

Here are two scenarios that I’ve seen first-hand.

First Scenario

A first-time home buyer (over 65) approved for a loan in late March prefers purchasing rather than renting because rent has increased by a significant amount for the last 3-years. We have been on the lookout for a home but have not yet found anything suitable.

Reasons for a delayed purchase in this case are:

  • wanting a home with all spaces on one level
  • low inventory in the area of choice with only one or two potential homes coming on the market each week
  • multiple offers on those few homes or they are in disrepair
  • and the buyer is searching with a lower-than-average price point (average house values for our local area rose from $278k to $338k)

    The first week of May, the lender informed us that the interest rates went up over a quarter percent since the buyer was approved in March so there will be an increase in mortgage payments. This makes the buyer nervous because they are on a fixed income. An interest rate hike above 5.5% may force this buyer out of the homeownership market so time is of the essence.

    Second Scenario

    Most of my clients are already retired, on a fixed income, or have a budget they are adamant to stick to, so overspending for another home is hard to do. I say “overspending” because that is the word of choice among some of my clients who have watched the market take an unprecedented boom of house prices and, while that is fantastic for the seller, it is a hard pill to swallow for the mature buyer.

However, those who need to move are acknowledging this is the market they are in and must move forward regardless. I have a few clients who are in the situation of needing to sell the large home where they raised their families or enjoyed their mid-life empty nest, replacing the space with their hobby or 2nd career or entertaining friends and family periodically. But the time has arrived that the house is simply too large. They are heating and cooling, and cleaning spaces they rarely use so they want to downsize or resize while they can get a good price for their home.

One of my clients wants to move out of their 5,000 square foot home while identifying a comparable smaller home at a mid-range price point – reasonable, at least so we thought.

The search was difficult for these reasons:

  • in the madness of the real estate frenzy of 2021/22 even homes in the higher price points were not presented as well as they should have been – a stark difference between photos online and in person
  • almost every decent home that came on the market received multiple offers within a day or two
  • their competition was no longer just another occupant buyer but now it was large fund investors vying for that property, too

In the case of these kinds of buyers, interest rates don’t bother them too much since, in most cases, they plan to use the equity they have in their current home to purchase the next home or they only plan to keep the mortgage for a few years before they pay it off and live mortgage free. In a couple of cases, they are choosing to use a Reverse Mortgage to help stretch their wealth, therefore, the interest rate is not an issue since they can choose not to make any mortgage payments on a monthly basis.

If you want to know more about how interest rates may affect your decision or that of a loved one to move forward with a sale or purchase, feel free to contact me.

>>Read more about interest rates from the National Association of Realtors.

Is a Reverse Mortgage Loan for you?

What Is a Reverse Mortgage Loan?

A Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), commonly known as a reverse mortgage loan, is a federally insured home loan that allows borrowers age 62 and over to access a portion of their home equity to supplement their retirement income. Like their traditional cousins, reverse mortgage loans have financial obligations, requirements and qualifications, but repayment is structured differently. Whereas traditional loans require borrowers to make loan repayments each month for a designated period of time, reverse mortgage loan borrowers aren’t required to make monthly mortgage payments, so long as they pay property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and comply with loan terms. Instead, non-taxable loan proceeds are made available to the homeowner to use at their discretion, such as paying off other expenses, building up a financial buffer for future unanticipated expenses, or planning for the retirement of their dreams.

How Can a Reverse Mortgage Help with Retirement Planning?

According to American Advisors Group (AAG), there are many features of reverse mortgage loans that can benefit seniors who are looking to supplement their retirement income.

  • Eliminate monthly mortgage payments. Rather than paying money to the lender each month, you receive funds to enhance your retirement savings. The loan is repaid when you sell your home, move to another primary residence or when the last borrower leaves the home.
  • You remain the homeowner and stay in your home. You maintain ownership of and the title to your home as long as you comply with the terms of the loan.
  • How you spend the proceeds of the loan is up to you. The loan proceeds have very few restrictions and can be used to pay for common senior expenses like medical care, in-home care, household repairs and remodeling, or paying off other debt. Disbursement options vary: you choose a full or partial lump sum, monthly payments or a line of credit.
  • Social Security, Medicare, your 401(k) and pension are not affected. A reverse mortgage loan is considered a loan and not income, so proceeds are not taxable. However, need-based benefits such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may be affected.

Want to know more? Click here to read the full article from AgingCare including:
*How to qualify for a Reverse Mortgage Loan
*What are the obligations as a borrower?
*How Does the Government Regulate HECM Loans?
*How to Apply for a Reverse Mortgage

Finding an LGBTQ+ Inclusive Long Term Care Community

Moving into a long-term care community is a significant life change and requires someone to consider several factors when deciding where to live. When the time comes for extra support while aging, everyone deserves to feel welcome and safe accessing long-term care.

Welcoming policies, practices and culture are all factors which should be considered when trying to find an inclusive and welcoming long-term care facility for LGBTQ+ elders. Learn how to properly screen facilities for these and other factors in a resource created by HRC Foundation and SAGE.

>>Click here to learn more by visiting the SAGE website where you can download a PDF guide to finding an LGBTQ+ Long Term Care Community.