Entries for 2012

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The Gift of Giving – Caring Transitions December Newsletter

 Posted by Caring Transitions on December 5, 2012 at 9:04 AM

By Nan Hayes for Caring Transitions®

The holiday season represents so many things; a time for giving, for entertaining and spending time with family and friends. For some, the holidays may even be a time to address household clutter. It’s true! Right now, you may be trying to figure out where to stash all the “stuff” that has slowly filled the guest bedroom over the course of the year; or maybe you need to clear piles of paperwork off the dining room table in order to add the extra leaf. Perhaps you have even decided this is the year to buy new lights and a fresh Christmas tree because your artificial tree and old light sets are stored in the far recesses of your basement or attic and your holiday schedule just doesn’t include the time it takes to remove all the boxes from storage, locate the items you need and then replace everything once again.

Most of us hold onto the possessions that fill our homes because we don’t regularly take the time to evaluate the functionality or personal meaning of each item and discard those that are no longer useful.  Instead, as we buy new items, we just set the old aside to be dealt with at some future point in time.  Most of us never find that time and eventually, clutter accumulates. Houses that suffer symptoms of    “over-accumulation” can cause stress as is evidenced by the recent TV shows about “Hoarding. Yet, even on a smaller scale,  too many things in one place may just make us uncomfortable or becomes another source of day- to- day anxiety as we let the growing piles of outdated electronics, broken cooking gadgets and  worn out shoes and handbags go unresolved and unaddressed.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from a bout of holiday household stress due to  an over-abundance of household possessions, we at  Caring Transitions suggest you give yourself the gift of giving this season.

We are not suggesting you choose December as the month to do all of your spring cleaning. It is perfectly ok to make larger household projects part of your 2013 resolutions. However, as you encounter small projects while preparing for the holidays, why not use this opportunity to give some things to those who will need and appreciate them? At the same time, you can accomplish some of your decluttering goals. For example:

Gifting Holiday Décor:

In most counties, there are a number of organizations who provide shelter, housing and group homes for individuals and families in need. Early December is s perfect time to donate excess holiday themed décor. Please only donate items in good condition.  Keep in mind that many of these organizations also need cash donations, furniture, small appliances, linens and other household goods. Decorations and accessories that are no longer in good condition may be gifted to a craft club or hobbyists who may use the items as raw materials.  Holiday items that have sentimental value, but no longer suit your home, may also be gifted to family members.

Gifting Heirlooms:

The holiday season is the perfect time to add to your family legacy by passing on heirlooms to next generations.  And you don’t have to be in your eighties or nineties to begin this kind of gifting.  Make it part of your annual tradition. Give at least one meaningful or sentimental item to another family member. If you have concerns the other party may not understand or appreciate the item, include a card or note that explains why it has special meaning or value. Describe how or why it is part of family history.  It is not always easy to choose the right recipient for family heirlooms and certainly no one wants to start an argument between jealous siblings as gifts are unwrapped. Consider who will most appreciate or use an items and look for family members or friends who have at some point, expressed an interest in the item. As you consider your many sentimental possessions, it may also be the time to ask yourself if anyone in the family will ever appreciate Aunt Rose’s spoon collection. It may fare better if sold or donated to a dedicated collector.

Give and Get

As you stop by your favorite retailer this season to replace your old office supplies and electronics with new ones, bring the old ones along.  The following is a short list of national retailers who provide recycle services. Please visit retailer websites for more information, applicable fees and restrictions. Also, in the spirit of “giving” don’t forget to ask a housebound or elderly neighbor if you can drop off some of their stuff too!

Best Buy: everything from TVs to refrigerators, games, stands, cell phones, rechargeable batteries and printer cartridges

Staples: ink and toner cartridges, desktops, laptops, printers and peripherals like keyboards, mice and speakers

Apple Store:  cell phones, Apple products, computers, displays, and peripherals. Cables, mice, keyboards, speakers, printers, scanners and hard drives,

Verizon: wireless phones, batteries and accessories

Other Gifts:

The short list below may also help you find the perfect gift for others who need a little help with their own holiday organization.

 

Regardless of how you choose to handle your own home and property, make choices that provide value to you personally while improving someone’ else’s at the same time. Giving to others has always been the best gift we give ourselves and we wish you many “giving moments” this season!

From all of us at Caring Transitions,

Happy Holidays!

 

Cornucopia – November Newsletter

 Posted by Caring Transitions on November 29, 2012 at 8:38 AM

By Nan Hayes for Caring Transitions®

Holidays are an opportunity for families to come together in celebration. Over the next few months you will hear a great deal from advisors and elder care professionals who suggest we use this time of family gathering as an opportunity to evaluate our parents’ well-being, to advance discussions about housing options and long term care insurance; to take a closer look at mom’s “activities of daily living” or to hold a “ parent conversation” with dad.  Much of this advice should be heeded to an extent, as it is undoubtedly a valuable exercise for families to gain a clear understand their parents’ plans and wishes for the future.

The professionals suggest we pepper dinner table conversation with well-placed, open-ended questions such as Where do you see yourselves 3 years from now?”  Or “What is your favorite holiday memory?”  And many of us will do just that, in the hopes of giving our parents a chance to share their plans and their legacy.

We hope to gain something from these conversations, a little guidance, a little insight. The responses to our questions may not always be what we want to hear but since it’s the holidays, we will try our best not to criticize or pass judgment or force our opinions on others. We will sit back in our chairs and really listen and then, when we have the opportunity, we will share some information with our parents as well.

What kind of information? We could tell them where to get help with downsizing and decluttering or how to find more information on local senior living options. We can try and give them financial advice and share the latest about the health of the housing market. Or, more importantly, we can tell them what we love about them. We can share favorite stories of past family gatherings and thank them for their commitment to us. As adult children with children of our own, many of us have a great new understanding of just how many hours dad spent hanging holiday lights or putting toys together at midnight. We can finally truly appreciate how much effort mom put into filling stockings, making holiday meals, baking cookies and wrapping gifts. This year is the year to thank them and to share our best memories of them with them.

We can present our parents with a virtual cornucopia of good memories and gratitude for all they have done. At this particular time of life, when constant worry over their health and welfare threatens to define our relationship, we have an opportunity to redefine it with caring and with commitment.

Commitment. There is probably no better way to express gratitude to parents than by affirming our commitment to them. Reminding them that we are here for them, at any hour, without any inconvenience, with no threat to their independence and nothing but respect for their lifestyle, wishes and choices. Commitment means letting them know they remain a priority in the midst of busy schedules and hectic lives.  And commitment means letting them know that while our relationship dynamic may change a little, we do not believe “the child becomes the parent and the parent becomes the child.” We will continue to respect them as our parent, always.

In 1990, a Japanese woman founded an unusual enterprise. Noticing that many elderly Japanese were increasingly isolated from their children by the frantic pace of contemporary life, she established a company where lonely older adults could “rent a relative.” Surrogate sons, daughters or grandchildren could be rented to show up at the door and gush as if they haven’t seen the client in years. They’d stay for a long chat, share concerns, sip tea and possible perform some minor repairs around the house. Many thought the business was sure to fail, but instead, thousands hired the service and the business was a great success. When asked why she believed the business had taken off, the owner said “What is common about our clients is that they are thirsty for love. They all reach an hour in their life where they cry out to the people they need and when the response doesn’t come, they finally pick up the phone and call us.”

Commitment means letting your parents know they may have to hire home care, maybe even health care, but they will never have to hire a family.

The late ethicist Lewis Smedes said it well, “Commitment means reaching into unpredictable times and making one thing predictable, that I will be there.  I will throw myself into uncertainty …and create the certainty of my caring presence. “

From all of us at Caring Transitions, we wish you and your family a safe and wonderful holiday season.

©2012 RSL for Caring Transitions. No reprint in part or entirety without express written permission.

Selling a Home? Improve Your Time on Market

 Posted by Caring Transitions on October 2, 2012 at 4:07 PM

In a news release issued by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in early September, a new statistical measurement showed the typical amount of time it takes to sell a home is shrinking. Average selling time for non-distressed homes is in the six to seven week range. By comparison, time on the market during the housing “boom” was 4 weeks and during the subsequent housing “bust”, 10 weeks.

“As inventory has tightened, homes have been selling more quickly,” the report said. “A notable shortening of time on market began this spring, and this has created a general balance between homebuyers and sellers in much of the country. This equilibrium is supporting sustained price growth, and homes that are correctly priced tend to sell quickly, while those that aren’t often languish on the market.”

There are two other reasons non-distressed homes may remain on the market longer than average. These include “Condition” and “Marketing.”

Condition:

If you are one of many home sellers who wonder why the house down the street just sold at an asking price similar to yours, it is time to look at the condition of your home. The concept of “home staging” has been around for a number of years now, but some sellers may not yet realize that preparing their home for sale isn’t just an option, it is a necessity. When a home is in disrepair, too dirty or too cluttered, buyers may not be able to see beyond the mess to effectively compare the home value to other properties.

The NAR states the average home staging investment is between 1 and 3 percent of the home’s asking price, and generates a return of 8 to 10 percent. According to other home staging statistics, an average expenditure of $575 for simple cleaning, decluttering, lightening and brightening provides a return of over $2,400 on the sale price of an average home, which is more than a 400% return on investment.

In those cases where a home is densely cluttered and requires more than “simple” cleaning, professional estate sale and online auction services cost the same or even less than basic staging services and produce similar results. Typically, professional estate sale management fees are paid as a percent of sale proceeds. Once those fees plus any additional administration fees have been paid, the net sales gain belongs to the home owner. As a result, the owner gains not only from the net revenues of the sale but also the increased value of a decluttered home. Even in situations where the outcome of an estate sale is just “break even”, the seller still benefits from the improved value of the home.

Some real-estate agents recommend home inspections before placing a home on the market and others suggest you should save the $200-$400 cost of inspection because the buyer will pay for  it done prior to closing. Yet, in today’s market, it may be an advantage to be proactive and complete all repairs before you list.

According to the staging statistics, basic improvements such as plumbing, electrical, exterior and interior paint produce 50-100% ROI and larger remodeling projects, especially kitchens and baths, result in even higher returns for sold properties.

Marketing:

If you haven’t sold a home in awhile, take some time to understand how homes are marketed these days. Technology has not only changed the way buyers look for homes but also the way homes are priced and presented to buyers.

If you decide to sell the house yourself, set a time limit to maintain your own listing before you consider hiring a professional. Certainly saving a 6% commission may provide you with a price advantage, but if you do not have the right information or don’t fully understand the pitfalls of a slow and changing marketplace, listing a house month after month without the guidance of an experienced professional may cost you more money in the long run.

Either way, it is important to fully understand local housing trends and review comparable sales figures. As markets change rapidly, you will want to find the most current information. You can use sites such as Zillow.com and Realtor.com, or again, get the advice of a professional agent. As noted above, establishing the right price is your first and most important rule when selling a home.

One you have established your price and listing method the details must be managed. Consider how much better the search results for your home may be if you list at $399, 999 instead of $400,000 and be sure to take pictures of the home after the decluttering, cleaning and repairs are complete. Of course the best pictures are professionally done. Buyers will spend more time perusing properties that have more than just a cover photo so take advantage of websites that allow multiple photographs to help you display the home’s best features.

A complete marketing program includes more than website and online tools, but also print collateral for showings and open houses, as well as a strategy for bringing in successful brokers and serious, qualified buyers.

The Good News:

It is anticipated that these overdue but positive trends in home sales and housing inventory will continue into the fall season and subsequently, according the NAR report, median existing home prices will rise 4.5 to 5 percent in 2012 and about 5 percent in 2013. Additionally, if new home construction doesn’t pick up, those increases could lead to greater supply shortages resulting in more above average increases.

Whether your home is on the market today or tomorrow, be sure to use these trends to your advantage and follow the guidelines for price, condition and market strategy in order to position your home to its greatest advantage.

 – By Nan Hayes for Caring Transitions