Thursday, October 26, 2017

Curb Your Enthusiasm- The New Golden Age

For many senior adults downsizing from a primary home to an independant living complex is an exciting beginning to the Golden Years.  Trending in the market I serve are Baby Boomers with oversized homes that are now empty nests.  Many of the recent conversations of my peers have revolved around where and how to downsize.  The options have been limited and very expensive.  This situation is beginning to shift.   As Baby Boomers begin to age there is a growing trend of seniors who are healthy, wealthy and energetic seeking carefree lifestyles of ease and luxury.  They are seeking curb appeal in sleek modern luxury buildings in urban locations vs.  the large suburban mcmansions.  

With freedom from home ownership responsibility , many older boomers tend to move to smaller spaces of either condo or apartment style living.  click here for Boomers In the past, the common trend had been  warmer climates where land was less expensive.  As baby boomers age many have greater wealth than their predecessors and are opting to remain close to family and roots.  The demand for higher end senior living spaces is growing in urban areas.  This population wants to continue the lifestyles they have embraced throughout their working years.  

Boomers are seeking properties with luxury amenities and services.  For an example of one such option, explore Waterstone at the Circle by Epoch in Cleveland Circle.  This luxurious building, opening in January 2018 is located on the Brookline/Brighton line where the Circle Movie Theater had been for over 50 years.  The complex is composed of rental units beginning at $7000 plus per month and will offer  walk-in closets, full kitchens, spacious layouts, several common areas, concierge services, chauffeured car service, two restaurants and an on-site movie theatre ( Incidentally as a child I used to frequent this theater and saw The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins when they first opened around 1964).  This is a great place for fully independant post baby boomers.  

Alternatively if someone prefers suburbia,  One Wingate Way in Needham offers complete luxury independant living.  A great benefit to Wingate is its continuing care retirement community.  One Wingate Way shares land with The Residence at Wingate which offers Assisted and Memory Care as well as Skilled Nursing and Rehabilation services.  Likewise, more and more such complexes are being built in both the suburbs and urban areas around the country.  

As a babyboomer and SRES this is an exciting time for me as a real estate agent.  I enjoy working with an older client base and am actively engaged in studying the local market.  I am able to share my expertise with my peers as we continue our empty nest conversations.  The options particularly in the rental market for this demographic had been somewhat limited around the Greater Boston area and this is beginning to change.     

Property developers and market research studies have shown that Baby Boomers will be the next large "Millenial Market" as they age from single home ownership to alternative living options.   The average age of residents looking at Waterstone is 82 years young.  Senior living options are being Redesigned and rethought.   This new selection of living spaces will create new opportunities for growth in the housing market. As more options become available for empty-nesters there will be more homes on the market from which they came.  

As an SRES real estate agent I can help manage this transition process by helping to identify potential living options for those thinking about downsizing.  I am eager to work with these clients and families to prepare their homes for the real estate market.  If you know anyone who is considering a move feel free to reach out to me at  

Friday, October 20, 2017

What to expect when you are not expecting- along the life cycle

When I was pregnant with my first child,  a friend gave me the book What to Expect When You're Expecting  by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel (revised May 31, 2016).  This was a detailed guide on how to prepare for all aspects of pregnancy through childbirth.  The book was filled with practical  advise and was a great way to launch parenthood.  I read this close to thirty years ago and since its update they actually have added a website as well.  click here.  

After the new baby is brought home, the  family begins a journey over the next several years and the process of acquiring things needed a long the way.  Things will be acquired out of "need" and then "want".  Sometimes these may be used short term but will be stored away incase needed for future use.  Some will be held onto for nostalgia.  Moving from a small apartment to a larger home along the way may occur to house these things and the growing family.  It is suggested to look at the long term costs and risks prior to jumping into a larger home as big may not be always be better though.  click here.  This may go on until the children grow up and move out often creating an empty nest.  

While planning for a newborn is very exciting most people do not plan for the other end of the life cycle.   It is much less exciting to think about planning for old age.  Declining health and death are scarey to talk about often causing delay of conversation until it is may be too late.   However, as I have learned an unexpected illness can create havic and upend the best of plans.  Unfortunately we never know when misfortune may come upon us.  

An article in last weeks New York Times, click here ,discusses the fact that most of us do not adequately plan for these events.  This article provides useful tools to plan for long term care and an end of life plan.  It is important to have a long term plan in place in case of a sudden death or disability.   If you don't already have long term care insurance or an estate plan this should be on your to do list.

Likewise it is a good idea for all of us to outline our personal end of life wishes while able to think cognitively.  In the book,  Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

by Atul Gawande, the author provides an overview of the long term care options that have evolved in the United States and shares ideas on how to plan for the end of life pointing out that this is the one destination we all have in common.  Ultimately we all aspire to have a dignified end of life .  

The sun rises each morning and sets at days end.  Likewise we rise at birth and our lives are set at the end.   Although we may collect things along the way we don't take any of these with us in burial.   In Jewish tradition we are buried in a simple Pine Box.  According to Jewish law, the deceased must return to the earth that gave her life. A pine box decomposes in the ground, and is therefore the traditional Jewish casket.  For more understanding of baseline tradition click here.  

Although I can't speak for burial practices amongst other faiths, I do know that the process of distributing one's final estate to beneficiaries is typical.  Often a large financial estate will go through probate or a different legal process.  In the eyes of the person passing on the estate this may be seen as a great gift.  However often an inheritance may become a burden to the beneficiary.    

A new book being released January 2, 2018 called 
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson  addresses how to get rid of the material things in our life ideally before passing on.  The theory is that most likely your collections and cherished things may not be of value to the next generation.  Instead of burdening them with having to clean and dispose of these items it is helpful for the original owner to do this while alive.  

The conversations and strategy to plan for the end of life an disposition of one's assets can be meaningful if properly planned.  It is good to understand the owners intent and where possible put the assets in a place where they will be most valued.   To help with these difficult conversations and decisions it is recommended to work with professionals who can guide you through the process.  These individuals are able to be more objective since they will not have the emotion ties confronting the situation.  An elder care attorney for example will understand the best options to position one's assets and determine appropriate health care proxies.  An estate sale or organizational specialist may be able to help organize and create balance.  An SRES may be able to help with finding a home or recommend ways to prepare a current home to meet the physical needs of the occupant if modifications are needed.  The common goal for all involved should be to help a loved one plan for an end of life that is fulfilled with accomplishment, pride and dignity.  

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker in Needham, Mass.  As an SRES she enjoy helping others plan for the various phases of life cycle and works with a team of professionals to compliment her services and help make each transition as seamless as possible.  

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Part 3 of the empty empty nest

We got home after dropping off our daughter in NYC (mid August) and helping her set up her new apartment.  She was excited and ready to embark on her career and has an amazing first apartment.  Her brownstone walk up in Gramercy is something I would have strived to have lived in when I worked in the city 35 years ago.  She is in a prime Manhattan location with restaurants and stores all around.  I do not think she will miss the suburbia life of metro-west Boston very much.

We came home to empty bedrooms but a very happy smiling dog.  At least Delilah was there to great us and bring a smile to my face.  I left NY trying to hold back my tears and did fine most of the past 24 hours.  We made a stop at Mohegan Sun to have a destination and break during this transition instead of coming straight home to our empty nest. This was a great way to debrief.  It took a few days for the quiet to set in but then my husband and I started to get into our normal routine.  We could begin to make plans with our friends and do things on our own time.  A weekend movie or last minute meal at a restaurant just because we feel like it would become the new normal. 

Fast forward one month later,  (mid Sept) all three kids came home for close to a week to celebrate my father-in-laws unveiling and birthday of my youngest daughter.  Although originally my New York kids planned to just stay the weekend they agreed to spend the week since my daughter was in from the West Coast for the week with her boyfriend and dog.  It was great to have everyone home under one roof.  As the weather was warm we ended up spending most of the week down the Cape.  We had a week of quality family time and intense conversation.

Although lots of fun, I do admit it is unbalanced to cram everything everyone wants to do because they are only here for a few days into both schedule and diet.  We ate out almost every night at someone's favorite restaurant or made someone's favorite meal.    The house was a sudden disorder and my exercise equilibrium got out of sink.   There was constant running around.

Although I often think about downsizing, it was great to have a place to accomodate everyone and not feel cramped.  More often than not, however,  we are in a large empty house with just two of us.  The size and expense are high and downsizing would enable us freedom of time and ability to visit the kids more often.  I do wonder how it will be to live in a smaller home and know we have to get rid of a lot to do this.  But then again at some point our kids will all have larger homes of their own that we can visit and perhaps relocate some of our things.

After one week everyone went home to their jobs and homes I was left with a 3 pound weight gain and loads of sheets and dirty towels . I had cleaners come to both houses to vacuum, wash floors and deep clean.   After getting resettled again the house seemed quite.  We then went away for a week to a conference (late Sept) and are just starting to get back into the empty nest routine. 

Next weekend is a long weekend and my daughter is returning to Boston for Homecoming.  We are planning to visit NY late October.  In addition, yesterday I got a facebook message from our Italian son, an  exchange student, Samuele who lived with us for a year.  He is able to come visit our family for Thanksgiving.  I texted my kids right away and told them.  Everyone is in process of booking tickets to come home now for the holiday.  I am so excited that we will have a full house in November and truly can't wait.  We will try to visit the West Coast early winter.  We have lots of places to go now.  Although we miss the kids the visits do give us something to look forward to.  Maybe this empty nest thing isn't as bad as I feared. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

To save or to sell- the inherent risks of collecting

We all know collectors.  My Dad was a compulsive one, a collector of collectibles ranging from biblical antiquities, books, old newspapers,  and American ephemera to ball point pens and elastics.  The typical collector enjoys the fun of the chase and never has enough.  They often have a hard time departing with their amassed legacy.  The thrill is in the hunt and lasts only a few days until new prey comes along.  I grew up in such an environment and will reflect upon experiences learned along the way.  About a year ago my brother and I were in the midst of selling our deceased parents estate which was an accumulation of 140 years of combined collections.  The collection was located in their condo on the west coast of Florida.  We both live up north.

With the impending hurricanes a few weeks ago I have been thinking more and more about the philosophy of collecting in general.  Our Dad would have been one of the ones who wanted to stay behind when told to evacuate during Hurricane Harvey or Irma.  He would have risked his life to preserve his collection.  To much of the millenial generation we live in disposable and replacement mode and can easily buy new things.  For my Dads generation people held onto their acquisitions with pride.   Luckily he did not have to make this decision, however I do empathize with the many who have had their homes and collected personal history's devastated this past September.

Back to my discussion,  there does comes a point when the collector can no longer collect and more often than not, their children don't have space or interest to sustain a said collection.   Often its location is no longer manageable.  Perhaps no one can explain this situation better than Ellen Stern in a New York Times article last week , where she highlighted the history of her husbands art collection.   After the Chase, the Long Goodbye.  The pieces you collect become a vested part of yourself and you begin to nurture them like children.  Ms. Stern took the longer and more difficult path to disperse of this collection after  her husband's recent death.  She is working with Sotheby's to begin the process of auctioning off key pieces beginning early November.  She is dedicated and able to spend the necessary time to pursue the best options to find new homes for several cherished items. 

We used a similiar auction house to deal with a specific subsection of our parents collection as we also wanted the assurance that each item would find a new loving home.  As a full disclaimer this was a luxury in that we were able to hold onto our parents property for an extended length of time to research optimal estate vendors.   Retrospectively this actual cost may have outweighed the benefit particularly if the hurricane were to hit last year.   This would have been a risk not worth taking as much may be been destroyed with flooding.

Many people in the position of needing to downsize or handle the sale of a deceased loved one's estate don't have time or money on their hands.  It is often common to have to empty the contents of ones property within a short time frame to settle the estate.  When time becomes an issue there are estate sale companies that can come in and handle the process from full house to broom swept floors for a price.  If you live out of state and have to deal with a family estate this may end up being your best option after weighing in  travel or shipping costs to physically deal with everything at a more convenient location.

Last week, coincidentally after reading the NYT article we had a presentation in my real estate office by a representative from one of the leading online estate sale companies.  This company will come in and assist home sellers with the almost complete liquidation of the internal remove-able contents of their property.  They will assess a monetary value to these items but typically take most items to a midwest offsite facility where they will sort through, price, photograph and set up an online auction for 5 days. All bids will start at $1 but collect close to market value as the auction time closes.  Generally they sell most items and will donate the balance.  Other companies will come in and do an onsite sale.   With this type of sale often the seller can put a reserve on items they don't want to sell below a certain selling point.

Depending on the timeliness and desired outcome of the sale, different options work for the specific situation.  The reality is that we can't take everything with us and in order to get the optimal amount for a collection one should really plan its demise while they are healthy and able.  My Dad knew the dealers he bought from and would have been able to obtain the most leverage if he tried to resell things instead of leaving all to us.  I am positive we sold much below appropriate value just because we had to get rid of things.  Leaving a collection to the hands of the next generation has inherent risks of not being as valuable to the new owner or not being appreciated for the same intrinsic value as the original acquirer. 

Having gone through the process of downsizing twice with my parents and in-laws I have learned a bit along the way.  I do admit that I put some reserves on a few of our parents items that now sit in boxes in my basement.  My husband too has boxes of stuff from his parents home. Much of what we have most likely takes up space and will take time to sell.  This makes it more difficult for us the think about downsizing which I often idealize toward as an empty nester.   A few days ago I drove by my parents house.  It was in process of being torn down.  It was quite sad to see but reminded me that there is no longer the childhood home for me to visit.  It is now the memories in my head that will continue to preserve the legacy of my our parents generation.

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.  Having earned her SRES she enjoys the opportunity of helping those who may need an extra hand in helping their loved ones deal with the stages of downsizing or transitioning from their primary home to the next phase.