Another in our series on the experiences of the Master-ASA . . .
The End Always Comes
I guess that I am one of the more active Realtors in the GTA in respect to estates. It is what I specialize in and what interests me the most as families usually need help. The problem though is that the families tend to not recognize the help that is needed.
The easiest estates for me, I get a call from a lawyer who may be the Executor. I am instructed to get the house ready for the market and sold. That entire exercise can take from beginning to end, a month or less. I have freedom to do what is necessary, the Executor authorizes necessary funds to get things done and we move quickly and efficiently.
Now let’s look at a similar estate where the family is heavily involved. The house is full of old furnishings, clothing, keepsakes and is probably tired in appearance. The family is scrambling to work together and that becomes a greater problem when siblings are not nearby or even in the same city, where old sibling rivalries flare up and where people just plain make mistakes.
The first mistake? Not recognizing that the furnishings have little or no value. No one wants that old couch, the chairs and especially today, the dining room set. What is considered valuable to family members is not valuable on the open market and consignment stores today are getting overwhelmed with goods. They select only the best. Even charities are getting more demanding and will not take everything. But, a family will try to obtain a few thousand dollars for some outdated goods and be focussed on that when hundreds of thousands of dollars representing the house are at stake. They will take months to sort through, to cling to the belief that someone is going to pay $1,500 for an outdated dining room set, have garage sales, etc. What does transpire, the entire process becomes an ordeal, weeks turn into months and families clash.
Many Master ASA members eliminate this tense process. They work with downsizers who will declutter, who will work to ensure that keepsakes are divided by the family, that valuable pieces are sold to dealers or at auction to achieve the highest dollar, some will do garage or content sales, many will not. The downsizer or declutterer can work with the Master ASA to bring in trades to paint, to rip out old carpetting to expose desirable hardwood floors, and clean throughout. Given a co-operative family, a Master ASA can get a home decluttered and onto the market in 30 days or less. The tension for the family is relieved.
I have seen too many cases where people refuse to spend the money on a professional but instead they will spend months of their time. They will pay heat, hydro, water, insurance, realty taxes and maybe mortgage payments over an extended period and the costs were double what could have been paid upfront to eliminate that.
The longer a home is sitting empty it becomes a target for thieves and kids who are out for kicks. Then there is the problem of insurance. Technically, most home insurance policies will not cover a vacant house. Additional insurance is required – at greater costs. In the summer, grass and landscaping has to be attended, in winter, shovelling and in winter there is the danger of a blackout, power going out and no heat. This will cause water lines to freeze and burst and for hotwater heating systems, this can be a disaster. I can attest to the fact that in my career I have seen too many cases of burst pipes because no one came to a house every day during cold weather.
As a Master ASA I like to counsel people, let’s start at the end, “do you want this house sold?” Sounds like a silly question but some people have trouble with a family home, to them it is a shrine to their youth. They know that they cannot keep it, but selling is very difficult. Once I determine that they do wish to sell then I explain, “the end will come. Your family will no longer own this home so let’s work together for a short, intense period to make it happen quickly, with as much ease as possible to maximize your time, your involvement and capture this hot real estate market.”
The end will always come. It is up to the owners, the heirs to make it happen quickly and easily or choose to ignore solid professional advice, scrimp on hiring the right professionals and then facing what turns into an ordeal. The choice is theirs but many are too emotionally attached to make the right decision.
A Master ASA is skilled in setting out the options, the process and the costs. That is why they have earned the Masters designation.
Barry Lebow in a Master ASA in his 47th year in real estate and an award winning broker at RE/MAX Realty Inc. Brokerage in Toronto.