Spoiler alert! This story ends well… but there are so many ways it could have gone very badly. I like to think I know a bit about real estate, and at the very least, most of my family and friends know what I do. With that in mind, imagine how floored I was when my wife’s octogenarian parents casually informed us that they were putting their home on the market and had already signed a listing contract.
For the record, they live in an area where I have little expertise, so it wouldn’t be ethical for me to be their agent. What really concerned me was when I asked them simple questions like “when will it go on the market?” and “how long is the listing agreement?” and “what’s the commission?” I got three straight “we don’t know” responses. When I asked to see the contract, they said “we never got it.” Oh boy…
They said they didn’t want to bug me because they knew I was busy. They said they heard from a friend that this agent was a “real superstar.” They said it all happened so fast.
If you were to meet my in-laws, you’d be impressed how sharp they are for their age. If you got to know them, you’d find that they have real concerns about memory loss, failing health, some confusion. The whole impetus for their move was to transition to assisted living. Add to this that they are proud, stubbornly self-sufficient and maybe a little embarrassed, and it’s a recipe for potential disaster.
I immediately arranged a sit-down with them and their agent to review the contract. Most of what my in-laws “didn’t know” they had forgotten or misunderstood. Fortunately, their agent really is top-notch, and we agreed that I would be in the loop at every step. We were all kumbaya in short order.
My advice: If you have relatives who may be heading for this stage of life, be proactive. Don’t assume they will ask your advice just because they are still the adults in the room and damn proud of it. Talk often, be patient and loving, never assume, and most of all, make a plan. Unfortunately (and quite sadly), there are snakes in the weeds just looking for an easy mark.