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Helping your parents get ready to sell their house can be a difficult task, especially if they are seniors who may be struggling with the physical and emotional demands of the process. However, with a little patience, organization, and support, you can help make the experience as smooth and stress-free as possible for them.

Here are some tips for helping your parents get ready to sell their house:

1. Start by talking to them about their reasons for wanting to sell their home – and actually LISTEN.

It’s important to understand why your parents are considering selling their home so you can better support their decision. Are they looking to downsize, move closer to family, or are they simply looking for a change of scenery? Are new health concerns or accessibility needs prompting a move? Is there a new or developing financial situation that’s leading them to want to sell?

Don’t be surprised if these conversations get awkward and uncomfortable or if your parents don’t want to give you much detail. But knowing their real motivations will help you tailor your approach.

2. Ask them how they picture the sale process – and what they need from you.

Even if your parents aren’t selling the long-time family home, expect the sale to be emotional. Deciding to downsize or move to your ‘final home’ is both exciting and terrifying – and it gets even more complicated if the move is motivated by declining health or concerns around getting older and losing independence. How do your parents picture the sale? Do they want to be involved in the details or do they just want it handled for them? What’s their ideal timing (and why)? Do they want to be living in the home while it’s listed for sale or do they want to move out first? What do they need, want and expect from you? Do they want other friends or family involved in the sale (and if yes, what will their roles be?)

3. Help them declutter, prepare and stage the house.

A cluttered house can be overwhelming for anyone, but it can be especially challenging for seniors. Offer to help your parents go through their belongings and donate or sell items they no longer need or use. Then, help them stage the house by rearranging furniture, decluttering surfaces, and adding some simple touches like fresh flowers and scented candles to make the space more welcoming.

Better yet: speed up the house prep process and reduce stress by engaging a REALTOR early on. Great real estate agents have the connections and professional resources to help get homes ready for sale quickly. Some real estate teams in Toronto (including us!) have in-house staging and design services that are included in the commission. You don’t have to do it all yourself! And trust me – it’s easier if somebody other than you tells Mom that her beloved dining table is too big for the room.

4. Assist with minor repairs and maintenance tasks.

Before selling their house, your parents will likely need to make some minor repairs and maintenance tasks. These could include fixing leaky faucets, painting walls, or replacing broken tiles. Offer to help with these tasks or hire professionals if necessary.

5. Help them find the right real estate agent.

Finding the right real estate agent to help your aging parents sell their home can be a daunting task. Your parents may not have sold a home in the past 20 years (or sometimes, ever) and may be surprised at how much the process has changed. You can help your parents choose a great REALTOR by researching online, reading reviews and asking your friends for recommendations; further, you can offer to reach out to the agents and assist with interviewing them.

You’ll want to look for a REALTOR who has experience working with seniors and understands their unique needs; someone who offers the services that are important to you and your parents; and somebody who connects with and respects ALL the people involved in the sale.

6. Help them navigate the paperwork, technology and legalities.

Selling a house involves a lot of paperwork and legalities which can be overwhelming for anyone, let alone seniors. While it’s the REALTOR’s job to make sure your parents understand the sales process and the legal documents they are signing, don’t be afraid to jump in and ask the agent to repeat or clarify anything. If your parents seem to be too intimidated to ask questions, ask on their behalf. And when it comes to actually signing the documents, note that many agents use electronic signatures, which may be intimidating or downright impossible for some older folks. Make sure to ask about any technology that may required during the sale process and what other options are available.

7. Support them emotionally.

The process of selling a house can be emotionally challenging, especially if your parents have lived in the home for a long time and have a lot of memories attached to it. Be there to listen and offer support as they go through this difficult transition.

There’s so much you can do to help minimize your parent’s stress as they sell their home. Remember to be patient, understanding, and supportive throughout the process, and they will be grateful for your help.


  1. Angela Lussier says:

    I am looking at selling my in-laws home. The neighbor is interested. Should he prepare the written offer, should we ask for a deposit?

    Is it best to hire a real estate agent and offer them 1 percent for a commission to facilitate our private deal?

    • Brendan Powell says:

      Well as agents we obviously believe in the value of a professional helping to navigate any sale! A real estate transaction is incredibly important and valuable, so while I suppose you could do it on a handshake, there is value and security in doing everything “by the book.” While a lawyer can handle some of the paperwork, an agent can help you put together a proper agreement, and of course give you a professional, independent assessment of value…not to mention assist with any negotiation…among many other things.
      So personally I would never sell a house without professional advice and guidance, and that normally means a realtor. It is too valuable a transaction not to.
      I should add that the cost of having someone do this depends entirely on the agent and what is involved! Best of luck with the sale.

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