Managing property after a move to residential care
Rob Dolbear, Director of Bridgefast Property Services, shares his advice on what to do with your property when a move into residential care is necessary.
Selling your home
The initial marketing period is crucial and ill-informed decisions at this stage can be hard to recover from further down the line. Things to think about are as follows:
Choosing the right estate agent
You’ll need to get at least two appraisals from estate agents. If you don’t know the local property market very well, selecting those agents can be difficult. The top six things to consider are:
- The types of property they’re currently selling, the size of their portfolio and the number of properties they have under offer.
- Making sure the agent you’re considering provides you with comparable information to support their recommendations on asking price, achievable sale price and probable timescales.
- Property advertisement - both quality of presentation and listings on websites, in newspapers, etc.
- Check that the agent’s branch is open seven days a week.
- Ensure the commission charge is reasonable.
- Don’t be seduced by the highest valuation. You’re looking for the optimum valuation. A property that’s overpriced for the initial marketing period can be difficult to sell for its fair value.
Ultimately, selecting an agent to actually market the property will depend on the factors above as well as the quality of service and the quality of information provided to you. If you don’t feel happy then trust your instincts and look elsewhere.
Assessments and Certificates
Some of the assessments that you will need to allow for include:
- An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) will be required for the property.
- You may need to get an independent assessment of the property to determine whether it needs a touch up to achieve a sale. In general this isn’t needed, as buyers like to make their own mark on a property, but if there are obvious issues affecting its appeal then they should be considered.
- Appoint a solicitor who’ll do the conveyancing. It’s a good idea to monitor their progress to ensure the sale is completed as quickly as possible.
- It’s advisable to have potential buyers professionally assessed with regard to their ability to complete on the purchase. A lower offer from a cash buyer may be better than a higher offer from a buyer in a chain. Consider your options carefully.
You’ll need to monitor your agent’s progress to make sure they’re getting on with it! This can be time consuming but an agent should be accountable for activity on a weekly basis and be able to provide qualitative feedback. Momentum is so important when a property is first marketed and when a sale is being concluded.
Getting down to business
Are you comfortable negotiating on offers or confident the agent can act in your best interests? Potential buyers may try to exploit circumstances if they know a move is urgent or if the property is already empty.
You will also need to identify the utility providers and contact them to close accounts when the property is sold.
Keeper of the keys
What arrangements will need to be made with respect to key access? A lock change is also something to consider should you worry about access to the property while you’re not present.
Remember if a property is left vacant most insurance policies will lapse or reduce cover after 30 or 60 days so separate vacant property insurance will be required. Take your time when choosing this type of insurance as minimum period conditions may apply and prices vary.
An empty property will need care and maintenance, particularly over the winter months when a drain down might be needed.
The removal process is often a combination of taking certain items to your new home, arranging for some items to go to family and friends, obtaining auction appraisals for more valuable items and house clearance & collection by charities for what’s left.
Renting your home
Do you want to become landlords?
While tenanting your house may generate some income (notwithstanding tax implications) tenants can be demanding, requiring their requests and repairs to be dealt with quickly.
Do you let the property furnished or unfurnished?
Furnishings need to meet a certain standard, as well as Health & Safety requirements. If you opt for unfurnished who is going to deal with the sale, disposal or storage of your belongings? If you budget for a certain amount of rent, what happens if there is a gap between tenants or market rents fall?
Are you aware of the risks?
If the property is tenanted, you are effectively exposed to the vagaries of the property market with, as recent history shows, no guarantee of an upward trend. So while renting can be appropriate for some, you need to be aware of the issues before deciding being a landlord is the thing for you.
Forward planning to fund care home fees
If you are selling your house because you're moving into care, it’s frequently the case that payment is required prior to your move and in advance of the sale of the property. Professional, specialised, financial advice should be sought in these circumstances to ensure the right solution is put in place.
Real-life case study: How Bridgefast can help
Bridgefast Property Services is an independent specialist property sales management and funding company that provides a comprehensive range of dedicated property-related services for retired homeowners. They can help with all of the issues raised in the above article.
For Professor Peter Fookes FR Eng and his wife, Edna, having one such advisor to take the ‘load off their shoulders’ was a huge help. Bridgefast Property Services Operations Supervisor, James Perrott, provides a single point of contact and co-ordinates the entire selling and moving process – from securing the best possible price to managing solicitors and arranging house clearances while always ensuring that the client remains in control.
“It would have been as much hassle if we had been half our age. We could have coped ourselves though – just not as expertly, we’re sure,” says Professor Fookes, who praised James’ good-natured, top-quality service. “One of the secrets of his efficient and effective service is that he knows how to get hold of the right people at the right time, for example utility companies, the local council, solicitors and estate agents.”
As the couple’s personal adviser, James handled logistical aspects of their move as well as the sale of their property. Significantly this included ensuring that items collected during Professor Fookes’ long career – both in the UK and overseas – found a good home by sourcing suitable auction houses. Throughout the whole process he was mindful that each and every object had personal meaning and so required a sensitive approach.
To achieve maximum market value, James arranged for the Fookes’ property to be decorated. He also organised the removal firm transporting their personal belongings and managed all liaison with both utilities companies and the local authority. With all costs deducted from the property sale, there was no need to pay any fees upfront – another key benefit of using a one-stop service.
Professor Fookes believes the Bridgefast experience has the potential to help older people manage their health and medical care.
“Knowledge of care homes and their systems, financial and legal management all becomes pretty daunting for those with failing memory, failing health and busy families who, understandably have trouble finding the time to help and don’t know the professional shortcuts in making things work,” he says.