Tag Archives: empty nesting

The (Grown) Kids Are Alright

Books are filled with characters who struggle with transitions in their home lives.

  • Scarlett O’Hara: prattling on incessantly about getting back to Tara.
  • King Lear: using estate planning as a means of father-daughter bonding.
  • Emma Bovary: redecorating her house for the umpteenth time.

But for now, let’s consider Oliver Twist — plaintively mourning the mother and home he never knew “on a night for the well-housed and fed to draw round the bright fire, and thank God they were at home; and for the homeless starving wretch to lay him down and die.”

Sadly, there are many real-life examples of orphaned and displaced children who suffer unnecessarily. But with only a wee bit of attention from Moms and Dads, most children are amazingly resilient.

In my real estate practice in San Francisco, I often see parents agonizing about how the sale of a home will affect their progeny.

Parents worry that moving kids from one school to another will derail their education and cause their social ruin. Or they fret that a step “down” to a less expensive or rental property in the case of a divorce will irrevocably damage the child’s self esteem. Or they assume that staging and marketing will be overly disruptive of family rhythms.

These concerns aren’t frivolous, yet the impact of change is largely mitigated when parents focus simply on loving their children rather than on controlling the situation. The physical manifestation of “home” –castle, cottage or condo – doesn’t really matter.

This is especially true when it comes to the anxieties of soon-to-be empty nesters. Parents whose babies have flown the coop too often compromise the quality of their mature years by overestimating the effect their home sale will have on their GROWN children. For example:

  • Tim and Betsy who “can’t possibly” downsize because their adult children must “have a bedroom” whenever they visit. Never mind that one 35-year-old son lives in Australia and the other owns a four-bedroom house in Portland, Oregon.
  • John who broaches the subject of selling his Ashbury Heights house every six months with his daughters Amelia, Annabelle and Amy. The 40-something “girls” react emotionally and without thinking about John’s needs. Amelia cries. Amy becomes silent. Annabelle advocates for John go into the Bed and Breakfast business in order to keep the house.
  • Rick and Roger who can’t sell because Roger believes selling the family home is synonymous with selling out the family. Roger has nightmare visions of an empty house at Christmas, while Rick quietly fantasizes about a family Mele Kalikimaka on the beach at Maui.

For the parent or parents who opt to stay in place, fears can eventually become reality. The house empties of people while stuff accumulates. Dust gathers. The dining room becomes a year-round tax-prep headquarters. The basketball hoop over the garage door rusts and droops. The back stairs sag. The paint yellows. Nobody sets foot in the yard except to sneak a cigarette or let the dog out.

20 years pass in a flash. And suddenly it’s too late to buy that financial district condo, or NYC pied-a-terre, or Sonoma bungalow. There’s no time for a transitional scenario. It’s straight to…Okay, so maybe that’s me being overly dramatic.

My point is this: Take time to visualize and consider “life after kids.” Be honest about the qualities you want in your life as you age. Don’t give in to sentiment about the loss of the family home.

Your children will soon understand that YOUR HEART is where HOME is. But first – like Dorothy at the end of The Wizard of Oz – you’re going to have to learn it for yourself.***

***I can help. I’ve gone through it myself and I’ve counseled dozens of clients through these transitions. Email me or call.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This was re-posted at McGuire.com’s blog.

Katie Scarlett, Better Call Off the Stager

You’ve seen that movie: There’s a horrible crisis and a character is obsessing about some silly, irrelevant and possibly symbolic detail?

Scarlett O’Hara’s dad, for example. In Gone With The Wind. Scarlett has just come home to Tara after delivering Melanie’s baby and escaping Atlanta on fire and hiding from marauding Yankees only to learn that her mother has died. The mansion needs some serious cleaning and renovation, but her grief-stricken dad just stares at his deceased wife’s sewing box and mutters to himself.

What I mean to say is it’s normal to pay attention to the “wrong” things in the midst of a real estate transaction. For example, I’ve witnessed:

  • The market debut of a $4 million home delayed for crucial weeks by seller’s wish for Salvation Army to accept an antique sideboard for donation.
  • A closing delayed by a dispute over whether or not a countertop microwave is included in the sale.
  • An offer failing because a buyer wants a one-day inspection clause on a developer-warranted all-new house

Smart sellers and buyers need to ask their agents “Is there anything I’m doing or choosing to focus on that is sabotaging my chances for success?” Clever clients should insist their agents muster the courage to be brutally frank. That’s because, sometimes – in the name of pleasing the client and choosing battles wisely – an agent is reluctant to speak up.

This arises most often in the midst of clearing out a house in preparation for market. Longtime owners get mired in the marsh of socks, scarves, old Christmas cards, tchotchkes and – most insidious of all – books. Meanwhile, the market for a $2 million condo is slipping away as seller deliberates over whether Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance should be given to a grandson, sold at Green Apple Books or donated.

Here’s where the smart and caring agent shows up with resources and tips to liberate the seller from the swamp of stuff – both literal and psychological. In my years as a Realtor, I have collected many proverbial ropes and winches to free clients from the muck. One of these days I’ll share some here.

In the meantime, contact me if you’d like some new purging, cleaning and decluttering tips.

 

Sometimes It’s Hard to Imagine……

…what a little paint, a little floor refinishing and a little staging will do.

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Before and after kitchen at 2651 Baker. We did the bare minimum and it made a huge difference!

I almost always recommend superficial cosmetic updates and  staging whenever I list a property for sale. In my heart of hearts, I know it works.

But what’s funny is this: When my clients and I are looking at the “before” version prior to the “after” version being completed, it’s really difficult to envision the transformation ahead.

In other words, in hindsight it always proves to have been a good idea. Yet when you’re trying to decide whether or not to spend an extra $500 to have new carpeting put on the stairs, you might think, “Well. Hmm. It can’t make THAT big a difference.”

Note to self: It always works. It’s always worth it. When in doubt, GO for it!

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.

 

Home and “Possibilities”

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Here is a lovely poem — with a wispy and wistful real estate connection — which appeared on Writer’s Almanac recently.

 

Possibilities by Linda Pastan

 

Today I drove past a house

we almost bought and heard

through the open window music

 

made by some other family.

We don’t make music ourselves, in fact

we define our differences

 

by what we listen to.

And what we mean by family

has changed since then

 

as we grew larger then smaller again

in ways we knew would happen

and yet didn’t expect.

 

Each choice is a winnowing,

and sometimes at night I hear

all the possibilities creak open

 

and shut like screendoors

in the wind,

making an almost musical

 

accompaniment

to what I know

of love and history.

“Any Way Except a Slow Way”

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I came across this quote about coping with leaving a longtime home. Beautiful. And good advice:

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”

― Beryl Markham, West with the Night

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.

Heart and Home: An Empty Nest

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When I first visited their home, they were both there.

I could tell she was self-conscious and a tad overwhelmed by all the stuff they’d accumulated over 25 years. She kept blushing and nodding to me as we walked from room to room. Here were the books he’d brought home when he retired from teaching. Here were the masks, drums and textiles from their African travels. Here were the baskets of yarn, the half-finished scarves, the knitting needles sprouting like spring onions.

He proudly pointed out the mantelpiece he’d installed himself, the stained-glass windows he’d built, the now-tall tree they’d planted 25 years ago.

“There used to be a wall there.”

“We added that skylight.”

“When Jamie was little he lived in this closet for years. Here’s a little patch of orange paint left! He still loves orange. And black. Giants colors.”

He wasn’t ready to sell and she assented. I, naturally, supported their decision: When the time is right it’s right; not sooner.

Three years later I returned, but he wasn’t there. It had been sudden – a blessing and a shock. For years she’d yearned to sell the house but now it was painful to let go. Everything evoked a memory. Shoes, tools, garden gloves. Skis, bicycle, golf clubs.

Together, she and I made a plan. We hired a stager, a painter. Inspections were done. Repairs were made. Storage was arranged. Yard sales were held. Movers were called.

I steadied and encouraged her as she sorted through the treasures and detritus of a lifetime. I witnessed her grief. I offered compassion and gentle yet professional advice.

In the end, the house no longer felt like home to her. Yet it felt good, she said: Renewed, inviting, shining, beautiful. The effort of preparing for sale had made the sadness easier. And the result was gratifying. She had created a new version of her home – one a new family could inhabit.

Memories were embedded in the foundation, the floors and the walls. But she could let go now. She could use the money to travel back to Africa, to spend time with her grandchildren. She was free to find new places to live and love.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.