Dear Liz: My elderly mother lives in another state and her health is deteriorating. We want her to come live with us, but her home has been on the market for more than a year and hasn’t sold, even after several price cuts. She’s depressed and we’re getting frantic. What can we do?
Answer: If her goal is to sell the house, she probably needs to cut the price even more. In most real estate markets today, what gets a home sold is a truly competitive price.
You also might consult an experienced real estate agent about what low-cost improvements could speed the sale. If the home is cluttered or stuffed with furniture, for example, removing one-third to one-half of the household contents can make the space seem dramatically larger. Your mom will be packing and discarding all this stuff anyway, and starting the process now can help sell the home. If she’s not able to manage this alone, consider taking a week or so off to help her or hiring a professional organizer to assist with the process.
Other relatively inexpensive fixes can include minor repairs, refreshing the landscaping, washing the windows and deep cleaning the house. Your mom shouldn’t embark on any major projects because she’s unlikely to recoup the expense. But the money she spends getting her home ready for sale can be deducted when she determines whether she has any taxable profit on the sale. (Typically $250,000 of home sale profit is tax-free. The limit is $500,000 for married couples.)
Another alternative is to simply move her in with you and rent out the home, but trying to manage a rental long distance can be a hassle. If that turns out to be your best option, consult the real estate agent for referrals to good property management firms.