Moving house is stressful at the best of times, never mind if you’re trying to help elderly parents leave a home they’ve lived in for decades.

Moving can be both emotionally and physically draining at any age, but if your relative is moving in their 70s or 80s or because they’ve had a health scare, the process can take an even bigger toll.

Problems often arise when helping with the sale of a parent’s house, especially if you don’t live nearby, as the practical help you can give is often limited. Some companies have recognised that there’s a gap in the market and offer to manage the sale of the property. Here, we look at how they work and what they cost, and other ways you can help your parents manage their move.

If you’re thinking of putting a property up for sale, you can see which agents will do the best job of selling your home, based on past performance, using the website.

Preparing the property

One of the hardest steps for your parents or relatives to take is to get rid of possessions they’ve accumulated over a lifetime. Moving to a smaller home, whether it’s their own bungalow or a property in a retirement complex, usually means getting rid of a lot of furniture – as well as general clutter. 

Don’t worry about getting their property into a ‘show home’ state before putting it up for sale. Getting rid of clutter and making sure it’s clean is definitely worth doing but it doesn’t have to have co-ordinated carpets throughout to sell. Many buyers like moving into an unmodernised property so they can put their own stamp on it.

It’s often worth having a conversation with a local agent to ask them what they’d recommend you do – if anything at all.  If your parents or relatives are selling a property in a road with half a dozen similar ones it may be worth helping them make sure theirs looks as good as the rest. But if you’re selling in a small village or rural location where it’s harder for buyers to make direct comparisons it may not be worth doing.

Try to encourage them to sell, give away, recycle, store or throw out what isn’t needed. Bear in mind that emotionally this can be really hard for someone who’s elderly to do – especially if they’ve lost their husband/partner or they’ve been bereaved. When sorting items, it’s a good idea to separate them into piles, as this can help make it easier to keep track of what they want to keep, what they’d like to give to family members, and items that might be valuable and could be sold through auction. They might be surprised at how much they could make from selling their items. If they’re considering having a good clear out they might be interested in reading our guide on making money from your clutter.

Some companies provide downsizing/ decluttering services, but if you plan to use one, it’s worth making sure that anyone who comes to your parents’ house is CRB checked.  Charges for a downsize/decluttering service vary widely but expect to pay around £30 to £65 an hour.

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Managing the sale

Some companies such as TimeFinders, The Senior Move Partnership and The Homemover Specialist, not only offer downsizing and decluttering services, but can also manage the property sale process and move to a new home. 

This may include preparing a report about your parent’s property and the state of the housing market, as well as giving them/you advice on which estate agent to go with and how much to sell the property for. 

They may also be able to manage the estate agent and negotiate offers.  If you’re worried about your parents being able to cope with estate agents ringing up and making appointments, a downsizing company may be able to do this on their behalf.

These companies can also often help with removals, including booking a removals company, help with packing and more if needed. They might even be able to help sort out utilities at your old property and new one too. Dealing with utility companies’ call centres, especially if they make a mistake on your account, can be hugely stressful, especially for some older people who may have hearing problems and might find it difficult explaining the problem again and again.

Some companies, including Timefinders, will help your parents get settled into their new home by finding branches of societies and community groups that they might find interesting. 

Of course, these services come at a cost, but any charges should be explained clearly to you and your parents at the outset. Everyone’s situation is different, so fees will vary widely depending on which services are used, but if you aren’t able to be there to support your parents or relatives with their move, both you and they might consider it a price worth paying. If you have elderly parents or relatives who are thinking about downsizing, they might find our article Five questions to ask yourself if you’re considering downsizing your home helpful.

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