How to talk to your parent about selling their home

These tips will help you manage emotions when your parent is preparing to downsize.

April 01, 2022

6 min read

Senior man with daughter

While many older adults sell their homes to help finance the costs of a senior living community, it is often a very complex and emotional decision even for those who have planned for it. Here are some tips to better navigate the challenges and deep feelings that come with helping your parent sell their home.

Help your parent embrace a new experience

Many older adults selling their homes have lived there for 25 years or more. Their homes are familiar and hold many cherished memories, so it’s understandable that moving somewhere different with new people and experiences can be fraught with anxiety.

Whether your parent is selling their home to pay for independent living, assisted living or memory care, helping them understand what to expect in their new surroundings will make the transition easier. Once your parent has chosen a senior living community, it helps to learn and experience more than either of you may have gathered from your initial tour.

  • Living space – Become familiar with the new apartment’s safety features and make sure they know how to operate the thermostat, lighting and any appliances. Take photos and measurements of their new apartment so you can plan what furnishings to bring and where they will fit. Help them display cherished items safely and securely in prominent areas to make their new apartment feel more like home.
  • Meet and greet – Before moving in, make sure your parent is introduced to key staff, like the community director, chef and care team. Already knowing some familiar faces when they move in goes a long way to easing stress. Many senior living communities offer in-depth tours on the resident’s first day – consider joining your parent to address any additional questions either of you may have.
  • Mix and mingle – Attending some events and having a few meals in the community will help your parent meet some of their fellow residents and get a feel for the community atmosphere and lifestyle. Being familiar with the residents, staff and surroundings will make their transition from home to community smoother. At Atria, resident ambassadors greet new residents with gifts and invitations to upcoming events to help make them feel like a welcome member of the community.


Chances are your parent has accumulated more furnishings and household possessions than their new senior living apartment can accommodate – but deciding what to keep can be very emotional. Here are a few ways to make downsizing easier for you both:

  • Ease into it – Your parent’s household possessions likely took decades to acquire, so don’t plan on going through everything in one weekend. Start the process by asking your parent to make a list of their most treasured items, noting what they hope to keep and what they wish to donate. If your parent intends to give items to siblings or other family, plan on having them available to review the list with your parent so there are no misunderstandings that could lead to hard feelings later on.
  • Preserve the past – Encourage your parent to keep items that help them fondly recollect their lives, such as photos, family heirlooms and other special keepsakes. Consider storing some cherished seasonal belongings – like clothes and holiday decorations – in your home (or other family members’ homes) so your parent will still have access if needed.
  • Empathize – Sorting through a lifetime’s worth of possessions can be taxing, but it can also be very freeing. It’s an opportunity for your parent to let go of things that have been weighing them down or keeping them from making new decisions. It’s important to offer sympathy but also discuss how much they’ll enjoy having a fresh start in their new home with opportunities to engage with new friends, rekindle their passion for a past hobby or learn something new.

Downsizing can be physically demanding and, as your parent is leaving a part of their life behind, will inevitably entail a mix of emotions. If either of you start to feel overwhelmed by the process, consider hiring senior move managers to help.

When to sell your parent’s home

Once you and your parent have made the decision to sell their home, you may wonder whether it’s better to sell before or after they’ve moved into their senior living community. Financial needs, stress and timing are key factors to consider.

Selling before moving to senior living – If the sale will be used for the primary funding of their senior living, it makes sense to sell before moving. If it takes longer than expected to sell the house, you might be facing extra costs on top of the senior living costs, like mortgage payments, utility bills, insurance and any ongoing maintenance. Be sure to discuss this with a trusted financial advisor.

Selling after moving to senior living – If your parent is unable to live alone or has had a recent accident or health issue that benefits from having more immediate care, then moving to a senior living community before their house is sold may be the best option. What’s more, living in their new community reduces any stress they might have felt trying to keep their house clean and vacating the premises while it was being shown – plus an empty house can often be more appealing to buyers.

Selling your parent’s home if they have dementia

A parent dealing with memory loss poses additional challenges for families when selling their home. Typically, only the homeowner can legally transfer their home to a buyer, but obtaining power of attorney (POA) and guardianship can allow you to make decisions on behalf of your parent.

  • Power of attorney – This requires your parent to sign a document granting you permission to make decisions on their behalf. While often simple to establish, there are different types of POA, so plan on consulting an elder law attorney to assist you with the process. Be aware that you will not be granted POA if your parent is deemed incompetent, in which case you’ll have to petition for guardianship.
  • Guardianship – If a POA is denied, you’ll have to prove that your parent has significant memory loss which requires having a legal guardian to manage their property. While this may be your only option, know that it can also be a more extensive and expensive process.

Your local Atria community director can answer any additional questions you may have and connect you with a financial advisor.

Choosing Atria

At Atria, we understand the difficulty involved in selling your parent’s house and all the financial and emotional complexities that come with that decision. Learn more about the prices and tax benefits of moving into a senior living community, and plug some numbers into our affordability calculator – which can help you compare the costs of senior living with the costs of staying at home – it may be more affordable than you think.

As a leader in the industry, Atria Senior Living is happy to share our expertise and offer any support we can – even if the support you need is from someone other than us. We can call on our trusted relationships with financial advisors, real estate professionals and resources to put you in touch with the best solution for you and your family, whether you’re moving to Atria or not. Feel free to reach out to your local Atria Community Director today.

Our Guide to Help Your Parent Sell Their House (PDF)

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Not sure where to start?

There’s a lot to learn when you become a caregiver, and you may be wondering where to start. Fortunately, many of the experiences you’ll encounter are common, and we've pulled together resources to help you along your journey.

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