| Selling

In the first part of our series, we offered tips on how to help your parents find the right time to downsize, with strategies to overcome common challenges. We also touched on becoming power of attorney and shared some solid rules of thumb to follow when helping your parents prepare in the initial stages of downsizing. In Part 2, we cover the nitty gritty of downsizing, to help ensure your parents optimize their profits to live their best retirement life in a home they love. Read on to understand whether your parents should buy or sell first, and how to help your parents survive the buying and selling process with as little stress as possible. 

Missed Part 1? Click here.

Should You Buy or Sell First?

The answer to this question is, it depends. Use the below pointers as a basic guideline to follow:  

Buy before selling if:

  • The number one goal is buying the right new home not necessarily maximizing profits 
  • Houses are selling very quickly in a sellers’ market, so they’ll have to compete with buyers due to limited inventory 
  • Your parents are planning to buy a fixer upper and need to complete renos before they move in 
  • They find their dream home and need to act now
  • There isn’t somewhere for your parents to live if they sell too fast and can’t find a new place quickly  
  • Your parents don’t want to worry about managing the equity from their home sale while searching for their new home   
  • The market is shifting from super-hot to stagnant 
  • Your parents aren’t overly concerned about the prospect of paying two mortgages (!)

Sell before buying if:

  • The number one goal is making a profit from the home sale 
  • Your parents want to know exactly how much they can spend on their new home based on the final sale price 
  • Your parents can’t afford to carry two mortgages if their home doesn’t sell
  • The market is shifting from a cool market to a hot market

Although most people focus on buying first, discussing your decision with a real estate agent will ensure you choose the best plan for your parents’ specific needs based on the current market

Helping Your Parents When Preparing to Sell

Here’s our top tips to help your parents prepare to sell: 

Start shopping for a real estate agent

The success of your parents’ downsizing plan boils down to finding the right real estate team to guide you through the process. As soon as the idea of downsizing comes up, it’s time to start shopping for a real estate agent. 

How you can help:

  • Ask friends, family, and co-workers to recommend a top-notch real estate team that helped them through the downsizing and/or buying/selling process   
  • Do a Google search to learn about the agents who specialize in your parents’ current neighbourhood
  • Set up appointments with the teams that meet your needs and ask the following questions:
    • What experience do you have in this neighbourhood?
    • How long have you been a full-time real estate agent?
    • How many sales/transactions do you make a year?
    • What services are included when we work with your team? 
    • What strategy do you use when assisting downsizers?
    • Can you provide some referrals or testimonials from past clients? 
    • Who will handle my sale/purchase?
    • Do you work with other professionals in the real estate industry, i.e., mortgage professionals, real estate lawyers, stagers, etc.?
    • How can I contact you? 

Your goal is to choose a team that makes your parents feel comfortable, knows their stuff and will be there for them every step of the way. If the agent seems too aggressive, too busy, or breezes over their answers, you’ll find they’re not the right fit for you. 

You can also use our proven tips on choosing the right real estate team here.  

Already working with an agent and feeling like something’s not right? Click here to recognize the top six signs you’ve hired a bad real estate agent. 

The home assessment process

What happens when an agent overvalues a home? Well, first off, any agent that assesses your parent’s home way above what others are recommending, is using an unscrupulous tactic we call “the old price switcheroo.” Dishonest agents use the higher price to lure people into signing with them. However, once they list the home at an inflated price it sits on the market for weeks, as buyers’ agents will advise their clients the home is overpriced. The result?

  • The listing becomes stale
  • Buyers’ agents will recommend coming in with low ball offers knowing your parents are now likely desperate to sell
  • There goes your parents’ nest egg 
  • Your agent still walks away with a pretty commission

The right price sells homes faster while maximizing profits. However, your parents might have unrealistic expectations when it comes to their home value. For example, their neighbours sell their home for $1.2 million, so your parents expect to sell their home for just as much. However, what they might be overlooking is the fact the neighbours just completed upgrades that demanded top dollar while your parents’ home is a page right out of the 80’s designer handbook. 

How you can help: A professional assessment with your trusted real estate team will provide a realistic price based on comparable homes to your parents. We like to take downsizers on a tour of a neighbourhood home listed at the higher end of the spectrum to point out why this home can list for a higher price than theirs. Once your parents feast their eyes on the competition, they start to see why they need to either list lower OR take the time to upgrade their home. Which brings us to our next step, decluttering. 

Start decluttering right away

Decluttering early provides the opportunity to purge your parents’ home prior to selling slowly, offering many downsizing benefits, including:

  • It prepares the home for listing
  • Things are done gradually 
  • You have time to ask family members what items they might like 
  • It avoids feeling overwhelmed
  • You won’t be stuck with scrambling to store items
  • They’ll be less to move
  • You can arrange for charities to pick up furniture in good condition, often for free

How you can help: Help your parents make smarter decisions pointing out when something is not worth keeping and supporting them when considering the emotional value of others. You don’t want your parents to regret parting with sentimental items yet need them to get rid of as much stuff as possible. The goal is to make their move easy, and their new home feel spacious and comfortable. 

You can also help them create a system if they seem overwhelmed, such as:

  • Suggest starting on the rooms they won’t need in their smaller home, like a dining room, guest room, or office
  • Decide if they should include things like clothing and books in the process, or focus strictly on larger items like furniture
  • Ask if it would help to invite family members to pitch in (this can also have the opposite effect and lead to arguments and contrasting opinions, making things more difficult)

Learn more about the benefits of downsizing your home right here.

Maximize home value with professional home preparation 

We have a kind of selling manifesto we urge our clients to follow when selling: 

  • Fix what’s broken
  • Declutter before you list 
  • Have a complete top to bottom professional cleaning 
  • Work with professional stagers  

By sticking to our selling golden rules, we maximize the sale price of your parents’ home, so they have more money to put towards their new home and retirement fund. 

How you can help: Offer to assist with things like decluttering, painting, and cleaning to save money and ensure the house is ready when the stagers come in. 

The Common Challenges When Selling

Overcome these common selling challenges using our pro tips: 

Your parents over value their home’s worth 

As mentioned above, homeowners approaching retirement have spent most of their lives in their current home. As a result, their view of their home’s worth often includes an emotional surcharge of sorts, which elevates their home value despite current market conditions telling a different story. 

How you can help: Despite inflated expectations, the equity built in your parents’ home is a good place to focus when discussing price. For example, the average Toronto home price has increased from $787,300 in 2018 to $1,126,604 in 2023. If they’re mortgage free, that’s not only a profit of almost $340,000 but also provides $1.26 million to work with for their new home. Understanding the current market can help you bring them back down to earth and see their home equity for what it is.

Read our downsizing tips and tricks here.

Home viewing

The home viewing process can be emotionally exhausting. However, it’s unavoidable when selling a home. 

How you can help: You can reduce stress by helping them sell their home faster. Ensure they agree to reasonable showing times, without putting undo stress on their routine. Provide them with a place to relax during showings, such as taking them out for coffee, or inviting them over for a meal. This allows buyers to view the home in privacy. Also, help keep their home buyer-ready by assisting with cleaning. Finally, take good old Bella, their feisty Cockapoo (or Mordechai their cranky ginger kitty) in as a boarder when their house is for sale. This will reduce pet odours and avoid uncomfortable buyer/pet encounters. 

Helping Your Parents Prepare for Buying

Once your parents reach the buying stage, they need to prep to start their house hunt. Use these tips to make the process easier:

Consider essential functions when creating a checklist of wants and needs

The reason for downsizing might be strictly financial right now, but it also has another purpose: to ensure your parents can age comfortably. As a result, be sure their wants and needs list include the following functional considerations:

  • A single-story home OR a home with a main floor full bathroom and large room that can be used as a bedroom as their mobility changes 
  • Easy access into the house such as a ramp, a sturdy handrail, a step free entry from the garage into the home, etc. 
  • A large master bedroom that can accommodate medical equipment such as sleep apnea machines, a hospital style bed, a place for a walker or wheelchair, etc. 
  • Open plan layouts, or wider halls and doorways to accommodate a walker or wheelchair
  • Storage spaces that don’t require excess reaching, have awkward corners, or dangerously high shelving that makes it difficult to access belongings 
  • A larger main bathroom that has at least four feet around the toilet to accommodate walkers or wheelchairs 
  • A kitchen that allows at least three feet of space around things like islands, to maneuver wheelchairs/walkers  
  • Low-maintenance homes with features such as vinyl windows, siding and eavestroughs, limited garden space, etc. (or a condo)
  • Level floors and exterior walkways  
  • Lower-level condo units in case the elevators aren’t operating or there’s an emergency evacuation

Should you sell your home to rent as a downsizer? Learn more here.

Create a budget

Speak to your real estate agent to discuss all the costs associated with downsizing so your parents can create a realistic budget, including the following: 

  • Off-site storage if applicable  
  • Costs to complete repairs and basic fixer upper changes like painting
  • Professional cleaning
  • Realtor commissions
  • Land transfer taxes
  • Legal fees
  • Moving costs 
  • Utility set up 

Their budget should address the crossover costs of buying and selling. 

Put aside savings to make basic alterations before the move

You’re not likely to find a move-in ready home when downsizing. We recommend putting aside at least a few thousand dollars to arrange for installations for things like grab bars, comfort level toilets, easy to operate faucets, etc. before your parents move in. They’ll have everything they need to age in place while avoiding worries of dipping into their savings later in life when these alterations are a must.

The Common Challenges When Buying

Buying a retirement home calls for forward-thinking to ensure your parents have everything they need as they age. Some common challenges to keep in mind include: 

Worries of moving to a new neighbourhood 

Moving to a new neighbourhood can feel like moving to a new country after living in the same home for over a decade or two. When downsizing, the choices become limited as ideally, your parents want a single-story home such as a ranch, bungalow, or apartment condo. That means they need to focus on areas where this style of home is available. 

Some of the most important neighbourhood considerations when downsizing for retirement include:

  • Safety and a low crime rate
  • Access to amenities
  • Living close to their friends and family
  • Living close to their place of worship
  • Access to public transportation or parking if they drive
  • Healthcare facilities
  • Community centres with retirement-friendly activities and events

Again, your real estate agent plays a critical role in recommending neighbourhoods with retirement-friendly homes and amenities. Amenities are always based on lifestyle and needs, which will vary from person to person. For example, if your parents are very active, they might be more interested in an area with lots of walking trails, a community centre to swim or skate, etc., while parents who are older or have health issues might prefer to be closer to their care giver’s offices, grocery stores, pharmacies, and hospitals. 

How you can help: Consider how your parents’ needs will change as they age, to help choose an area that will remain serviceable. For example, if they’re moving closer to you but the area is a new development, it might lack the services they need. As a result, they’ll need a reliable car, or you’ll need to be available to take them to visit friends, attend doctors’ appointments, shopping, etc. Also, as mentioned in Part 1, taking your parents on tours of the areas your real estate agents recommend is an effective way to introduce them to new neighbourhoods. 

Explore Toronto neighbourhoods with our community guides here.


Your parents’ current living situation allows them to have pets. However, downsizing might mean finding homes where pets are not allowed, such as a condo. Also, if your parents own a dog, they need a safe place nearby to walk their dog, get veterinary care, grooming, etc. 

How you can help: Research vets, dog parks, etc. in the areas they’re considering and ensure their real estate agent is only showing them condos that accept pets. 

Not measuring furniture

Your parents might find the furniture they decided to keep doesn’t fit in the new smaller homes they’re viewing. 

How to help: Bring along a list of their furniture measurements when viewing homes so they can size up the space. Be sure to measure not just the rooms, but also the home’s entry, hallways, and the doorways for the rooms in question. If your parents are including homes with stairs, you’ll have to measure them as well, including the head space. If you find the measurements just won’t work, sell their furniture online and put the money towards suitable furniture. 

Loyalty to their old home 

Downsizers can become hyper fussy when searching for a new home. Enough said. 

How you can help: It’s important to help manage their pickiness by focusing on the selling points. As agents, we can manage this for you to help ensure your parents don’t overlook perfectly suitable homes due to a sense of loyalty to their old home. 

When your parents are considering downsizing, the best real estate agents in Toronto are your go to experts. Speaking to an agent is the first step to reduce stress, improve your final sale price and find your parents’ a dream home for their retirement years. 

Call The Christine Cowern Team at 416.291.7372 or email us at hello@christinecowern.com with any questions or to set up a call. We’d love to work with you!