I hear it from elder care attorneys and medical personnel frequently: the worst decisions made are decisions made in a crisis.  Doctors and Nurses have a term for it: it’s called the “hallway huddle”.  Hospital and Hospice professionals see families in the hallway of the emergency room or ICU trying to figure out what Mom or Dad might have wanted. “That’s a very tough time to think these things through,” says Jon Radulovic, Vice President of Communications for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO).

Think of the last time you made a major decision: it might have been buying a car or house, it might have been planning a family reunion or a trip to Europe.   How long did it take?  How many opinions were solicited and weighed?  What factors were taken into consideration?  Imagine having to make long term legal, financial and estate decisions in 48 hours.  Multiple the complexity by the number of siblings and the amount of money and personal belongings left.  Death brings out the best in good people and the worst in good people.

The wiser way to handle the decision is preemptively.   Have a family meeting, or at least a “quorum!” The sibling in California may not be able to physically be there, but they can attend by Skype or on speaker phone.  When meeting with your loved one, don’t feel like you have to cover every base in one meeting.  It would be ideal to have parental wishes up to date and in legal form.  However, at very least some basic questions should be asked and notes taken: Do you want to be buried or cremated? How do you feel about a “do not resuscitate” (DNR) order? What assets are there? Insurance policies?  How do you want them distributed?  Who gets grandma’s wedding ring?  Remember, most conflict in families after a death are from unclear directives or contesting the wishes because one party does not believe the directives are accurate.  This can be resolved when all parties are present and hear the desires of the loved one well before the decisions need to be carried out.

Need help with downsizing? The Kathy Chiero Group, Keller Williams Greater Columbus is the proud sponsor of DownSize Columbus and Central Ohio’s top real estate team for the transitioning homeowner.  Find us at www.OurOhioHome.com

  • Portions of this blog were excerpted from “16 Things Smart People Do for End of Life Planning” by Kimberly Hiss for Reader’s Digest

For many the word “hospice” is very much like the word “cancer.”  The connotation of the word means death and the topic is avoided until there is no avoiding it.  Terry Murphy is a registered nurse and the Clinical Director for Wesley Hospice Care in Columbus, Ohio.  “The biggest mistake families make,” says Terry, “is waiting too late to ask for hospice care for a loved one.”  Contrary to the belief that hospice means imminent death, Murphy says that studies show that a patient given early hospice care lives 30 days longer than when hospice is brought in only at the final hours.

To understand why early hospice care is recommended, one must understand what hospice care is.  Hospice is a specialized care that focuses on supporting you and your loved ones during an advanced illness. The emphasis is on comfort and quality of life, rather than finding a cure.  To be ready for hospice one must have turned the hard-emotional corner accepting that a hoped-for cure is not likely, but still wanting the best and longest quality time with a loved one. “Education is one of the key components of good hospice care” says Murphy.  “We come alongside the family and help them understand what is happening with their loved one and guide their efforts in extending comfort to them.” For example, a well-meaning caregiver may be trying to force the patient to eat or drink when the body is no longer capable of digestion, causing physical pain.

What is “early” hospice care?  Many times, a patient is given a life-limiting diagnosis but with no definite “end” time. Months, even years can pass with little change in the patient’s health.  Change, says Terry, is what you want to look for. “We often ask family members what their loved one’s health was like six months ago?”  Have they lost more than 10% of their body weight without efforts to lose weight?  Have their eating or drinking patterns changed or diminished? Has their mobility decreased?  Has their cognitive levels changed drastically?  All of these things say Murphy are signals the body is sending that degenerative change is happening.  This is the time to visit with your hospice provider.

Shouldn’t one just wait until the Doctor says hospice care is necessary?  Not necessarily.  While listening to your Doctor’s directives is essential to maintaining good health, the physician may be listening to the family’s directives to keep pushing for the “cure.”  The Doctor may be intellectually certain that continued life-sustaining efforts are in vain, but hesitant to recommend hospice against the family’s hopes.  “Hospice,” says Murphy, “allows the spouse to be a spouse, the son to be a son, the daughter to be a daughter.”  Having compassionate professionals take over the physical care of your loved one frees you to be “present” for them emotionally and spiritually.  It even allows you to begin the grieving process while your loved one is still with you rather than getting lost in the “busyness” and stalling grieving until they are gone.

For questions about your loved one’s hospice needs, you can reach Terry at Wesley Hospice at tmurphy@thewesleyway.org or call 614 451 6700.

This blog is written by Kathy Chiero.  The Kathy Chiero Group, Keller Williams Greater Columbus is the proud sponsor of DownSize Columbus and Central Ohio’s top real estate team for the over-55  homeowner.  Find us at www.OurOhioHome.com

Google “mother-in-law” and you’ll see this: “a horrible beast. The letters in ‘mother in law’ can be re-arranged to spell ‘Woman Hitler’. “  All right then.  Are you deserving of the title?  Let’s see.  Here are the top actions of ‘woman hitler’ albeit, well meaning:

  • You try to take over events that should be the decisions of daughter and her partner. Start with the wedding. Did your opinion trump your daughter’s more than once? You probably need to back off.  Christmas? Fourth of July?  Kid’s Birthdays?  Here’s the standard to decide who is in charge:  Your house, your rules.  Their house, their rules. Middle ground, ask. Respect the answer and enjoy the event.
  • You try to be your son/daughter’s spouse’s best friend to stay closer to said son/daughter. You invite  yourself to go to the outlet mall with your daughter-in-law.  What better time to find out if your son is staying on his low-fat diet?  Nix this idea. Your daughter-in-law is on to you and cut her shopping short because you rode shotgun.  Wait for the invite and don’t get personal unless she chooses to talk about the low fat diet.
  • You want to be with “the kids” All. The. Time. And by kids I don’t mean grandkids.  Son and daughter-in-law are going to Amish Country for the weekend? Two is company, three is more fun, right?    Your “kids” are adults who deserve a life separate from you.  Wait for the invite. (And don’t hint to get the invite!)
  • You touch on “hot topics” when both are there then sit back and watch the fireworks. “So, Janey, Scott tells me you’re at work ALL the time. I tell him to be patient with the messy house, a wife can’t do everything!”  You didn’t mean to start an argument. Did you?
  • You clean their house and do their laundry. Here is the scenario: Scott and Janey ask you to stop by and water their plants while they are on a three-day trip. They come home to laundry done and folded and the house sparkles.  Want a thank you? Don’t hold your breath (except to avoid the overwhelming smell of bleach).You just told your adult kid and his/her spouse that their house is dirty and they are lazy. You’re welcome.
  • You negotiate for time. Whatever your son did with you in the past is, well, in the past. Always at your home for Christmas Eve breakfast?  New spouse, new rules.  The quickest way to fracture a marriage and lose your son’s respect is to force him to choose between her and you.  If he is emotionally healthy you will be spending a lot of holidays alone.  Fill your own life with new traditions, welcoming the young couple when they are available.
  • You insist on being the third opinion on any decision. This is a new twist on the “don’t ask don’t tell” rule: if you’re not asked, don’t tell.
  • You still treat your son or daughter like they are 9. After all, your child is always your child, even when they are 41.   You insist on checking on him when he driving long distance, or secretly slipping her money when she spends too much on her credit card. Not your job anymore Mom – let them grow up.
  • You dictate your child’s life.   Your son is considering a move to Dallas for a new job. (“How could you even THINK about moving that far away?!?”)  Your daughter has decided she only wants one child. (“Here honey, here is an article I read on how only-children turn out to be ax-murderers.” )  Give advice when asked. Once.  Drop it.
  • You ignore her rules for her kids. Kids are not supposed to have fries? Don’t stop by McDonalds.   Kids are supposed to say “please” and “thank you”?  Don’t say “Oh, it’s OK, I know little Susie is thankful.  She doesn’t need to say it.” Yes.  Little Susie does. Mom said to.  Support that.
  • You conspire against your son-in-law with your daughter. She wants to go out with girlfriends, you lie and say she was with you. Woman Hitler. Unless abuse is evident and your conspiracy involves getting her to a safe house, zip your lips and stay out of their business.

The Kathy Chiero Group, Keller Williams Greater Columbus is the proud sponsor of DownSize Columbus and Central Ohio’s top real estate team for the transitioning homeowner.  Find us at www.OurOhioHome.com

No question. Credit is the key determinant of your ability to get a loan and/or the terms of that loan. The better the credit, the better the terms. The credit scoring system is imperfect, but it is the best we have to predict the likelihood of a borrower’s ability and willingness to pay back a loan. However, before you give up on owning a home – there are steps you can take to see if your credit will prohibit you from buying today, and if your credit needs some polishing – there are steps for that as well.

Let’s start with what we call a FICO score. FICO is a proprietary brand name. It stands for FAIR Isaac Score – it is a software program that many lenders use to sort and tabulate the data that determines if you are a good credit risk. A FICO score is a three-digit number ranging from 300 to 850 (and up to 900 for some industry-specific scores). The minimum FICO credit score for an FHA loan is 500 or higher. If your score is at least 580, you also need at least a 3.5% down payment. You can still get approved for an FHA loan with a credit score lower than 580 and down to 500, but you’ll need a larger down payment of at least 10%. A lower score may also affect the interest rate you get on a loan (a fact you may have discovered when you last purchased a car). If your FICO score is 700 or higher you are considered a great candidate for premium terms on your loan.

There are many on-line sources to do a cursory check of your credit score. Federal law also allows you to request a free report from each of the national credit reporting companies once every 12 months at www.annualcreditreport.com. The free annual report does not include a credit score, but you can purchase your credit score when you request your report. Any loan officer can also pull a credit report for you. The pulling of this report can affect your score if it is done several times, so make sure you are serious about purchasing or working on your credit before you ask this to be done.

What if your credit score is too low to purchase a home? Good news here: a good loan officer can help you “rehab” that score and give you a time frame in which to expect to see your credit score rise. Follow the instructions of an expert and within months or a year you will have positioned yourself for homeownership.

The Kathy Chiero Group of Keller Williams Greater Columbus works with a great team of lenders. Contact us for a referral and let’s get going finding you a house! Find us at www.OurOhioHome.com.

It was a few years ago that I got the call from an elderly client to sell her home. Pauline had lived in the home for over 50 years and raised two sons there. Her husband, George, died ten years ago, her eldest son, Greg lived in Atlanta and his younger brother, Scott, lived in Colorado. Along with her sons, Pauline had decided to sell the home and move to Colorado to live with Scott.

Pauline and George had raised their two boys in an 1100 square foot cape cod style home built in the 1950s. You’ve seen the style: the main floor is one living area, two small bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen. Upstairs is one long room with “cove” ceilings. Many times, this room is used as an attic and then converted into living space.

On the day of the house closing her sons flew to Columbus to close up the home with her and start their move west. As a final “goodbye” the boys walked through the home with their mother. Both had not lived under this roof in decades and the memories were the running dialog of this last tour. Initially the two (now) men shared the small main-floor bedroom. As they grew, Dad finished out the attic space to make one large room. Scott and Greg fought over who got the “big” upstairs bedroom. Greg, the oldest, won, he thought. Only after spending his first un-airconditioned summer there did Greg feel he got the short end of the deal. (“Our own Ez-Bake oven. I was the Bake”). Eventually couches were thrown into the corner of the unfinished basement and this was the teen gathering area for friends visiting the boys in the 1970s.

As I was listening to the family narrative I marveled at an era when an entire family could exist for decades in a space the size of 1/4 of a basketball court. I don’t know the houses that Scott and Greg purchased for themselves but if they are like many of my next-generation clients the minimum is 2200 square feet, and many can’t imagine raising families in less than 3000 square feet (plus finished basements). One bedroom for each child + a guest bedroom is the minimum and 3 full bathrooms is becoming the norm.

The median size of a new single-family home in 1965 was 1200 square feet according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2018 that square footage has doubled to 2600 and 46 percent of new single-family homes had four bedrooms or more. (The cost of those homes has increased 10 times from $27,000 to over $270,000, but that’s another blog.) Bathrooms? Homes with at least 3 bathrooms make up 35% of American new build construction. A full 61% of American homes have two full bathrooms. Full is defined as a sink, toilet and a tub and/or shower.

Do we really need over 900 SF of space per person living in the home? Common sense would tell you, no, we don’t NEED that space. But America is not a nation of NEEDS, our culture, affluence, and lifestyle is one of relative luxury and WANTS. What do Americans wantin our homes? We want bedrooms for each child, we want an office (TWO offices, one for him and her is the latest trend), a man-cave, a she-shed, a finished basement for teens, and a studio for hobbies. Oh, and 3-car garage for our vehicles. Thus, 2600 square feet becomes the average.

Do these homes make us happier? That’s next week in House Call.

This blog is written by Kathy Chiero. The Kathy Chiero Group, Keller Williams Greater Colum-bus is the proud sponsor of DownSize Columbus and Central Ohio’s top real estate team for the over-55 homeowner. Find us at www.OurOhioHome.com

Getting a mortgage is a little like getting married: it is a highly intrusive dive into the financials of your life, and you sign a 30-year commitment. Who you choose to trust with the details is very important and goes way beyond an interest rate? But let’s talk about that interest rate: this little number is going to determine how much you pay the bank for the privilege of borrowing money. A 1% difference in an interest rate can mean $100’s of dollars difference in a monthly payment. However, the truth is that there is going to be very little difference between the rates of reputable lenders because they are all getting their money from the same source AND intend to make money on those loans by selling them again on what is called the “secondary market.” Because of this the interest rate on your loan is not an arbitrary or flexible number. For example, if one mortgage broker tells you they can get you a 30-year-fixed mortgage rate of 3.5% and everyone else is at 4.65% – the mortgage broker who offered you the 3.5% has hidden fees somewhere or is in some way going to recoup the money so that they are really making 4.65% with your loan. Confusing? Yes. The other “catch” is that a Broker really can’t tell you over the phone what YOUR rate will be. Why? Because they don’t know YOU. One of the biggest factors in establishing YOUR rate is YOUR credit score. The best way to choose a good loan officer is based on a combination of criteria: interest rates, in-house underwriting, skilled loan officers, and processes in place to serve you and close your loan on time on terms to which you agreed. How do you know which mortgage broker will do this? Ask a trusted Realtor: we do these 100 times a year and know the best mortgage brokers and the ones to stay away from (even if their rates are lower!)

The Kathy Chiero Group of Keller Williams Greater Columbus is a team of great Realtors ready to go to work for you. Find us a www.OurOhioHome.com.

Real estate licensing differs in the 50 states in the United States. In Ohio, a licensed Realtor has completed 120 hours of education and passed an exam on State and Federal laws. Our profession requires honesty held in place by written rules and continuing education on servicing the public with the highest standards of ethics. However, as in any profession there are good, better, and best. What should you be looking for? You should look for a Realtor in the same way you would look for someone with whom to invest your money: Are they honest? On time and reliable? Listen closely to your needs and directives? Care for your money with the same attention they would for their own? After all, you ARE trusting a professional to guide you in the investment of a lot of money. Granted, most of the time much of the money is given to you by a bank, but the bank is going to want that money paid back and you are going to want to have made a profit in the transaction. You should feel like the Realtor is your advocate and trusted guide in the process.

What are some warning signs: Do you feel rushed or pressured? Do you feel like the Realtor isn’t available or isn’t available to YOU? Are you seeing homes which fit the parameters you have set or do you feel like you are being steered in a direction the Realtor feels is best for you? Are your questions answered clearly and in a timely manner? Do you feel a part of the process or do you feel pulled along by the decisions of others? If you feel any of these — you need to have an honest conversation with your Realtor and get back on track or find a Realtor that better fits your needs. The Kathy Chiero Group of Keller Williams Greater Columbus is a team of great Realtors ready to go to work for you. Find us a www.OurOhioHome.com

I get it. You are a DIY-er and you can find lots of great information (and houses!) on the internet so why get tangled up with a high-pressure salesperson? The truth is: you don’t have to. Just like anything else you CAN buy a house without independent representation. And if the homeowner is not using a Realtor, you both CAN buy and sell without any representation. The real question is why would you NOT want a professional on your side? Think of it like buying a car; you CAN buy a car online without assistance. But what if it cost you nothing to be advised on the best choice by an expert who has years of experience with that car? What if a mechanic would look over that car for you to make sure you are getting a car that has a minimum of unseen problems? And what if you got free great advice on what that car will be worth if you decide to sell it in 2-3 years? Wouldn’t that be the better choice for a big investment? It’s the same thing (on an even bigger investment!) when buying a home. Your Realtor is an advocate for YOUR interests with no obligation to the Seller. A good Realtor is not high-pressure, in fact, most Realtors want your business for a lifetime, so they are going to work to earn your trust the FIRST time. Your Realtor doesn’t get paid unless and until you buy a home. So, go with the wise choice: hire a good Realtor. The Kathy Chiero Group of Keller Williams Greater Columbus is a team of great Realtors ready to go to work for you. Find us a www.OurOhioHome.com

In 2010 my daughter went to college out of state. Lindsay was 18. It was her first time sleeping outside her own bedroom. She is gregarious by nature – I didn’t have a lot of worries when I boarded the plane to leave, but I did tell her I would call regularly to make sure she was OK. And I did. Day 1. Day 2. Day 3. Each day Lindsay filled me in on all the “news”. New classes, new friends, new foods, new college experiences. Then she stopped answering as often. Days at a time would pass and except for an occasional text – I didn’t talk to her as often. When I could catch her our conversation would begin with an apology for the silence. “Mom, I’m so busy. Mom I was with (new friend). Mom, I was playing volleyball.” I told her that I knew she was OK when she stopped answering her phone. I knew that the silence meant she was off and living.

I remembered that when the adult daughter of one of my real estate clients told me a version of the same thing. We had just sold the family home and Sarah’s mother, Lorraine, was living in a comfortable apartment in a beautiful retirement facility. Lorraine had fought the move. For years Sarah (who lives in another state) had encouraged her Mom to move and for years Lorraine had said she didn’t want to leave her familiar home. As her mother’s health declined, Sarah and Lorraine knew that moving somewhere safe was a hard, but necessary decision. On that “drop off” day, Sarah told her Mom she would call every day to check in on her. And she did. Day 1. Day 2. Day 3. Every phone call Sarah would hear the “news”. New classes, new friends, new foods, new retirement experiences. And then Lorraine stopped answering. At one point Sarah got concerned and called the facility administrator. Is my Mom OK? I can’t get her on the phone. “I can see her right now…” said the administrator, she’s playing cards with friends and I saw her this morning in a water aerobics class. “ “Water aerobics!” said Sarah. “I didn’t know my Mom owned a bathing suit!” Her Mom was off and living.

The staff at retirement communities and condo communities will tell you that the only consistent regret they hear from their residents is that the move wasn’t made sooner. Downsizing is good for your health: mentally and physically. Some of the benefits of downsizing:

  • Less Stress!  “Stuff” is stressful. Having it. Looking at it. The knowledge that we have to get rid of it. The more we own, the more our possessions tend to own us. Taking care of “stuff” – including our home is stressful and expensive. Many homeowners agree that a larger home leads to more stress as well as upkeep, including more cleaning, maintenance, furnishing and higher costs, which lead to more stress.
  • Healthy Activities:  Downsizing means that you’ll have fewer daily chores and more time for healthy activities like sports and exercising as well as getting more rest. Many retirement-oriented communities encourage and provide resources for physical activities you can’t do at home… or alone. Pools, walking paths, fitness facilities (and friends to go with you) will put you on the way to a healthier life.
  • New Friends:  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that more than 28% of adults over the age of 65 live alone, and 46% of women age 75 and older live alone. This is hard. And dangerous. Loneliness is a daily battle for many seniors and being alone in a medical emergency is a very legitimate fear. Community living solves this. You can be as independent as you want; you can be as social as you want. A community of like-aged and like-minded people means you will certainly have friends close by when and if you need them.

So, when your son or daughter or friend or family member gently asks you to consider the move to a retirement community… listen. Know that the move to Over-55 living can mean a rewarding final chapter of a life well-lived. (And you don’t have to hear “I told you so…” You’re too busy to answer the phone!)

You’ve heard the truism “a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”. This is true when it comes to getting rid of ‘stuff.’ The challenge of removing a mountain of ‘things’ begins with disposing of the first thing. Too many people get overwhelmed by the height or volume of the mountain and never begin. I call it “frozen” in indecision. The mountain can be moved if you tackle the project one space at a time. (I don’t even say one ‘room’ at a time because sometimes that is overwhelming.)

Let’s start with a closet.

Begin with establishing four ‘piles’ for your decisions. Keep, donate, dispose, or sell. Give yourself 48 hours to act on your decision to donate, dispose or sell, otherwise the decisions will just become another pile. Pull every item out of the closet and put in one of the four piles. If your “keep” pile is the recipient of most of your generosity – you’ve got to be harder on yourself.

Is it clothing? Try it on. If it doesn’t fit, isn’t in style, or you haven’t worn it in a year put it in one of the other three piles. Someone needs it. Your overflow is someone else’s provision. Don’t fall into the trap of “maybe” or “I might” – that’s what caused your clutter to begin with. Is it the ‘stuff’ of life: books, CD’s, games, etc. If it hasn’t been pulled from your closet in over a year it goes into one of the three piles to get rid of. When you are finished, return to the closet the “keep” items: you should have left only the favorite items you use on a regular basis and your closet should have considerable more order.

Now, let’s tackle the remaining piles.

Let’s start with the trash: that’s easy, throw them away.

Now, the giveaway pile. Immediately put the giveaway items in a box or bag and put them in the backseat of your vehicle. If they are ‘giveaway’ to a specific person, but them in a box labeled for the person. (Make sure you ask if the recipient wants your ‘gift’, don’t assume.) If they are ‘giveaway’ to charity, put them in another box. Don’t put the boxes in the trunk – the trunk becomes an out-of-sight-out-of-mind disposal site. The next time you are running errands you are always aware of these items in your back seat. Drop them off at the friend or family member or the donation site as you are in the area.

Finally, the “Sell” items. There are many online resources to sell your unwanted items. I’ve found great success with Facebook marketplace; for larger volume there are companies like www.EBTH.com; for entire estate or household sales there are many local online and physical auction houses. The key is – know how to handle the online market place or hire someone to do it. If you have an entire household of “stuff” you are often better off setting aside “sale” items and having a professional handle it for you.

Give yourself a goal of one ‘space’ a week to clear. If the ‘space’ is a room, give yourself time to thoroughly inventory the ‘stuff’ so that you are keeping only the essential, loved, or items that give you joy.

The Kathy Chiero Group of Keller Williams Greater Columbus specializes in helping homeowners “downsize”. We are the creators and presenters of Central Ohio’s premier downsizing event, DownSize Columbus. How can we help you? Contact us for a free in-home analysis of the value of your home, tips for getting your home sale ready and additional resources for getting rid of stuff.