An old dilemma with no easy answer
THE SHOCK RESIGNATION of NSW Premier Mike Baird last month was illuminating in many ways, but most especially in its stark illustration of what will be an increasing demographic trend over the next couple of decades. And yes, it will have an impact on real estate, says Richardson + Wrench MD Andrew Cocks.
Baby boomers reshaped whole economies when they entered the world by the sheer weight of their numbers and they will have just as great an impact as they exit.
Mike Baird's reality mirrors that of so many children of baby boomer parents. Their failing health requires them to step up and help out, to make changes in their personal and working lives. We've learned to outsource many of life's essentials, but for many the fulfilment of familial duty requires something much more hands-on.
Proximity matters when there are practicalities such as transport and meals to consider, alongside simply being there for emotional support. Should a parent move closer to children while they still have their health, or vice versa? Is cohabiting an option, or is it time to replace the garden with a granny flat?
A large portion of any real estate business involves vendors facing major life changes – marriage, a baby, divorce, illness, ageing and death. Often we're dealing with the children of homeowners doing their best to care for parents who are reluctant to leave the family home or relinquish their independence by moving into assisted care.
In some very sad cases there is nobody minding out for these old souls and the relatives remain invisible until the reading of the will. Many houses advertised as unlivable have in truth been lived in continuously, despite the extreme state of decay.
These are problems that are only going to grow, exacerbated by the fact of greater longevity. There are no easy answers and, while governments try to grapple with the issue across a range of portfolios including Planning, Health and Services, many extended families are navigating a minefield in which emotions run high and important life decisions have to be made.
It may surprise many to realise how pivotal real estate agents are to successfully resolving many of these issues. Often the next stage of life will depend on the successful sale of the elder's home to finance a move into low-maintenance apartment living or assisted care.
They are frequently required to negotiate agreement between family members with divergent views about the parent's future. While in some instances the parent will have appointed a family member to hold power of attorney, many have not.
These are conversations that people need to have – with their families, their solicitor and yes, also with their real estate agent, given that in many instances the totality of a person's wealth resides within the family home. We are a society that avoids the subject of death: thinking about it, talking about it and planning for it. It's estimated that around 45 per cent of Australians do not have a valid will.
But just as important as a document outlining your wishes after death is a plan for living. Mike Baird made a brave and selfless decision in relinquishing the premiership; one that puts family first and should give us all pause for thought.
Andrew Cocks is the owner and Managing Director of Richardson + Wrench.
We've learned to outsource many of life's essentials, but for many the fulfilment of familial duty requires something much more hands-on.