An old dilemma with no easy an­swer

Elite Agent - - FIRST PERSON - An­drew Cocks

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.

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