This post is one that I can speak with some experience on, having been on both sides of the fence both as a member of a family dealing with said situation, and as an estate agent selling many homes where the family member has left their home, to go into care.
First things first. It's an incredibly sad situation. All kind of emotions spring up. Often it is a home with so many happy memories, a place that means something not to just the person who is going into care, but to children and the extended family. It is never easy from an emotional point of view.
From my own perspective, however difficult the situation was, I felt that I could actually make a small difference in terms of knowing the selling landscape, and the process of selling a home. Maybe for me this was about being able to be useful, and in someway it is a distraction, something tangible that I could help with. I hope that translates across to the families that I have to deal with in the same situation.
Power of Attorney - Many people in this situation will not have heard of a Lasting Power of Attorney. Gov.Uk put it rather succinctly 'A lasting power of attorney (LPA) is a legal document that lets you (the ‘donor’) appoint one or more people (known as ‘attorneys’) to help you make decisions or to make decisions on your behalf.
This gives you more control over what happens to you if you have an accident or an illness and cannot make your own decisions (you ‘lack mental capacity’).
You must be 18 or over and have mental capacity (the ability to make your own decisions) when you make your LPA'.
Why would you need a POA? well to put it simply, a POA gives representation to appointed people 'Attorneys', (who can be, and often are, other family members) to make important decisions on health and financial matters. For example if the person (the Donor) who's home it is, needs to go into a care home, a POA will enable the Attorney/s to make decisions around selling the home, if that is a required course of action. Estate agents will require sight and understanding of the POA to be able to sell the home, and they should work with the family and legal representatives in this regard.
A POA can be created by filling in paperwork from the link above, but it can also be done with the help of a legal representative, and this is often a service that a local solicitor will offer. Each POA (health/welfare and financial) have a cost associated with them for application.
Thinking about who in the long term would be best placed to make financial and health decisions is definitely something worth considering sooner rather than later, and a conversation to have across the family. In order for you to sell a house on behalf of the loved one you will need the POA in place, and when granting and signing up for that POA the donor must have had capacity to do so. It's a big and often difficult thing to consider, especially when people all seem in good health, but this can change quickly and without a POA in place the landscape of making such decisions on behalf of a loved one can seem even more daunting.
Working with Social Care
Understanding what support a loved one can get, from who, and who will pay for it can be a really tricky path to tread, especially if it is all new to you, as it certainly was for me. Hopefully you will have an appointed social worker who will take the time to explain things to you, but if not Age Uk is a good starting place. Moving into care can be a very costly exercise so having a good grasp on what is paid for and what you are entitled to is something you must understand. Usually it will be one representative of the family doing this, so make sure you have regular teams meetings to share the situation and setting up a family whats app group can also be really helpful, in terms of offloading as well.
Getting the house in order (and keeping it so) when selling
This can be an emotionally difficult task for sure. Moving things out of the house, tidying up, painting etc will certainly help when trying to get the house into good shape for selling, but it can be hard especially if the person whose house it is, has already gone into care. I would advise doing this with other family members, who can be there to support you and to talk through any worries you may have.
We all got together and painted the house, moved possessions and sorted through goods, in our family, in tandem/together, stopping for lunch, chatting and lightening the load.
To sell the house it doesn't need to look completely anonymous, but having it look clean, fresh and ready for someone else to slip into, will do you a favour when it comes to putting it on the market.
If the house is to be empty I would also recommend having a safe-box fitted for the family to share a key, this is then something you can share with an estate agent to save you any hassle that could arise, especially if you are not local. Make sure you have a relationship of trust with your agent before doing so, read reviews and get to know them.
Again from a curb side and security perspective keep the garden clean, the grounds tidy and the lawn mowed. It makes the house look attractive to buyers and gives the impression to people that the house is being used.
These are just a few of the immediate things that spring to mind, after having gone through such a situation myself. I'm afraid other things will pop up, but if you have the right estate agents appointed they should be able to guide and help you through this tough time. Get in touch as always for a friendly chat, if you are looking to enter the market, and if you are going through this difficult time of trying to get a house ready for market, I wish you all the best - Karl.