Don’t Leave Your Children With A House in Disarray

Don’t Leave Your Children With A House in Disarray

We are so careful to have all of our finances in order when it comes to our estates and our legacy but many leave their house in disarray. Most of us have a will or a trust to direct our savings after we pass on. However, when it comes to our homes and our personal ‘treasures’, we can leave our homes in shambles. Often I am called by the child in distress whose parent has become incapacitated or has come to the end of their life. The word I hear most often is overwhelmed.

Read More

Warmth Is Where the Heart Is!

Thinking about moving from your long term home can be confusing, frustrating and physically draining. How many of you were ready to pull the plug and move to that warm destination you’ve always had in the back of your mind. You know what I am talking about. Remember back just a few months to March when it felt like we may be entering a new ice age? Think back to your state of mind when you made the statement that this will be the last winter you will ever suffer through in Wisconsin. How soon our mind changes when circumstances do a 360. Where are those feelings now when it is absolutely gorgeous outside with the sun shining, leaves on the trees and warmth in the air? Notice that winter has left your mind replaced by a walk in the sun and purchasing flowers to plant in your garden.

We want the best for our family as well as for our own peace of mind. However, where you live is so critical to your physical and mental well-being. The decision to sell your home and move to your new destination is so important and must be thought out completely before that change is made. You’ve heard the expression, “Count to 10 before you speak”. I would suggest counting to at least 60 days before making one of the most important decisions of your life.

A while back my parents decided to move to Phoenix to get away from our tough winters and bask in the sun about 350 days a year. They worked hard and decided it was ‘their time’. My wife and I were sad because we had two children who loved to be with their grandparents and this would put separation between them. There was no ‘facetime’ on an ipad back then so the phone would be their new connection. I remember watching mom and dad drive away and how significant that moment would be in all of our lives.

They lived in Phoenix for five years, and we did visit each year. I bet you can guess what happened next. The phone rang and mom sounded so excited. “We are moving back to be with our grandchildren!”My heart exploded with happiness and we were going to be reunited once again.

The move for my parents was costly in many ways. My father was still working and the relocation impacted his business in a negative way. He lost many of his clients and never fully recovered from that loss of income. My mother confessed that her time in Arizona was spent lamenting about the loss of her grandchildren’s closeness and every day contact. She was unhappy while my dad enjoyed the sun. In the end, they never regretted moving back to our rather challenging winters.

The point of this article is to watch out for emotional impromptu decisions when thinking about a move from your long time home. If your home is truly not meeting your physical and emotional needs, a move is probably the right decision to make. But WHERE you move is what this article is about. It is great to feel that sun and warmth, but take that scenario to the next level. Close your eyes and meditate on how it would feel to be in your new location for the long term, not just for the immediate gratification. What would each day look and feel like. How would you enjoy the heat in summer months in your new warm weather climate if you could not afford to spend those months back in Wisconsin. What would it feel like to have a ipad/phone relationship with your loved ones. How does it feel to begin a new life and meet new people without the long-term roots of friendship and family.

I am not advocating perpetual living in our state. I am only echoing many of my client’s decisions to move and then receive a call to start looking for a home here in the Greater Milwaukee area as they have decided to come back to their roots and families. Take your time with your decision as to where your next home will be. Make sure your new location matches who you really are and what life holds for you. For many, the children have moved away and moving to a warm weather climate makes all the sense in the world. For others, family is here and moving away may be traumatic and difficult.

Seasons change, people change, but one thing remains constant…winter will always relent to spring. Yes this last winter was one for the ages. I too said many times, “why am I giving up half my life to this cold and lack of sun”. But after that rant I think about what it would be to be away from my five beautiful grandsons, my two daughters, brothers and sister, mother and friends. Warmth is truly where the heart is!

Bruce's Team WTMJ Radio Interview


Bruce's Team was featured on WTMJ's Sunday Sip radio broadcast on April 27th. The interview focused on how Bruce's Team assists seniors and their families during the often challenging transition from a home to a senior living environment. You can hear the full interview by activating the player below.

[audio mp3=""][/audio]

When searching for housing, go where there are healthy choices which match your current needs.

 Never Buy Pickles in a Hardware Store!

The other day I stopped at a local hardware store to find the exact nuts and bolt for a broken cabinet. While perusing the store I noticed several jars of pickles strategically placed at the checkout. That is where logic goes out the window and compulsive behavior takes charge. Those pickles must be good, I thought, as they have made it all the way to the front of the store!

As it turned out, the pickles were the bulk of my purchase dollars and I couldn’t wait to get home and let my wife know that I had found the ‘golden fleece’ of pickles! I called my wife’s name with excitement waiting for her to be the test case and forever crown me as the ultimate guy shopper! I opened the jar with great excitement and you could feel the tension in the air. The cover came off and out of that jar an explosion of aroma…a very different smell. A pungent odor that defies an explanation with the limited space for this article. Although our senses were putting up warning signs, we moved forward to taste one of these beauties. I talked my wife into taking that first bite to see where it would lead us next. She reluctantly pursued this uncharted food territory. I can tell you where that test pickle took us…straight to the garbage can!

Oh this was a very bad idea. Buying this jar of seasonings and garnishes seemed like a wonderful idea at the time but in hindsight my instincts and gut told me different. That little voice told me to stop at the nut and bolt but no…I couldn’t resist the possibility that this pickle could be ‘the one’!

My questionable decision only involved a few dollars and having to admit to my wife I’d made a mistake. But when it comes to seniors making housing choices the implications of a bad decision are much greater!

How often do we tell ourselves a story that we know has very little basis in reality but seems to feel right at the time? We have told ourselves repeatedly to just listen to our gut and follow our instincts when making a major decision. The intelligent part of our brain knows that we should search for referrals from those who we rely on for practicality but we just have to do it our way!  We have to open that jar and move in a direction that defies logic. I am talking about treating your housing situation the way you would treat your investments for retirement. We have a financial plan intact, we have our insurance policies ready when needed but we leave where we live to chance. We wait for that sign that lets us know it is time to make a change.

Think about your home and the time you spend in your current surroundings. Take a moment to assess your physical and mental needs in real time. We tend to look back at our lives 20 years ago when our home’s floor plan, location, proximity to schools meant everything to us. But today, in many cases our children are out of the nest and you are left with space, maintenance and a whole lot of stuff!

We avoid change as a survival mechanism. Change in years past may have meant danger. Our adrenaline responses to perceived threats still kick in when asked to give a speech or facing a new and uncomfortable situation. So it is natural to keep on with the status quo as we will move towards familiarity and away from new surroundings which are unfamiliar to us. Like the pickle at the hardware store we look to the wrong places when making such an important decision as to where we will live for the next chapter of our lives.

We venture out to look at the housing options and find the ‘taste’ of those choices as a negative experience and move back to the same situation, whether it works for us or not.

We tend to look in the wrong places trying to find the closest match to what we already possess and then decide to stay where we are.

We wait for that sign from above that will let us know when to make a change. Many times that sign comes quickly and harshly in the form of a fall, a health change, or fear of leaving your home that you have cherished so deeply.

My point is to look in the right places. When searching for housing, go where there are healthy choices which match your current needs. Just as shopping for a jar of pickles, go to the place where others have already tested the market and are enjoying their choice. A store with many different brands offers the best chance of satisfaction as others have already tasted the products offered. The winners remain and the losers end up in the garbage so that in most cases you won’t have to endure the wrong choice and wasted dollars.

There are so many wonderful housing options available today. There are senior apartments, 50plus condominium complexes, independent and assisted apartments as well as total life care options. The key is to match who you are today, what your needs are today, how you live today. How close do you want to be to your children and grandchildren? What do you want to do with the money tied up in your home? Could that equity work to free you from worry and maintenance? Would a different housing option offer safety and comfort and a healthier lifestyle? These are all questions you should ponder as well as discuss with your significant other and trusted advisers.

Just as the grocery store may be the better option for your food purchases, the many home options out there which conform to who you are today is that store where you will find the best options and the right purchase. Looking for a home that mimics your current surroundings will be the pickle in the hardware store. You’ll look in the wrong places for your possible new home and find it distasteful and decide to stay right where you are.

Getting the right information, opening your mind to new possibilities will take you to your favorite store where you will make the right purchase and will enjoy the fruits of getting the right information. The result will be satisfying, healthy and will provide comfort and less worry about the future. The next time you are in that hardware store be practical and walk out with a Weber Grill or light bulbs!

When Family Challenges the Job You’re Doing as Caregiver

Here is a great Article from my friend Adele Lund of the Laureate Group. She is an expert in assisting seniors and their families in finding the best possible senior living option.

Most people consider it a privilege to care for a loved one in their time of need.  In a way it’s actually a gift to the caregiver, an opportunity for them to give back to someone who has given so much to them over the years.  But the opportunity can prove to be a very challenging experience, made even more so when siblings or children aren’t on the same page.

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to several audiences of caregivers.  Some were children caring for their parents while others were older adults caring for their spouse.  We talked through a number of issues that are encountered by caregivers, such as having difficulty asking for help and dealing with the guilt of “am I doing enough”.  One of the more difficult and hurtful experiences they discussed was when a loved one, family or friend, challenged what they’ve been doing. They question how they are providing care and they question if they’re doing enough.

Shared responsibility does not always mean equal. Many families have multiple members involved in caring for a loved one. Most often some are more involved than others.  It may be a result of geography with some siblings in another state or city.  Maybe some work a full time job while others are retired and have more availability. Whatever the reason, caring for a loved one is not always an equal division of responsibility.

Typically, this is not where the problem begins.  Most often I hear siblings say they understand that they are in a position to carry more of the load, and that's just fine with them.  That is until a family member decides to critique how they're performing the role of caregiver. These new comments and increased concern for their loved one opens the door to conflict.

"If they're so concerned they can just come here and take their turn."  "If they think they can do better they're welcome to come and try."  "Easy for them to say that, they haven't been living it 24/7 for months."  "I'm going to keep my mouth shut and stay focused so I don't create more conflict when there's enough anxiety already."

Do any of these statements ring familiar? Consider these thoughts: Have you become more sensitive to comments made because you’re tired, overwhelmed and have difficulty asking for others to step up, even if only for a brief respite?

Would you hear this comment differently if you were rested or had just come back from a vacation?

Have you suggested ideas? Even family, who are a distance away, could call at a specific time which would allow you to plan a brief errand or just a few moments of personal time. Or could they fund a few hours of a hired caregiver to provide you respite?  Hands-on care is not the only way family can support you.

If their comments are genuinely challenging what you’re doing, instead of holding your silence and letting anger settle in, have you considered taking the opportunity to ask them what they would do differently?  That question should not be posed as a challenge, but rather expressed with genuine interest in seeing if they have a suggestion that could serve everyone well.  Sometimes we get so invested in our caregiving that we lose perspective.

When you take a step back and try not to take it personally, could it be that those who are criticizing your efforts could be feeling guilty themselves about not being able to do more?  Maybe they’re struggling with the changes they see in your loved one and it comes out in an inappropriate manner.  We all process grief and fear differently.

Sometimes I find that those who are most vocal are having the greatest difficulty processing the changes and possible loss of a loved one.  It’s more about them than about you.  But you won’t know this if you don’t try to engage in conversation.

Assisted living for mom improves the quality of life for ALL of us

Assisted living for mom improves the quality of life for ALL of us

So often I have discussed the benefits for those moving to a senior apartment or community. Now it is time to discuss not only the older adult who moves from their long time home, but the supporting loved ones who are affected by this transition.

Family relationships are complex due to different personalities, age group, and gender offering multiple perspectives on every issue affecting loved ones. When a member of this group is in transition for whatever reason, all who truly care for that family member are impacted. So often I hear a senior tell me that they are getting advice from children and friends which they may or may not agree with. The decision for an older adult to move from a home they have known for so many years is a decision that is made after much thought from not just the senior moving but from input from their trusted advisers.

When an older adult is living in a home that no longer meets their needs, the advice starts pouring in from a daughter, son, or friend. This advice to make a change is hard to digest for the person who should make that change to healthier surroundings. Anger or frustration can result from a reluctance to face the current situation. That may be followed by procrastination and excuses why a move is “just too much” at this time, putting a decision off to some future date. The family is then impacted with frustration and worry and sometimes anger. This can cause upset to the entire family and relationships can suffer as family members want a solution but have differing ideas and time frames for this move.

I received a note from a professional who had given a talk at a senior community for families working with their loved ones who are thinking of a move for mom or dad. She was kind enough to share the following letter she received with the intent to help you, the reader who may be in a similar situation. Here is a portion of that letter:

In terms of the gifts we receive through this process, one of the greatest gifts for me has been the incredible appreciation  I feel for those who support me! My husband, brother, niece, and sister-in-law have been nothing short of amazing, and my relationship with each of them has deepened as a result. I appreciate them so much! I realize this isn’t always the case within families – that it very often goes the other way – so for that, too, I feel a deep appreciation.

The other point I would emphasize is how much moving my Mom into an assisted living facility has improved the quality of life for ALL of us. Our stress levels have plummeted. While there is still a level of stress, frustration, anger and sadness, it doesn’t compare to the level it was at prior to that. My hair had started falling out so I knew I was stressed, but I didn’t realize how much until my dentist showed me the pictures they took of the inside of my mouth during a routine dental appointment. I had been chewing the insides of my cheeks so badly during sleep that I created lines of scar tissue on both sides. That was my tipping point. I knew we needed to make a positive change, not just for my Mom, but for my health as well.

Since moving her into assisted living in October, I don’t have to be JUST the frustrated caregiver any longer. I can now enjoy being her daughter again, which hadn’t happened for the past three years. In addition, SHE is now getting the appropriate care she should have been getting for those three years, with proper meds administration being key.

This letter explains the stress of a family member who didn’t realize the impact until a solution had been attained. We live with worry and fear for our loved ones and that stress can become part of our everyday lives. When a move was made and her mom was in a healthy environment, the entire family experienced relief, happiness and a much reduced stress level. The true gift was that all involved found a deeper relationship with one another. That is what life is about…giving to others unconditionally.

My hope is that if you or a family member is living in a home that no longer meets your needs; know that you are not alone with your worry and fear of the unknown. You and your loved ones will share your journey to a new lifestyle. You will all experience change in your own personal way, but in the end it is the well-being of your loved one that counts. Once a move is made to a safe and healthy home, relief and happiness will be the result for not just the one making the move but by all who are connected by love. That is what family is about!


Make improvements to your home before putting it on the market?

Now is the time of year when many of you are considering improvements to your home and some of you have thoughts of putting your home on the market. I know that so many of you have waited for the market to recover with prices re-bounding. The time has come for the real estate rebound and now you are having a reality check as you walk through your home. We all save way too much stuff! That is a given. The good news is that there are so many services today that will help you downsize without you lifting a finger. These companies are packing and sorting companies and my clients have had great success using their services. They are affordable, bonded, and know how to organize this thinning out process without the chaos and frustration we would experience if taking on this project without professional help. Some of you are fortunate and have family to assist so it may be time to sound the call to those in your family ready willing and able to help.

The question is what to take and what to leave. If you haven’t used something in the last two years, it may be time to part with that item. Of course, you want to keep heirlooms and antiques as well as heart felt items. These companies will help you make decisions as to what you want to part and what to leave to help with a future appearance of your home. Remember that a vacant home is difficult to sell and will sell for much less than a home with furniture that is nicely staged.

Now on to the fixes and repairs. There are many ways to sell your home. If you want to get a fair price and are willing to present your home to the public as a well-kept and structurally sound home, you may want to consider some updates. First and most important are structural issues. It is imperative that you address the following if in need of repair: basement, roof, furnace, electric and plumbing.

Basement; have a Senior Real Estate Specialist view your home. We as professionals are trained to spot warning signs as to basement issues. If we spot a wall that is cracked horizontally, or step cracks with ‘sheering’ (where the wall is shifted), we will suggest a basement inspection. This can be done by a structural engineer or by inspection services that are known by all Realtors who are independent from basement contractors. If it is determined that your basement needs repair…do it! The worst outcomes are the result of a seller offering a credit to fix a bad basement. It is like trying to sell a car with a cracked engine block…the buyer will run to the next car as fast as they can!

Electric; todays standards for electrical service is 100 amp minimum with circuit breakers. If you have fuses, and it is 60 amp service, have it upgraded. The average cost to do so is $1300. You will have to upgrade anyway as most insurance companies will not insure a home today with 60 amp service.

Plumbing: If you have a leak or the plumbing was done by someone other than a licensed plumber I would suggest calling a plumber to inspect and repair if needed.

Furnace: Have your furnace checked and cleaned prior to putting your home on the market. If repair or replacement is necessary spend the money and do what is needed. Keep the paperwork from the contractor so you can share with a potential buyer.

Roof: If the shingles are ‘blistered’, meaning that they are getting thicker in areas and the naked eye can see these defective shingles, have a roofing contractor inspect the roof. If there is little life left to the roof, I would suggest replacing as your home will show much better on a drive-by, and your potential buyer will not walk away from the sale when it shows up on the buyer’s home inspection. If you try to sell with a roof that needs replacing, the buyer will go with the highest possible estimate to ‘cover’ themselves. So, for esthetics and to avoid this negative view from a buyer, it would be best to replace if needed before marketing to the public.

Interior: You can sell as is, but make sure it is neat, clean, and uncluttered. If you have carpeting that is worn, replace it with neutral carpeting. Many times under the carpet you will find hardwood flooring. Today’s buyers love hardwood. So you could have it sanded and re-finished and your sales price will show the difference! If drapes are old, vertical blinds are the answer. They are relatively inexpensive and will give your home a great look. Look at your kitchen and bath flooring. If permanently stained or torn, I would suggest replacing with relatively inexpensive flooring that shows off the wood in your kitchen. As for the bathrooms, a new vanity can upgrade instantly as well as a new tub surround if your ceramic or plastic tiling is loose or unattractive.

Professional Staging: If you are looking for top dollar when you sell and all of your structural issues are solved, then I would strongly urge you to invite a professional stager into your home. These interior magicians can help you transform your home using your furniture (they can cover inexpensively), and suggest paint colors and flooring that appeal to today’s young buyers. They will help position the furniture and for vacant homes they will supply the furniture by rental. I have seen homes sell for as much as 30-40% more than they would have if sold as is. They also sell quickly. For a $200,000 home that can be up to $80,000 more than ‘as is’!

Well, I have  covered a lot of ground. For many of you my suggestions may or may not be possible as funds may be few and far between. If you have significant equity in your home, I would suggest checking into a home equity loan which may be much more reasonable than you may think. With interest rates as low as 4% for this type of loan, borrowing this money on the short term may be just the answer you are looking for. Check with your bank and investigate the terms and qualification for this financing.

Your home will sell in any market. It just is a matter of final sales price. Take some time to think about what type of result you are looking for when you sell your home. I hope that my tips for preparation will guide you to the result you will expect when it is time to sell your home. If selling your home is not in your immediate future, you may be well served by starting this transformation today. Breaking up your preparation into small projects can start the process so that when it is time to sell you don’t go into the panic stage. I wish you the best and hope that my information is both useful and understandable. You can always call me to discuss any issues from my articles at 262-242-6177 or you can email at:

A Great Time to Prepare to Sell Your Home

Another year has passed and you have grown a year older… and so has your home! As the real estate market continues its recovery thoughts of moving into a new home or community is common at this time of year. We look at the year gone by and begin to look at our lives and the quality we are experiencing. Many of you have put off a move due to the rapidly changing real estate market and are wondering when the best time to sell is. That depends!

If you are going to sell next year and purchase a new single family home or condominium, timing is everything. You would want to purchase earlier in the year to take advantage of lower prices due to fewer buyers. Most buyers wait until spring to start their search so if you are a potential buyer you lose your advantage by waiting until spring to purchase as all advantage moves to the seller. That in simple terms relates to you paying significantly more after March then you would in January and February.

When you decide to sell you want to take advantage of buyer traffic so that you will attract the best price possible. Spring is that time when you will have buyers competing for the best values and have the possibility of multiple offers. The spring market typically is off and running by mid-March. This is an especially unique year as most pundits feel that interest will rise as the government begins to step away from mortgage rate support which will create an even greater buyer demand.  

Condition of your home has become more important than ever! When buyers begin their search they will see similar homes in a wide range of presentation. Homes that are staged, where a professional has assisted in the preparation process will do very well as today’s buyers want to do little work and do not wish to invest even in cosmetic updating. New carpeting, painting the interior with the colors these young buyers expect can put many more dollars in your pocket. Remember that for most people the proceeds from your sale will be tax free! Sales under $250,000 will not pay any capital gains as long as you have lived in your home and it has been your primary residence for two of the last five years. Check with your accountant for sales exceeding the $250,000 price limit to know what you would be paying in capital gains. The point I am making is that these proceeds from the sale of your home are extremely important as to your estate planning.

Preparation should begin today! I would suggest called a Realtor that you trust to stop over and give you the information you will need to make the best decision when acting on your desire to move. An experienced agent will walk through your home and look for potential structural issues and well as make suggestions as to what dollars you invest will bring back the greatest returns when selling. The agent will also give you an estimate as to what price you can expect in spring and based on what upgrades and improvement you will make. Many wish to sell ‘as is’ but you want to take care of structural issues before placing your home on the market.

In summary, winter is the time to buy; spring is the time to sell. You can take advantage of both markets when you are both buying and selling. If financing is needed, this is an opportune time to meet with a mortgage lender to investigate your options of using your equity to buy now and then pay it off when you sell. It can be easier than you think! Preparation is the key to your final sales price and this is the best time to get started by gathering information from professionals. They say timing is everything and I believe this year may be your best opportunity to take advantage of the new real estate market!