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Smart Moves: Selling the old family home

Adult children complicate selling process
Published: February 22, 2014

The U.S. economy may be improving, but countless young adults are still living at home or counting on a childhood bedroom for backup housing should they prove unable to pay rent on their own.

“Many kids now in their 20s to early 30s are in a period of protracted adolescence. They’re intellectually, culturally and technically ready to be independent, but not emotionally or financially,” said Bruce Tulgan, author of “Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y.”

As Tulgan notes, the continued dependence of young adult children can sometimes seriously complicate their parents’ need to liquidate a home.

“Many parents are scrambling financially themselves. Just to make it possible to retire, lots of people have to sell the family house and downsize to a smaller place,” he said.

Even parents with lots of financial resources may find themselves in conflict with their grown children over their desire to move elsewhere in the country or to live abroad.

“On the emotional level, lots of kids want the family home where they grew up to be kept like a museum — a place where they could return at any time and stay in their childhood bedroom,” Tulgan said.

Kathleen Shaputis, author of “The Crowded Nest Syndrome,” said even young adults who are employed full-time may prefer to live at home if they don’t make enough money to support the sort of lifestyle they enjoyed during their growing-up years.

Shaputis said it’s not only young adults living at home who may try to intervene and change their parents’ minds about selling the family property. Even those living independently may protest.

“Many young people see the family home as their safety net, a place where they can retreat if they lose a job or can’t make it on their own,” she said.

But she insists that in most cases, parents should put their own housing and financial needs ahead of their children’s desires.

“Parents have got to cut the cord sometime. This is not so much about tough love as reality,” she said.

Here are a few pointers for the parents of grown kids who plan to sell a family home:

Solidify your plans before informing your grown children.

“It’s important to make your plans prior to breaking the news to the kids,” Shaputis said. “Parents who let their children in on the decision-making process can expect they’ll try to influence the outcome.”

But Shaputis said that if your grown children are living at home, or are counting on the family domicile as a fallback, it’s only fair that you announce to them your decision on moving with as much advance warning as possible.

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