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Keeping or Selling a Parent's House: What to Do After a Move to Senior Living

7 minute readLast updated January 11, 2024
fact checkedon January 11, 2024
Written by Anna Nichols, senior living writer
Reviewed by Denise Lettau, J.D., wealth management specialistAttorney Denise Lettau has over 15 years of experience in the wealth management industry.
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One of the most common questions adult children have when a parent moves into senior care is what to do with their parent’s house. Selling or keeping the house are the two main options, but there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. To make the best decision, you’ll first need to assess your parent’s financial situation and whether they can afford senior living. If they don’t need to sell their house, you and your siblings should understand the responsibilities of eventually inheriting a house. On top of all that, there are emotional factors to consider, so it’s important to plan ahead and prepare for many different scenarios.

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Determine if keeping or selling the house is your decision to make

Remember that seniors retain all legal authority when it comes to deciding what to do with their property. If you’re the adult child of a parent who plans to move into a senior living community, the decision to sell or keep their house could be yours in a couple scenarios: with a power of attorney that grants you the legal right to decide what to do with your parent’s real estate, or if your parent dies and leaves the house to you as an inheritance.

However, many seniors rely on their adult children to help them navigate complicated financial decisions, such as the sale of a home and a move into senior care. You can provide valuable insight even if the ultimate decision is your parent’s.

Here are some questions to ask your aging parent when they’re deciding whether to keep their house:

  • Can they afford the expenses of owning a house (mortgage, upkeep, taxes) while also paying for senior care?
  • Do they intend to leave the house to a family member as an inheritance?
  • Do they have any plans for renting out the house or using it as a vacation home?
  • Are they emotionally prepared to sell the house?

Review your parent's finances to see if they can afford senior care without selling their home

Often, the biggest factor when deciding whether to keep a house is the aging parent’s ability to pay for senior care. The average cost of assisted living is $4,807 a month, according to A Place for Mom’s 2023 report on the cost of long-term care and senior living.[01] Due to inflation and the increased cost of senior care, many seniors don’t have the financial resources to fully fund their senior living expenses. Selling the family home may be the best option to pay senior living.

In general, if all the following statements are true for your aging parent, keeping their house when moving into a senior living facility may be a reasonable option:

  • Your parent is able to pay for the senior care they need with funds outside of the equity in their house (retirement accounts, long-term insurance accounts, or veterans benefits).
  • Your parent is able to fully cover the cost of senior care without financial help from you and your siblings.
  • Your parent owns their house outright, meaning they won’t have the added financial burden of a mortgage payment.

A reverse mortgage could help pay for senior care

To avoid selling their home but still using it to pay for senior care, seniors can take out a reverse mortgage to afford assisted living or memory. Given the rising costs of senior living, many seniors who don’t wish to part with their family homes permanently — or who wish to keep it in the family — consider reverse mortgages.

According to A Place for Mom’s proprietary data from 2023, assisted living costs $4,807 a month on average, memory care costs $5,995, and full-time home care with an average of 44 hours per week at $30 per hour costs $5,280 a month.[01] Using the equity in a home through a reverse mortgage may help offset these costs.

Consider the financial responsibilities of inheriting the house

An aging parent’s move to senior care may prompt questions about inheritance. This is a good time to review your and your siblings’ financial situations to determine whether you could — or should — keep an inherited house when the time comes.

Keeping an inherited house is often a more complicated financial decision than selling a house to pay for senior care. If the following statements are true for you or your siblings, then keeping an inherited house after the death of a parent may be a good option:

  • You’re aware of any inheritance or estate taxes, and you’re able to pay them. Some states, including Florida, don’t have an estate tax, which can make the transfer of property to children considerably less expensive. Be sure to check if the state the house is in levies estate taxes.[02]
  • You’re aware of the cost of upkeep, and you can afford it. Many inherited properties are older and have more long-term update costs. If it’s a large house, can you afford the general upkeep of the property? According to the insurance firm Hippo, the average annual cost of general home upkeep, including maintenance and repairs, was $6,000 in 2023. You could pay more if you plan on living in the house and remodeling it in a more contemporary style.[03]
  • You’re aware of the insurance costs, and you can afford them. In many coastal states like South Carolina and Florida, the cost of insuring homes has risen considerably in the last few decades. In general, insuring homes in areas prone to natural disasters such as flooding, hurricanes, tornados, or fires is more expensive than insuring homes elsewhere.[04]
  • The property could become a real estate investment. Depending on where you live, selling could mean losing more money than you would gain by keeping the home for a while longer. If you know the real estate market where your parent lived is on an upward trajectory, keeping the house may be a smart financial decision.
  • You have plans for the property. If the house is suitable as a rental property and would cost less in upkeep than you could make in rent, keeping it may be an excellent option. Before choosing this route, just be sure you’re aware of all upfront costs, long-term costs, and the necessary time investment related to managing a rental property.

Your emotions and relationships shouldn’t be ignored when deciding whether to keep a parent’s home. For many adult children, selling a family home — often the home they grew up in — can feel like a true loss. Homes are, after all, more than a financial investment. They’re deeply tied to identity and memories, which have a value all their own.

If you feel like you need help navigating difficult family conversations about moving to senior care and selling or inheriting a family home, consider reaching out to a geriatric care manager.

Let our care assessment guide you

Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.

If the following statements are true for your parent, your siblings, or yourself, consider keeping your parent’s home:

  • You hope to live in the house or use it as a vacation home.
  • You live near the house or have plans to visit regularly.
  • You intend for the house to stay in the family generationally.
  • You aren’t emotionally ready to sell the home and can afford to keep it, at least for a while longer.

Understand an aging parent’s emotions when deciding to keep or sell a house

For many seniors moving into senior care, the thought of selling their house can feel like the last tie to their independence. It can be a highly distressing idea, and their emotions shouldn’t be dismissed.

Instead, consider whether the house needs to be sold, and if the answer is yes, decide when it needs to be sold. Selling the home a while after your parents are settled into their new living situation may allow your parents to process the decision more fully.

If your parents don’t have a real financial need to sell the house, encourage them with this information. Consider taking them on visits back to their house, especially if a family member moves in after them.

Remember that deciding to keep or sell a family home is a serious decision

Whether you and your parent decide to keep a family home after moving into senior care is one of the most important financial decisions you can make, and it’s not one to take lightly. Taking your parent’s financial situation into account is the most important aspect of this decision, but don’t forget to account for your and any siblings’ finances as well. Finally, remember that choosing to keep or sell a home is an emotional choice for everyone involved, and it should be treated with sensitivity.

For a listening ear and sound senior living advice, reach out to A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors. These locally based advisors can help you and your aging parent find the right senior living option, and they can answer any questions you may have about the transition from their home to senior living — all at no cost to your family.


Meet the Author
Anna Nichols, senior living writer

Anna Nichols is a content specialist at A Place for Mom, primarily focusing on nursing homes and caregiver support. Her work has involved researching senior-friendly activities in cities across the U.S., as well as reporting on the challenges of long-distance caregiving. Anna holds a degree in English and education plus a master's degree in theology.

Reviewed by

Denise Lettau, J.D., wealth management specialist

The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom and the reader. Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter, and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site. Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not endorse the contents of the third-party sites.

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