How to Choose a Good Estate Sale Company

May 21, 2018  
Filed under Savvy Senior

Savvy Senior

Dear Savvy Senior,

Can you provide some tips on how to choose a good estate sale company who can sell all the leftover items in my mother’s house? 

Inquiring Daughter

 

Dear Inquiring,

The estate sale business has become a huge industry over the past decade. There are roughly 22,000 estate sale companies that currently operate in the U.S., up nearly 60 percent from just 10 years ago. But not all estate sale companies are alike.

 

Unlike appraisal, auction and real estate companies, estate sale operators are largely unregulated, with no licensing or standard educational requirements. That leaves the door open for inexperienced, unethical or even illegal operators. Therefore, it’s up to you to decipher a good reputable company from a bad one. Here are some tips to help you choose.

 

Make a list: Start by asking friends, your real estate agent or attorney for recommendations. You can also search online. Websites like EstateSales.net and EstateSales.org let you find estate sale companies in your area.

 

Check their reviews: After you find a few companies, check them out on the Better Business Bureau (BBB.org), Angie’s List (AngiesList.com), Yelp (Yelp.com) and other online review sites to eliminate ones with legitimately negative reviews.

 

Call some companies: Once you identify some estate sale companies, select a few to interview over the phone. Ask them how long they’ve been in business and how many estate sales they conduct each month. Also find out about their staff, the services they provide, if they are insured and bonded and if they charge a flat fee or commission. The national average commission for an estate sale is around 35 percent, but commissions vary by city and region.

 

You may also want to ask them about visiting their next sale to get a better feel for how they operate. And be sure to get a list of references of their past clients and call them.

 

Schedule appointments: Set up two or three face-to-face interviews with the companies you felt provided you with satisfactory answers during the phone interviews.

 

During their visit, show the estate liquidator through the property. Point out any items that will not be included in the sale, and if you have any items where price is a concern, discuss it with them at that time. Many estate companies will give you a quote, after a quick walk through the home.

 

You also need to ask about their pricing (how do they research prices and is every item priced), how they track what items sell for, what credit cards do they accept, and how and where will they promote and market your sale. EstateSales.net is a leading site used to advertise sales, so check advertising approaches there.

 

Additionally, ask how many days will it take them to set up for the sale, how long will the sale last, and will they take care of getting any necessary permits to have the sale.

 

You also need to find out how and when you will be paid, and what types of services they provide when the sale is over. Will they clean up the house and dispose of the unsold items, and is there’s an extra charge for that? Also, make sure you get a copy of their contract and review it carefully before you sign it.

 

For more information on choosing an estate sale company, see National Estate Sales Association online guide at NESA-USA.com, and click on “Consumer Education” then on “Find the Right Company.”

 

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

 

 

Age Well and Lindley Food Service Partner to Deliver Meals on Wheels to Northwestern Vermont

May 17, 2018  
Filed under Aging Parents, Food, News

Age Well (formerly the Champlain Valley Agency on Aging), Vermont’s largest Meals on Wheels provider, has entered into a partnership with Lindley Food Service to support the growing demand and changing environment of Meals on Wheels.  Under the current model, Age Well oversees fourteen different food vendors across Northwestern Vermont.  “With this many unique vendors, it’s difficult to provide consistent quality control and food variety for the nearly 1,500 people we serve,” stated Age Well Nutrition Director, Chris Moldovan. “Achieving the highest quality of care for aging Vermonters requires we find a way to improve our nutrition program and food production model.”

 

With 25 years of experience providing quality meals for programs throughout the northeast, Lindley has been a vendor for Age Well’s Addison County meal programs for over two decades.  This transition emerged from a three-year process that involved a consultant, focus groups, social service providers, food program coordinators, and other community members. The goals for all stakeholders in this process were the same: expand options and improve quality for home-delivered meals, ensure food safety, provide consistent training and background checks forvolunteers, and meet the dietary, religious and cultural needs of those served.

 

Lindley will begin preparing chilled meals for Age Well’s entire four county region (Addison, Chittenden, Grand Isle and Franklin County), beginning in early July. Meals will continue to be delivered by the nearly 400 dedicated volunteers who provide a meal, safety check and friendly visit to seniors who struggle with hunger and may be isolated and living alone. “Chilled meals will be prepared by Lindley and delivered in place of the old-style heated meals,” said Moldovan.  “This change will provide a number of benefits for our clients; the flexibility to reheat or freeze their meals and eat them at a time that best suits them.  Another reason for changing from heated meals to a chilled meals model was our need to enhance food safety, nutritional benefits, and level the playing field in terms of food quality” explained Moldovan.

 

Lindley will assist with menu planning, customized delivery schedules, and create special menus overseen by a Registered Dietitian.  This will enable Age Well to provide therapeutic, medically tailored and culturally appropriate meals and ensure that we are meeting the needs of those with chronic conditions and our increasingly diverse population.  With the chilled meals also comes brand new packaging, which will be clearly labelled and specifically designed to reheat easily and safely.  The use of chilled meals is now considered best practice for Meals on Wheels programs across the country.  By moving to this model and partnering with one vendor, Age Well is taking the necessary steps to ensure consistent quality of our meals, meet a broader range of nutritional needs, and continue to combat the three of the biggest threats of aging: hunger, isolation and loss of independence.

 

For more informationwww.agewellvt.org

‘Extra Help’ Program Helps Seniors With Their Medication Costs

May 14, 2018  
Filed under Savvy Senior

Savvy Senior

Dear Savvy Senior,

Are there any special Medicare programs that help seniors with their medication costs? My 74-year-old mother, who lives primarily on her Social Security, takes several high-priced drugs that sap her income even with her Medicare drug plan.  

Looking for Assistance

 

Dear Looking,

Yes, there’s a low-income subsidy program called Extra Help that can assist seniors on a tight budget with paying for their premiums, deductible and co-payments in their Medicare (Part D) prescription drug plan.

 

Currently around 10 million people are receiving this subsidy, but another two million may qualify for it and don’t even realize it. They’re missing out on hundreds, maybe thousands, of dollars in savings each year.

 

Changes in the law make it easier than ever to qualify for the Extra Help program. Even if your mom applied and didn’t qualify before, she may be eligible now. The amount of additional assistance she would receive depends on her income and assets. If she qualifies for help, she’ll pay no more than $3.35 for a generic drug and $8.35 for a brand-name drug in 2018.

 

To get the subsidy, your mom’s assets can’t be more than $14,100 (or $28,150 for married couples living together). Bank accounts, stocks and bonds count as assets, but her home, vehicle, personal belongings, life insurance and burial plots do not.

 

Also, your mom’s monthly income can’t be more than $1,538 (or $2,078 for married couples). If your mom supports a family member who lives with her, or lives in Alaska or Hawaii, her income can be higher.

 

In addition, the government won’t count any money if your mom receives help for household expenses like food, rent, mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes.

 

How To Apply

There are three ways to apply for Extra Help: online at SSA.gov/prescriptionhelp; by calling Social Security at 800-772-1213; or by visiting her local Social Security office.

 

The application form is easy to complete, but you’ll need your mom’s Social Security number and information about her bank balances, pensions and investments. Social Security will review her application and send her a letter within a few weeks letting you know whether she qualifies.

 

If your mom doesn’t qualify for Extra Help, she may still be able to get help from a state pharmacy assistance program or a patient assistance program. Visit BenefitsCheckUp.org and click on “Medications” to search for these programs.

 

Other Medicare Assistance

If your mom is eligible for Extra Help, she may also qualify for help with her other Medicare expenses through her state’s Medicare Savings Program.

 

State Medicaid programs partner with the federal government, so income and asset qualifications vary depending on where she lives. Medicare Savings Programs will pay her entire Medicare Part B premium each month. Some also pay for Part B coinsurance and copayments, depending on her income. Contact your mom’s state Medicaid office to determine if she qualifies for benefits in her state.

 

You can also get help through her State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which provides free one-on-one Medicare counseling in person or over the phone. To locate a SHIP counselor in your area, visit ShiptaCenter.org or call the eldercare locator at 800-677-1116.

 

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

 

 

Vermont House Passes Water Funding Bill that Includes Revenue Sources 

May 7, 2018  
Filed under News

 

The Vermont House of Representatives has voted to move forward legislation (S.260) to fund clean water.  The House version of S.260 includes revenue for clean water that will go into effect as early as 2020 if alternate sources of funding are not enacted.

Read more

What You Need to Know About Reverse Mortgages

May 7, 2018  
Filed under Savvy Senior

Savvy Senior

Dear Savvy Senior,

What can you tell me about reverse mortgages for retirees? My wife and I are contemplating getting one but want to make sure we know what we’re getting into.

Running Short

 

Dear Running,

For retirees who own their home and want to stay living there, but could use some extra cash, a reverse mortgage is a viable financial tool, but there’s a lot to know and consider to be sure it’s a good option for you.

Let’s start with the basics.

 

A reverse mortgage is a unique type of loan that allows older homeowners to borrow money against the equity in their house (or condo) that doesn’t have to be repaid until the homeowner dies, sells the house or moves out for at least 12 months. At that point, you or your heirs will have to pay back the loan plus accrued interest and fees, but you will never owe more than the value of your home.

 

It’s also important to understand that with a reverse mortgage, you, not the bank, own the house, so you’re still required to pay your property taxes and homeowners insurance. Not paying them can result in foreclosure.

 

To be eligible, you must be 62 years of age or older, own your own home (or owe only a small balance) and currently be living there.

 

You will also need to undergo a financial assessment to determine whether you can afford to continue paying your property taxes and insurance. Depending on your financial situation, you may be required to put part of your loan into an escrow account to pay future bills. If the financial assessment finds that you cannot pay your insurance and taxes and have enough cash left to live on, you’ll be denied.

 

Loan Details

Around 95 percent of all reverse mortgages offered today are Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM), which are FHA insured and offered through private mortgage lenders and banks. HECM’s also have home value limits that vary by county, but cannot exceed $679,650.

 

How much you can actually get through a reverse mortgage depends on your age (the older you are the more you can get), your home’s value and the prevailing interest rates. Generally, most people can borrow somewhere between 50 and 65 percent of the home’s value. To estimate how much you can borrow, use the reverse mortgage calculator at ReverseMortgage.org.

 

You also need to know that reverse mortgages have recently become more expensive with a number of fees, including: a 2 percent lender origination fee for the first $200,000 of the home’s value and 1 percent of the remaining value, with a cap of $6,000; an upfront 2 percent mortgage insurance premium (MIP) fee on the maximum loan amount, plus an annual MIP fee that’s equal to 0.5 percent of the outstanding loan balance; along with an appraisal fee, closing costs and other miscellaneous expenses. Most fees can be deducted for the loan amount to reduce your out-of-pocket cost at closing.

 

To receive your money, you can opt for a lump sum, a line of credit, regular monthly checks or a combination of these.

 

More Information

To learn more, read the National Council on Aging’s online booklet “Use Your Home to Stay at Home” at NCOA.org/home-equity. And see the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association self-evaluation checklist at ReverseMortgage.org/consumerguides.

 

Also note that because reverse mortgages are complex loans, all borrowers are required to get face-to-face or telephone counseling through a HUD approved independent counseling agency before taking one out. Most agencies typically charge around $125. To locate one near you, visit Go.usa.gov/v2H, or call 800-569-4287.

 

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.