When Pat Curry of Augusta, Ga., helped her parents move from Florida to Georgia five years ago, she faced a daunting task. “They had lived in the same house since 1964,” says Curry, now 55. Her father has since died, but Curry’s mother recently broke her hip, has had mini strokes and is showing signs of dementia. Curry anticipates having to move her to an assisted living facility and this time she’s planning to hire a senior move manager.
If you’ll need to help your elderly parents move soon, bringing on this kind of a pro can be a huge time saver and stress reliever. “Think of a senior move manager like a project manager or a general contractor,” says Mary Kay Buysse, executive director of the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM) in Hinsdale, Ill. “If you were putting an addition on your house, you would hire a general contractor to oversee the project. He might be a carpenter himself, but he’s the guy who gets and oversees the electrician, the plumber, and others.”
What a Senior Move Manager Can Do
While not all senior move managers are moving companies, they may recommend and then oversee them, plus help with the packing, unpacking and furnishing of your parents’ new home. Some companies employing senior move managers specialize in estate sales; others might be professional organizers. And these pros can handle everything from decluttering to taking detritus to the trash to donating unwanted goods to your parents’ favorite charity. Senior move companies often work primarily on relocations within a four-hour radius. If a client is moving long distance, they will partner with another senior move manager on the other end.
It's a common dynamic that independent adults want to push back when their children are trying to parent them.
— Margit Novack, Moving Solutions
Another benefit of using a senior move manager: You’ll get a buffer who’ll persuade your parents to do what’s necessary to downsize — the same advice they might not take from you.
Doing What You Can’t
“We can step in and the parents know we’re there to help them make decisions. It’s not the child bossing them around,” says Jacquie Denny, founder of Everything But the House, based in Cincinnati.
“It’s a common dynamic that independent adults want to push back when their children are trying to parent them,” adds Margit Novack, president of Moving Solutions in Havertown, Pa. “When I walk in the door, I speak 100 percent to the parent. Move managers give control back to the clients, even if the adult child is paying for it.”
What It Costs
Speaking of paying, if you’ll be hiring a senior move manager, get your checkbook ready. Most NASMM members charge an hourly rate and the typical move costs between $2,500 and $3,000 — in addition to hiring a mover. Other firms specializing in selling items at estate sales on behalf of the homeowner get paid through sales commissions of 35 percent or so.
“We just did a move yesterday,” says Novack, whose firm charges $55 an hour. “It took about 40 hours of work and came to $2,800. It added up to 40 hours because a senior move manager isn’t just about the day of. Most start working with clients weeks, if not months, before the actual move.”
A Big Challenge: Accumulation of Stuff
One of the biggest challenges when moving people who have lived in the same place for 30, 40 or 50 years is the accumulation of stuff. They often don’t know where to start, and that’s where a senior move manager can step in, with step-by-step instructions.
For instance, some of Moving Solutions’ 45 employees are organizing specialists who handle just paper; three are certified to deal with hoarding. “It’s not like the hoarding that you see on TV,” says Novack. “I call these people accidental hoarders” who just fell behind managing their belongings. “Soon enough, it got so overwhelming that they figured they could never catch up so they stopped trying,” says Novack.
Senior move managers organizing estate sales can sometimes produce unexpected financial bonanzas for people moving out. “We’ve come across coins that went for $100,000 stored in a shoebox,” says Denny, “and an old ticket stub to a Reds game sold for $1,000.”
Help After the Move
Senior move managers are also critical during the first few days after the move, “to make sure the client is completely set up and has everything as she wants it,” explains Buysse.
This can be especially important for a move to an assisted living facility. “People think that assisted living does this for you but they don’t, so the senior move manager will handle things like hanging drapes and hooking up cable,” says Buysse.
Senior move managers tend to take personal pride in that last part of the process. “What makes our job satisfying is, as I unpack, I’m thinking how can I get everything they need on a daily basis on the first or second shelf in their new home,” says Novack, “so they never need to get up on a step stool to reach something.”