One of Edward “Ned” Lubell’s clients celebrated her 100th birthday while still living on her own in a Palm Beach, Fla., mansion. But now, after much persuasion on his part, she has finally put the residence on the market.

“She’s holding out for a high price, but at least she is letting people come through and look at it,” reports Lubell, a UBS financial advisor, whose team has more than $1 billion in assets under management.

COSTS OF STAYING PUT

Some veteran advisors will undoubtedly empathize with Lubell. Helping older clients understand that it would be wise to change their place of residence is a knotty and sensitive task.

For his centenarian client, Lubell drew upon all his communication skills to describe the consequences if she refused selling her home. He needed to help her understand both the emotional and literal costs she would pay if she stayed too long in her home. He had to talk about how hard it would be to manage the upkeep as well as afford the mortgage, he says.

Until the house sells, he will have to keep up the gentle pressure and reassure her she is doing the right thing. “This story doesn’t have an ending yet,” Lubell says.

START EARLY

The task of persuading an elderly client to relocate takes time, perhaps even years, warns Sheryl Rowling, the founder of Rowling & Associates in San Diego, which has $260 million in assets under management.

“When you are well aware that they can’t stay in the house, start communicating with the client on a regular basis,” Rowling says. Get clients to start entertaining the concept of moving out. “In most cases it’s not an emergency situation, where they have to sell the house today or they are not going to be able to pay their bills,” she says.

So the advisor has time to chip away at the resistance. “You have to put your counseling hat on and help them visualize that they could live somewhere else,” Rowling says. She talks to clients about the difficulty of walking up and down stairs and maintaining landscaping. “I start giving them the idea that there are easier situations,” she says.

She also deploys financial planning software to calculate what-if scenarios, showing clients the budgetary cutbacks they must make to remain in the house. “Most people do not want to be house poor, where everything they are doing is for the sake of the house,” Rowling says.

Miriam Rozen is a reporter for Texas Lawyer who writes about financial planning and services.

This story is part of a 30-day series on better serving seniors.

Miriam Rozen

Miriam Rozen, a Financial Planning contributing writer, is a staff reporter at Texas Lawyer in Dallas.