Many of you might remember that two years ago I wrote about Organizing Mom. That was the summer my mother lost her partner Don whom she had been with for over 25 years, the last 12 years in Florida. The article reflected the organizing tasks taken when one falls into a widow’s situation. This summer I helped move my mom from the West Coast of Florida to the New Jersey Shore. It was an arduous task filled with stress, glitches and finally joy. I’d like to share my story with you hoping it can help you in some way when you might need to move a loved one albeit a parent and/or senior.

Here is our story… My mom decided she wanted to come back to New Jersey and be by family. She had already sold and moved from the condo she had shared with her partner Don after he passed. She was then in a mobile home community and had purchased a house that was actually larger than the condo she had with Don. She had fixed it up beautifully and it was “safe” for her as she is handicapped with the use of only one arm and walks with difficulty. Pretty much everything was on one floor. This moving choice was a major hit to her savings and she wasn’t sure if she could afford another move as well as real estate back in New Jersey.

First step. What is our budget? Luckily, I asked my mom to let us help her with ensuring she had enough money to live out the rest of her life after she lost Don. Therefore, we had already gotten her to work with our financial planner and he/we knew the numbers we were dealing with. So, we knew what she could afford. I also became her POA so she could stay in Florida while I did all the leg work up here. As it turned out in the end, it actually costs her less to live in this kind of community up here than it did in Florida. I was shocked.

Step two. Where to buy? Fortunately, my mom knew exactly where she wanted to be and the specifics she wanted in a new place; 2 bedroom, 2 bathrooms. There was a certain 55 Plus community where her sister lived already outside of Brick, NJ. My aunt gave me the names of streets to look at via the homeowner’s association map.

Step three. Find a Realtor®. As a professional organizer, I now know many great agents all over our state, so in one phone call to an agent I’ve known for years down the shore, I scheduled a date for my husband and I to go “Power Shopping” on behalf of my mom. On that day, Joanne Platz, our agent, showed us 5 homes in our price range and desired neighborhood. At the end of that day we all chose the house we though best for my mom and we all picked the same property!

My mom watched me tour the home on Facetime and gave me the verbal ok to make an offer which we did and was accepted. We saved a lot of money by purchasing a home that needed some mechanical updates as well as cosmetic updating. We placed an offer in late May and we closed on July 31st.

Now I’d like to share a little outline my colleague Amy DeBellis from County Mortgage gave me to help me understand the time guideline for Moving Mom.

Basic Timeline When Buying a Property

(Sounds So Simple But Lots Can Go Wrong IMHO)

  1. Contract goes to attorney. Offer is accepted by all parties.
  2. Changes to the contract are called Riders. Both sides make the necessary changes and buyer and seller sign off.
  3. Within 10 days (usually) inspections are done and the deposit monies are submitted. Whatever items are of issue get negotiated. During that time, the buyer applies for a mortgage.
  4. Once mortgage is received, closing is scheduled.
  5. Buyers will do one or two walk throughs of the property prior to closing. If everything looks good, you close.

My son Peter helping me pick up my mom at Newark Airport.

We believed that all was going as planned. Our inspection showed the same issues my husband and I were concerned about and we negotiated them into the final price. We knew we were getting a good deal, but would need the help of family and contractors before she could move in. Timing was critical and stressful as my mom was dealing with selling her Florida home and that closing would take place after the NJ closing which I was handling.

My mom also decided to organize the move mostly herself in Florida. We hired a moving company to perform a “professional pack” in which they pack everything up for her. I’m not sure if my mom realized the value of this added on service. The few things that did go wrong with the mover mostly had to do with my mom’s mistakes, not the movers. But I won’t tell her that!

TIP: Check the attic on closing. When I climbed up into the trap door in the garage I realized the previous owner forgot to clean out this storage area and it was full of junk. They ended up paying for a junk removal service on the day of closing.

The closing almost did not happen on time because of two mistakes relative to forms not completed correctly with both the title company and a bank. Neither of these were my fault but one hour before closing my lawyer and agent miraculously fixed things.

TIP: If you are helping out a loved one financially, have all accounts listed as joint accounts, not POA.

My mom then closed on her Florida home a week later on the 8th of August. That was the same day the movers loaded and drove off with the contents of her home believe it or not!

TIP: If you can avoid moving in August, moving/shipping companies will have more optional dates for you.

As for her car, she shipped it a few days before her closing.

That same night she flew in to Newark Airport with her dog Tyke and a couple of suitcases to get us through the 3-10 window of when the moving truck would arrive up here. It was a stressful combination of her staying with me in Mahwah, and with my aunt at the shore. Lots of time on the Garden State Parkway those 10 days waiting for the truck to come!

Here’s a shortened punch list of what we were accomplishing in the new and empty condo:

  • Deep cleaning
  • Painting
  • New flooring and carpeting
  • New water heater
  • New electric panel
  • New light fixtures in several rooms
  • Cable installed

It felt like we never stopped “prepping” the house for the arrival of her Floridian inventory. I created a basic checklist which I’m happy to share called, “Before the Moving Truck Arrives”.

Mom is escorted by Fred, the truck driver, in the pouring rain to her front door.

Then on August 18th, which was literally 10 full days after the moving truck left Florida, it arrives on time and the movers had unloaded for about one hour before the skies opened up and it then poured for the next few hours.

TIP: Use an empty garage as a storage space to load furniture and boxes if you think it will rain. The moving men can always move things from the garage at that point but at least items won’t get wet.

The moving men left that afternoon and my mom and I were drowning in brown boxes. Here is a couple of things my mom did — and didn’t do — that caused quite a mess. Please heed this advice when you are moving:

  • Don’t pack cleaning chemicals
  • Don’t pack alcohol
  • Do use plastic wrap and baggies to help contain items that could spill such as sugar, salt, spices, lotions, potions, oils etc.
  • Do label any boxes you pack yourself

Remember, this was a long-distance move from Florida to New Jersey. Her contents were going to be stored in a warehouse and moved at least once or twice onto two different trucks before the final destination. Unfortunately, the few boxes she packed herself did not fare well, and she also packed things that should not have gone into the truck at all.

TIP: Have a plan in place for the recycling of boxes, newsprint, garbage and of course there will be donations too! I noticed that if the moving men were still working, they took the empty boxes back. So I worked to break down as many boxes as I could while they were still there.

The next day my sisters were coming to help. There’s nothing like four women working together to turn a house into a home. By the end of the weekend most items were in place. Of course, it would be another couple of weeks before all details were completed…

One of the biggest time vampires in many moves, and especially in my mom’s situation, was the closing and opening of accounts — especially utilities. The amount of calling, emailing and following up on these details was arduous. Just the amount of time on hold each day would allow for a daily manicure! Thank goodness my mom is retired and could sit and wait in these many cues for a live person to acknowledge important necessities such as: electric, gas, phone, EZ Pass, sprinkler system, cable, security system, banks, locksmith… the list seemed endless. And then there were the driving tasks: license, registration, banking, homeowner’s association orientation, Home Depot, food pick-ups for those who were at the house helping…

I needed a vacation by the end of August!

Mom is now settled nicely and it is a huge relief to know she is just a car ride away… instead of a plane trip — especially when Hurricane Irma arrived…