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It’s Sunday afternoon, and the family is gathered for dinner at Grandma’s small farm just outside the city.

Everyone knows the time is coming when she may not be able to keep the place up all by herself — but today, no one wants to talk about it.

All over the Northwest, there are family properties existing in various states of suspended animation.

As our elders age and their needs change, the family farm, business property, large home or summer home may no longer fit their needs.

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In many families, this kind of talk about the future can be a subject that is hush-hush. Grandma’s life changes are among those topics that no one wants to bring up. Yet, by not exploring the options early, families often find themselves in a rush to sell, which often leaves a lot of potential income on the table.

Talking about family property and life transitions need not always be awkward or tentative. The hard work and thrift of our elders should be valued, and the value of their assets should be maximized, both in their senior years and after death.

A proactive approach to maximizing assets can relieve a lot of pressure for our elders and those of us who want to care for them, and give them the highest quality of life in later years.

Here are some simple steps to be thinking about if you find yourself in this position.

What’s it worth? Something as simple as a 50-year-old family home on Seattle’s Capitol Hill or a small farm in Duvall could contain a surprising amount of hidden value.

The best way to discover that hidden value is to find a competent and trusted land specialist, then ask for a Broker’s Price Opinion.

The broker will conduct an extensive study of the property and neighborhood, which includes checking zoning, the possibility of subdivision, and other factors that can expose hidden value.

Who to trust? The next step is to assemble a strong team. Your land broker can be an important player, but it is also critical to have your family attorney and possibly an estate planner or other professionals involved. Your land broker will be able to refer proven professionals, if you need help assembling a team.

When to sell? With your team assembled, and the wishes of the property owners clearly identified, a plan to bring the property to market can be created. Not all factors in these decisions are market driven.

Do mom and dad want to stay in their home and have help, or are they ready to move? Will the sale be postponed until the death of one or both of the owners? What will be the costs of continuing care in a nursing home or assisted-living facility?

These “human” factors need to drive the decisions. The earlier the planning process begins, the more likely it is that it can happen in a smooth and timely manner.

These are not easy decisions for any family, but the longer they are put off, or the less they are discussed, the harder it becomes for everyone.

Scott Cameron is a senior partner at Cameron Land Group and is a member of the New Home Council. “Market Matters” is the council’s weekly column offering insight into the housing market. For more information on ho

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