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Moving on

An estate sale makes the Judds' move to Hawaii seamless

After more than 45 years in their home in Palo Alto, H. Stanley Judd and his wife, Ingrid, decided now was the time to move to Hawaii. But, the move didn't happen overnight, nor did it happen without the help of a team.

The Judds first started researching their next phase of life more than two years ago. They considered the location of their ideal next home and what amenities they would need in this next stage of life. Being over the age of 75 and suffering from health problems, they sought assisted living in a place they frequently traveled — the Aloha State — that would give their daughter peace of mind.

Once they had their next home lined up, they started the process of selling their Midtown neighborhood home through John Forsyth James, a Realtor with Alain Pinel in Palo Alto. The Judds chose James because of his full-service approach.

"With the whole team of people, it was seamless," H. Stanley said.

James presented the Judds with three moving/selling options. Plan A typically involves the greatest level of renovation and staging, but the predicted sales level increases with each dollar invested. Plan C is an as-is option that mostly involves general cleaning and maintenance. Plan B, which is what the Judds chose, lands in the middle of the spectrum. Some aesthetic changes occur, but only about half as much as Plan A.

"I've found that clients want to be part of the process," James said. "But it's a big hurdle to go from living in to on the market. I think we picked a good package for the Judds."

The Judds chose Plan B because it allowed them to live in the home until they were ready to pack their bags. Not every Plan B focuses on the exterior, but because of medical needs, the Judds did not want to disrupt the inside of the home. So, while they were living in the home, James brought in his team, which includes a colorist and landscapers. The colorist picked a new paint color that would spruce up the home's curb appeal as the landscaping team trimmed back overgrown plants. In addition, James said they installed drought-tolerant landscaping in the front yard and sod grass in the backyard. Inside, James' team cleaned, subtracted personal items and moved furniture to show off the space.

After a weekend of open houses, the Judds had an offer by Wednesday of the next week, H. Stanley said. This meant the moving timeline began. Once again, the Judds turned to a contact of James', Amanda Kuzak of Kuzak's Closet, which offers full-service estate sales — exactly what the Judds were looking for during this move.

"Amanda comes in and she does everything," H. Stanley said. "All you have to do is determine what you want to take and leave all the rest."

After Kuzak met with the Judds, she determined the location would work for an estate sale and the couple had a lot of interesting items. The Judds also wanted to do very little, Kuzak said, so her team made the transition as seamless as possible.

"There's a lot of stuff in 47 years," H. Stanley said. "We finally just said, 'Hey, we have to cut all of this stuff out,' and just pick what we wanted."

He recommends starting the sorting process about three months in advance of the sale. This allowed them to go through it at their own pace, stuffing the items they wanted to keep in the garage.

Once Kuzak came into the picture, she started tagging all the items that would go into the estate sale, such as the Judds' extensive book collection and antique desk. Next, she and her team turned the home into a boutique store, arranging the items so that shoppers can see every priced item and how it related to the homeowner.

"We don't bring anything else into the home," Kuzak said, "so it's an archive of who lived there. It's core to my values that I keep each house authentic."

Through her 11 years in the business, six of which have been here in Silicon Valley, she has enjoyed seeing the area's history through the belongings of its homeowners. In this case, she especially appreciated hearing the stories straight from their owner, because many times her clients are the children of family members who no longer can make choices or are deceased. In her job, she appreciates when she can help the younger generation that has a lot going on in their life already, from finances and family to jobs and emotions.

"Most seniors want to be in control of their life situation," Kuzak said. "But some people wait too long almost, and they can't."

At an estate sale, Kuzak brings in her team of 10 to clean and stage a house in a matter of days. Her team started at the Judds' on Sept. 14, and had it ready for the first night of the sale on Sept. 17.

On the first sale night, Kuzak opened the doors to find 85 people waiting in line for the estate sale. When the clock struck 5 p.m., the first buyers rushed to the back cottage to look at the books, she said.

"Many neighbors and friends came by to find items to remember them by, including little kids," Kuzak said. "The shoppers tended to linger and enjoy the life-time collection."

Besides locals, the new homeowners also stopped by the sale. Kuzak said that the father even purchased a few of H. Stanley's books for his daughter who is going to be a writer.

"It's nice to see it come full circle," Kuzak said.

The books will join the kitchen table and a few others items that the Judds gave to the new owners as a closing gift.

Once the sale wrapped up, Kuzak's team finished clearing the house, which includes a thorough cleaning and proper disposal of any leftover items. This might include taking items to donation locations or recycling plants. After everything is squared away, she sends the homeowner the final bill and any tax-deductible information.

For the Judds, the entire estate sale happened after they had moved to Hawaii, which is exactly the way they wanted it from the beginning.

"The bottom line of our decision was life over waiting to die," H. Stanley said. "We wanted life; we wanted nature. We have already been here a couple of days, and sitting and hearing the waves, watching the kids and living life — that was the major decision for us."


Related content:

How to move from your home if you are 75 and over


This article appeared in print in the Fall Real Estate 2015 publication.

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12 people like this
Posted by Local
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2015 at 8:21 pm

Have a lovely retirement! Thanks for sharing your experience.

What about those of us who want to seriously downsize and spend part of the year somewhere else? The trouble is that it's impossible to "cash out" and keep some kind of home downsized home here. (I do not want an apartment in a center.) The problem is the taxes. Has anyone tried this?

9 people like this
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 20, 2015 at 9:34 pm

Ok, maybe someone wants to retire on an Island far away from friends and family. Cool for them but what about the people who want to downsize and stay here in their hometown?

Not everyone wants to move away, especially if, like me, they have children nearby working in the tech field.
There probably will not be a big change with older homeowners downsizing in this town until something is done about capital gains and there is something nice and affordable to move to. It's great to cash out and move far away but I think many long time home owners want to retire here.

13 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 21, 2015 at 3:12 am

eileen said ...
>> There probably will not be a big change with older homeowners downsizing in
>> this town until something is done about capital gains and there is something
>> nice and affordable to move to.

This is so true, and while it may be the driver of the scarcity of homes on the
market and the rise in prices it also knocks a lot of people either out of selling
their houses or of staying in the area.

Between federal and state taxes on the sale of a house, the money you are left
with will not even let the typical Palo Altan downsize into anything that exists in
our market or even much that is close by. Correct me if I am wrong here, but
I think that is accurate for most people who are not liquid enough to just buy
another house and rent out the old one.

The law used to be that if you sold your house within some period of time if
you re-invested the proceeds of that sale into another house you would be
able to defer or negate the taxes due on that sale.

Currently as I understand it you get a $250K deduction and taxes on everything
else, which is going to be almost everything for someone who has owned a
Palo Alto home for 40 years.

Are we missing out on a lot of development that could be done as these houses
would turn over, instead of huge high density development?

I am all for the theory of making capital gains and earned income the same and
merely dependent on the sum of both of them against the tax rate tables, but
house profit is something different, certainly something the economy and government
ought to want to support more than the silly gamble of dumping everyone's
retirement into the stock market pushing up the market so speculators can skim
off the rise in prices until everything drops back down again.

The current law keeps people in houses until a crisis and basically foments
crises by not giving people good options.

5 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 21, 2015 at 9:17 am

PAmoderate is a registered user.

Yep. Prop 13 has pretty much tied the hands of seniors looking to downsize. Amazing how it was touted as a way for seniors to keep their homes when it was passed. Too bad the unintended consequence is that it burdens them with their own property for the rest of their lives and ties them down.

Always think of the unintended consequences when you think "there outta be a law..." Remember that Los Arboles residents....

13 people like this
Posted by Tied Down
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2015 at 12:49 pm

The implementation of capital gains tax as well as loss of exemptions for people over 55 has tied us down to Palo Alto. We would like to buy a larger home in a less expensive area, one we could share with our son and his children, but we would not have enough money to buy down a new mortgage into something affordable.

At our age ( late 50s), we want to buy a house outright or have a very small mortgage we could pay off in ten years.
But the property tax increase combined with loss of profits and no exemptions for being over 55 makes it impossible.
Complicate that with the fact that so few Ametican citizens can afford our house, or qualify for a mortgage that size-- even with 50% down!

We do NOT want to sell to a foreign investor.

3 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 21, 2015 at 1:07 pm

>Yep. Prop 13 has pretty much tied the hands of seniors looking to downsize. Amazing how it was touted as a way for seniors to keep their homes when it was passed.

Prop 13 was, and is, a great law. People were able to keep their homes in Palo Alto, without getting taxed into forced sales/exile. I am one of them. Using myself as an example, my property has increased in value, and I could sell anytime I want to (btw, I don't)...but I want to have the option. In general, I agree that lower capital gains taxes would open up the market for those who are thinking of selling. With the liberals in charge, this won't happen...thus we have a cork stuck in the neck of the bottle.

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