“Always hear others out and remain open minded; the day you think you know everything is the day you have the most to learn”
- A.J. Darkholme
As retirement inches closer, it is important to consider your living situation and what your most desired outcome will look like once you are in your golden years. In many cases, this means eventually making a transition from your house to a more conducive senior living arrangement. Whether it's a result of simply choosing a more convenient lifestyle or a necessity in order to have access to effective healthcare.
Jules Hicks and her mother, Lorie Galloway, started Aunt Ida's House with the desire to help families with this transition because they have experienced, first-hand, how hard it is. Jules wanted to alleviate some of that stress and reduce the time it takes to get their senior loved one into care.
Aunt Ida's House's mission is "To help families solve one of their biggest challenges in the journey to senior care by offering an easier, less stressful way to sell mom's (or dad's) house without cleaning it up, cleaning it out or paying realtor fees. We purchase senior homes outright, in as-is condition so families can close within weeks instead of months and get mom or dad the care they need."
In this conversation, Jules, co-founder of Aunt Ida's House, joins Eric Blake to discuss their process of buying houses for cash, conducting thorough inspections, and working with contractors to prepare the homes for the market. She also shares a heartwarming story of a family they were able to help and how it inspired her passion in this field.
Eric Blake - Welcome to another episode of the Simply Retirement podcast, where our focus is supporting women throughout the retirement journey. I’m your host, Eric Blake, Certified Financial Planner and founder of Blake Wealth Management. Today I'm joined by a very special guest, the co-founder of Aunt Ida's House. Aunt Ida’s House helps seniors eliminate the stress of selling their home. Joining me today is Jules Hicks. Jules, welcome to the Simply Retirement podcast.
Jules Hicks - Hey, thanks so much. Just really glad to be here.
Eric Blake - Excellent. I'm glad to have you here as well. Let's start there if you don't mind. Tell me how Aunt Ida’s House helps seniors eliminate the stress of selling a home.
Jules Hicks - We help seniors and their families during the transition from their home into a community, whether it's assisted living, memory care, or skilled nursing. A lot of times those families are in crisis mode. They need to move very quickly. They don't have the time or the capacity to get a house ready to put on the market in a traditional house-selling experience. What Aunt Ida's House does is come in and evaluate the house. We pull together offers for them. We give them three different offers and three different scenarios. And then we work with them on getting to the closing table. If we buy it for cash, they can close. We can close within a couple of weeks. They can unlock that equity in the home and use it for care. That's our main bread and butter. We help those families that are in need and in crisis mode and who need to move very quickly.
The Origin Story of Aunt Ida’s House
Eric Blake – Very good. I know I want to get into some of the specifics about how you go about doing that, some of the details to help our listeners, but I’ve heard your origin story and how you got into this business, and I would love for you to share that with the audience because I think it’s a great story.
Jules Hicks – Absolutely. My mom and I have wanted to go into business together for years, but we weren’t quite sure what that would look like. We wanted to go into real estate, but we didn’t quite know where that would take us. And if you’ve looked into real estate, you know there are hundreds of different avenues to follow. She saw a speaker at one of the real estate conferences talking about residential assisted living, specifically how to build a residential assisted living home to support seniors who can no longer live at home. And she said, ‘Oh, this is great.’ She actually wanted to build a place for herself and my stepdad to be, and she thought she would build it out in the country. ‘Don’t want to be in town. I want to have longhorns out in the pasture and build really nice, beautiful homes out in the country.’ That’s where we started, and during the research, we found that we were going to have to help families with their houses and the stuff in their houses.
We didn’t know how we were going to do that, so we said, ‘We’ll put a pin in it, we’ll get to this.’ And we kept going further down the path, building our business plan, pulling together financials, and we saw that there was a webinar about how a company can be made to support what we’d put a pin in, how you can help families by buying their houses and helping them with their stuff so they can move into communities quicker. And we said, ‘Great, let’s go watch it.’ And after we did, I said, ‘Oh Mom, this is it. This is where we need to go.’ We decided to pause our work on building a community because we don’t have a care background. And as you know, in the senior living industry, you need to really do the care part extremely well. You’re holding these people’s lives in your hands, and you need to take care of them.
My mom’s a business owner, and I’ve been in marketing and operations for years, in telecommunications. We don’t have a care background. So we said, ‘Okay, we’re going to pause because we want to make sure that part is done really, really well.’ We found this business model and learned how to talk with families, how to build up connections with folks like you and be a resource for families. When we saw that and went through the training, we decided to pause all forward motion on the community and go full bore with Aunt Ida’s House and build this business. It supported our three efforts: going into business together, being part of senior living, and being in real estate. We do it right, and we’re a resource for families.
At the time my mom was going through the process of being a power of attorney for her parents. Both of us were involved in that, as well as the rest of our family. And that’s hard. You don’t know until you’re in it. We wanted to be a better resource. We want to directly, positively impact families who are in that transition period, because it’s really hard to move out of that house and into a community. That’s where we started to really build our business, and our ‘why’ behind it is that we want to make it better for families in that transition because we know. We’ve been there. It’s hard.
Eric Blake - One of the questions I get a lot with my wife being very involved in our business is, ‘What is it like to work with your wife? I'm going to ask you a similar question. What’s it like being in business with your mother?
Jules Hicks – It’s great fun. We have to be careful to not just carry on conversations about things outside of the business. I say, ‘Oh no, we have an agenda. We have things we need to do. She and I can talk on the phone and say, ‘Oh, I need to go,’ and ten minutes later, we’re still talking. You have to set up some guardrails to make sure you're not stepping on somebody else's toes. A lot of my background is corporate, and she’s been an entrepreneur and a business owner for 20 years. We both had to make sure that we're not stepping on each other's toes. Early on we figured that out, the importance of sticking to the agenda in our conversations. We have to think about that every day. It’s hard to keep on track, but we enjoy working together.
Reaching out for Help
Eric Blake - Excellent. One of the things I see a lot is women who are early in their retirement years, maybe they're in their 60s and their parents in their 80s. They’ll have some level of responsibility, and some will be the sole source of support for their parents. Who normally reaches out to you? Who gets in contact with you first? When a situation like this arises where somebody needs to sell a house, how does that connection get made?
Jules Hicks - We have some seniors that are on their own journey. Either they don't have any family, or they’re estranged from their family, or they don't want to bother their children. We always ask whether there’s anybody else who needs to help with this decision as we move forward, because we don't want to get further down the line and a family member come in and creates havoc or confuses the situation. Our goal is to make it less stressful for a senior moving out of their home. Sometimes it’s difficult to find the decision maker. But we do ask the question and most of the time we get the decision maker right then. But it's about 50/50. We have some families that are proactive and doing the research for themselves, or we have daughters or sons, the responsible child, the adult responsible child in charge of helping their parents.
Traditional Home Sales vs. The Aunt Ida’s House Process
Eric Blake - When most people think about selling a home, their first thought is, ‘I've got to reach out to a real estate agent.’ Can you walk through the differences? How does this approach differ from the traditional methods of selling a house, contacting a real estate agent, putting out the signs, all that kind of good stuff? How does that differ from what you do?
Jules Hicks - Great question. We buy the houses ourselves. A realtor helps you find a buyer. Aunt Ida’s House buys the house, and we can move quickly. I don't need additional inspections of the house. We come in, we take pictures, we look at the plumbing, we look at the electrical, we look at the roof. We look at all the major things of the house, and we have contractors who can help us get the house ready for the next family. They work with real estate professionals and real estate investors.
If you get down to the brass tacks of it, these contractors like working with us because we continually bring them new business. They give us a better discount, so we can get the house ready for the market much quicker than a regular person, which is good because we're the ones taking the risk. You don't know what's behind drywall. You don't know what's underneath the foundation. You don't know if you’re going to find mold. If you have a house inspection, some of those houses won't pass, and you can't get a traditional loan. We're buying the house for cash. We don't need a loan. We don't have to go through that inspection process, which can take about 30 days, and we're not going to come back and say, ‘We need you to concede some money back to us because this, this, this and this.’ We say, ‘Here's what the house looks like, here’s how we’ll prepare the house for the next family, and here are the different offers. We walk them through everything. We also give them a comparative market analysis so they know what other houses nearby are selling for, and what they look like. Have they been fully redone? Do houses that have been fully redone have granite countertops or are they putting in a different level of countertop. It just depends on the market, and it’s kind of a long, drawn-out process. We buy for cash. We buy very quickly. You don't have to have multiple people traipsing through your house, and we can close without further inspections.
Eric Blake - What do those steps look like? Let's say somebody calls you up and says, ‘Hey, we really need your help. We need to get this done in a reasonably quick amount of time. We're moving into a senior living facility, or we're going through an estate settlement process.’ They say, ‘This is the direction we want to go. What are maybe the 3-to-5 key steps and the time frame?
Jules Hicks – We’ll come out to the house and do a walk-through — I call it a house tour. We take pictures of the ceilings, the floors, the plumbing, all the interior and exterior. We have software that we use to help us calculate how much is involved. If the water heater needs to be replaced, this is how much it will cost. Does the HVAC need to be replaced? How big of a house is it? Is it two story? Is it single story? The house visit takes about an hour to two hours and covers all that. Depending upon the questions we get from the family, we estimate about two hours that we're there, including conversation. We walk the family through the offer and the market analysis if they want to know. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.
Eric Blake - So they could have an offer within a couple of hours.
Jules Hicks - Absolutely. If they’re ready to go, we have the contract there, they can sign it and then we send it off to title. Then we get into more of what people are used to. Title does all the research, makes sure there are no liens against the house, no additional things that they don't know about. Some crazy things have popped up. Once title says it’s okay, we close — the close is the same as with a realtor, but the difference is, you're handing the keys to us, and we go in and start the process of getting the house ready immediately. Clean it out, go through rehab, and get it ready for the market, which takes about three to four months. Once we've closed with that family, they’re done. They can carry on and take care of their loved one.
Eric Blake -What is the quickest you've been able to do that? From ‘come look at the house to ‘yes we’d like to move forward’ to offer, to closing. What's do the quickest that you've completed that process?
Jules Hicks - Three weeks. It's usually about 30 to 45 days, but we did one fairly quickly. Everybody was ready to go, and everything was signed right then.
Expecting the Unexpected
Eric Blake -From a seller’s perspective, what factors usually play a role in determining the cash offer that they're going to receive? Are there any specific aspects that you're looking at that may come as a surprise when people are looking at trying to go through this process?
Jules Hicks - We live in Dallas-Fort Worth, and foundations are always a thing. We don't have basements here. We have this lovely dirt, with a lot of clay. It moves constantly. There are foundation issues all the time, and sometimes people don't know how much of an issue it is. We assume that all the houses we visit will need some sort of foundation repair, and most people don't know that when you change the foundation, the plumbing that's included in that foundation also needs to be fixed. Foundation and plumbing are usually big surprises.
Eric Blake - I think our foundation has shifted since we've had this conversation.
Jules Hicks -The other big one is the mechanicals. Do they need to replace the breaker box? Is it aluminum wiring? We're working with families who have stayed in this home for 20, 30, 50 years, and they haven't gone through those continual updates. On the older homes, you have to make sure the house is up to new city codes, so we might have to replace the breaker box. And windows, a lot of these older homes, nobody replaced the windows. Those are the things that catch people off guard. They can see the roof. They know if there's a leak, sometimes they can visibly see the roof. They know if their HVAC isn't working, because it doesn't cool the house or it doesn't heat the house. But it's those ones behind the scenes, the foundation and the mechanicals that will catch them off guard.
Eric Blake - As we prepare to wrap up, this is the question I told you I wasn't going to share in advance. Are you ready?
Jules Hicks - Yes.
Eric Blake - Would you mind sharing a real-life example? No names, but a scenario where you truly felt like you made a difference in the lives of a family?
Jules Hicks – Yes. They were one of my earlier families. They lived out-of-state and they had two adult children, one in Missouri and the other one in Houston. The one in Missouri is the one responsible for coming back and getting the house ready. They had a couple of different things happen with Mom, and she was in a care community. Dad passed away around the same time. That's really hard on the family, and they didn't want to deal with the house, but they had to keep coming back every couple of weekends to filter through the house. ‘What are we going to do with it? We need to keep it up. The yard needs to be mowed, electrical needs to stay on.’ They were tired. They were done.
Until you get past that, it's hard to fully mourn, to fully go through that grieving process if you're having to do this and that thing to get the house ready. You can't fully grieve the loss of your parents. And we were able to help them. He said, ‘I’m so glad we found you guys and that we don't have to think about it anymore.
Now when they come back in town, they don't have to come to this house. They get to go see their mother and grandmother instead of having to go look at a house and take care of something that nobody can do anything with. They get to take care of the matriarch of their family, and that brings peace of mind.
That was one of my favorite families that we've helped because they were so done, and we were able to help them.
Eric Blake -It's an amazing story. Jules, I really appreciate you joining us. How can our audience connect with you or learn more about you and the services that you offer through Aunt Ida’s House?
Jules Hicks - Great question. We’re on the web, as most businesses are. We’re at AuntIdashouse.Com. We also have a Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn page. People can find us there.
Eric Blake - Thank you so much for joining us today, Jules. Please reach out to Jules Hicks and Aunt Ida's House if you have any questions or would like more information about how she can help you and your family.
If you want to ensure that you are on the right track to retirement and living retirement on your terms, send us a note! Or, check out the episode “The Simply Retirement Roadmap™ Process” and get your own personalized Simply Retirement Roadmap™ here:
Content here is for illustrative purposes and general information only. It is not legal, tax, or individualized financial advice; nor is it a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any specific security, or engage in any specific trading strategy.
All investing involves risk including loss of principal. Results will vary. Past performance is no indication of future results or success. Market conditions change continuously.
Information here is provided, in part, by third-party sources. These sources are generally deemed to be reliable; however, neither Blake Wealth Management, nor RFG Advisory guarantee the accuracy of third-party sources. The views expressed here are those of Blake Wealth Management. They do not necessarily represent those of RFG Advisory, their employees, or their clients.
This commentary should not be regarded as a description of advisory services provided by Blake Wealth Management or RFG Advisory, or performance returns of any client. The views reflected in the commentary are subject to change at any time without notice.