Does Selling House Affect Eligibility for Assisted Living?

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It's common to sell a home to finance care.

It’s common to sell a home to finance care.

Q. I’m a realtor who’s listing a client’s home. She is on Social Security and is moving into assisted-living housing. Will the proceeds from the sale of her home affect her eligibility for housing, which is based on her income? [Question and answer courtesy of Kaiser Health News]

A. This is an unusual question because assisted-living facilities typically do not have special eligibility criteria for low-income residents, experts say.

In general, assisted living is privately funded, paid for by people with their Social Security benefits and other income, supplemented when necessary by other resources.

“It’s common to sell your home to finance your care,” says Maribeth Bersani, senior vice president of public policy at the Assisted Living Federation of America, a trade group.

Assisted-living facilities enable people who need help with daily activities like bathing or eating to remain in a residential setting rather than a nursing home. The average monthly cost for a private one-bedroom apartment was just over $3,000 in 2009, according to ALFA.

However, some assisted-living facilities accept a certain number of low-income people who meet income and/or asset standards and could not afford the regular fees, says Bonnie Burns, a consultant for California Health Advocates, a Medicare advocacy organization.  It appears that this facility may be one of them, she says.

If that’s the case, it is possible, according to Burns, that this homeowner would be ineligible for housing if the proceeds from the sale push her beyond the income or asset limits set by the facility.

“It depends on how the assisted living facility evaluates her income and assets,” she says.

This article was produced by Kaiser Health News with support from The SCAN Foundation.