Every week, we ask a real estate professional for their Short List, a collection of tips and recommendations on an essential topic in real estate. This week, we talked with Ryan Cook, the broker/owner of the First Class Realty Group, who shared 9 tips for success in the downsizing space.
According to the US Census Bureau, the senior population is the fastest growing segment of our population. In fact, it’s the only segment of the US population that’s growing! Working with the Silent Generation (1925–1945) and Baby Boomers (1946-1964) requires a different level of service. To get you moving in the right direction, here are 9 tips for success in the downsizing space:
- Listen: I’ve found that the first meeting with a senior client is most often about letting them get their story off their chest. Don’t expect to leave with a listing contract after the first appointment. Be prepared to have refreshments and some type of snack offered to you. I very rarely, unless asked, come with any sort of pricing information on the first appointment. Working with downsizing seniors is an evolution, not an event.
- Be Present: Let’s face it – we live in a very distracted world. While the 65+ crowd is the fastest growing segment of social media users, according to the Poynter Institute only 18% of seniors age 65 and older own a smart phone. Leave your phone in the car or simply turn it off. The senior population respects full attention. It’s your job to meet them on their level.
- Find out what type of services they will need: Many of my senior clients have been in their homes for > 25 years. There will generally be a lot of stuff to go through and the transition is very emotional. Take the time to dig deeper and find out what help they need besides just listing the home. Do they need help sorting and packing? Do they know where they’re going and how much of their stuff will actually fit in their new place? There are many moving parts and the job of an agent who serves seniors is to eliminate overwhelm so that the clients can move forward with confidence.
- Does their home need updates or modifications? Most senior clients I’ve worked with have not updated or modernized the home in over 20 years. While they’re generally in outstanding shape, today’s buyers want “turn key”. You may need to help the homeowner understand what needs to be done and what makes sense financially.
- Have a strong network of associated advisors: According to the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, only 30 percent of seniors have a completed estate plan. Don’t be afraid to ask the senior client about their plans and, if they have none, it’s your obligation to introduce your team of professional advisors. This is especially important for clients who may be moving to an independent or assisted living community. If your client does have professional advisors, get that contact information and reach out to include those advisors in the process.
- Be Prepared To Deal With Family: Of the downsizing seniors I’ve worked with, the large majority generally involved other members of the family. You may be pulled in multiple directions, yet you must remember whom your client is and remember your duty of confidentiality. If your client wants other family members involved, have your client sign something specifying what can be shared and with who.
- Be The Point Person: This is an incredibly emotional time as it is a new transition for your client. There will be a lot of work involved in helping them move forward – be the point person for that work. If there are service providers helping with packing, home maintenance, etc… be the person they call and quarterback the evolution. Don’t leave it to your client. It will seem like a lot more work yet it will make the transition much smoother.
- Update Your Paperwork: You need to consider readability of your contracts. I updated all of my contracts, based on advice from MacularSociety.org, to be minimum 14-pt Times New Roman with 1.5 sized spacings between each line. I also removed all styles (limited use of words in all capital, italic, underlines, etc) to make the text easier to distinguish.
- Have Patience: Very few of my senior clients trust today’s electronic services, such as eSigning. You will very likely need to meet them at their home or your office with paper copies of documents and they will look to you to walk them through the paperwork. The evolution will take more of your time – more face time and more voice time. Understanding that your client needs more patience in advance will help you to plan your time and/or modify your systems accordingly.
Ryan Cook is the broker/owner of the First Class Realty Group, based in Easton, MA and is a Certified Senior Housing Professional (CSHP). The First Class Realty Group’s Core Purpose is to “Improve People’s Lives Through Real Estate” and they believe in their 5 Core Values of Honesty, Integrity, Caring, Learning, and being Solutions Focused.