Why Use a Specialist?
Why using a Senior Specialist makes Sense.
When older adults begin taking steps to sell or buy a home, they might be better off with an agent who is "more counselor-driven than sales-driven."
That's the thinking behind a growing specialty within the real-estate business: salespeople who cater to the senior market.
The sale or purchase of a home, of course, can be trying at any age. But as people approach or begin retirement, new difficulties can emerge, including anxieties about parting with 30 years or more of memories; questions about how the transaction should fit into larger estate planning, and uncertainties about whether the next house could be, or should be, the last house.
Accordingly, such customers don't always need a hard-charging salesperson as much as they do an adviser, someone with the skills -- and perhaps most important, the patience -- to navigate what could be a lengthy passage.
Recognizing that need, real-estate companies and individual agents across the country are developing training programs that show sales staffs how to work with a market of older buyers and sellers. Does a client have a question about inheritance laws and the sale of a house? A senior specialist provides a tax attorney with the answers. Does a client, widowed and alone, need a ride to the doctor? The senior specialist pulls up to the front door. Is a client unable to make a decision about selling his or her house? The senior specialist steps back and waits -- for years, if necessary. Overcoming fear of change is a major factor.
One of the pluses of choosing a real-estate agent who focuses on older customers is that a salesperson trained in this field is likely to be more familiar with the issues -- legal, financial and emotional -- that might affect the 55-plus crowd. Less appealing, and sometimes less evident, is the fact that some agents who advertise themselves as senior specialists are, in reality, on the sales staff of a particular retirement community or other age-restricted neighborhood and are simply trying to get you to buy property in that single development.
Indeed, the first commandment in choosing a senior real-estate specialist might be: Beware of agents who market only one product. A salesperson should be willing and able to discuss a full range of housing options.
The growth in the specialty, of course, is being propelled by the nation's changing demographics. Almost 60% of Americans age 55 and older currently own their homes outright, and by the year 2010, one in five Americans will be 65 or older. Today, more than half of homeowners age 65 and older have lived in their homes at least 20 years; as such these individuals have substantial equity -- and increasingly -- a wide variety of housing options to choose from if they decide to move later in life.
In 1997,Tim Corliss created the Senior Advantage Real Estate Council, which today has about 2,200 members in the U.S. and Canada. Members receive, among other items, marketing materials, reports and newsletters written for older clients that can be customized by the real-estate agent. In 1998, Mr. Corliss introduced a certification program, the Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES), to help develop a nationwide network of real-estate agents who specialize in the 55-plus market.
During the courses, participants learn that a shift in thinking is critical to success. Instead of focusing on quick turnaround sales, for instance, realtors are asked to consider how a sale might evolve slowly over time. They learn to assemble a team of advisers -- financial planners, lawyers, accountants -- to meet older clients' particular needs. These include, among other issues, questions about taxes, inheritance laws, reverse mortgages and installment sales.