With adults over the age of 50 representing nearly a quarter of the U.S. population, more and more realtors find themselves working with older Americans, either in the selling or buying process…or both. While being over 50 certainly doesn’t represent being “old,” as individuals start to creep towards their 60s and 70s, they begin to view things differently, including homeownership and what it is they’re looking for in that place they will call “home” during their golden years.
Indeed, for older adults, “home” can mean several different things. For some, there will be little or no change in the status quo. Many are happy with where and how they live now and are intent on keeping things the same. Some will look to downsize. Others will look for a place with less maintenance. Some will leave their current home in search of a place that provides them with a little more assistance, perhaps out of necessity or maybe just because that’s what they want. Some will simply want to move closer to the kids or grandkids.
So, if you’re working with older clients, you might be faced with a variety of scenarios, and it’s important to understand that each situation is a little bit different. The chances are that when these clients come to you, they’ll have some idea of what they want, but it’s still your duty as a realtor to assist them and guide them in a positive direction.
Sit Down and Talk
Just as you should with a client of any age, take time during your first meeting to have a frank discussion about where your older clients are headed as far as home ownership is concerned.
Are they looking to sell their current home and buy something else? Then perhaps you can ask them about their lifestyle and help them determine what might be the next best step for them. Are they active, or are they suffering from health concerns? How old are they? 55? 65? Where do they plan to be in 10 years?
All of the answers to the above questions and more will allow you to move in the right direction and to make purchase suggestions that make sense for their personalities and lifestyle. This also gives you a chance to review the plans they may already have in their head and make suggestions that might work even better for them.
To Downsize…or Not to Downsize?
Most people – including real estate agents – might automatically assume that their older clients are finished with their larger family homes and are ready to move to a townhouse or condo, purging their belongings along the way.
That’s not necessarily true. Many older Americans love their larger homes. Such a structure allows them to host huge family parties and invite lots of friends over for dinner as well as live in the style to which they are accustomed. So, while they may be looking to move, many couples definitely aren’t looking for smaller.
Generally, what they seek is a home with less maintenance, so perhaps a single house in a development where homeowner’s association dues include lawn cutting, gardening, and other exterior maintenance is the right choice for them, for example. That eliminates many of the duties that may be getter harder to perform as the homeowner ages.
Others will indeed want to go smaller, which presents another set of challenges, including physically getting rid of items they own. Be prepared to make some suggestions about this and perhaps even provide recommendations for companies that help with garage sales, clear out the junk, and so forth.
Up and Down
Another reason older singles or couples need to move is that the layout of their home no longer works for them. As we age, it gets harder to navigate steps, especially several times a day, so – quite often – retirees are hoping to move to a ranch home or anything else where stair climbing is left to a minimum.
So, ascertain if they are looking for homes where perhaps the master bedroom is on the same floor as the living areas or one where they don’t have to go upstairs or downstairs to do the laundry. Ease of mobility is super important for older Americans purchasing a home, so keep that in mind when booking homes for viewing. Even if the client is in good shape now, it’s hard to predict whether or not in ten years, he or she will have arthritis or some other disorder that limits his movement.
Sometimes it’s hard to admit potential future shortcomings when the client hasn’t quite reached that age where he or she slows down, but it doesn’t hurt to gently suggest homes that would best accommodate them in their later years.
The Right Neighborhood
Choosing the perfect location is always key, but especially for seniors.
Ask them what they’re looking for as far as recreational activities and amenities are concerned. If they don’t have or want a pool in their own back yard, are they looking for a development that includes a community pool and hot tub perhaps? How about tennis courts and maybe a community center where they can gather with others? That will be ideal for many, but there are those who aren’t the “community” type that won’t be interested in such amenities. Putting them in such a development would be a waste of money and resources.
What else is your client searching for as part of the ideal location? Do they wish to be close to shopping, doctor’s offices, hospitals, banks, etc.? How about public transportation? Are they looking for sidewalks or trails for walking, jogging, or cycling? Do they enjoy having a park nearby for walking their dog?
All of these are considerations that make a neighborhood right or wrong for your home buyer. Make sure you discuss these particulars.
It Won’t be Easy
If you’ve been a son or daughter to parents that sold a lifelong family home in order to live elsewhere in their golden years, you know what an emotional chore that can be. When a house is full of memories, letting it go is difficult, even when the seller knows it’s the right thing to do.
So if your senior clients seem more difficult than usual, pickier than the average seller/buyer, and rather indecisive, understand that a lot of it has to do with unspoken emotions. Be patient and be available to do a little extra hand-holding. This move is likely to be their most challenging yet, but you can help pave the path to a smooth transition.