Not all realtors have the know-how required when assisting seniors in downsizing or relocating.
By Will Thrift
Most people consider themselves familiar with the role that a residential real estate agent plays in the buying and selling of homes — representing clients, navigating sales transactions, holding open houses, coordinating home inspections, etc. — and seeing everything through to the closing table. But any seasoned agent will tell you that every deal is different. People and their circumstances are different, and agents need to be agile and able to adapt to each transaction.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recognizes that the real estate needs of the senior community (a growing population generally defined as anyone over the age of 50) often involve unique and distinct circumstances that require a real estate agent to identify those needs and implement solutions to achieve the best outcome for all parties involved. These needs also may differ in each generational demographic group. So, NAR created a curriculum and certification for agents to become Senior Real Estate Specialists (SRES).
Most real estate agents are attuned to their local markets and conduct their business with the goal of getting to the closing table — making a sale. But SRES agents see things in a slightly different light. For instance, sometimes the best solution for a senior may be not selling the home where they’ve lived for many years. Maybe the best solution for them is to retrofit their current home to be able to age in place. SRES agents are trained to identify a variety of needs associated with the senior community and are prepared to refer seniors to others with senior living experience to ensure that those needs are met.
Good agents have long-term clients who often work with them over the years in the buying and selling of homes. SRES agents are trained to prepare their clients for upcoming life stages. This may involve a referral to a retirement counselor or providing information about active senior communities, either locally or close to far-away relatives. The SRES agent sees the value in looking ahead and recognizing the specific needs of each client.
As people age, they often become more dependent on family in making important life decisions. “Downsizing” is an important part of transitioning to a new environment, and it can often be a daunting task. The SRES agent recognizes that it may be necessary to include a client’s family members when making decisions about what belongings to keep, store, give away or simply discard. SRES agents maintain a referral list for organizations that will help with this delicate and often highly emotional process.
What if it’s best for a client to stay in place instead of selling and moving right away? SRES agents build referral lists and can refer a contractor to retrofit a home – such as widening doorways, installing ramps, lifts and grab bars — to optimize safety and access.
When it’s the best time for clients to transition from home, the SRES agent considers the activities of daily living (ADLs) — essentials such as bathing, dressing or eating – to find the best living solution. Perhaps the needs require a relative to offer what’s known as a “granny flat” or “in-law suite” in order for the client to be close to family. There are also specific housing options ranging from senior apartments to all-inclusive care communities. The SRES agent is equipped to make referrals based upon their client’s individual needs.
Certified SRES agents don’t simply manage transactions to closing. They examine their senior clients’ needs closely and are prepared to suggest a variety of solutions based upon those needs. But they don’t do it alone. Integrating with others in the senior living industry, the SRES agent becomes an essential hub of support, often when it’s needed most.