A mature niche with new needs
By Ginger Downs, RCE, CAE, IOM
Chief Executive Officer
Chicago Association of Realtors
With an increasing amount of the American population reaching their golden years, it is imperative that Realtors understand the unique needs of this home buying and selling segment. While some seniors will opt to “age in place,” or remodel their homes and stay in them, many are looking to downsize, whether that be in square footage, price or both.
One trend that has hit close to home is empty nesters buying condos in the city. Because their children are no longer living with them, they see no need to hold on to a home that accommodates more people. Because of this, one- and two-bedroom condos have been hot sellers. Consequently, the allure of city life – great restaurants, museums, theater, and other attractions – has been enough for some Baby Boomers to buy their slice of Chicago. They want to spend their retirement years enjoying life and can do so easily in our city.
Another trend is the empty nesters who have kept their houses in the suburbs, but have also bought condos or condo-hotels in the city. This type of purchase appeals to those who prefer the peace and quiet associated with living in the suburbs, but want a quick and easy vacation close to home.
While working with this population, there are several guidelines to follow to retain these clients and ensure they will give you referrals:
• Treat them as you would want to be treated. The Golden Rule applies to the golden population. Boomers do not liked to be talked to like children, and they definitely do not want to be talked to as if they are running at a slower pace and can’t keep up with the younger crowd. Treat them as equals, and they will appreciate your sincerity.
• Obtain the Seniors Real Estate Specialist Designation. Being able to place the “SRES” acronym on your business card and educating your clients about it will put you a step ahead of your competition. This designation proves you are committed to working with seniors and providing them the best service and utmost knowledge possible. Explain to your Boomer clients how you are educated about their needs and decisions, whether they are relocating across town or across the country.
• Practice excellent communication. Keeping your Boomer clients in the loop on all aspects related to their transaction will assure them they are not on the back burner and that you value them as clients. Because many seniors have lived in the same home for years, raising their children there and seeing them move on, selling is an emotional time for them. They need an expert to provide objectivity and support. A large portion of the senior population uses email and cell phones, so providing them with regular updates is a breeze.
• Emphasize independence. Very few people out there would actually want someone else to take care of them. When showing clients properties, place an emphasis on aspects that will allow them to prolong their independence. Some communities offer maintenance-free living where they will not have to worry about lawn care or snow removal, while certain condos offer hotel-like concierge services.
• Do your research. Because many Boomers were raised in conservative households, they are not typically frivolous spenders. This does not mean they will be cheap when it comes to purchasing a home, but they want to be sure they are getting a good value for their money. Understanding seniors’ spending habits will make you a better Realtor.
• Educate them about choices. While some seniors know exactly what they want, others have been out of the real estate game for so long that they do not know everything available. Conducting a needs assessment with your client and showing him the various options available for his next home will help prevent him from doubting the decision to move, and put him at ease knowing he made the best choice.
The Chicago Association of Realtors (CAR), “The Voice for Real Estate in Chicago” since 1883, represents the business interests of more than 16,500 real estate professionals in the Chicagoland area. CAR is led by a voluntary board of directors, elected by the membership, who work in partnership with a professional administrative staff.