It's funny sometimes the questions I get and then when I really think about them, they make sense. Does that ever happen to you? So, here is the most recent question I received and my answer after thinking it through.
"Why are you traveling all over the country teaching and training, building a company from the ground up, and dealing with all the headaches of a new business when you could just rebuild your real estate team and make more money?"
Great question. And don't think that I haven't considered it more than once. Most days that option is still on the table and no one ever knows (including my patient and loving husband and business partner) when I will pull the trigger and ramp my team back up full speed ahead.
But for now, I have a bigger mission.
As an agent, team leader, and coach over the last 20 plus years, I have had the opportunity - using that word loosely - to refer people to real estate agents all over the country. Some are buying homes and some are selling, but the one thing they have in common is they trust my judgement and respect my choice in the agent I refer. I take the responsibility seriously and want to insure that I choose the best possible agent for the job and always do my best to match their needs with the skills, expertise, and personality of the agent I refer.
When it comes to seniors.
Sadly, my biggest frustration in making referrals over the years has been when I needed an agent who understands seniors. This type of referral is very different - special in fact. Seniors adults, especially those who are struggling with the idea of moving from a long-time cherished family home into an assisted living or other more manageable housing option, need an agent who understands, appreciates, and can navigate the complexities of this type of move. Families assisting from a distance also rely on their agent to be a surrogate child and are putting their faith in them.
Yes, I know, there are thousands of agents across the country who presumably have training in working with seniors, however, my experience of talking with them caused me great doubt. I have spoken with literally hundreds of these agents touting their credentials and proudly adding a two day workshop to their resume. After a few minutes of interviewing them, however, it becomes glaringly clear that they have no clue about senior housing options, downsizing services, estate liquidation, the challenges older seniors face, or the process of moving late in life. False advertising? Not really.
I like to give people the benefit of the doubt.
It isn't that I think these agents are trying to falsely advertise. They just don't know what they don't know. Having assisted hundreds of clients with late in life moves (our average client was in their mid 80's) I know what kind of skill set it takes and what to look for in an agent. This is especially true if the client has minimal or no local family support.
Unfortunately the training models for teaching real estate agents how to best serve seniors haven't been updated in years. They are remedial at best and only skim the surface of the true issues facing our seniors today. The instructors mean well and many are very well qualified to teach the material, but once the material is presented, there is no follow up to insure the student actually understands and is incorporating their learning into their daily practices. Most are not.
Wanted: More than a few good men and women.
The good news is that there is a percentage of the real estate agents seeking training and education in working with seniors that TRULY want to be successful at it and build their practice around it. They get it. They have a passion for it. Their heart is pulling them in that direction and they are seeking a way to marry their love for service with their desire to have a successful business.
This is where we come in. It is those men and women that we are seeking. The ones who KNOW that this is what they were meant to do. Real estate professionals who are willing to go above and beyond the 2 day workshop environment and do whatever it takes to master the skills necessary to become a specialist in working with seniors. I am not talking about getting a degree in gerontology - although that's not a bad idea either - what I am really talking about is focus and commitment - becoming a specialist.
Our goal at the Seniors Real Estate Institute over the coming years is to identify, train, and develop Certified Senior Housing Professionals in every city across the country. When I get a call for a referral, I want to be able to pick up the phone and call the best of the best in that area and KNOW that they are equipped and willing to serve the client at the highest level.
When you consider the massive numbers of senior adults who will be making changes in their housing situations in the next decade, you have to also consider whether or not our real estate communities are equipped to handle it. They are not. I can assure you. Even if we trained 10 agents in each metropolitan area who operated at maximum capacity it wouldn't be enough. The numbers are staggering.
Back from my bunny trail.
To answer the original question: Why are you traveling all over the country teaching and training, building a company from the ground up, and dealing with all the headaches of a new business when you could just rebuild your real estate team in Austin and make more money?
The answer: It's my passion - my calling. I have a heartfelt commitment to insuring that each and every senior across the country has the best possible experience when making a late in life move. I can make a small difference in my own back yard, or I can work with others who share my passion and make a big difference in the lives of many.
|Nikki Buckelew is the Founder and CEO of the Seniors Real Estate Institute and administrator for the Certified Senior Housing Professional® (CSHP) designation. A veteran REALTOR® of over two decades, she holds a bachelor’s degree in gerontology and a master’s degree in counseling psychology. As a professional speaker, coach, and trainer, Nikki is committed to empowering, equipping, and educating real estate sales and senior housing professionals seeking to better serve the mature market segment.