Don't Be Just Another Agent When Calling on Senior Communities

Posted by: Nikki Buckelew

Don’t Be “Just Another Agent” When Calling On Senior Communities

As I have interviewed marketing and sales reps from senior communities across the country,  there seems to be a common theme regarding frustrations about dealing with the real estate sales community. Although you personally may not be guilty of any of the infractions listed below, you may find that you have to overcome the negative impressions left by other well-intended agents who have come before you. Here are the top 5: 

1. Ignorance about senior living options 

Senior living options are constantly changing and there are more now than ever before in history. Even senior living communities under the same brand (i.e. Brookdale, Legends, etc.) are not all the same -- each operates a little differently and has it's own personality and feel. “Real estate agents say they specialize in working with seniors, but they don't even have basic knowledge about the various levels of care offered by different types of communities."

2. Overpricing homes

When seniors are ready to make a move to a community, they often have a window of time in which they need to move. There may be a specific unit that they have chosen that can only be held for a certain timeframe or more importantly, they qualify based on health as long as nothing significant changes (stroke, broken hip, other medical diagnosis) before the move in date. If the home is overpriced and sits on the market too long, they may miss the window of opportunity and be forced to choose a less favorable option. “The senior most often accepts the advice of their agent and prices the home according to their recommendations. If the agent isn't able to move the home, the resident can change their mind.”

3. Not understanding the emotional move

Seniors make two moves: a physical move AND an emotional move. REALTORS usually handle the logistics of a home sale pretty well, but sometimes they miss the signs that a senior may be challenged emotionally with their transition. The signs show up in a variety of ways from resisting showings to wanting to overprice the home. They may seem needy or particularly moody. These signs are often just ways of “buying time” to think through whether or not the move is something they want or possibly to grieve the perceived loss of their family home. “When shared with the community representative, family members, and addressed directly with the client, most seniors will resolve their concerns and move forward. When left to deal with it on their own, they may experience undo stress, anxiety, depression, and often a change of heart about moving all together.”

4. Off-handed comments without thinking

When an older adult decides to make a move to a senior community, it doesn’t happen overnight. They have often spent a significant period of time considering their move. When safety or health concerns are involved, the family is frequently involved in the decision making and have lovingly encouraged the move as well. What the client needs during the transition is support and affirmation that they are making the right decision. “I had a REALTOR once who said to a client, ‘Why are you moving to that old folks home when you are so young?’ and that was all that was needed for the resident to say, ‘no way. I’m not old and I am not moving to an old folks home.’” The agent meant no harm and was probably attempting a compliment, however, without knowing it and in one comment, totally reversed the work that had been done.

5. Taking without giving

When agents call on senior communities they often expect to receive referrals from the marketing and sales representatives without having offered anything in return. “REALTORS are always asking us for referrals, but they never seem to refer anyone to us.” 


5 Tips for building strong Senior Community relationships:

  1. Practice the law of reciprocity. Give something of value without expectation of something in return.

  2. Understand the senior adult homeowner and their most common challenges.

  3. Communicate with the community frequently and work as a team.

  4. Price homes to sell by learning to communicate pricing effectively to senior homeowners.

  5. Always affirm and support the client for making a tough decision. Empower them to do what they believe is in their best interest.

What are you doing to equip yourself to better serve senior clients? 


Photo courtesy of: Steven Depolo


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. 

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