by Nikki Buckelew
This blog post was inspired by a recent experience in our own real estate practice. As you know, we do our best to help shorten the learning curve for you by sharing the "real life stuff" that happens in the day to day lives of our members -- good, bad, and ugly!
Someone mentioned to me recently that maybe I had “overstepped my bounds” as a real estate agent when I questioned as to why a client chose a particular senior living community over others. "You are just a real estate agent," the woman says.
As it began, our client tells us that she has been having trouble eating right, getting around, and staying active, and that her daughter was having to take off work regularly to transport her to the doctor. She had chosen, however, to move to an independent living community offering none of these services (meals, transportation, scheduled outings, security, etc.).
Naturally, I wanted to know if she or her daughter were aware of or had considered other options.
Let's be clear about what our team at OKC Mature Moves considers as our professional services boundaries as Certified Senior Housing Professionals (and as human beings for that matter). We are NOT typical real estate agents only assessing how we can get a home sold or purchased. We are NOT typical sales people only thinking about how to get the fastest commission check. And we are certainly NOT "just real estate agents."
We are MORE than that!
"Why in the world would you go to
the trouble of getting degrees in the aging services and counseling
fields when you have no intention of getting out of the real estate
industry?” they ask. Oh, what would they say if they knew that I
am also now half way through pursuing my PhD in Psychology with
emphases on geropsychology and environmental gerontology?
The way that we (Chris and I both) see
our roles is first as educators. It is our job to first insure that
our clients and the community-at-large is well-informed, equipped,
and empowered to make good choices. As a matter of fact, our first
real estate team — the one we sold back in 2005 — was called the
Clear Choice Team because it was our intention to insure that all the
parties we represented were in fact making “clear choices” as
they entered into a real estate sales transaction.
We took that mantra a step further as we added additional services for our elder clients and made it our mission to insure that our clients were fully informed, adequately equipped, and fully educated before they made decisions about where, when, and how their move would take place.
Knowledge is power. Sales people know
this; that is why those who lack integrity do their best to keep
clients in the dark so they can manipulate them. As long as people
are uneducated, they are easily sold and rarely question the fine
print. Our goal is just the opposite. We
believe that the more people know, the better decisions they will
make for themselves and the more empowered they will be in the next
chapter of their lives. This is true for caregivers, family members,
and most importantly, our elders who are doing their best to navigate
the decision making process in a world where nothing seems to be
"clear cut” and everybody seems to have a hidden agenda.
Let’s be honest here: Being educated
and knowledgeable about something does not necessarily mean that you
have the skill or ability to get the outcome you desire. Sometimes
the thing that is lacking isn’t knowledge — it’s courage.
In my counseling experience, the number one area that clients seemed to struggle with as they made major life decisions in their later years was having the courage to ask for what they wanted and then stick to their guns until they got it. This is especially true for women who were brought up in a world where men were in charge and they, as females, were not encouraged to assert their own opinions or desires.
Our experience in real estate is no
different. Many of our clients (not all) are widows who feel
completely lost because they have never been in a position of
authority or in the decision making role. We frequently hear our
clients say, “My husband handled all of these things.” When this
is said, I watch the body language and it becomes quite evident that
they are scared of and overwhelmed by the tasks at hand.
As advocates, our job is to first insure that the client is being treated fairly and honestly in all things.
This also means questioning things that we are not sure about, such to verify that the client is well-informed and making confident and empowered decisions. Should we find that someone is being bullied, coerced, or manipulated into making a decision, we bring this fact to the forefront with all parties involved. Naturally, this can cause ruffled feathers, especially when we enlighten people that a salesperson things they have already "sold" on a product or service.
Truthfully, it isn't usually overt action causing people to make ill-advised decisions, it is most often the lack of knowledge.
Our other responsibility as advocates
is to support and recommend those things which we believe may be
beneficial to our clients. Rather than sitting back on our laurels or
just doing our “job,” we assess the entire situation and make
recommendations, offer solutions, and ask questions. Because we are
uniquely educated in the issues of aging and caregiving, as well as
moving, senior living, estate liquidation, and selling or buying
property, we have the ability to assess the situation from a more
comprehensive approach. Ultimately, all decisions are made by the
client, as they should be.
The fact is, however, that if we have
done our job effectively as educators, our clients know what is right
for them and feel confident in their decisions. Advocacy then becomes
easy — it’s about helping them get what they want and under the
terms that best suit their goals, desires, and intended outcomes.
Real estate professionals
Our first two roles as educators and
advocates really have little to do with our vocation. These are more
about being good human beings — loving, caring, and serving.
While we don’t really earn any income directly from being educators or advocates for our clients, what we do earn is respect, trust, and the privilege of assisting them with the sale of their homes, businesses, and other property. It is only through this role that we make money.
We don’t take kick-backs from
referral partners and we don’t ask for (or accept) placement fees
from senior living or retirement communities. To do so would muddy
the water related to our advocacy role. By staying neutral, we remove
any question as to where our loyalties stand.
In our role as real estate agents, we
are masterful negotiators and project managers. Every single day we
are managing and facilitating transactions involving multiple parties
who are both directly and indirectly related to the transaction. Most
real estate agents only concern themselves with the actual sale
itself, limiting their attention to real estate sales-related issues.
Our perspective is much broader, as we assist in facilitating the
pre-move, move, and post-move process, as well as the real estate
transaction and the estate liquidation.
It’s about more than selling or
buying a home
Our roles as educators and advocates
are about who we are. Real estate sales is simply a vehicle that
allows us to serve in those capacities and in a way that is
frequently absent from most real estate related encounters.
We will happily provide hundreds upon hundreds of names of people who know us and who know that we are about doing what is right — even when no one is watching. This is especially true when we are serving one of the most admirable and honored members of our community - our elders.
Nothing gives us more
joy than to empower, educate and serve the needs of our elder
Clients' needs and goals come first and the commission is secondary. If we didn’t get paid to do what we do, we probably couldn’t do it, but the fact is this: The money we receive serves to pay our bills and affords us a nice life, but the relationships we form and the appreciation we receive is what motivates us and gets us up every morning.
As a Certified Senior Housing Professional (CSHP)...
WHAT ARE YOU
WHAT ARE YOU NOT?
Ion Chibzii - Wikimedia Commons
"Angry Penguin". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
|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.