Gray is Sexier than Green

Posted by: Nikki Buckelew

I was doing a little research recently and what I found truly perplexed me. (Ok, first it really ticked me off and then I decided to trade up to a more energetically appealing emotion and “perplexed” seemed to work.)

The current real estate educational trend seems to be all about “Green.” I have nothing against the 'green' initiative, however, I am certainly biased and think it needs to be all about “Gray.” 

My little research project began with a call to a local Association of REALTORS® to inquire about upcoming SRES® (Senior Real Estate Specialist) courses in the area. A conversation which left my head spinning. The very helpful education coordinator informed me that they will “never do another SRES® course here again.” When I probed deeper to find out why the adamant declaration, she shared that they had hosted it once and lost “thousands of dollars” and that agents aren’t interested in it nor will they attend the course. Of course she then proceeded to tell me how "most agents aren’t making any money (we know this isn’t true) and despite Florida’s extremely high population of senior homeowners, REALTORS® just don’t seem to have an interest in the senior real estate market."


I shared my astonishment about this conversation on the LinkedIn Group for SRES® members and unfortunately it proved to only validate what the education coordinator from the board told me. A reply message came from an SRES® instructor in California who noted that he too had attempted to hold SRES® courses in his area only to have them canceled due to lack of registrations. Apparently the class requires 30 people in order to “make” and they were unable to attain the number necessary to move forward.

Now I am really becoming 'perplexed.' There are approximately 1.2 million REALTORS® in the U.S. with around 100,000 in California alone and they couldn't get 30 to show up for a class to learn more about serving seniors! The thing that put me over the edge was my combing through the NAR (National Association of REALTORS) website for the 2011 Annual Conference and Expo information. Of all the sessions offered to NAR REALTOR® members, not one (that I could find) was focused on the senior real estate market.

More than anything, the courses were centered around the “Green” trend and selling in the luxury market. There was of course your more basic courses on staging, pricing, and dealing with the shifted market as well. Despite the fact NAR endorses the SRES® designation and offered the certification course prior to the conference, no other senior real estate related courses were offered.

All of this confuses me! Is green more "sexy" than Gray? It must be... 

Has anyone heard that we have a massive age wave (or what some are calling a senior tsunami) headed right for us? What are we as an industry doing to prepare for it?

Maybe I am a bit biased. Having worked with seniors in a variety of roles for the better part of 15 years now, I have a heart for those who reach a place in their life that they need a little extra help whether emotionally or physically.

As a REALTOR® of 20 years and 5 of those being specifically dedicated to senior adults, I know first hand that a move at age 85 is NOT the same as a move at 45, 55, 65, or even 75. Of the 100's of seniors we helped move, the average age of our clients was 83. Most had lived in their current home for over 30 years and most were moving to senior housing communities so they could remain independent longer.

Naturally it isn’t all about is about one’s ability or inability to navigate the complexities of a move at any age. Our experience, however, was that seniors who had reached their 80th birthdays often found themselves with a unique set of circumstances setting them apart from their younger cohorts.

Older downsizing senior adults generally...

  • Are widowed and lack the emotional support from their spouse to which they had grown accustomed.
  • Have less physical strength and are often at higher risk for falling.
  • Lack a support network of able bodied friends who can assist with big jobs.
  • Have adult children who themselves are physically challenged or live elsewhere.
  • Do not have up to date knowledge of the housing trends and resources available to them.
  • Are prone to being scammed because they are trusting and vulnerable.
  • Experience emotional challenges related to their move and circumstances around it.
  • Do not like to lean on their adult children or “burden” other family members with their needs.
  • Are moving into a significantly smaller residence than the one they currently have.
  • Are uncertain about what senior communities can offer them or how to assess the options available.
  • Require more time and patience in order to fully understand new or complex information before making decisions.

Of course these are generalizations and there are always the exceptions to the rule. What we found, however, is that seniors in their 80’s and older (as a result of the factors noted above) needed a little “extra” in order to have a successful move or downsizing experience. They need REALTORS® who are willing AND skilled with providing that “extra” above and beyond just helping them sell their home.

Not everyone is cut out for this niche. Not all REALTORS® are willing to take the extra steps. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the REALTORS® who ARE willing are left scratching their heads as to how to find clients to whom they can offer their “extra” services. There are plenty of seniors who need the services of Senior Real Estate Professionals and there are a variety of ways to reach those clients.

As for my perplexed state...I have never been one to sit idly by, so back to work I go. My job is to find the select few REALTORS® in every city who are called to serve seniors and who have the same passion that I do for making a difference. No matter how small a group, we can make a big difference!


Senior Real Estate Professional's Mastermind Group (for agents experienced in senior real estate) Success in Seniors Real Estate (for agents new to the senior real estate niche)     For nearly two decades Nikki Buckelew has dedicated herself to bringing together her heart for seniors, her education in counseling psychology and gerontology, and her real estate sales expertise to train, educate, and empower senior adults, caregivers, and senior care professionals in effectively navigating the moving process. Using her own real estate business as a laboratory for over 5 years, Nikki created one of the country's first and most successful senior focused real estate models for mature moves. Having managed over 600 senior related real estate transactions and a team of senior move managers and sales professionals, Nikki now coaches and trains real estate agents, senior professionals, caregivers, and seniors themselves on what it takes to navigate a successful late-in-life move.


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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