Downsizing: How to help your older real estate clients

    Get a head start on this booming market

    Statistics suggest that soon we’ll start seeing more older clients, looking to downsize.

    A Trulia study published late last summer found that, in recent years, boomers weren’t downsizing mainly because of a “lack of affordable options” and “a shortage in starter home inventory,” according to’s Jessica Guerin.

    The market, however, is changing, presenting what just may be perfect conditions for what is being called the “Silver Tsunami.”

    In fact, in early May, Housing Wire published “The 55+ housing market is booming,” and an article about “builder confidence in this sector” reaching an all-time high.

    This year, the youngest baby boomers turn 55 and the oldest in the cohort will celebrate their 73rd birthday.

    If you want to work with boomers, understand them

    It’s a great-big generation with a 20-year spread between the youngest and the oldest. Mention Rod Stewart or McFadden & Whitehead to younger boomers and they’ll flash back to platform shoes and balls of mirrors.

    That’s stuff that is foreign to older boomers. To them, the only music worth listening to came from Bobby Darin, Frankie Avalon and, of course, Elvis.

    Then, there are those in the middle of the generation who grooved to the sounds of the Beach Boys, Beatles, Sam Cooke and the Supremes.

    There’s also a difference in how they view home ownership. The rate for Americans between the ages of 62 and 67 is three times that of those younger, age 56 to 61, according to a Fannie Mae study, citing U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

    Get to know this generation and you’ll not only have a better feel for how to market to them, but how to assist them when it’s time to sell the family home for something smaller.

    Related: Capture the Baby Boomer Market, Here’s How

    Helping them choose their next home

    Emptying their home—divvying up decades of belongings to children and friends—is a lot to think about. In fact, many older home buyers are so focused on the move that they pay far too little attention to the choice of the new home.

    Even if they’re on the younger end of the boomer generation, they’ll need to consider the future and how the home and the location will fit their needs 10 to 20 years from now.

    That’s where you come in. Now is not the time to be Mr. or Ms. Super Agreeable. If you think they’re not considering what they should be, say something.

    For instance, if their preferred location is 50 miles from the nearest hospital or urgent care facility, speak up. Though their health may be fine right now, the chances are good that it won’t be as they age.

    If they’re insisting on a multi-story home, do everything you can to dissuade them. Stairs are brutal on old knees and muscles. And, since we start losing our sense of balance as we age, stairs can also present a terrifying danger.

    Some of the things you, as their agent, should look for when showing them homes include:

    • At least one exterior entry to the home should have no steps.
    • Doorways that are wide enough to accommodate a wheel chair (at least 32 inches), or the ability to widen them.
    • Wide hallways. The National Association of Home builders suggests that, to age in place, the home’s hallways should be a minimum of 36 inches wide.
    • Lots of windows for natural light.

    Sure, there are lots of other things to consider and your clients may need to make changes in the years after moving in.

    Empathize as they empty the nest

    Baby boomers own and occupy 32 million homes. The previously-mentioned Fannie Mae study hints that your most likely downsizing client will be between the ages of 65 and 85. Again, this is a huge, diverse group of people.

    Many, however, will be leaving the home in which they raised their families; a home that is full of memories. The decision to do so must be gut-wrenching for them. Empathy will go a long way when working with these sellers.

    Remember the advantages the move presents:

    • They’ll spend less on home maintenance
    • They’ll spend less on heating and cooling the new home
    • They may end up with a smaller property tax bill, less expensive insurance and lower mortgage payments.

    These are the money-saving and therefore exciting aspects of downsizing that should be reiterated as often as possible to keep the seller looking forward.

    Help make it easier on them

    Remind your downsizing clients that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” If they’re having trouble sorting through belongings, suggest that they tackle one room at a time. Even one part of a room, such as the closet, will speed up the job.

    Another variation of the “eat-the-elephant-one-bite-at-a-time” theme would be to suggest that they start with paperwork or their collections (books, photos, vacation tchotchkes). If it’s still too overwhelming, point them at the kitchen or bathroom.

    These rooms rarely hold items of sentimental value and they’ll feel as if they’re accomplishing something when they successfully finish.

    Check in with them by phone frequently to find out how they’re getting along and to offer encouragement.

    Specializing in helping older homeowners downsize is the real estate niche of the future. Jump in now to get a head start on the competition.

    Let your downsizing clients know you’re ready to help (available in the postcard section under the Life Event Series)
    Send at least 100 Too Much House postcards from the Life Event Series to an area where you want more listings.
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    Lisa is an accomplished marketer with years of expertise in direct response marketing, digital marketing, data analytics and business development working with both B2C and B2B.