Every age group has its own housing needs. Couples in their early 30s are often looking for their starter homes, and by 40 are hoping to expand into a larger home to fit a growing family. Empty nesters in their 60s often downsize to a smaller home or add a vacation home to their real estate portfolio. Nearly every group has its own purchasing opportunities — except, in many cases, the oldest group of Americans, the post-retirees in their 70s and 80s.
This particular age group is at a life stage where they’re not looking to move. Whether they downsized in their empty nest years or remained in the large family home, their houses contain a lifetime of belongings and memories. They often do not have any interest in buying yet one more home for the final period of their lives.
Meanwhile, real estate agents are often sent to visit these older individuals on the request of their adult children, who are concerned about their parents or older relatives’ safety. The home may have too many stairs, or the parent may have recently slipped and fallen in the bathroom. Sometimes older people are simply not able to keep up with cleaning and maintenance, which prompts adult children to assume that it is time for the older relative to make a move.
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Your job as a real estate agent — and your challenge — is to find a solution that works for all parties. The first step in this process is to understand your primary stakeholder; if you were contacted by an adult child on behalf of his or her parent, for example, the adult child is actually your client and will be the person expecting to work with you the most closely. These adults are members of the Sandwich Generation, serving as primary caretakers for both their own children and their aging parents. Often, they perform many basic tasks for their parents, such as grocery shopping or laundry. They are often very ready for the parent to move into a living situation in which some of these care-taking responsibilities can be alleviated.
This can be heartbreaking in many situations, especially in cases where it is clear the older relative does not want to move. There are specific options to help keep an older individual in his or her home for a longer period of time: a reverse mortgage, for example, allows retired individuals who might otherwise be living on minimal benefits to draw additional living expenses out of their home’s equity. The American Advisors Group has run a number of ads specifically targeting senior adults as ideal candidates for their AAG reverse mortgage lending service.
Another option is to update the home to fit the needs of a mobility-challenged senior. If the senior has already downsized to a smaller home, adding mobility amenities such as bathtub handrails and lever door handles will make the home extremely attractive as a resale opportunity for other retirees later on. If the home is larger and ultimately designed for an active family, you will need to ensure that the mobility amenities can be easily removed so that you can later sell the home to a younger couple.
The last option is, of course, to move the older relative(s), which means you need to have a number of tools at your disposal: a list of appropriate small apartments designed to meet the needs of older seniors, the names of several high-quality assisted living and retirement communities, even a connection to a moving company with staff who understand senior citizens’ needs.
A real estate agent wears many hats, but when you are working with older Americans, you must wear several of them at once. This group has many challenges, but by listening and asking the right questions, you can find a solution that fits everybody’s needs and leaves all of your stakeholders satisfied.