By Brenda W. Casserly, President & COO, ERA Franchise Systems, Inc.
Realtors® cannot ignore the impact that seniors are having on the business of real estate. Activity in the senior segment of the market is steadily increasing due to demographic shifts that have put a higher concentration of the U.S. population in an older age bracket.
As a real estate professional, there's a lot that I find exciting about the senior market. First of all, it is big, and it is growing. According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the number of households in the U.S. headed by someone between the ages of 55 and 64 in the market for a home was about one million in 2001. NAHB projects that figure to grow to approximately 1.2 million households in 2006. One forecast projects the number of baby boomers age 65 and over to increase nearly 80 percent during the next two decades.
Another attribute that distinguishes the senior market is the broad range of motives for buying or selling a home. Many seniors wish to sell their homes because their family has grown and they are now seeking a low-maintenance property that frees them up to enjoy a more leisurely lifestyle. Selling a primary residence or a vacation property may free up equity that can be applied toward retirement. The changing interests and capabilities of seniors also influence the need for proximity to transportation, health services, shopping and other activities.
Success in servicing the wide-ranging needs of senior homebuyers is achieved through the right combination of programs, training and marketing. Sales professionals who have built a strong referral network and practice sound prospecting techniques will have a leg up on capturing these diverse and demanding buyers and sellers. Realtors® who make the effort to secure specialized certification will distinguish themselves as especially qualified to service the needs of seniors.
One characteristic that distinguishes seniors from first-time homebuyers is a lower tolerance for uncertainty. The ERA® system offers the ERA® Sellers Security® Plan (SSP), a program designed expressly for homesellers who seek that extra level of assurance. Simply put, the SSP guarantees that a seller who qualifies for the program will sell their home at a pre-determined price within 180 days of listing, or ERA Real Estate will buy it.
According to the Senior Advantage Real Estate Council, 90 percent of seniors do not put their home on the market until they have settled on their new living arrangements, and Realtors® must be prepared to help seniors select a mortgage that meets their needs. ERA Mortgage offers buyers with unique financing requirements the opportunity to choose from more than 100 different loan products. A professionally staffed Agent Help Desk helps sales associates offer products that best match their clients' financial goals.
Specialized certification programs are another means to assure seniors that Realtors® are capable of serving them. Late last year, ERA Real Estate became the first global real estate franchise to deliver the Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation in a virtual classroom. The course, offered through the Senior Advantage Real Estate Council (SAREC), was developed to educate sales professionals about the special needs and concerns of senior homebuyers and homesellers.
The transition into a senior lifestyle can be an exciting time. For Realtors® who are prepared to assist the growing community of seniors, it can be a rewarding time as well.
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