Senior Housing: A Growing Niche Market for Agents

The United States has an aging population. Currently the median age is 37.8, (up from 30.0 in 1980, and 28.4 in 1970) and the median age of homebuyers is 44. This demographic shift is happening for a few reasons – decreasing fertility rate, shifting cultural norms, improvements in medicine, the sheer size of the baby boomer generation – and more seniors means more buying power.

 

A growing market means one thing – opportunity. So how can you capitalize on this niche market and position yourself as an expert for senior homebuyers? We’ve mapped out a strategy for becoming the go-to agent for seniors.

Learn the Demographics

First things first, do your research. You have to differentiate yourself from the competition, and prove that you are knowledgeable and trustworthy.
 

How old is your state? If you live in one of the oldest states (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Florida, etc.) there is a wealth of opportunity to capitalize on. Some of the youngest states (Utah, Arkansas, Texas, North Dakota, etc.) may not have a large enough ageing population to be worth your marketing efforts.
 
Preliminary market research will give you the insights you need to (A) determine if senior housing is a profitable niche in your area, and (B) understand the market back and forth.
 

Consider these insights from the NAR 2017 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report:

Buyers age 52-61: “The Young Baby Boomers”

Make up 16% of recent buyers
Higher median household incomes
More likely to have children under the age of 18 in their home
More likely to buy multi-generational homes
Buy for an array of reasons, such as job-relocation, downsizing, and being closer to friends and family
 
Buyers age 62-70: “The Older Baby Boomers”

Make up 14% of recent buyers
Often moving due to retirement, downsizing, and being closer to friends and family
Typically move the longest distance
Least likely to make compromises on their home purchase
 
Buyers age 71-91: “The Silent Generation”

Make up 8% of recent buyers
Often moving due to retirement, downsizing, and being closer to friends and family
Least likely to purchase a detached single-family home
24% purchased in senior-related housing
Tend to purchase the newest homes
More likely than any other age group to find their home by visiting an open house

Understand Needs and Behaviors

The needs of an ageing homebuyer are obviously different than those of a first time homebuyer or a growing family.
 
Seniors are concerned about the following;

  • Safety. Seniors are often targeted for property theft, so have information on hand about the neighborhood crime rate.
  • Accessibility. Are there stairs? Does the neighborhood have a lot of hills?
  • Downsizing. Most seniors aren’t concerned with flash or grandiose. Even if they have a hefty budget, they are likely in the process of downsizing. Keep this in mind with the listings that you show, and consider offering educational tools to help with the downsizing process.
  • Affordability. Along with downsizing, most seniors are looking for a reasonable home to spend the last phase of their lives. Affordability is a concern, especially on a restrictive retirement and/or social security budget.
  • Amenities. Is the home in a gated community, or a neighborhood with amenities close by? Seniors don’t want to have to travel far to get to the grocery store, the gym, or their doctor. Be sure to know the distance and accessibility of hospitals, grocery stores, etc.

Know these back and forth. Equip yourself with resources that can aid the homebuyer in their process. This is your unique value proposition.

 

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Get Certified

There are several courses and certifications available for agents interested in being a senior housing “specialist.” This can only improve your business by legitimizing your expertise. The goal is to be the go-to, trustworthy agent.
 

Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) from the NAR: The SRES Program is designed to equip you for serving the senior (50+) market. Not only will you learn the skills and empathy required for serving this specific market of homebuyers, you will also understand very specific financial situations that are senior-specific: 401k, IRA, and and pension transactions, as well as how medicare, medicaid and social security impact real estate decisions.
Click here for more information.
 

Certified Senior Housing Professional (CSHP) from the Seniors Real Estate Institute: In addition to learning skills necessary for serving the senior market, this course puts a heavy focus on marketing knowledge. You will gain tactical knowledge you need to successfully operate in a niche market, with access to helpful materials you can bring back to your business. Once you are a member, you have continuous access to seminars, workshops, and events to stay “in-the-know” about the senior housing market.
Click here for more information.

Become an Educator and an Advocate

As an agent, you are more than a salesperson. You are a part of a very important, very personal life decision.
 
For seniors, especially, the homebuying process is layered with complex decisions and emotion. In order to be a trusted and successful agent in the seniors market, it is critical to be aware of these layers, and practice empathy.
 
Communicate with your leads openly and honestly from day one to establish trust. Most importantly, listen to their story. Talk to them about their needs, wants, frustrations, and fears. Once you have a clear idea of what they’re looking for, and you have established a relationship of trust, you can move forward as their agent and their advocate.

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