Senior citizens selling homes are generally at a crossroads in life, and when you recognize and appreciate the feelings associated with that crossroads you'll go far in creating a loyal client.
In general, seniors have four reasons for selling their homes:
- Retirement offers the opportunity for a new adventure.
- They miss their kids and want to move to be near them.
- They are no longer willing to care for a house and yard and are moving to a retirement community.
- They are no longer able to live alone and are moving to a care facility.
In the first three instances, the move is probably a happy event. While they will experience some nostalgic moments if they've raised their children in that house, or even been there for 20 years, they're still in happy anticipation of the future.
You can empathize with them over needing to part with the symbols of happy memories, and you should. When you recognize and validate a person's inner conflicts, you make them feel better. And you should always strive to make your clients feel good.
The fourth reason isn't so happy, so the best you can do is listen. Sometimes people need to talk, so let them.
Meanwhile - selling a home for someone who hasn't sold a home in many years means you need to take your time. Sometimes agents come across as condescending - even to the point of acting as if the seniors were somehow deficient in intelligence. Don't do that.
Simply recognize that things have changed drastically - even over the past 20 years. Handshakes and verbal promises used to hold some weight. Most seniors wish they still did.
You should be explaining all the forms to every seller, but it is imperative that you do so with seniors. After all, they've been around long enough to be a little leery of signing anything if they don't know what it says and does. So ask if they're familiar with the forms, and if they say no, take the time to go over each of them.
Tell them why the disclosure forms are so important and impress the safety of accuracy. Warn them that you will need such things as permit documents and proof of septic pumping or furnace maintenance, so they can dig through old files and be ready when you need them. Give them a checklist of all the documents you'll need.
After that, give them fair warning about all the steps that take place after you bring them an acceptable offer. They might not realize that until all the inspections are done and contingencies removed, a deal is not a deal. Warn them that the buyer might come back and try to re-negotiate based on the results of a home inspection.
Once you have the listing signed, impress upon them the importance of getting out of the house when buyer prospects arrive. Depending upon their personality, it is sometimes far too easy for buyers or their agents to get them into conversations that reveal too much - and thus destroy their negotiating position.
Which brings up another point - if you're selling for someone who is moving to a care facility, don't tell the other agents. And do remind your seller not to tell them either. The reason for the move is not their business and will damage your seller in negotiations.
Trust is an issue with every seller, but especially so with seniors. So when you're meeting them for the first time to try to get their listing, don't push. Let them get acquainted with you and don't use the assumptive approach. Ask for the listing, show them why you'll market their home and give them better service than any other agent, but don't shove a listing agreement under their noses until they're ready.
And whatever you do, don't be condescending. Unless they give you permission, donot presume that it's OK to call a senior citizen by his or her first name. Say Mr. or Mrs. or Ms until you're told differently. And if you're talking to a very elderly person, resist the temptation to call them "Honey." There are a few who will like it - but most will be very anxious to show you to the door - permanently.
Lastly, never discount the value of their possessions. Don't suggest a yard sale unless they do. Remember that much of what they own may look like junk to you, but it holds memories for them. Be respectful.
As with selling to senior citizens, selling for senior citizens is not really that different - if you're doing your job well with all clients.
Remember to listen well, be respectful, and keep your client's best interests foremost in your mind.