Selling real estate is a very stressful and emotional time. When helping an elderly person sell their home, this generation has traditionally lived at the same address for a long time, has accumulated years of memories in ‘stuff’, knows the ins and out of this piece of property that they have invested love, time, money and energy into for many many years. When a senior faces a loss of autonomy, which is what often brings on the moment to have to sell,  it also comes accompanied with some unaccomplished dreams, thoughts of “Why me?”,  and “How did I get to be this age?”…..these thoughts and emotions make it that a real estate transaction and seniors create a very special niche.

The finesse used to ensure a high level of service for this distinct clientele should be just like another niche. Client first. Client focused.

If you are invited in help sell the property of an elderly person here are key points not to overlook:

“I do not even know where to start.”–Before listing or selling the house.

If a senior has decided to move, is thinking of moving or is not sure what the best option is, the recommended first step is to go around and explore where they will live next. A regular apartment building? A retirement residence? Buying or rightsizing to a new condo?

  • It is by visiting different options and comparing different set-ups that will help them understand what they like and do not like. This stage of exploring will guide them towards what feels right and their next step in life. Whatever they decide, this first step will help them move forward with confidence and will ease their comfort level towards selling their house and minimize anxiety levels.
  • Offer manageable steps. First things first. Then the next step. Without babying anyone. Recognize to take a step back and allow some space for the steps to sink in with a moment of recovery (from thoughts and physical fatigue) before embarking on the next step. It is a dance that requires patience and finesse.

Time to sell: When a well-meaning child joins the table

When someone from the support team or an adult child is a part of the process of selling a house often the senior becomes ignored and spoken about as if they are not in the room. Ugh. Imagine if that was you in the room selling your home and being ignored. Imagine others coming in and taking over. If it would not feel right for you then it is unlikely that it will feel right for the elderly person being assisted.  This is the seniors’ process and they need to remain involved throughout the whole process.

Let the owner guide you; for example, if they say:  “Please, speak with her/him for all this information/paperwork”, then follow their lead and address the person they are referring to. Bottom line is, ask the elderly owner what they want and who will do what. Together, set clear guidelines and respect them throughout the whole process. Obviously, if there is a pre-established legal document like a power of attorney then that supersedes everything but the person being advocated for should still be the focal point.

The goal is to ensure that the person who is selling their home leans into the process at every step, that every step respects their timeline, that they are guided through emotions and advocated for.

Ultimately the client being served should remain the focal point of every transaction no matter what their age or needs are.

Put yourself in their shoes.

Imagine all the emotions they could be going through at this stage of life. They may be dealing with a change in health, mourning the passing of a loved one, the fear of the next step that is filled with unknowns, they may not want to be doing this, but their children are nudging them forward…the list goes on.

  • Most likely they raised their family here. This piece of real estate is filled with decades of memories and filled with lots of items and they do not know what to start with. They may not even have the physical energy to engage forward.
  • For years, if not decades they have nourished the current community that surrounds them and when they sell their home, this will all change. —just like that. (Snap your fingers and the change will be even a little faster than that.)

Step into their shoes at every turn during the process of selling.

They haven’t paid rent in years

Can you imagine what that feels like? In terms of all the questions in their head “Will I be able to afford this?”, “How will I manage to physically pay all the bills?” (New systems and new ways of doing things can be scary and this will occur on every level for them.)

  • Often there is some memory loss when a senior relocates. Imagine your kitchen scissors right now. You know exactly where they are. Now, have three of your children or strangers come in to help you ‘organize’ your move, put items in boxes, and then ‘…where are my scissors? I feel so overwhelmed.’ –All security or safety nets are up in the air until the dust settles. That is just the scissors. Imagine the paperwork, the will, the medication, the dog food, the special hairbrush that someone said out loud was most likely a piece of garbage……….so much change and everything in upheaval.

This big step of selling a house creates so much scary change and the change will be at every single level for the elderly person being helped.

Busy agenda, just like anyone else

  • Never assume an elderly person is always free and available, often their calendar is just as overloaded as anyone else’s. Their schedule matters as much as yours and that much more. When is the best time of day for them? What is the best day of the week? Their regular activities offer a routine, a friendly touch, a visit with a friend and that should be protected. If they have a medical condition they may fatigue at the end of the day or be distracted after a medical appointment. This is all about the elderly person and keeping the focus on them is the primary goal. Here are important details to pay attention to:
    • For you to stand on or to communicate with them what side is best for them? For their hearing? For their eyesight? For the lighting in the room? For their dominant side? —if you do not know, ask. Your thoughtfulness will be appreciated.
    • Example of a specific medical condition: Helping someone living with Parkinson’s? When is their medication most effective? What time of day is their sweet spot for signing documents, opening the house for visits or any other task that is being asked of them?

The elderly clients’ schedule and specific needs outweighs everyone else’s.

Respect their pace.

  • Answer questions filled with patience. Yes, even if the information is repeated three times. It falls into the ear and heart differently every time.
    • Throughout different steps of the whole process put your pen down, sit down, pause, and look at the elderly person in the eye and ask them how they are feeling. Ask them if all is going ok. Ask if there is anything they wish were different. Hear them. See them. Take the moment they need to make this safe and good for them.

Make every step of this process of selling a house about them.

This big stage of adapting to a new reality in life, as a senior ages and faces a change in their current needs which affects their housing needs, is a privilege to be called in to help and assist.  Compassion, patience, and empathy are all called to the table to ensure there is a good outcome for all.  Their safety, their happiness, their fulfillment, the proper support and to have them engaged in their own life is really what this is all about.

It would be great to hear from you regarding special attentions that your listing agent did for you or your elderly parents or, you, as a listing agent do regularly with your elderly clientele.