Sold in 3 days! We must admit, this is music to a real estate agents ears. Unfortunately, however, this can present some significant challenges for senior sellers.

According to NAR, 1 in 4 home sales involve a senior adult over the age of 65, and as many as 1 in 14 involve sellers over the age of 75. Many of the sellers in this demographic have lived in their home for forty years or more. Not only does this mean they have they accumulated years of “stuff,” but it also means that they have developed an emotional attachment to the place that they call home.

Selling isn’t as easy as REALTORS® might assume.

“Making a move in your 80’s isn’t as easy as people seem to think,” remarked Louise, a new resident at Fox Run Estates in Arlington, TX. “Getting a contract so fast and being expected to just pack and move in 30 days is overwhelming.”

As much as real estate professionals love a fast sale, they must always be aware of the challenges such a rapid pace can present to senior home sellers.

There are two distinct challenges that long-time home owners face as they place their homes on the market.

  1. Liquidation of many years of personal belongings.
  2. Emotionally letting go of the place they call home.

While most home sellers just pack their things and load them into a truck to be delivered to their next destination, most senior sellers are faced with liquidating much of their home before downsizing. This means a sometimes arduous process of sorting through years of personal effects culminating in a one or two day estate sale where everything is liquidated.

As exhausting and overwhelming as the physical aspects of a late-in-life move can be, the emotional side of the move can be equally if not more taxing. Not all, but many older adults report that emotionally letting go of their home is the hardest thing they have ever done — even harder than dealing with the death of a spouse.

Real estate professionals have a unique opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of older adults as they assist with late-in-life moves, but it requires an approach very different than what is often taught in real estate sales classes.

Here are a few things that real estate agents can do to make this process easier for seniors:

  • Slow down and allow extra time to discuss concerns, fears, and questions.
  • Be prepared for complex timelines involving estate sales and retirement community moves.
  • Appreciate the emotional aspects of the move.
  • Anticipate potential obstacles and communicate solutions — no surprises.
  • Offer support and resources to assist with both the physical and emotional tasks.

Unlike the short sale and REO markets, the seniors real estate market isn’t ending anytime in the near future. In fact, it’s going to be “the market of the moment” for years to come. And just as real estate professionals and brokers prepared and equipped themselves to deal with distress properties and upside down sellers, they also need to prepare for the senior tsunami and the effects it will have on the real estate market going forward.