Boomers contribute to new housing boom

Baby boomers do everything in a big way because there are just so many of them.

That is why so many businesspeople with an eye on the future are starting to specialize in helping senior citizens both navigate and enjoy life.

There are even real estate agents across the country who have taken specialized training to become Certified Senior Housing Professionals so that they become better able to serve the burgeoning senior real estate market, which is growing as a record number of seniors sell their longtime homes.

The Senior Real Estate Institute expects to train 500 such professionals by the end of 2015, said Nikki Buckelew, CEO and founder of the SREI.

"We have made a commitment to understand and serve last-time home sellers," she said. "The statistics surrounding the rapid growth of this market are undeniable and reveal the degree to which the seniors market has been underserved.

"Seniors face a complex set of expectations and emotions, wrapped up in the transition from the home that often houses decades of memories," Buckelew continued. "Challenging family dynamics, a multitude of uncertainties, as well as financial complexities, often come into play."

SREI's training and coaching programs prepare real estate agents to establish a trusted, communitywide network of professionals that includes elder law attorneys, financial planners, estate liquidators, antique appraisers, home inspectors, senior move specialists, home stagers, handymen and the standard slate of professionals involved with preparing a home for sale, she said.

"The overriding objective for CSHPs is to simplify the moving process for their clients so that the transition can be viewed as a time of opportunity and new beginnings.

"If someone has the flu, they go to a general practitioner. But, if they have a heart condition, they go to a cardiologist," Buckelew said. "In real estate, a CSHP cannot only better diagnose the situation, but the treatment is likely to create a better outcome."

After reading that aging seniors are projected to move out of an estimated 11.3 million housing units between 2010 and 2020 and that during the following decade that figure is expected to climb closer to 15 million, Carolyn Kavanaugh, a Realtor with REMAX Suburban in Glen Ellyn and a member of the Purdom and Company team, chose to take the training and become a CSHP.

"I knew that I really wanted to help people with this major transition in their lives because it is so emotional for them to move out of a house filled with 30 to 40 years of memories," said Kavanaugh, who holds a master's degree in psychology.

"You have to make sure that no one tells the senior what to do. It is their home and they need to be treated with respect and while the adult children undoubtedly want what is best for their parents, they also want what is convenient for them, personally," she said.

"Remember that in the back of every senior's mind over the age of 75 is that this move could be the beginning of the end for them. So, there is some natural nervousness and anxiety. They are usually moving because they need more help, not for fun. It is those in their 50s and 60s who are moving to warmer climates for the fun of it," Kavanaugh said.

"During the training I learned there are so many special considerations when working with seniors. For instance, many times the adult children are involved in the sale and the Realtor has to meet with everyone involved and make sure the senior who lives in the house retains the legacy and control," she said.

Little things like not suggesting the relocation of a piece of furniture that has always been placed in a certain place and making sure you are sitting on the senior's "good ear" side can make all the difference in how the encounter is perceived. The time of day at which the meeting is held can also be important with a senior, Kavanaugh said.

"The Realtor needs to be a resource to help seniors and their adult children downsize and liquidate excess items. So, I work to assess where people are in the process and then help them make a plan they can live with as they start a new chapter in their lives," she said.

"I try to suggest the least amount of rehab work before the house goes on the market. I have even helped my senior clients tour area retirement facilities to help them find a new place that meets their needs. In the case of those who have been isolated at home, the new community is often a much better situation," Kavanaugh said.

"And remember to build in support for the senior once they are situated in their new residence. They are like freshmen going off to college and need to be supported in the same way."

• Carolyn Kavanaugh can be reached at (630) 207-9527 or through by emailing

  An estimated 11.3 million seniors will sell their homes this decade, and that number is expected to grow to 15 million between 2020 and 2030. George LeClaire/
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