Welcome back! If you have been following us, you have probably already read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series which really speaks to our vision and the overview of our journey into seniors real estate.
Now it’s time to get to the meat and potatoes of it all!
have been thinking about this blog post for a while and in sitting down
to type it, I find myself laughing. Yes, laughing. It just occurred to
me that we have come a long way since those early years of pioneering
this specialty. Some of our first marketing pieces are nothing short of
hilarious (not in a good way) and my writing left a lot to be desired.
so much of what we did in the beginning now seems like second nature, I
recognize just how far we have progressed in our mission to serve
seniors. So while I (along with other experienced senior housing
professionals) may take a few of these things for granted, others may be
just starting out. For you my friends, remember that in order
to really succeed at this – or anything for that matter – you just put
one foot in front of the other and keep going.
you read the 5 steps below you will probably recognize – as I did when
typing them -that there are dozens of steps within the steps. The layers are deep and yet each one of them started with a vision. A
vision of what we were creating – who we were serving – and why we were
choosing to serve them. When you know in your heart that you were meant
for something, there is no amount of force that can hold you back from
accomplishing your goal.
How We Built Our Seniors Real Estate Niche Part 3
Step 1: Learn as much as possible about the challenges of downsizing seniors
though I was text-book savvy about what issues seniors faced as they
aged, the knowledge was too general. Based on both my personal and my
counseling experiences, it was clear that there was a lot to learn and
if I wanted to be an expert, it would require me to go out and talk with
Who better to talk to than people who were either
going through it currently or who had already been down that path,
right? That was my thinking. With the help of my sphere of influence and
some professional connections, I first arranged a series of focus
groups with older adults and then followed that with another series
involving professionals from the aging services fields.
groups proved to be invaluable in helping us gain more insight into
what seniors and their trusted advisors needed and wanted. We
were able to formulate a powerful value proposition and include value
added services that truly made a difference and set us apart from other
agents in our area.
A unexpected and useful bi-product of those
groups was great stories and examples of situations which we would later
be able to retell in order to better relate and build rapport with our
clients. Being barely 30 years old, we could use all the help we could
get in the rapport building department.
Step 2: Educate senior living counselors about our uniqueness
the same time we were learning, we were also educating and teaching. I
knew that in order to be recognized as a specialist, we had to
drastically differentiate ourselves from the typical real estate crowd.
When visiting with people in the senior housing field, they didn’t have
very high opinions of REALTORS and as far as they were concerned, I was
just another salesperson looking to get a commission.
There were a
few senior community reps that knew me from my counseling days and were
open with me about why they had to be protective of their residents –
it was their job. It was clear that they wouldn’t recommend just anyone
and that if I were to be their choice, I had to prove myself worthy of
their trust. “Fair enough,” I thought. “I can totally appreciate that
and am willing to prove my value and my trustworthiness.”
My 3 big lessons learned in this process and the things we now teach our Success in Seniors Real Estate students…
- You must give before you receive – come from contribution
- Relationships are critical – rapport building takes time and consistency
- Serving and selling are NOT the same thing – one leads to the next
Step 3: Provide educational talks and seminars
I am blessed with the gift of gab and unlike most people, I LOVE public
speaking and teaching. As a leader in my real estate office, I was
often called upon to teach classes and it came naturally to me, so why
not take the show on the road so to speak. I put together a series of
talks about simplifying the downsizing process for seniors and offered
myself up to local not-for-profits, civic groups, and senior living
communities. We marketed the classes to people who were either thinking
about moving into a senior community or more manageable residence and
adult children with aging parents.
It wasn’t long before I was
teaching or speaking at least once a week and people were calling to
book me. Each time I spoke, I had people come up afterward and share
their personal stories about late in life moves or family members. And
while each was so appreciative, they regretted not having had the
information I shared with them that day many years earlier. This just drove me to spread the word more quickly and with more intention.
these talks and showing people that I not only had a deep desire to
serve but that I also had the tools, resources, and ability to simplify
the process for people having lived in their homes for sometimes 40 or
50 years, provided me the credibility and validity I needed in order to
earn the respect and trust of those in the senior community.
the way (shameless plug)… we have since then converted our series of
seminars into a guide agents now use across the country. If you don’t
fly by the seat of your pants like I do, feel free to check it out: Downsizing Made Easy Guide.
Step 4: Market to targeted neighborhoods
we started our marketing efforts with the people we knew and the
relationships we already had like past clients, family, friends, and
professional alliances. This was a great start, but we knew that in
order to reach more people, we needed to get the word out about our
I would say it took a good year to get a grasp on the
direction we would take going forward because we had absolutely no model
to follow! At this point, the internet wasn’t nearly as robust as it is
now and frankly, the data available was limited.
We lived in a
neighborhood that seemed to have a lot of retirees and so we started
there and expanded to similar neighborhoods over time. Trying everything
from door knocking and door hangers to mailers and cold calling, it was
clear that our message was not getting through. We needed leverage. Of
course I don’t do anything half-way, so in order to meet all the people
in my neighborhood and share with them the solutions we had for helping
our aging home owners, I started a neighborhood association and
neighborhood watch program. Chris was certain I was nuts –
maybe I was. The first meeting was made up of a strategic group who
would then become the core for a much larger organization. Our real
estate team sponsored the meeting place, flyers, newsletters, and signs.
It was a hit. Not only did we get to meet a large percentage of the
residents, but we forged relationships with the key “watchdogs” in the
neighborhood who kept us in the loop about EVERYTHING.
I’m not sure I would do that again at this stage in my life, but at that
stage it was the bomb (in a good way). Now I would look for existing
associations (active ones) and get involved with them. The exposure and the relationships we created were invaluable.
Step 5: Branding as experts
This one was a big deal – a REALLY big deal. We
knew that we needed to be consistent in our message and at the time, we
were still in the days of print media (what I wouldn’t have given for
social media help in those early years). Our primary marketing vehicles
were our yard signs, The Real Estate Book, Arch Telecom’s IVR system,
mailed newsletters, brochure boxes with color flyers, and postcard
Knowing that our expertise was NOT marketing, public
relations, or branding, we hired experts (that’s what successful people
do – they hire experts, right?). This was by far one of the best decisions we ever made.
Brad and Robin spent time with us to fully grasp our vision for our
seniors division, evaluated our current systems and marketing, and then
laid out a plan for rebranding us as the experts in our market in
seniors real estate.
“No way.” We immediately pushed back.
They wanted us to rebrand everything from our yard signs to our
business cards with “1st in Seniors Real Estate.” But we would lose any
business that was not senior related, we argued. Brad and Robin had
started this newly formed PR and marketing business after having
overseen and organized some pretty major branding campaigns for big name
banks, corporations, and other big-wigs, but did they know about real
estate – really?
As it turns out they did. We reluctantly agreed
to move forward with their recommendations. Everything included the tag
line “1st in Senior Real Estate.” And we were – first that is. No one
else in our market had chosen to specialize like this in the way we were
You may be wondering about our theory – the one about
losing business. Not only did we increase our sales numbers from around
80 that year to around 100, both our seniors and our non-senior client
bases increased. It didn’t hurt our business – it propelled it!
Growing pains and expansion
a business isn’t always easy and if anyone thinks otherwise, they have
never really done it. There are always new things to learn, hurdles to
jump, and obstacles to overcome. One of the biggest ones for us was
staffing. As we grew in production we became even more committed to
delivering a high level of value to our clients and to do that, we
needed more hands on deck.
More on that topic in Part 4. Stay tuned!