Many seniors have not bought or sold a home in several years (or maybe decades) and it is likely that there are more than a few new real estate trends with which they are unfamiliar.
One particular trend, “going paperless” is pretty common in the overall real estate industry now. This can be a bit scary for the older generation of seniors, especially if they have not been accustomed to using computers in their personal or professional lives.
To insure that seniors understand how you are going to be using technology throughout the sales and contract negotiation process, it’s important to orient them early in your relationship. By doing so, you will decrease anxiety and increase client satisfaction.
Remember…the goal is, “no surprises.”
Surprises can create obstacles and every obstacle is another opportunity for an already tentative senior homeowner to change their minds about moving altogether!
5 Must-Have Technology Conversations for Senior Sellers
1. Define what paperless means.
“Going paperless simply means that instead of printing out every contract, form or disclosure for your signature, you may be asked to sign certain documents electronically. This could mean:
- Typing your name into a designated field included in a form (received via email)
- Signing your name on a digital touchpad (laptop, netbook, smartphone, etc.)
While some seniors may have experienced this type of technology before, and are perfectly willing and comfortable using it, others are not. Frankly, the first time I was asked to sign a real estate document electronically via email I was a bit perplexed and required some guidance (I would tell them this as to normalize any concerns they many have initially).
2. Communication options (phone, email, text, instant messaging, etc.).
Good agents know that the best method (and frequency) of communication is the one that best serves the client, so getting this agreed upon early in the relationship is paramount — for both of you.
If your client wants to communicate strictly by phone, be sure that you establish some protocols for leaving and returning messages, hours of availability, and which phone numbers are best for certain times of day.
Similar discussion around email, text messaging, and other modes of communication should be had as well.
3. Method(s) you use for getting client signatures.
While you may be accustomed to using Docusign or Dotloop, senior clients may prefer the “more conventional” methods of signing contracts. You know, the good-old-fashioned pen and paper.
Seniors are constantly being bombarded with messages about identity theft, so their skepticism about all their information being stored online is natural.
If your brokerage firm insists on the use of electronic signatures, you will need to prepare your client for such methods. If after a thorough tutorial, your client continues to be uncomfortable with the electronic signature process, confer with your broker to insure that you can accommodate your client with a paper process of signing.
4. Verify their devices are compatible with the systems you use.
Even if your client is completely prepared to enter the paperless world with no reservations whatsoever, it can only be done if they have the right equipment.
Asking if they have a computer isn’t enough. What type and how old is it? How often do they use it.
Before agreeing to a paperless process, do a “test run” using a non-official/non-binding documents to insure your client’s computer and software will do what you want it to do. More importantly, make sure they know how to operate it and can follow the process you have outlined in regard to completing documents.
5. Providing technical support.
My dad (self described “non-techy” and proud of it) has a computer, printer, smart phone, email address, and wifi. He does not, however, have the faintest idea how they work or how to pull up attachments in his email.
When he decided to purchase a new home this past year using a reverse mortgage, the lender was located out of state, which meant everything was done via email — electronically. Needless to say, I was dad’s tech support in this situation.
If your client doesn’t have a trusted advisor who can help them with troubleshooting potential technology issues, make sure you or your staff is capable, patient, and willing to personally walking them through the steps.
Are you willing to do things the “old fashioned way?”
Security and trust are key for senior sellers. If you aren’t willing or able to take the time to work with a senior client who prefers the pen and paper, face to face, in person method of dosing business, it’s your responsibility to provide them with a referral to an agent who is. That may mean passing on a listing or sale and accepting a referral fee instead.
It goes without saying that it is critical to have one or more conversations with potential senior clients about all the various things important to insure a successful sale.
As we know, technology can seem a little overwhelming to some seniors at first — especially if introduced to it in the midst all of the other things going on during a move.
A little bit of education on the front end will mitigate potential delays and unnecessary frustration, and will likely prevent surprises down the road.