Empty nesters can utilize the same resources as first time home buyers.
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Chicago’s StartingPoint Realty has specialized in serving first-time home buyers since 2004. Over the years, they have expanded to include first-time home sellers, who appreciate their educational approach to real estate services. Now they are serving another type of “first-time” real estate client: longtime homeowners who are looking to downsize.
Ryan Gable, owner of StartingPoint Realty, finds that downsizing homeowners often don’t know where to begin. “Empty nesters face unique home selling and buying challenges,” says Gable. “They are overwhelmed by the upkeep of their home, and are finding it harder to manage the property taxes and other expenses. But they have accumulated a lifetime of possessions in the home. There’s a lot of memories. Downsizing can be a difficult transition to make.”
While first-time buyers and empty nesters both need a depth of information and guidance, their motivation is very different. “First-time buyers are usually on a leasing schedule,” says Gable. “They tell us they need a place before April. With empty nesters, they don’t feel that pressure. Talking about selling their home is one thing…but moving to a condo after living in a 3,000 square-foot home for over 10 years, is another. That’s when patience comes into the picture.”
Deciding how much living space is enough can be difficult. Gable notes that empty nesters want to be accommodating to family; sometimes they are babysitting grandchildren in their home. “Every situation is unique, and there’s a lot of emotion,” Gable says. “I gently point out that they hired me to help them downsize, and “downsizing” isn’t going from 3,000 square feet to 2,800 square feet. That will only prolong the same problems.”
Gable has found that the decision tools he gives first-time buyers also work for empty nesters. “With first time buyers, we have them list the “top 3” things they need in a home. With empty nesters, the list of “needs” is always longer, because they’re used to having more amenities. But their household budget is shrinking, so something has to give. We help them identify the true priorities.”
Helping the client understand their options in today’s market is part of the job. “We have empathy, but we’re also honest,” Gable adds. “The truth is, they are buying less home, and they can’t get everything they have now.”
The experience gained from working with first-time buyers has equipped Gable with natural patience and compassion. “Showing empathy while being straightforward is crucial, but it can be a challenge after the 50th home showing. But we know what we’re getting into here.
Patience is of the upmost importance. This is a major life decision, and it’s not easy for most downsizing clients to face.”
According to Gable, working with empty nesters means providing encouragement, coaching, and occasionally, tough love. “Empty nesters need an advocate who is honestly interested in helping them. They need that person to be a cheerleader for their success. Sometimes they need to be confronted with the reality of their situation, and you have to tell them things they don’t want to hear. It’s a long-term process, but it’s become part of our mission. These clients deserve the investment in time. In the end, the experience is very rewarding, and we’ve made a difference in their lives.”