Above: Photo courtesy of Overture Lindbergh.

With careers and most family responsibilities behind them, many older adults are free to enjoy their retirement. Travel, hobbies and volunteer work are some of the ways they stay involved and active.

However, a large home can become a hinderance to an enjoyable retirement. It takes energy and money to keep an oversized house, so many older adults consider downsizing to a smaller home or senior community. There are lot of possibilities, and today there are specialists ready to help make sense of them all.

Marc Oppenheimer

“The Senior Real Estate Specialist is unique from a regular Realtor as we’re taught to ask specific questions related to the needs of older adults, then tailor our services to their needs and wants,” explained Marc Oppenheimer, Associate Broker/BPOR/SRES, Atlanta Communities Real Estate Brokerage. “Having in-depth knowledge of the 55+ needs, lifestyles and housing options helps meet the specific the goals and challenges that they may have.”

To achieve an SRES designation, an experienced licensed agent must complete a rigorous National Association of Realtors training course, then take and pass a national exam, Oppenheimer explained.

Connie Bridges is a Realtor and Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) with Keller Williams Realty First Atlanta. She said that SRES Realtors learn about the challenges an older adult can face when relocating, and they have the resources and education to meet their clients’ requirements.

Connie Bridges

“My SRES designation is more than letters behind my name,” she said. “The SRES network allows me to help older adults with whatever resource they need.”

Bridges says that it’s also her job is to make sure that their home is sold at top value for their area. “I also work with lenders and senior financial planners to make sure their next move makes sense for their big picture,” she said.

According to Kevin Pelkey, Realtor, The Providence Group, Keller Williams Realty Atlanta Perimeter, the active senior community in Atlanta is very large. His team has four certified senior specialists, all well-versed in what it takes to make the transition seamless for older adults.

“It’s true that any agent can list a house; however, many of our clients need more than just a person to place a sign in their yard,” Pelkey said. “They need a person to call with questions, someone who is available anytime, and they also often need assistance with getting things ready for their move.”

Kevin Pelkey

Pelkey stressed that he and his team have a full database of people who have worked with older adults and know how to help before the move gets overwhelming.

The demand for specialized real estate services for older adults has definitely increased, says Aven Barbosa, Realtor, Seniors Real Estate Specialist. “With so many different housing options to choose from, lifestyle changes occurring, economic changes and family dynamics, a specialist becomes invaluable,” she said. “I’m capable of counseling family, friends or the seniors themselves regarding major lifestyle changes.”

Many older adults face a real dilemma when their elderly parents are ready to sell their home and move into senior housing or an assisted living facility. It can be a challenge to find the right place, along with the added pressure of preparing the home for sale and sorting through all the possessions that are no longer needed.

Bridges noted that the demand for senior housing in Atlanta is being met with many new assisted living and independent living homes being built in the area. While that gives people more options, it can make it more daunting than ever to find the right living situation for elderly parents. “There are many choices with just as many amenities, and it can feel overwhelming if you’re going it alone,” she said.

There have been many times that Barbosa has been approached by an adult child faced with a situation regarding their elderly parent or parents, she said. “For example, when a parent becomes ill or a sudden accident results in them not able to live alone any longer, it falls on the adult child’s plate,” she said.

Aven Barbosa

Often, they have no idea where to begin, as this is something they’ve never had to face before. “That’s when I come in and put all the options on the table. I’ve been able to walk an adult child through downsizing their parents’ home, selling it and guiding them to the right housing option for their situation,” Barbosa said. “I feel I come in and take a lot of things off their plate so they can focus on their parent and what’s best for them.”

Pelkey said he and his team like to meet one-on-one with clients and walk them through the process, as many of them haven’t bought or sold a home in quite some time. “Leaving their home of many years can be challenging both emotionally and physically, so we ensure that our clients are prepared for the process ahead of time,” he said. “We have resources available to assist with packing, moving and cleaning the house so that the burden isn’t resting on their shoulders.”

The biggest benefit of using the services of an SRES is the peace of mind of having a trusted professional who understands what you need and has the necessary skills and information.

Bridges advises all potential sellers, and especially older adults, to look to professional Realtors when choosing to list their home. Seniors are sometimes unaware of the value of their property, and they may sign over their home for much less than they could get if listed on the MLS with a Realtor,” Bridges warned.

With the growing number of baby boomers retiring out of the work force, along with the growth of continued care communities, there’ll be a continued increase in the demand in real estate options for 55+ and aging adults, Oppenheimer said. “In today’s changing senior housing market, it’s vital for older adults to use an SRES who’s an NAR designated trained professional and who has their best interests at heart, along with the knowledge necessary for a comfortable, smooth and positive life transition.”

There’s a lot more to selling a home than getting it on the market for people to view, Pelkey said. It involves negotiations, packing the house, movers and everything in between. “We know that there are a lot of memories and emotions attached to a family home,” Pelkey said. “When the time is right to move, senior specialists are here to help with the entire process.”

Kathy Dean

Kathy Dean is a freelance writer and editor based in metro Atlanta.