Tuesday, July 2, 2019

How to Sell Your Home to Senior Buyers

Millennials aren't buying homes the way Generation X and Baby Boomers did.

But today's people of retirement age are buying homes! And it's a big market that home sellers shouldn't ignore.

Although it's never wise to improve or stage your home to attract just one market, there are certain features that senior buyers want that are also what other demographic groups want.

Here is your handy list of senior-friendly amenities that anyone could love.

Simplicity and Accessibility

After downsizing, many seniors are looking to buy a modest retirement home. At the same time, younger buyers are following Marie Kondo and getting rid of excess belongings. You can tap into both these markets by keeping your home simple and accessible.

If you are replacing anything like windows or roofing, use materials that don't require much upkeep (tilt-in vinyl- or aluminum-clad windows, and metal roofing, for example). Add gutter guards to gutters. Minimize landscaping so yard work isn't a stumbling block to a purchase offer.

Homes built on a slab rather than a foundation are popular with seniors who have mobility issues. They want a single-floor layout or an elevator (or the possibility of adding a lift). They want low vanities and countertops. They want accessible sinks and faucets and a water dispenser in their refrigerator door. They want sturdy handrails on porches, stairs, and decks. They want drawer stack base cabinets in the kitchen rather than reach-in cabinets.

For the most part, none of those features are deal-breakers to other types of buyers.

Staging has always been about emphasizing what's good about a house.
This property has the kind of accessible entrance that seniors appreciate,
and the photo makes that clear. 

Seniors also want accessible services, close to public transportation, medical facilities, restaurants, shopping, and entertainment. If your home for sale is located convenient to these places, plan on seniors scheduling a home tour.

When your home has these kinds of senior-friendly amenities, I hope your Realtor points them out in the listing and during showings, and that the photos showcase the essentials and niceties that older folks like.

Size doesn't matter

If the home you are selling isn't large, don't worry. Seniors could be your primary market. Some older women will want that gourmet kitchen they've always dreamed of, and the husband may own a couple of antique cars he needs to house in a supersized garage, but most aging home buyers will want a smaller residence.

To stage it right for seniors, make it look big enough to entertain family and friends. If you have a separate dining area, stage it like a dining room, not homework central or drop zone. If you have three bedrooms, stage them all as bedrooms. Even though you are currently using one bedroom as a home office or craft room, rearrange it to include a sleeper sofa or day bed. Because boomarang kids and grandkids!

Luxurious touches

People who have worked hard all their lives and are ready to retire, often look for surroundings that are either status symbols or luxurious amenities. What does your home offer along these lines?

Even though this spindle bed reminds us of grandma's bedroom,
with a fresh coat of white paint, it looks modern.
The quilt is complimented by bedding and textiles that are more "today,"
and the vintage botanical prints get a stylish framing, bridging the gap
between old and new. Photo: Ashley Gilbreath
When you stage, incorporate some accessories that are modern. A lucite chair, some trendy pillows, a snazzy chandelier -- these are the kinds of furnishings that suggest affluence. You want to create a look that's familiar and comfortable, yet fresh and new.

One safe route is to use antiques (and furnishings that look like they might be antiques!) but toss into the mix some contemporary stuff as well -- a few modern picture frames, a piece of abstract art, some bright outdoor cushions, an eye-catching rug, lightweight window treatments, or a new floor lamp.

What you want to avoid is furniture pushed against the periphery of the room, as though on display. Today's furniture-arranging-style is friendlier, practical, and casual, and that's the look you should aim for, especially if the furniture you are using consists of more formal pieces, like a matched dining room set, a pair of wing back chairs, a Victorian settee, or a china hutch.

You may wish to slipcover or reupholster or paint some pieces of furniture to update them but still maintain their classic lines and quality. I wouldn't paint a beautiful mahogany four-poster bed, but I would use the latest style duvet and pillow shams on it!

Furniture with classic lines combine well with modern pieces like this
tripod floor lamp and a small parsons table. Some pillows with
fun patterns liven up the space. Photo: Iconic Lights 

Ease of Movement

Mobility doesn't always come easily for aging individuals. If you have doors and passageways that accommodate a walker, scooter, or wheelchair, that's ideal! They should span 36 to  48 inches. In some cases, depending on your flooring and supporting walls, a handyman or carpenter can make openings wider.

Safety is a major concern for folks who want to age in place since slips and falls pose a serious risk to aging adults. Flooring that's smooth but not extra slick is attractive to them. Vinyl, bamboo, cork, low-pile carpeting, and wood floors are easy to keep clean. If your floors are ready for an update, spending money on them now can help your home sell. None of these surfaces are off-putting to other demographic groups.

In fact, it's not just older people who need accessible entrances and passageways. Physical challenges resulting from injuries or diseases that necessitate a wheelchair affect all ages, including children, veterans, and others. If your home has some features, like an accessible entrance, that's necessary for people with disabilities, the U.S. government will help buyers financially with other home improvements. 

The Bathroom

Aging-in-place modifications have risen in popularity in recent years. What was once considered a "handicap toilet" is now common in new bathrooms, and is now dubbed the "comfort height" toilet. Just a few years ago hand-guards in the shower or tub smacked of assisted living apartments. Not any more.

If you are considering a bath remodel, consider installing a walk-in or roll-in shower stall to really temp those people enjoying their golden years. Prices vary depending on the layout and construction of your bathroom, whether you are just replacing a tub, and what wages and supplies cost where you live. As long as there is one bathtub in the house, young families will still be one of your potential buyer groups.

I've blogged about marketing your home to women and much of the same advice applies. Both seniors and women care (alot!) about safety, location, and cleanliness. Go beyond cleaning your bathroom -- detail it the way professional car detailers detail a car -- by polishing every square inch.

Here's an interesting stat: home renovation projects that involve accessibility modifications now account for 62% of building projects. That's not going to change anytime soon. This fact tells me that if you're trying to sell a home, investing in the needs of the retirement generation is worthwhile.

Get the look. Get the book.

You can never accurately predict who will buy your home. Zeroing in on one demographic isn't the best marketing strategy because you run the risk of alienating another group. I hope these ideas will help you update and stage your property to appeal to older buyers as well as others.

For more tips on how to stage your home, no matter who your buyers are, download my $4.99 home staging ebooks.



Top Photo: Katie Rosenfeld Design

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