Do I Need a Designation to Specialize in Senior Real Estate?

Published on June 4, 2011

I am frequently asked what I think about real estate designations or other types of certifications.

Before I share my thoughts on the designation issue, let me give you a little background that will create some context.

NOTE: If you would rather forego the history lesson and find out what I believe about designations...jump ahead and skip the next 4 or 5 short paragraphs. It won’t hurt my feelings.

In 1995 I was four years into my second run at being a successful REALTOR. I was only making average money and not seeing much hope for a change so I went back to college. Much to my own dismay, I found myself in a degree program for Family Studies and Gerontology at Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Oklahoma, and then a subsequent Master's degree program in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis on geriatric counseling.

In order to completely fulfill my graduate studies and to get a license to counsel (LPC) I was required to complete 3000 hours of supervised counseling.... so I did. It took a while since I was doing it in the evenings and weekends because by now my team was selling about 80 homes a year. Most of my counseling experience was in nursing homes around Oklahoma City and with patients and caregivers who were dealing with depression, anxiety, dementia, or all of the above.

It didn't take long after my nursing home experiences to realize that I could be far more help to these transitioning seniors and their families if I was on the front end of their move rather than on the tail end of their move. Once they were in the nursing facility, there was little I could do to help them with their emotional turmoil and exhaustion...what was done was done...time would heal the rest. During this same time, by the way, I also helped my grandfather move into an assisted living and then a nursing home (in 1 year's time) after he had a stroke.

So in 2001 I set out on a journey to marry my recent education and experience in gerontology and geriatric counseling with my real estate business of 10+ years by creating a Senior's Division in my real estate practice.

Realizing that working in this area of real estate was my natural gift and a good business decision,  I set out to learn everything I could learn about senior housing and what was necessary to help seniors make a move that was less painful and less stressful for all parties involved.

When I came across the Seniors Real Estate Specialists® (SRES) designation, it looked exactly like what I needed to enhance my credentials and fill in the blanks about working with seniors. So... I signed up, paid my money and went to Dallas for the 2 day course. I even became an instructor for the program.

I am guessing that those who have chosen to get the designation are probably not much different than me at the time.

If you have it, you  may have gotten it to learn more, fill in some gaps, or to differentiate yourself from other agents in the field. You probably have a true heart for seniors and know that you can really do some good through helping them with their real estate needs.  You may also realize, as I did, that the original designation course taught me some good information, but it falls short in the area of application - actually building a successful practice centered around serving senior clients.

After having completed over 120 transactions per year for 5 years that involved senior adults (average age of 83) and their caregivers (about 60% of our overall sales business), I have some thoughts about the question ... “Do I need a designation to be successful as a senior real estate professional?”

The simple answer and only my opinion is “no.” The reality is that you don’t "NEED" any designations at all in order to be one of the best and most successful people in the real estate industry.  There are plenty of examples out there that will affirm this statement. Now, that isn’t to say that there isn’t a lot to learn from getting a designation.

By completing the training which results in a designation, you are naturally going to better yourself as an agent.

The reality, however, is that the consumer and the general public does not place a lot of significance on designations and are more interested in what you can and will do for them specifically. This can only be conveyed effectively by mastering your conversations and ability to illustrate that you are the right agent to assist them with their transaction. Have a designation alone will not get you an appointment (maybe a referral) or win you a listing. Undoubtedly we can all agree that this is true.

Having said that, getting a designation does have some benefits.

If you have little or no experience in working with seniors, you may find that getting a designation gives you a sense of credibility. I would contend, however, that this is largely an issue of your own confidence level around being able to effectively articulate your value. Another benefit to getting a designation of any kind is the network of agents that you become connected to and with whom you can begin to build referral relationship with.

It takes effort on your part, however, and does not just happen because you have the designation.

You and I both know that building a profitable real estate business takes proactive lead generation and prospecting no matter how many designations you may acquire. By implementing a targeted 8x8, 12 direct, and 33 touch program (as outlined in "The Millionaire Real Estate Agent" by Gary Keller) around our Seniors Division, our team was able to gain market share in our area and serve a lot of seniors without ever even mentioning having a designation or educational background. Much of my business was been built on relationships with senior care providers in a variety of areas such as case management, retirement communities, estate liquidation, insurance, and churches. In addition, I gave seminars and programs on downsizing for every not-for-profit and civic organization I could find and I organized events focused on seniors in our area. I became a regular attendee and participant in a variety of senior organizations. None of these business building strategies were ever mentioned in the SRES class or materials. That is not what it was designed for.

We developed our programs through trial and error.

There is undoubtedly far more to working with senior adults than any course can  teach in 2 days. Absent any other training, it may be a good first step for REALTORS looking to specialize. In order to really be the best advocate possible, however, don't stop there. Go out and learn everything you can to be the best you can be in your field!

Seniors need great REALTORS who care about them and have the skills and knowledge to make their transition as smooth and effortless as possible.

That is precisely why I created the Success in Senior Real Estate curriculum. It is my intention to provide all professionals in the real estate industry with top tier training and coaching. Agents and other real estate professionals who truly have a heart and passion for serving the senior client and put the client’s needs before their own financial gain are the people I choose to serve through my training and coaching.

 

Nikki Buckelew is the Co-Founder and President of NikkiandChris.com Coaching and Training, a coaching and training company specializing in real estate, leadership, and life coaching for Realtors, brokers, and leaders with SoulFire. Buckelew is also the Founder and CEO of the Seniors Real Estate Institute, a coaching and training company specializing in senior real estate and housing and administrator for the Certified Senior Housing Professional® (CSHP) designation.

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