Should You Hire an Agent Who Is a Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES)?

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If you’re one of more than 5 million people approaching or past the retirement age looking to buy or sell a home this year, you may be wondering how to choose the right real estate agent with experience working with more mature homeowners making a move.

Among the 30+ designations that Realtors® can earn to increase their “skills, proficiency, and knowledge” in niche specialties, there’s one agent designation that every senior home seller and buyer should know about: the SRES label, which stands for Seniors Real Estate Specialist. SRES agents are well-versed in the areas of retirement, downsizing, and more.

We’ve compiled the information and interviewed top-selling real estate agents who work with seniors to help you better understand the SRES certification and why working with experts can help you best meet your goals.

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What is the SRES certification?

Under the umbrella of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the SRES Council offers SRES certification as a two-day training course for licensed Realtors who want to better serve the needs of retirement-aged homeowners.

Mike Robinson, a SRES-certified agent in the south Atlanta area explains how the needs of senior homeowners differ from traditional clients:

“Typically, a senior is not making a job change or moving with kids. Typically, a senior will pay all cash on their purchase or make a significant down payment. And typically, their needs for their new location are a little different. For instance, they may be concerned with medical facilities being close by.”

The SRES designation training covers topics such as:

  • Understanding key life stages, viewpoints, and transitions for the 50+ age demographic
  • The real estate opportunities available to those 50+
  • Recognizing how to adapt a home for the comfort and safety of seniors
  • The ins and outs of reverse mortgages
  • Information about retirement real estate investing and estate planning
  • Education on federal regulations, like the Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA)
  • Knowledge of how Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security affect seniors

This training helps agents provide answers to questions that their retirement-aged clients may not even think to ask.

Senior homeowners have different needs, different financial means, and different options available to them than traditional homeowners. So working with an agent who has specific training in meeting these needs definitely has its perks.

Benefits of hiring an SRES-certified agent

Hiring a quality real estate agent to help you with any transaction is very important. But for seniors that have specific needs and life circumstances, having an SRES-certified agent is even more important.

“There are so many things that could go wrong in a transaction normally, and you add the element of things like downsizing, estate planning, and probate, etc,” says Dana Browning, a top-selling real estate agent in Nampa, Idaho, whose team works frequently with seniors. “It’s important to have someone who knows the ins and outs of the process and has connections with other experts.”

Selling and buying real estate in your senior years brings up a lot of questions you didn’t have to consider when you bought your current home. For example:

  • “How will I cover household expenses after I retire?”
  • “Should I consider buying property in a 50+ community?”
  • “What house features are best for 50+ homeowners?”

The SRES certification teaches agents how to answer these questions and more.

Benefits of hiring an SRES-certified agent

  • They understand your communication style, especially in terms of the technology you’re comfortable using.
  • They understand and have empathy that to you, a house isn’t just a house — it’s the home where you spent years making happy memories with your loved ones.
  • They know how to counsel you through the emotionally difficult process of selling the family home.
  • They can help you with specific strategies to help you if you’re planning on downsizing.
  • They have access to retirement planning information and relationships with financial planners.
  • They can arrange or coordinate all necessary repairs, updates, or staging.
  • They can offer advice on how to manage household expenses after retirement.
  • They can offer insights into the senior real estate market.
  • They can explain the benefits and drawbacks of a 50+ community.
  • They know what features are best for 50+ homeowners (like stairs and bathroom accessibility).
  • They can help with understanding how to position your estate planning, so the transition after you pass isn’t a burden on your family.

According to NAR data, those in the 57+ age group have spent significantly more time in their previous home than younger age groups. With that amount of time comes a lot of memories, emotional attachments, and sentimental thoughts.

SRES certification training gives agents a wealth of knowledge and insight into the senior real estate market. But does that mean retirees should only hire an agent who has this specific certification?

Perhaps not.

Do I need an agent with SRES certification?

There’s an age-old debate between the professional world and the academic world about which is more valuable: experience or education.

In the case of SRES certification, actual experience with seniors’ real estate needs usually wins out over academic knowledge gained from certification training.

Robinson, who is both SRES-certified and a resident in an active 55+ community, explains:

“SRES training has certainly helped, but being a senior has probably helped more than anything. I recommend that seniors work with a seasoned agent closer to their own age. I would not recommend a new or young agent unless they have significant experience working with seniors. Someone who is over 60 is more able to identify with the specific needs of a senior than someone who’s 25.”

Does that mean you need to work with an agent born in the same decade as you? While that may be helpful in building a shared understanding and sense of camaraderie, senior agents don’t have the market cornered on an understanding of retiree real estate.

Younger agents may have learned the ropes of helping their own retirement-aged parents sell their home. Others gain this knowledge working alongside seasoned agents at senior-friendly realty companies.

Browning mentions that for younger agents, having the SRES certification is more important: “It’s an added benefit to say ‘I’m a senior specialist,’ helping people feel like the agent knows what she’s talking about and can guide them through the process.”

Maybe you’re set on hiring an agent who’s received SRES certification training. Either way, you’ll want to select a seasoned agent with hands-on experience helping seniors sell real estate.

How do I find a top agent with the SRES certification?

Now that you understand the benefits of having an agent with specific knowledge and experience working with seniors, how do you go about finding one?

As with hiring any agent, be thorough in your search, and don’t be afraid to interview potential agents and ask specifically about their experience working with seniors.

HomeLight can connect you with a certified SRES real estate agent in your area or a top agent with valuable experience helping seniors with both buying and selling real estate.

If you’re curious about what your home might be worth now, HomeLight’s Home Value Estimator uses information from multiple sources to create a real-time, ballpark home value estimate based on current market trends.

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