With over 2 million active real estate agents in the U.S., picking one that’s right for you is no easy task.
Most importantly, you want to find someone who has a proven track record of success in selling homes like yours and making clients happy.
On top of that, though, some agents take extra training in addition to getting their real estate license. There are at least 25 designations Realtors can earn to increase their “skills, proficiency, and knowledge” in niche specialties.
One designation that every senior homeowner should learn is the SRES label, which stands for Seniors Real Estate Specialist.
If you’re thinking about selling your home and are looking for an agent who’s well-versed in the areas of retirement, downsizing, and more, get familiar with the SRES designation so you know what it exactly means when you see those four letters next to an agent’s name.
What is the SRES Certification?
Under the umbrella of the National Association of Realtors, 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.
SRES-certified agent Mike Robinson, who ranks in the top 3% of 2,068 agents in the south Atlanta market, 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.”
SRES-certified agents are also trained to understand the real estate opportunities available to homeowners in the 50+ age demographic. These agents are equipped to explain the ins and outs of options like reverse mortgages and retirement real estate investing.
They are also educated on federal regulations, like the Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA), and the impact real estate transactions have on retirement finances, such as Social Security benefits. 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
Even the youngest of today’s seniors can recall a time when correspondence came in the mailbox, not in an email or a text—and phone calls had to be made and received at home. In fact, many retirees still prefer to handle their business in this “old school” way—in-person, with a handshake and a smile.
“I just recently worked with a retired pilot. He carries a flip phone and he doesn’t text. He will occasionally answer his phone, but not always, because he prefers not to use the cell phone at all,” says Robinson.
Whether you don’t know how—or prefer not—to communicate via technology, it’s important to find an agent who’s both willing and comfortable with conducting business your way.
Understanding this fact is part of the SRES certification training. Aside from studying the financial and legal aspects of senior real estate transactions, certified agents discover how to handle the personal side of working with seniors—including hand-holding.
Typically, seniors have lived in their current home for 10 to 20 years or more. So, this isn’t just your house that you’re selling—it’s the home where you spent years making happy memories with your loved ones.
Logically, you know that downsizing is the right move. Yet letting go of the family home (and all the treasured possessions that won’t fit into your new, smaller house) can feel like you’re losing those precious memories.
SRES-certified agents are taught to understand and counsel senior clients through the emotionally difficult process of selling the family home.
Beyond the stress of selling your former home, both finding and financing your retirement living arrangements takes an emotional toll, too.
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?”
SRES certification teaches agents how to answer these questions.
They’ll have access to retirement planning information and relationships with financial planners. They’ll know the benefits and drawbacks to buying in retirement communities. They’ll advise you on the house features (like stairs and bathroom accessibility) that could help or hinder you as you age.
SRES certification training gives agents a wealth knowledge and insight into the senior real estate market. But does that mean retirees should only hire an agent who has this certification?
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, both academic knowledge and experience with seniors’ real estate needs are equally valuable.
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 twenty-five.”
A feeling of security and camaraderie comes when you work with an agent born in your same decade. But senior agents don’t have the market cornered on an understanding of retiree real estate.
Younger agents may have learned the ropes helping their own retirement-aged parents sell their home. Others gain this knowledge working alongside seasoned agents at senior-friendly realty companies.
For agents who without this experience, SRES certification training is a way for them to gain the demographic-specific knowledge they need to better help their more mature clients.
Maybe you’re set on hiring an agent who’s received SRES certification training. Or perhaps you’d rather select a seasoned agent with hands-on experience helping seniors sell real estate. No matter which one you choose, you’ll have an agent who knows how to meet your specific needs.