For elderly homeowners, the impact of a home failing to sell is much more significant than it might be for younger homeowners in their prime earning years.

Why it hurts more for this demographic

According to the National Association of Realtors, homesellers between 67 and 87 years of age have a median income of $67,100, compared to homesellers aged 51 to 60, whose median income is $100,200.

In 2016, there will be no cost of living adjustment (COLA) for seniors on Social Security. This is the only the third time in 41 years that seniors have not received this benefit.

For the elderly, budgets are tighter, medical costs are increasing, and the family home is still one of their largest assets.

Did you know senior homeowners have the longest tenures in their homes? The median tenure of 67-to-87-year-old homeowners is 15 years, according to NAR. Translation: large equity positions.

So when agents fail to sell the homes of seniors, the financial stakes are much higher.

When an agent takes a listing, could we consider the idea it is unethical to overprice the listing, or to do poor-quality marketing?

The 2015 DANGER Report highlights the no. 1 danger to agents in the industry: ineptitude. It states, “Professional, hardworking agents increasingly understand that the ‘not so good’ agents are bringing the entire industry down.”

People ask me why it’s so hard to trust people, and I ask them why is it so hard to keep a promise. – Unknown.

Taking a listing is making a promise. The typical home sold was on the market for four weeks, so when a six-month listing contract is approaching day 178 and it hasn’t received any decent offers, maybe it is time to consider why you took that listing at that price and if you truly marketed it to the highest standard.

Bertha’s story

In the fall of 2015, I met Bertha from Orange County, a beautiful 80-year-old who had an incredibly close-knit family and a home filled with memories.

Deciding to put Bertha’s home on the market in 2014 was a big decision, and she wanted to involve her children. She was transitioning to a new stage in life, and selling a home that had been in their family for decades was both a sentimental and financial decision.

As such, Bertha requested that her real estate agent work with one child in particular as her point person.

It was critically important to her that the agent she worked with would respect her wishes to communicate with her daughter. She was scared of making a mistake or getting lost in the details, and she wanted to protect an asset that had significant personal meaning.

Her first agent promised to sell the home quickly, saying it was a hot market and homes in her area were being sold in bidding wars.

The home got a handful of low-ball offers, and Bertha and her family felt a lot of pressure to accept them. When the contract expired on her home with her first agent, the agent told Bertha that she should sign another listing contract without consulting her family.

She decided not to relist with the first agent. It was then that the calls started coming from other agents after the home expired.

Lucky no. 15

Scott Cramer was the 15th agent to call Bertha, and he connected immediately with her. But even after a great initial conversation, Cramer still had not won the listing.

Bertha and her family wanted this second time around to be different. They were more cautious with their selection process. Bertha’s children said that having the phone ring with agents gave them hope that this property was valuable and had potential.

As discouraging as it was to have the home not sell, they were determined to get it right the next time around.

When Bertha recalled the first time she spoke to Scott, she said, “At first I was kind of worried when he did call, because I had so many people calling. I don’t know, I just felt like I could talk with him and relate a lot of my message about the house and all this.

“I just went on and on about the house and he kept answering [questions], and then he said ‘I’ll help you sell the house.’ Then, I just got all excited.”

Cramer won Bertha over with his attentive listening skills, experience and sincerity. However, he then had to win over Bertha’s children.

He was invited to interview with five other agents, back-to-back, with the entire family on the same Saturday. For some agents, this type of interviewing process would stop them from crossing the threshold; however, Scott was determined to win the listing.

What did he do different in the listing appointment?

During the listing appointment, Cramer demonstrated some key behaviors and expertise:

  • He understood and showed respect for the family dynamics — this was huge
  • He was respectful to his competitors and didn’t make it about “him vs. them,” but about how he could help Bertha and her family.
  • He followed the instructions of the family by providing a resume — the family was impressed he was an alumni of a notable university in the area.
  • His presentation wasn’t about him; it was about his understanding of the local area, their house and the story behind the market comparables.

He won the listing and listed the home at $650,000 — the exact price at which it had expired from the market.

The family received a full price offer five-and-half weeks later.

What was different about his listing?

So what did Cramer do differently on the listing?

  • He hired a professional photographer — the original photos were amateur and not high-resolution.
  • He marketed the home correctly on the MLS, with well-written copy and maximum photos.
  • He prospected each day to find potential buyers.
  • He followed Bertha’s wishes and expectations with excellent communication.

His professionalism, high quality of service and skills turned a terrible real estate experience into a “happily ever after” for Bertha and her family.

Meet Bertha, her family and Scott in this video of them telling their story in their own words.

Michelle Holt is the director of marketing and strategic relations at REDX.

Email Michelle Holt.