The spring homebuying season is upon us but it is so different now than it was a decade ago, or even before the housing crash.
I look back with fond memories of young couples buying homes or young families with children buying a home or selling the one they have and buying a new one.
It has been two years since I have worked with a seller who is also a buyer, and last year I worked with only one young couple on the purchase of their first home.
The first-time homebuyers I am working with these days are 45 and older. I had one who told me she is 62 and that she finally decided to buy because it is cheaper for her to own than to rent.
The average age of first-timers remains in the early 30s, but at least in my market the first-timers do not dominate the market and, in general, my buyers are older and their needs are different.
They tend to be well-educated and do their homework before they contact me, and they typically find me on the Internet.
They are relentless in their search for information and willing to do a lot of research on their own. Sometimes my first contact with them is an argument when my experience does not agree with their research.
They are more cautious and more financially savvy than the younger buyers. They know there are bargains out there and they want to take advantage of them, but they can and will wait for the "right property."
I rarely get questions about financing from the older buyers, and the only thing I usually need to explain is that they need proof of funds or a preapproval letter.
They have money in hand, which is something I did not used to see: My last three buyers paid cash and bought second homes for themselves or to rent to family members.
A woman called me a few days ago and told me she is planning for retirement and wanted to discuss various housing options. She wanted to discuss the merits of condos vs. free-standing homes but made it clear that she wasn’t interested in age-restricted, 55-and-up housing options. I can count on a few calls like that each month.
The sellers who I work with have changed, too. If they don’t have distressed properties, they tend to be older and have homes that they own free and clear.
It is becoming more common to work with families as they sell their parents’ real estate. I had one client in her late 60s who was helping her 90-something father sell the family home.
The electronic signature system I use has become critical to my business. When sellers who have power of attorney are out of state, it is far easier to get their signatures electronically than by any other method.
It has been the same with the older buyers who buy second homes. I have more long-distance relationships with buyers and sellers than ever before. No one seems much interested in dealing with paper these days, and getting people to sign anything can be like herding cats.
Most of my older clients will never see my lists on Foursquare and may not know how to use Twitter, but they know how to read my blog and they love to be able to sign documents electronically.
Some of the clients appreciate iPad apps and apps for their phones that make the home search easier.
I know that the best way to reach the oldest sellers is through their children. When they look for an agent they look for someone with experience who they can trust and who is easy to work with.
I believe I will continue to work with older buyers. More baby boomers are approaching retirement age and will be looking for additional homes or smaller homes in the city if they can sell their larger homes in the ‘burbs.
Going forward, my focus is going to be on an older demographic. There are always opportunities to sell real estate, and young first-time homebuyers may not make up the biggest market share in every area right now.
Are you ready for older buyers and sellers?