Special ‘accredited senior agents’ step into
Colin McConnell/Toronto Star
Irene Kaushansky and her husband Philip Brown are realtors accredited to help seniors and their families.
By:Susan PiggBusiness Reporter,Published on Mon Mar 11 2013
The elegant grand dame on a prime Riverdale street was more than just another listing for veteran realtors Irene Kaushansky and her husband, Philip Brown.
It was a massive brick time capsule crammed with three floors of family heirlooms and a lifetime of memories for its ailing owner.
The elderly woman had lived in the gracious house since childhood. She’d raised her own children on its upper floors, nursed both her parents in the home until their deaths. The 72-year-old resident had to move from the big, multi-levelled home due to health and heart problems, and she was scared.
The woman had known Kaushansky and Brown for years and knew they brought special skills to what was going to be a hugely difficult decision: The two are among just 1,000 or so “accredited senior agents” in Ontario.
Those specially trained realtors do more than just buy and sell homes. They hold hands and calm nerves while helping seniors and often their adult children make difficult choices about the future. That can involve someone who has lived for decades in the same home moving into a seniors residence, a smaller home or even making alterations to the existing house that will allow a senior to “age in place.”
Accredited senior agents come armed with a list of professionals they’ve personally vetted, ranging from lawyers and accountants who specialize in tax and inheritance law to “transition managers” — professionals who will sort and help sell or give away aged furniture, china and silverware that has far more sentimental than real value.
“Our goal isn’t just to meet seniors and sell their homes,” says Kaushansky. “It’s an entire intake process that assesses their needs.”
Accredited seniors agents will also connect families with needed supports, such as home-care providers.
“You have to have the right personality for this,” says veteran realtor and real estate expert Barry Lebow, who designed the two-day ASA program more than a decade ago in anticipation of the tsunami of seniors coming as baby boomers age.
“This is about involvement. It’s about commitment. It’s also about pulling your hair out because sometimes people will not listen to you.”
Lebow says the voluntary program faced resistance at first because it was seen as taking realtors into the realm of counsellors rather than sales professionals.
“It’s no different than a realtor walking into a place and saying, ‘I think you have a leaky roof, let’s get a roofer in here.’ It’s just about recognizing issues and sending seniors and their families to the right expert.”
Getting things right requires patience. It took Kaushansky and Brown three years to find the Riverdale woman a home that would work, a tiny bungalow a few blocks east of her children’s house, without stairs or hills that might impede her mobility.
The couple made sure her old Riverdale house was cleared and cleaned, then they calmed the woman as multiple offers rolled in — all far beyond her wildest dreams.
“Often these seniors may have very strained relationships with their children, if any relationship at all,” says Brown. “This can be a long-term investment.”
Kaushansky and Brown stress to their older clients the importance of planning for the future, having up-to-date wills and discussing with their children where they would ideally like to live until they die.
It can be difficult, say Kaushansky and Brown, a former social worker, to convince seniors that the home they bought for just a few thousand dollars is now worth over a million. Worse yet is bracing them for the likelihood it will be razed and replaced with a modern stone-faced mini-mansion.
Some ASAs charge fees for their co-ordinating efforts. Others just pocket the commission for selling the house but may help oversee payment of any other professionals the senior may require.
Kaushansky and Brown don’t tend to charge for their co-ordinating efforts, but stress that helping seniors is just 10 per cent of their real estate work.
“We don’t want it to be our whole business because it’s very time consuming,” says Kaushansky. “But it’s also really rewarding. By the time you are done, you feel you have made a difference.”
CENTURY 21 Miller Real Estate Ltd.
Brokerage Independently Owned and Operated
467 Speers Road, Oakville, ON L6K 3S4