How to capture the empty nester market

Empty nesters typically look to downsize their homes. Knowing what to say during the listing presentation and developing an appropriate marketing campaign are critical to achieving results.

REB spoke to three experienced real estate agents to get their thoughts on who downsizers are, what they look for in properties and how agents can best relate to them.

Who is a typical downsizer and what do they look for in a property?

Last month, Richard Simeon of Simeon Manners Property sold a Mosman, in Sydney's north shore, house at auction to downsizers. He points out that they aren’t always downsizing in the traditional sense.

“They don’t necessarily want a smaller house. They actually still want a nice, large property for their grandchildren and children to visit, but they just want low-maintenance living,” he says.

Gayle Walker of Sydney Sotheby’s International Realty agrees, having recently sold a three-bedroom Kirribilli, also in Sydney’s north shore, apartment to similar buyers.

“It affords a really good spacious lifestyle so they’re not moving into something small. They’ve still got a huge apartment, a penthouse apartment, and it’s close to everything.”

Nigel Mukhi, principal and sales agent at McGrath Neutral Bay told REB that a downsizer is generally someone who is middle aged or older with kids who have left home; someone who does not require a large family house.

In his experience, downsizers typically look for properties in close proximity to the city with level access and minimal stairs.

“A big thing is location and low maintenance. Something that is secure, with no stairs and close to shops and transport,” Mr Mukhi says. “Usually three bedrooms, if it’s just a couple, and that would generally be a room for themselves, a guest room and then an office.”

Downsizers generally have a preference for the property to be renovated, he adds.

“They’ve maybe renovated or rebuilt several homes in their life and they’re sort of over that and they just want an easy move.”

What do downsizers respond to as buyers?

Ms Walker says different marketing strategies attract different buyers, noting that online channels could limit your reach with older buyers.

“I think most people are good with online marketing these days. Most people just go online, but if they’re older, say, they’re mid-seventies and onwards, they might like to sit down with the paper, so that age group will definitely be more newspaper-oriented for ads,” she says.

During her recent sales campaign of the $3.7 million Kirribilli apartment, Ms Walker says she went with traditional print advertising to target empty nesters.

“We had the local papers, The Mosman Daily and The North Shore Times, to bring people: downsizers. I wanted to attract the empty nesters.”

In determining how to market a property that might be appropriate for downsizers, Mr Mukhi advises agents to keep their intended demographic in mind.

“If they’re coming from certain areas, it might be worthwhile advertising in those local papers, for instance if they’re downsizing from the upper north shore to the lower north shore, then you’d want to go in The North Shore Times.”

However, digital channels should not be ignored. He also encourages agents to have a “strong online presence” when marketing to downsizers.

“The other thing that’s important is as much information as possible, so whether it’s at the open home about the property or whether it’s the price guide in the marketing, it’s about just making the whole process easier.”

What do downsizers respond to as vendors?

Downsizers are likely to have previously sold property and are therefore generally familiar with the process. However, what they might need from agents is support around the transition.

“If they are selling and making that transition, explain the options – whether they want to buy before they sell, if they want to sell before they buy and what that might mean when there’s not much stock... if they are then open to renting,” Mr Mukhi says, adding that agents should go through all the options and find out what their clients’ needs are.

Moving out of the family home where they’ve lived for decades can also present a potentially overwhelming challenge for downsizers.

“Imagine if you’ve had a house for 30 years, how many belongings you’ve got,” Ms Walker says.

“I think it’s a really good idea to offer them a service. There are companies that will go in and work with people and help them to declutter, pack and move everything.

“If you can take the overwhelm away from them, that’s a really strong level of service, so that’s a good offering.”

[Related: John McGrath identifies shifting demographics]

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