Real Estate Weekly
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As elderly population soars, brokers are filling gap in market

New York City is often thought of as a place brimming with young people, fresh out of college and amped up for big city life. But one population demographic has grown significantly since 2000, and they are increasingly in need of help when it comes to selling their home.

According to the New York City Department of Aging, the 2010 Census showed that the 60-plus population in New York City has been growing, after a downward trend in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Between 2000 and 2010, the older population increased 12.4 percent, representing 155,429 people aged 60 or older.

The report also projects that NYC will see a dramatic increase in its elderly population, with the number of people age 65 and expected to rise 44.2 percent, from 938,000 in 2000 to 1.35 million in 2030.

The report cites that the increase is largely due to the first wave of baby-boomers who turned 60 starting in 2006. And it isn’t just Manhattan — all five boroughs experienced increases in the number of older people.

Staten Island had the largest gain, with 26.2 percent, while Manhattan came in second with 19.7 percent, followed by the Bronx, Brooklyn and then Queens.

In fact, the 60-plus population has been growing faster than NYC’s total population (2.1 percent) and population under 60 (0.2 percent).

Residential real estate brokers are increasingly finding that elderly people who have lived in their apartment for several decades are having a hard time selling their home and transitioning to senior living, assisted living, or nursing homes.

The process is often difficult — a person who has called an apartment their home for so long, it is a complicated and emotional process to say goodbye. An estate sale, real estate lawyers, and transition movers are often needed.

On top of that, many of the neighborhoods where elderly people have lived for many years have now become gentrifying hotspots, driving up rents and sales prices, and putting pressure on the long-time residents to either sell or move somewhere less expensive.

Marc Williams, an associate broker with residential brokerage firm MazGroup New York, has worked with several elderly clients in New York City. He previously worked with older clients in Hawaii who were purchasing beachfront vacation homes.

He says one of the most important things for a broker to do when working with an older client is to put yourself in their shoes.

Marc Williams
Marc Williams

“You have to get into their mindset,” said Williams. “You have to understand that they’ve very likely lived in that property a very long time, and you have to be patient and understand that situation.”

That situation will often include dealing with pension plans, retirement funds, and 401Ks — because in most cases, elderly people do not have a regular income.

“Sometimes they are not only selling their property, but also working with an assisted living home to get that person into a new location,” said Williams. “Some assisted living places have to be approved, similar to co-ops, so you have to show financial capability on the part of the retired person.”

Williams recalled one older client who wasn’t necessarily looking to move, but was offered a large amount of money for her home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where she had lived for 20 years.

“She was basically priced out. I think that is happening a lot more than we think,” said Williams. “My client acquiesced to that situation and moved.”

He added that he is seeing the same trend happening even in non-waterfront areas like Astoria, Queens.
Another of Williams’ clients was a woman who had lived for 35 years in her Manhattan apartment, and her home was “stock full of everything you can imagine.”

“She had some very expensive pieces, but couldn’t take any with her,” he said. “she didn’t want to, but decided to downsize.” Williams helped her with the estate sale, an emotional and “traumatic” process for his client.

“She was very upset about having to get rid of a lot of personal items, but after it was all over, she was happy it had happened,” he said. “It took us at least six months to get her into that frame of mind.”

Afterwards, she ended up moving to an assisted living home in Montauk.

At Rutenberg Realty, agent Ina Torton recently started a group called “Next Move,” specifically for agents working with the elderly.

Ina Torton
Ina Torton

The group meets regularly and provides resources for its members to help with the specific nuances to working with older clients. The group has 15-20 members and is the first agency to have a team specifically working with older clients.

“We will take referrals if other brokers can’t handle it,” said Torton.

At a recent meeting at Rutenberg Realty’s Midtown offices, brokers said they are seeing elderly clients needing to sell their home and transition to senior or assisted living in neighborhoods all over the city, including the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Sutton Place, Murray Hill, the West Village, and Williamsburg.

Companies specializing in the process of transitioning, like one NYC-based company, “Caring Transitions,” are popping up everywhere, said the brokers. That firm offers what they call a “one-stop shop,” where they take care of estate liquidations and sales, downsizing, decluttering, professional organizing, and hoarder organizing and cleanout, according to the company’s website.

Above all, the group focused on the importance of making sure an elderly clients’ wishes are respected, being sensitive, and giving extra time and care to the situation.

“You’re not going to make anyone do anything they don’t want,” said Torton. “You’re helping their need.”

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