HOMEFINDER: Victoria realtors focusing in on seniors

National Association of Realtors has program to teach realtors how to cater to senior market

It’s no secret Victoria’s population is one of the oldest in Canada.

With 115,735 residents over the age of 55, just over a third of the population, Greater Victoria has the third highest elderly population in the country, just behind Peterborough, Ont. and Kelowna, according to the 2011 census.

With that in mind, it should be no surprise that the city is also home to more than a few senior real estate specialists (SRES).

SRES is an official designation created in 2007 and granted by the National Association of Realtors to members of the Canadian Real Estate Association upon completion of the respective course.

Chris Kirby, an SRES at Slegg Realty, said that there are several factors that put Victoria at the top of the list for many seniors, retirees in particular.

“The biggest pull is the climate,” Kirby said. “Winter can be really challenging, especially as you get older. A lot of people from other provinces start looking at Victoria once they retire, because they don’t have to worry about icy roads. The fact that you can golf all year here is a huge draw as well.”

Kirby said Victoria is a popular spot to retire even for people from Vancouver, due to the lower cost of living, especially for those looking to spend their golden years in a home by the sea.

Just like the needs of older residents, the services provided by age-restricted condominiums can vary greatly, with some providing dinners for residents or even daily check-ins by staff.

Andy Stephenson, a SRES with Sotheby’s Realty, said that accessibility is important for realtors to take account when working with older clients.

“Not all seniors are internet savvy, some are hard of hearing and their sight is not always good,” Stephenson said. “Small things, like using larger font in paperwork, can be helpful, and you can’t expect to send PDF documents over email and have the client print them off.”

When trying to reach an older demographic, many realtors rely on print advertisements, particularly in magazines that specialize in “senior living,” though many SRES also cater to the general market. However, Kirby said that an increasing amount of seniors are now using Facebook, and having the ability to buy ads on the website that only appear on the screens of users over the age of 55, has helped him get his name out to potential clients.

While the Victoria real estate market has no shortage of homes, or realtors, suitable for seniors, Kirby said that a new home isn’t always the best option.

“The first thing I look at is what the difficulty with the current home is, and if there’s anything that can be done to improve it,” he said. “Sometimes there’s an easy fix, and a lot of people don’t know that its often tax-deductible. For some seniors, the thing they want most is to stay in their own home.”