Seniors’ Real Estate
Work with expert agents who fully understand the needs of seniors

When couples, families or seniors decide to finally sell the family home and downsize into something smaller or different, there is much more to this process than merely selling and buying. Complications enter the process at several critical points, and people who have not engaged in this process in many years can make serious errors. If you are entering the process of selling your home, you need to begin by consulting an accredited senior agent.

The Pivotal Accredited Senior Agent™ is a specialized designation reserved for those who have expertise in helping people 55 and older deal with the sale of their older home, and next steps thereafter. It is important to note that this designation is different from, and superior to, the Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES).

Here, we offer a complete guide to seniors and real estate. There are several typical tracks on which seniors and families find themselves. Which track are you on? Precipitated by necessity or by choice?

In either case, we offer comprehensive advice to help you on your way, with lists of items to keep in mind as you go through this process.

Which track are you on?

Precipitated by choice
Many seniors or couples decide on their own that they no longer want the family home. They may feel that their home is too large, they may be excited by the amount of equity they have accrued, or they may simply want a change. Many seniors or older couples seek to downsize into something smaller. Depending on what age and stage they are at, they may feel it is appropriate to find a smaller home such as a bungalow, townhouse or even a condo in a residential neighbourhood.

People at this stage need to be aware of the value of life in active adult lifestyle communities.

Depending on what stage of life they are at, other seniors who are still very fit and active choose to move into independent living in a retirement community. Here, they find social engagement, easier day-to-day living, or may be closer to friends or spouses.

There are other possibilities, too, of course, such as moving in with your children in some form of shared housing, moving to a completely different area of the world, or moving into another option such as life lease properties run by non-profits such as churches.

Precipitated by necessity
Other people may have stayed in their family home until they have outgrown it, and they are now at a point where it is no longer safest or best for them to remain in the home. For singles or couples like this, the home may be unsafe for a variety of reasons: narrow stairs, an excess of old carpeting, cluttered spaces, other hazards. A senior’s health or eyesight may be deteriorating, he or she may have received a diagnosis from a doctor. In the worst cases, seen too often, there may have been an injurious fall in the home. Other “tipping points” for seniors are a demonstrated lack of ability to keep up with household tasks like taking out the garbage or other basic housekeeping.

In the above cases, seniors may admit that they need to get care, or family members may decide that it is time to take a look at seniors’ care. Typically these people will look into private home health care services and/or consider downsizing and moving into an assisted living retirement community where they can get assistance with basic every day tasks. If they are suffering from dementia, there are many home health care agencies and adult day programs and retirement residences that specialize in memory care. Typically, these people will move into a situation where they can get assistance with basic everyday tasks, possibly downsizing into a place then accessing home health care services or moving into a retirement home with assisted living. If they are suffering from dementia, there are many residences that specialize in memory care.

Seniors’ real estate specialists in Canada: Accredited Senior Agent (ASA/MASA)

Accredited Senior Agent™ (ASA) and Master ASA™ (MASA) are the sought-after designations for senior real estate specialists in Canada. The Canadian-trained ASA™ presents an accurate understanding, with training and experience in a number of areas where this is absolutely important.

Areas of expertise understood by the ASA™:

  • understanding of Canadian tax laws
  • understanding of Canadian provincial regulations
  • understanding of Canadian content written by Canadians
  • awareness of changes to Canadian laws, taxes, etc.
  • ability to access business discounts from Canadian suppliers (such as movers, etc.)
  • affiliation with various associations for seniors in Canada.
  • connection to a network of advisors in and providers of legal services, elder care, financial services, accounting, etc.

This designation is recognized by the Ontario Real Estate Association, by all major franchises, and by many independent real estate brokerages.

You will likely find that the network of advisors and service providers available through an ASA™, on its own, makes it entirely worth seeking out an accredited ASA™ agent. Both seniors and real estate agents interested in the program can read our article on the value of the Pivotal ASA™ Program.

A network of experts at your disposal

The network of an ASA™ may include:

  • Senior move managers. Members of the National Association of Senior Move Managers are experienced in sorting out clutter and understanding the value of a lifetime’s accumulation. Finding a good mover is important for anyone who has accumulated thirty or forty years’ worth of things.
  • Certified Relocation and Transition Specialists, trained and experienced in this process: people who expertly coach the aging seller through the entire process of transitioning out of their family home.
  • Certified Personal Property Appraisers who are expert at assessing the value of your personal property, including antiques, vehicles, buildings, equipment, etc.
  • Certified Estate Specialists, experts in optimizing the value and the divesting of all the things you no longer need or want.
  • Financial experts, including experts in investing, accountants, and others.
  • Experts in seniors’ care. In cases where people are moving out of their family home because they have to move into seniors’ care, this is a move with many delicate considerations. The ASA™ can help you get started on your search for proper care.
  • Experts in Canadian law. If there are legal consideration or questions, the ASA™ will know exactly what direction you need to go, and who can help you.
  • Healthcare experts. If you are moving to a new area, an Accredited Seniors’ Agent will network with health care providers that meet your needs.


There are real estate agents who tout the Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES). Note that this is a heavily American designation. Some agents may have taken the SRES’s Canadian component but the ASA™ has the advantage of being developed in Canada, specifically for Canadians; it carries a Canadian currency that is inimitable. Before you settle for a non-ASA™, note these important differences in why the ASA™ is better than the SRES.

The Accredited Senior Agent™:

  • has received training in content written by Canadians for Canadians
  • receives ongoing Canadian information, updated several times weekly
  • is a CARP-approved program
  • is privy to a members-only conference held in Canada by Canadian experts
  • networks with Canadian suppliers (movers, vendors, legal professionals, accountants, etc.) offering specialized discounts to senior Canadian clients.

Agents giving advice derived from SRES training with no Canadian component are counseling from an Americanized orientation; advice like this might be completely inaccurate. Any non-ASA™ is not part of the ASA™’s integrated Canadian network of service providers and advisors.

Agents who understand people 50 and older

There is distinct value in working with someone specifically trained and experienced. They are:

  • trained in understanding the needs of elderly clients. They’re experienced in adjusting their pace to match yours.
  • trained in understanding people who are downsizing and who have accumulated decades-worth of things.
  • experienced in working with seniors and their families, and understanding the importance of inter-generational family dynamics in this situation.
  • wizened by experience with other seniors and families. The experience and wisdom of a good ASA™ will be invaluable at key points in the process. A wizened approach will be ultimately critical to your success, to optimizing the value you get out of your property and finding the optimal resolution to all the challenges you face in this complex process.

The important thing to remember is this: what you are going through once (a unique one-time-only transition you’ve never been through before, and probably never want to go through again), they go through regularly (weekly, even daily) as part of their job. The more experience they acquire the better they are at understanding the needs of seniors and families like you.

They are experts in:

  • removing all the busy-ness of dealing with seniors’ real estate needs
  • understanding emergency situations related to older people (strokes, falls, etc.)
  • alleviating all or much of the (real or self-imposed) rush associated with this decision
  • helping families and seniors in aged-induced crises
  • helping seniors in a wide variety of situations

Barry Lebow, originator of the ASA™ says, “An agent today has to have a lot more knowledge to get through a transition.” In an ideal situation, using the expertise and network of an ASA™, “the day a senior moves into a retirement home, everything [that she really wants and needs] will be sitting in its place, waiting for her to walk in the door and live her new life” in her new home.

The transition for older people is markedly different than for those who are younger. A real estate agent who spends little time with other senior clients will be unaware of your different perspective. Many real estate agents who work mainly with younger clients will treat you the same way they treat younger couples, with different values, operating at a different speed and thinking differently. You know you are not the same person you were twenty or thirty years ago.

Finally, as one last assurance, you are also getting someone who is experienced in real estate. The course requires at least 3 years’ experience in selling real estate.

More about choosing a good seniors’ real estate agent

Accreditation is important but it doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about finding the real estate agent who is right for you.

Use your own network. If you can, get an agent recommended by someone you trust. If that’s not possible, make a short list of agents who peak your interest or with whom you have some other connection.

In any case, though, perform your own due diligence in ensuring that the agent is good, and is right for you. This is a critical life moment; do things right, every step of the way.

Find rapport, someone who understands you. The most important thing is to make sure that you find the agent with whom you have the best rapport and who most fully understands what it is you need and what you are looking for. If you don’t like the agent you are working with find a better one.

Research agents online. Investigate agents’ websites, social media, and other online information to find out all you can about them, their most recent sales, their reputation and their overall credibility and authority. All of that being said, don’t be fooled by someone who does a lot of marketing and advertising and is good at creating an image.

Check into their history. Look up the agent’s license. Find out how long they have been selling and learn all you can about their professional history. If there are any blemishes or questions, ask about those or move on to other options.

Call the agent or meet face to face. Make sure that the agent is available during the hours that meet your needs. Gauge your feelings during your initial meeting. If you do not feel peace of mind during what is basically an “interview process” move on or start over.

Call references. If you want to remove any last minute doubts call some of their recent clients to see what they have to say about the agent(s) you have in mind.

Questions to keep in mind as you consider senior real estate agents
During phone calls, meetings and other interactions make sure you have satisfactory answers to all of the following questions:

  1. How long has he or she worked in real estate?
  2. How many clients similar to your case has he or she worked with? How are those clients similar and how different?
  3. What is the agent’s marketing plan for selling your home?
  4. How much commission do they make? (Why not ask?)
  5. What other organizations are they a member of? If they have a number of accreditations, including anything related to seniors’ real estate, this is an added bonus and should help assure you. You may find out they have education or other training in common with you.
  6. Have they won any awards you feel are relevant?

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