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Phil Spencer: It's the age of the older customer

We all want more transactions - the Holy Grail when it comes to agencies’ bottom lines - but an interesting aspect of this year’s slowdown has been a rising share of older movers.

It’s hardly surprising, of course. The latest census shows the number of people aged 65 years and over in England and Wales increased from 9.2m in 2011 to over 11m in 2021 and the proportion of people aged 65 and over rose from 16.4 to 18.6 per cent.

An ageing population, coupled with high prices, affects the housing market, not least because it’s the older owner who has equity, can afford moving costs and has the incentive to release funds for themselves or their families.


How an ageing demographic affects housing

The average age off a first time buyer right now is 37 according to a study by First Direct, and data from lender trade body UK Finance suggests there are around 830,000 mortgage holders likely to be paying off their home loans into their 70s and well into retirement.

Now the agency, Hamptons, has revealed the number of English rental households aged 65 and above will double by 2030 - that’s less than seven years from now. Today there are some 400,000 older households (over 65s) renting and this figure will pass 1m in 2033.

So while just 5.7 per cent of households aged over 65 rent their home privately today, by 2033 it’ll be 11.1 per cent - that’s one household in nine led by someone aged 65 or more.

Which made me think: Are agents ready for dealing with older customers?

Of course, the experienced agent will deal with an individual who has particular needs determined by their age or health, but will the industry also have to consider a structural change as an ever-larger slice of the market comprises of 60, 70, 80 and 90 somethings?

Here are some ideas

It’s important to remember that being older doesn’t mean all or even any faculties are impaired, and it’s critical that we all appreciate the needs of older age without being patronising. Interestingly the cruise travel sector, for so long associated with older clients, says fewer than 10 per cent of its customers now use printed brochures - the rest use online.

So here are some low- or no-cost practical steps agents can take, without appearing in any way disrespectful to an older clientele.

For example, all legal and contractual paperwork could have large print versions - especially for terms and conditions, and so on.

Are properties suitable and appropriate for age-related modifications? Just a line or two in property details would show that this has been considered by the vendors and agents.

Could there be an option of home visits to update vendors or landlords on viewer feedback - at the moment it’s not even considered. If that choice was given during a pitch to win an instruction, might it appeal to some older customers?

Clarity over fees, including VAT - already a requirement, of course, but rarely a subject that agents dwell on during an appraisal. To give maximum confidence and transparency, this would require agents being disciplined about not adding additional services like extra advertising at a later date. If it’s all said up-front, there’s much less scope for confusion.

Being ‘Age Friendly’. I was struck a few years ago when the Linley & Simpson agency in the north of England signed up to a retail Age Friendly Charter. It meant that the firm’s High Street offices could be used if an older person wanted a rest or to use the toilet.

It’s hardly a glamorous move, but it won the company much praise - and, I bet, won it a few instructions when older owners realised this was an agency with a human touch.

Likewise another agency - Vario, in East Anglia - has a ‘Granddaughter Service’ where it offered to treat any instruction from an older client with less haste and perhaps more care than the typical younger customer might require or want.

Demographics apply to agency team members too

And don’t forget that as the population gets a little older, so too do agency team members.

It’s always struck me that an advantage of independent agents, in particular, is that the corporate pressure and expectation to retire at a set age need not apply. If an agent wants to do something else or put their feet up, then fine - but if they want to stay on and are in the good form that so many now enjoy in later life, why not?

It’s crude to reduce this issue to perceptions, but my guess is that a 70-something is likely to be more amenable to an older negotiator than to someone a third of their age. At the very least, this is a factor to consider when an agency considers its employment policy.

Phil Spencer is a presenter, author, businessman and property investor. Phil’s consumer advice platform Move iQ, is a website, YouTube channel and podcast. Each preserve and reflect the same impartiality that consumers trust and base their property moving plans. Move iQ Pro, is Phil’s resource to support agents and has recently launched a video marketing product. Contact amanda@moveiQ.co.uk to find out more


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