Shot of senior couple using a digital tablet during a consultation with a financial advisor at home
The Seniors Real Estate Specialist® Council Honors Three Real Estate Professionals for Outstanding Service to Seniors
Each year, the Seniors Real Estate Specialist® (SRES®) Council selects a small handful of outstanding senior-focused REALTORS® who have earned the SRES® designation, and highlights their achievements by recognizing them with the SRES® Outstanding Service Award.
The SRES® designation, offered through the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), is geared toward REALTORS® interested in meeting the special needs of maturing Americans, whether they’re relocating, selling, buying or refinancing.
The annual award, selected by an independent panel, distinguishes service providers who have: demonstrated extraordinary performance in their respective senior communities; acted as outstanding leaders in the real estate community serving seniors; served as a driving force for change and new efforts to better serve seniors; made a visible difference to either a specific group of seniors or show how real estate needs are met in their local community or nationally; proven that they are a trusted source of knowledge and experience among their community’s senior population and furthered the principles established in the NAR Code of Ethics in all interactions with the senior consumer population.
While 2017 and 2018 brought two SRES® award winners, 2019 shepherded in three SRES® Outstanding Service Award winners: Katherine Ambrose, REALTOR®/CEO of Ambrose Team Inc.; Brian Finley, broker/owner of Brian & Company Real Estate; and Debbie Fischer, broker/owner of Brevard Relocate Realty Group.
More than merely supporting their senior community, this year’s winners are forward-thinking game changers in the real estate community whose leadership has improved the lives of their 50-plus community.
With more than 30 years of experience in residential real estate, Ambrose oversees her real estate team while also producing and hosting the television series “Empowering Seniors,” featuring candid conversations on the specific issues facing seniors and their families.
She also runs a monthly lecture series under a similar title, the “Empowered Senior” lecture series. Both of these outlets have helped Ambrose and her team “establish a certain level of niche authority,” Ambrose explains, and have brought in a steady flow of invitations to address this specialized area. One such invitation resulted in Kansas state approval for Ambrose to become a continuing education provider. Through this, Ambrose developed a course called “Empowering Seniors’ Next Steps.”
Prior to her SRES® work, Ambrose spent time in several real estate niches, including training and coaching, short sales and corporate relocation. The Wichita, Kan.-based professional says she chose the senior niche because she wanted to serve a demographic that she could make an “obvious point of difference” in.
Ambrose works alongside husband Randy Ambrose, and when asked about a senior-specific challenge she sees regularly, Ambrose points to an often overwhelming accumulation of personal property, which she refers to as “the stuff.”
“Personal property accumulated over a lifetime bogs down the decision-making process when it comes to making a downsizing move,” says Ambrose. “Not knowing what to do with all of their stuff is so overwhelming. I’m convinced it causes most seniors to just freeze and put off proactive decisions until there’s a crisis.”
Ambrose and her team help clients overcome this challenge by allowing them to understand the downsizing process. “The magic, in my opinion, is in the combination of providing the move management services in-house and undertaking the community outreach.”
On the reception of her SRES® award, Ambrose says: “It feels like a pinnacle point in my career. This is a good beginning to being part of a movement that expands how seniors and their families are served.”
An SRES® instructor with real estate roots tracing back to 1987, Finley works closely with local senior organizations in his community of Edmonton, Canada, and was a crucial leader in the creation and implementation of the Seniors Financial Empowerment Network (SFEN) in 2014, which began, according to Finley, as a platform to talk about financial elder abuse and explore preventive responses to address this issue.
“As part of those discussions, it was identified that there was a lack of programs targeted to seniors in our area that were financial literacy-based,” Finley explains.
SFEN has since developed a seven-module series on subjects impacting the senior demographic, including housing and homeownership. Finley developed the SFEN housing module and serves as the group’s real estate advisor, creating material, training, support and instruction for a network of senior facilitators providing peer-to-peer sessions throughout Canada.
“The beauty of working in the senior marketplace is in the relationships,” says Finley. “As an instructor for the SRES®, I always mention to the participants that working in the senior marketplace is more about relationships than market. That is both the reward and the challenge.”
One of the largest challenges for seniors, Finley notes, is how to work both for the senior and with the family.
“You need to bridge generations and be able to provide information and communicate in a lot of ways in order to coordinate and complement your services across the entire family unit,” Finley stresses.
Finley was pleased to learn about his SRES® award. “Now that I’m 50-plus, I guess you could say I have not only a professional interest, but also a personal interest in the senior marketplace.”
A broker since 2004, Fischer’s real estate career followed a 25-year career as an executive director for senior living communities, so the SRES® designation was a natural fit. All the REALTORS® at Fischer’s brokerage have earned the SRES® designation, allowing them to better support the 50-plus market in the Brevard and Indian River Counties of Florida.
In addition to her real estate clientele, Fischer is heavily involved with local educational events and senior expos, writes a monthly article for Helping Seniors of Brevard with more than 14,000 copies distributed monthly, and serves on the Board of Directors for the local chapter of AARP.
Over the past year, Fischer aired on two half-hour shows for the “Helping Seniors” television program broadcasting on Space Coast Government TV, where she covered the complexities of a transitional senior move and the importance of working with an SRES®. She was also a recent guest on Helping Seniors radio, a live one-hour radio show discussing various living options for seniors and the importance of planning.
Fischer enjoys assisting the senior community because she believes in giving back to the generation that’s served her throughout her life.
“Many of the seniors in Brevard County either have no children or their children live out of state and are unable to assist,” says Fischer. “We have a large retired military population and I feel that it’s respectful to honor their service.”
When it comes to senior-specific housing challenges, Fischer points to the complications of working with homes that residents have often occupied for more than 20 years.
“Being proactive early in the listing process is critical, ensuring there are no issues with legal documents that could prevent it from closing,” notes Fischer. “How a home is deeded, is it in a trust, is a POA involved, has there been a death, who can legally sell the home and sign contracts are a few examples of what to look at early in the process. We have excellent relationships with elder law attorneys that we refer the client to in order to review documents as needed.”
Fischer was honored to learn about her SRES® award, and says the future, for her, looks bright: “This growing market of 10,000 people a day turning 65 in the U.S. presents both an opportunity and a challenge to best serve this segment. I would like to develop instructional manuals and teach others throughout the country how to build a successful 55-and-up niche real estate business.”