Above, from left: Lauren Kegley, Jeanne Nemovitz, Bruce Nemovitz, Erica Petri and Christine Johnson
Long ago, Bruce Nemovitz was simply a successful real estate agent in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Then one out-of-nowhere “aha” moment transformed his career from solid but ordinary to extraordinary.
The Bruce of Bruce’s Team, which has long been part of the Realty Executives family, Nemovitz works alongside wife Jeanne, team REALTORS® Erica Petri and Christine Johnson, and administrative assistant Lauren Kegley. When he started in the residential real estate business over 35 years ago, there was no acknowledgement of the unique needs of older adults who had lived in their homes for decades and were wanting or needing to sell. That would change…
“I had already been in the business for 10 years, and sold a house for a client who happened to work at a senior community,” Nemovitz explains. “She called me after we closed and said that many seniors who come live there want to sell their homes, but it can be overwhelming. She asked me to speak to them, and I did.”
Nemovitz felt a sense of purpose guiding them through his talk on the ins and outs of selling a home, who to contact, etc., and decided to see if other senior communities would like him to speak to their residents as well. He was asked to represent one senior selling their house, then another and then another, until he was suddenly overwhelmed with new seller clients. Luckily, by working long hours with Jeanne, they could handle the avalanche of new listings.
Since then, education has caught up with the special needs of seniors, and Nemovitz has taken advantage of the specialized certification. He earned accreditations as a Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES) and Certified Residential Specialist (CRS). He has shared his experience and expertise as the author of two books. “Moving in the Right Direction: A Senior’s Guide to Moving and Downsizing” is a reference for seniors, while “Guiding Our Parents in the Right Direction: Practical Advice About Seniors Moving From the Home They Love” is targeted to children of parents who need to sell their homes.
As if the non-stop selling of senior homes hasn’t been lucrative enough, Bruce’s Team has capitalized on an additional bonus.
“We get many referrals from the seniors, like, ‘Hey, my granddaughter or grandson, they want to buy a house’, that kind of thing. And so a buyer agent on our team handles all those new, younger clients.”
Michael Catarevas: Could you have ever imagined that deciding to work with seniors would be so profitable?
Bruce Nemovitz: No. I feel it was fate. Somebody opened a door, but I decided to walk through it. We as agents all have ideas, but who knows how many people actually walk through a door that’s open?
MC: What are some details when working with seniors that would not be factors with younger clients?
BN: As we age, we oppose change because we want to maintain our equilibrium. We become more overwhelmed by things that didn’t phase us when younger. One of our taglines is “Taking you from overwhelmed to I can do this.” And older adults have many health issues younger people don’t have. There are also financial concerns because senior communities are rather expensive. And letting go of their home can sometimes feel like the first step to the end.
MC: When you get new senior clients, do they normally have their children with them or someone younger to listen to your presentations?
BN: About 50% do. If they’re going into independent living, they’re more likely not to have their children with them. But if they’re going into assisted living because their activities of daily living are limited, then often we are working with their children. Because we are well-known in this field, we are also getting many, many referrals from attorneys after the seniors pass, and also getting calls from children inheriting the houses.
MC: Is there much competition for senior listings?
BN: No. I don’t know if it’s too overwhelming for agents to go into this, but I’ve developed an educational program online, called Brick by Brick, under BruceAllenConsultants.com. We have many members, and we teach them how to replicate my business.
MC: Have you thought of branching out into other markets?
BN: I have, but at my age, I’m sort of waiting for somebody to collaborate with. I have approached Realty Executives regarding this, and I believe they may be going forward on some type of collaboration with me.
MC: Have you found that as you meet new clients who are seniors, with you being a senior, that it’s easier for them to relate, as opposed to a 25-year-old agent approaching them?
BN: I do think they feel more comfortable. They know that I can probably understand their issues better than someone much younger. But I have a 28-year-old assistant, Erica, and she relates very well to them when the deals are over. They tell me how helpful she was, and they listen to what she has to say.
MC: Do you work much more with sellers than buyers? What’s the percentage?
BN: I would say 98% sellers because almost everyone that calls has moved into a senior community. And many of my referrals are coming from senior communities.
MC: Isn’t it much easier to work mostly with sellers?
BN: One of the sayings in this business is, he who lists wins. You cannot be in real estate and not be a listing agent, especially over the last five years. When you have a buyer but extremely low inventory, even if you wrote an offer on a property you were one of 10 or 20 offers, so you got a one in 10 or one in 20 chance of even getting an accepted offer. And, unfortunately, I’ve seen many agents leave the business because of that. They didn’t develop their listing portfolios. I’ve told every agent that if you don’t list, you’re going to be out of the business.
MC: How has Realty Executives been of service to you? How long have you been with them?
BN: I am their longest-standing agent in the country. I joined in 1981 when it was called Executive Systems, and they changed it after that to Realty Executives. But I was there almost from the start. And so I’ve seen every kind of real estate market you can think of, from interest rates going up to 20% in the ‘80s to the Great Recession in 2008 to this market with total lack of inventory. Realty Executives has given me a free hand to develop this seniors niche because no one had ever done it before. In fact, when I started, agents were asking me, why are you dealing with older people like this? Why are you dealing with nursing homes and things like that? Nobody really understood what I was doing, but from the beginning, Realty Executives allowed me to do my own marketing and supported me with all of their technology that I needed. They allowed me to mold the business into my dream without interference, and they have always been supportive.
MC: Jeanne, you’re 100% a part of the business, correct?
Jeanne Nemovitz: Correct.
MC: What’s it like to work with Bruce all day and then be home together? How do you work that dynamic where you’re pretty much together 24/7?
JN: It works for us because we both do very specific things, so I’m not falling all over Bruce’s listings. My main job is presenting all the offers and managing all of that, including home inspections. And more often than not, I’m in the office and he’s on the road. So that helps a lot. And we happen to work very well together. He has definitely made me stretch and grow and become a better REALTOR®, so it works out really well for us.
MC: When you’re home with Bruce, do you talk real estate there, too?
JN: Yes, we do. It’s not the main point of our conversations, but we cover a lot of topics. I do stuff in the office, and he’s on the road, so we’ll connect at the end of the day. He’ll tell me about his appointments, and I’ll tell him about what I handled with our various clients. So it works out.
MC: How long have you and Bruce been married?
JN: It will be 50 years this December.
MC: Oh, congratulations! Do you have children?
JN: We have two daughters. They have their own families now.
MC: Did you try to get them into the business?
JN: No, no, I never wanted to work with the children. One is a school teacher and really loves what she does, and the other is a stay-at-home mom with four kids.
MC: Is it rewarding to help seniors sell their houses?
JN: It really is. They’re such an incredible group of people. The knowledge they have about life in general is amazing. And the stories they share with us are really incredible. They’re kind and open, and I don’t feel like I’m working on a sale. I feel like I’m helping them. And whenever I give them advice, my line is, “If you were my brother, sister, aunt or uncle, I’m giving you all the information so you can make the best decision for yourself. I’m going to talk to you like you’re a family member so you know I’m real and not just doing this to make sure the house closes or sells, or whatever.” Sometimes you just have to go the extra nine yards. And especially with our clientele, a lot of them are alone. They don’t even have friends, which is very sad, let alone family. So I try to be there for them and answer all their questions the same way I would for my family.
For more information, please visit brucesteam.com.