Not all downsizing sellers have the same reasons for contacting you.

Plenty of downsizers are self-motivated and might not require much more assistance than a typical client. But others are reluctant to move out of their longtime residences—and some are being forced by health or finances to do so.

Here are tips for you to assist them, no matter their situation.

Prepare for False Starts

Even the most gung-ho downsizers may need more time than the average sellers to act. For example, a couple contacts you about selling the family home when their youngest child is in college. However, they might wait until he graduates and gets a steady job before actually selling.

Be Empathetic

These types of transactions elicit strong emotions. It helps if you show clients that you appreciate their homes and their possessions—and that you know this is a hard process. You’ll need patience and empathy to help them through the transaction.

Know the Motivation

You’ll want to understand early on what’s driving the downsizing. Is it the desire for a smaller place? Are there financial or health worries? Are their kids forcing the sale? Knowing the “why” will help you best serve them.

Include All Decisionmakers

Ask the sellers if anyone else should be involved in your communications. They might want the counsel of their financial advisor or need their children to sign off on a sale. Find out early in the transaction who needs to know what to avoid confusion or failed closings.

Pare Down Possessions

This part is often the biggest hurdle for downsizers. People tend to accumulate items over the years, and many possessions have sentimental value—the dishes inherited from Grandma, the picture painted by a close friend, the dining room set received as a wedding gift. Encourage your clients to start by categorizing their possessions: keep, throw away, and other. Next, they should look at the items in the other category to decide whether to donate, sell, or give to family or friends—and tell everyone they know that they’re downsizing and have things to give away. Another option is to see if there are items that buyers would like and have them convey in the contract.

Talk About Timing

All sellers need time to organize and pack their belongings. However, downsizing sellers likely need more time than other clients to pare down their possessions. They may need to host a garage sale, reach out to family members, contact a consignment company, or perform other related tasks. The amount of time depends on how many items your sellers need to shed and how motivated they are to do the work.

Want more information about working with downsizers? Consider the Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation, which teaches skills in key areas of senior real estate, such as selling the family home and moving to an active-adult community. Visit to learn more.