In a recent study, Michigan came in second as one of the best states to retire, ranking high in quality of life for seniors, with plenty of activities, access to affordable healthcare and low levels of crime.
For the many choosing to live out their golden years in the Mitten State, at some point the idea of downsizing crosses their minds. That’s where Certified Senior Housing Professional and Real Estate Planner Patti Grover Gabrielse comes in.
“It’s a specialized niche that is very needed in our area. I work with elder law attorneys, financial advisors, trust advisors. I have a handyman, an organizer, a whole network of people up and going here,” said Gabrielse, who moved to Michigan from Florida several years ago.
A handyman can reconfigure the home so the homeowners can stay in place as long as they want, or a handyman can bring it back to market condition so that they can get the most amount of money out of that home. At the same time, she’s helping retirees decide if they should reconfigure or sell their homes, she’s helping boomers who don’t have enough time on their hands to help their aging parents. By acting as a third-party advocate, she can keep things on track and keep a seller’s adult children in the loop.
“The boomers are the sandwich generation– still working full time. They have their own lives, but kids who still need them, grandbabies and a parent who needs them more and more,” she explains. “You’re just spread so thin; you can’t do it all. When they (boomers) do interact with their parents, they want it to be fun.”
Gabrielse believes that most people and organizations are focused on what they do and how to do it. What makes her approach unique is why she chose a real estate path focused on seniors.
“Your why comes out of your past. I’m not just knowledgeable and skilled, it’s personal,” she said. Gabrielse’s mother, who is 93 years old, was raised in an orphanage and has been widowed since she was 53.
“I’ve lived her widowed life with her,” said Gabrielse.
“In the generation above us they were used to having a male figure take care of them. Downsizing is overwhelming for that demographic because they went through the depression, they saved everything, they just don’t let it go.”
With so much personal experience in helping her own mother and having worked in Florida for a number of years, a state known for its number of retirees, Gabrielse developed an approach that can ease the pain of giving up a long-held home.
“What I love to do is when an elderly person has a home for sale, do a walk through with the house and get them on video. You do a walk down memory lane, have them tell you about the different parts of the house and special memories associated with it. It’s a long relationship for me. The older people love to talk about the memories. It’s part of their letting go.
“Selling a home is just one piece of it,” she says. Staging the home for sale is another. “I know just how much things cost and what to do to increase the ‘wow’ factor,” she said. For example, a home may need new landscaping or another bathroom, but some upgrades are financially out of reach or just not do-able for the seller.
“A house might need five things, but you only need to change three things to sell it. There’s a sweet spot. Doing it as long as I have, it comes pretty naturally,” Gabrielse said.