Finding Their Passion: Realtors discuss why working with seniors is for them

Karen Supman and James Mednik have earned the Seniors Real Estate specialist designation. (Submitted)

By Alison Stanton

Karen Supman and James Mednik know firsthand how challenging it can be for seniors to downsize.

They also understand how incredibly difficult the process can be when someone has recently lost a loved one and has to move while grieving.

These are some of the reasons Supman and Mednik, who are both real estate agents with Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty in Scottsdale, focus as much of their work as possible on clients who are seniors.

Supman and Mednik have earned the Seniors Real Estate specialist designation, which means they are adept at meeting the special needs of older clients who are buying or selling a home, relocating here or buying a winter home.

“We were already working with seniors, and now we have the designation, which really differentiates us,” Supman says, adding that she is also certified as a Luxury Home Marketing specialist.

“Our goal is to take the stress out of the whole experience as much as possible.”

Supman, who started working in real estate in the Valley in the fall of 2002, says she and Mednik have “just naturally worked with seniors.”

In many ways, Supman says, she was inspired to work with seniors by what she saw happening with people she knew.

“I remember when I got into real estate here, I was maybe 55 or so, and I found that a lot of my friends and neighbors were getting ready to downsize. Their kids had graduated from college, and they wanted to sell their home,” she says.

“I was working with a few younger clients, but I’d say that 85% to 90% of my clients are seniors.”

The more Supman and Mednik worked with seniors, the more they realized their clients often share a number of common experiences and situations.

Understanding these unique situations has helped Supman and Mednik to tailor their approach to working with seniors.

“Sometimes we work with people who have lost their spouse, and we also work with a lot of retirees,” Supman says.

It’s also common to work with clients who are getting ready to move into an independent living or assisted living community. 

No matter the reason for the move, Supman and Mednik say the vast majority of their clients also tend to have a large amount of possessions that their children and other relatives have no desire to inherit.

“Younger people are not interested in getting Oriental rugs, fine China and sterling silver,” she says.

“I always say that people spend a couple of lifetimes collecting things that our kids don’t want.”

Supman understands and empathizes with all of these situations, especially clients who have lost a partner and are now faced with having to downsize a home prior to a move.

“In 2012 my partner died, and he left me 450 pieces of Japanese antique art,” she says.

Knowing she would need to move from her 4,000-square-foot home to a much smaller condo, Supman was tasked with trying to sell as much of the artwork as possible, all while grieving her loss.

“I said to my daughter ‘What do you want?’ and she said she would take the vintage handbags but that was it, so I had to become an art dealer,” she says.

Interestingly, while the younger generation does not seem to want their parents’ Baccarat crystal or artwork, Supman says she has noticed millennials and seniors do desire the same qualities in their homes.

“They both want a jewel box of a home, which means they want to live large in a smaller footprint,” Supman says, adding that this means they are looking for a home that is nicely done with an open floor plan and high-end finishes.

“They don’t want a home where they have to do another project, they don’t want to have to redo the kitchen or bathroom, and they want a home that is ‘lock and leave,’” she says.

No matter the specific reason for a senior needing to sell a home, Supman says she and Mednik think of themselves as quarterbacks in a football game, carefully assessing each situation and using their 21-step marketing objectives and goals to come up with a game plan.

“The process starts by giving the client or clients a quick call, and we set up a future Zoom call. Jim will email them our moving wish list form before our call. We then have a 10- to 15-minute introduction period learning about the clients,” she says.

“Jim and I really complement each other. We both go in and look at the property and discuss ways to improve its value, and he handles all of the paperwork and office work while I help to ‘edit’ it and stage it,” she says.

In many cases, Supman says, this involves gently guiding the clients to agree to remove a large amount of furniture, artwork and other personal items from their home so that it will show well.

“As we like to tell our clients, ‘When you bought your house, you made it into a home. Now we are going to turn it back into a house,’” she says.

“We remind them that buyers will focus on the bones, flow and size of the home, so the focus cannot be on their stuff.”

To help make the process as easy as possible, Supman says she and Mednik will make a list of which items can be boxed up and sold, donated or moved into storage, and then she will stage the home with new artwork, furniture, pillows, linens, towels and other items.

If clients need assistance with packing up their items, Supman says they are happy to provide resources to help.

Supman says she and Mednik also arrange for a number of other tasks, including professional photography of the properties and designing a color brochure, and schedule and attend all of the open houses together until the property sells.

To assist seniors even further, Supman says she and Mednik will start hosting seminars in the near future, including one in late March on downsizing.

“We will also attend the Senior Expo in Scottsdale. Our goal is to help get additional resources for seniors,” she says.

Looking back at her two-plus decades working with seniors, Supman says she is thrilled by the number of positive outcomes and lasting friendships she has developed with her clients.

“You really have to have a lot of empathy and a lot of compassion. We are both very relationship oriented, and these are not just transactions for us. We always say that we adopt our clients,” she says.

“There is a saying about ‘finding your why,’ and for us, this is our why. We want to make a difference in these peoples’ lives.”

Karen Supman: 602-999-6738

James Mednik: 480-925-2440