By Alexander Germanis
Life never stops flowing. It has a way of moving along and we can choose to be rigid and let it pass us by or be open and active and be carried along with it.
For seniors, retiring does not mean it is time to stop moving with life; to the contrary, it is the perfect time to really open up to the movement of life. Of course, this might mean making a literal move of residency in order to live in the way which is most comfortable.
Making such a move can be a little different and even more complicated for seniors, however. Fortunately, there are real estate agents like Shannon Fonner of Sunflower Real Estate Group, LLC, who specialize in seniors real estate. Her heart and passion lie in helping seniors through every step of the move so they, in turn, can continue to move along with life.
Led by Destiny…and Family
Moving with the flow of life is something to which Shannon is accustomed. Even in her youth, she let life carry her in the direction for which she was best suited. “Way back in high school we had to take career profile tests,” Shannon recalls. “I remember getting my fan-folded, tractor-feed style printout revealing all my best future career choices. Real estate was on my list!”
Although Shannon did not delve into that career right after finishing school, she revisited it once she had started her family. A bit of a pioneer in the online education field, she started attending real estate classes while her little children were napping.
Coordinating work schedules with her husband so they could be there for their children, Shannon dipped her toe into real estate initially on a part-time basis.
Over the next 20 years, her experience and success bloomed to where Shannon is now not only a real estate broker, but she is also the co-founder of Sunflower Real Estate Group. “I got my managing broker’s license in 2019 and, along with my business partner, we have grown our brokerage of independent contractors to 25 agents in both the Peoria and Bloomington markets,” she shares.
During this time, Shannon took particular note that she had helped many seniors downsize in their retirement. “I did not know at that time there was even a designation to support what I was doing,” she admits. “It was brought to my attention (by my mother, actually) that I could pursue the education needed to achieve my Seniors Real Estate Specialist designation through the National Association of Realtors.”
One Size Does Not Fit All
The search for a new home does not entail the same steps or require the same knowledge for each client. “Each and every real estate transaction is unique,” Shannon confirms. For seniors, in particular, there are myriad things to consider. “Every move is different. Some clients have little to no help from family or friends and others have almost too much help, if you know what I mean,” she chuckles.
The first step is, no surprise, a fiduciary one. “I always start with getting numbers together, so a client knows how much they have to work with,” Shannon outlines. “Once that is determined then we discuss options.”
Developing a relationship with her clients is a crucial step in connecting them with the home best suited for their needs and wants. “I like to know things like: Do they really enjoy cooking or socializing?” she queries. “Aside from possible current/future health and ability needs, what are their hobbies and pleasures? Where are their friends living, etc.?”
As the real estate market has changed significantly over the last few decades and many seniors have lived in the same place for 30 years or more, they are often in need of counsel. Shannon happily provides them that service, along with being their problem solver and facilitator.
And there is a great deal to facilitate. Aside from establishing a timeline, she advises them on decluttering, packing, selecting moving services, and holding estate sales.
Shannon’s additional considerations for her clients are myriad, including: understanding senior housing options; identifying key life stages, viewpoints, and transitions in relation to housing choices; recognizing how a home can be adapted for safety, comfort, and aging in place; learning how reverse mortgages, pensions, 401(k) accounts, and IRAs impact real estate decisions; identifying mortgage finance and loan schemes and scams that victimize borrowers over the age of 50; helping clients integrate disposition of real property into estate plans; ensuring transactions comply with federal laws, including the Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA); staying focused on the transaction and avoiding inappropriate involvement in family matters; assembling a team of experts to help serve seniors; and gaining knowledge of how Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security affect the client.
To be the best facilitator for her clients, Shannon has added ‘coordinator’ to her list of titles, as well. “I have a reliable network of vendors and contractors to help with repairs and updates and move management that includes packing, sorting, donations, and sales,” she says. “I have excellent relationships with local businesses that offer my senior clients discounts on services such as flooring and cleaning.”
As she helps individual members of the community find a new home, Shannon never forgets her relationship with the community in general. “Real estate is such a special industry because it offers so much as a career and so many different positions within the field,” she states. “I’ve been very fortunate to be able to utilize my skills and creativity to bring a high level of service to our Peoria area senior community. When I meet with clients, they are often unaware
of such a thing as Seniors Real Estate Specialist and are relieved to know they are in good, experienced hands. I love this business.”
No Signs of Stopping
Although Shannon helps retirees with their next major step in life, she never sees herself fully joining them. “Who retires in real estate?!” she laughs. “My passion for the industry is strong and I am always looking to grow and learn, to meet new people and help others, whether as clients or Realtors. My dreams are to grow our brokerage with educated agents who also specialize, to develop and teach others how to grow their business as a senior real estate specialist, and to continue to speak at seminars and events.”
Although the business itself keeps her coming back for more, the relationships she builds through it are what really motivate Shannon. “I love the time I get to spend with each of my clients. I will always sell real estate to the first-time home buyers, the past clients, and the referrals from past clients,” she assures, “however, I love being able to give my attention to my senior clients because they deserve and need the one-on-one, face-to-face, go-the-extra-mile service I offer. It’s always very rewarding for me. It’s what I enjoy.”
Neither Shannon nor her fellow brokers at Sunflower Real Estate show any indication they’ll slow down any time soon. And when it comes to seniors’ real estate, Shannon continues to prove that only by staying actively on the move can she best help seniors move at the pace they want and deserve.
If you or a loved one needs help with selling your home or finding a new home, contact Shannon Fonner with Sunflower Real Estate Group at 309-678-2060. Her office is located at 100 N. Main St., Suite 100 in East Peoria or visit her on the web at www.fonnerhomes.com.
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