I have been involved in the retirement home industry for more than 15 years. In that time, I have worked with senior living advisors and as a senior living advisor.
What exactly is a senior living advisor? An advisor is someone who guides individuals and their families through the process of finding the best housing option for their needs and budget.
My experience has given me a solid perspective on the retirement living industry. Trust me when I say I’ve heard it all! Here are the most common myths about using the services of a senior living advisor.
1. Senior Living Advisors will show you only the homes that pay them a commission.
If you are looking for a suitable retirement home for your loved one and are working with an advisor, you may have been led to believe that advisors will show you only the home(s) that they can earn a commission from. While in some cases that is technically correct, it applies only to advisor agencies that use the “free model” method. Some people have had bad experiences with those types of agencies.
Truth is, most advisors use a hybrid model of payment that allows them to work not only with the homes who pay a commission, but also with the homes who do not pay them. This hybrid approach means more options for clients.
2. All senior living advisors are the same.
Our first myth shows why this isn’t the case. Other considerations:
- Many advisors use service agreements – a written commitment explaining how clients’ privacy is protected. Some advisors do not.
- When it comes to exploring retirement homes, many advisors will accompany families on tours and be there to answer questions in real time. Again, some advisors do not.
3. Senior living advisors will only show you the most expensive homes because they get paid more for those.
Whether using a “free model” or “hybrid model,” this really comes down to ethics. Ethical companies will look at all options based directly on the needs of their senior clients – regardless of pricing. Additionally, many advisors try to avoid going to the top of their client’s budget. This approach allows for extra money to be used for increased care, if and when the senior’s care levels change. This is the main responsibility of a senior advisor: to ensure their client’s best interests are met for the now and the future.
4. Senior living advisors are “just aggregators.”
This myth supposes that all advisors are only aggregators, meaning that the advisor collects information on clients and then distributes it (and gets paid for it) in a free-for-all to all the retirement homes.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. It takes hours of work to understand each family's needs and to research the homes that will best meet those needs. From the start of the search all the way through to the move, dedicated advisors work with families, answering questions and offering support.
Based on my own experience as a retirement home marketer, I believe advisors offer way more support and guidance than one home could ever offer. Why?
1) As a rule, marketers lack knowledge of other retirement homes in the area and how they fit with a client’s needs.
2) The marketer’s primary job is to fill their own retirement home building. They work for a specific brand and are responsible for sales, and the pressure to sell is huge. This is not to say that marketers in retirement homes do not have your best interests in mind, because most of them are amazing, compassionate humans. However, it’s just not possible for a marketer to acquire the broad industry knowledge that an unbiased, informed senior advisor has.
5. When a home pays a commission to senior living advisors, the cost of the commission is passed on to the client.
Honestly, this is something retirement homes (who do not work with advisors) say. I’ve heard it directly on more than one occasion! In most cases, the fee paid by the retirement homes to advisors comes out of the home’s marketing budget. In other words, if you are working with an advisor, you do not have to pay more or lose out on any discounts being offered
Finding the right retirement home for your loved one is one of the most important things you will ever do. A senior living advisor can help. However, just as not all retirement homes are created equal, the same holds true for advisors. If you plan to work with a professional senior living advisor, make sure you’re well informed and choose one who has your best interests at heart.
“The older you get, the better you get. Unless you’re a banana.” - Betty White