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The following information is provided by the Center for REALTOR® Development (CRD).

Clutter is a challenging issue for all of us, but for seniors in particular. The way you handle the issue of clutter with an older client may mean a world of difference in getting the listing and providing a top-notch experience. Here are three tips to help you with this potentially sensitive and overwhelming issue.

Approach with empathy. You see all kinds of homes all day long and may have developed a bit of a thick skin about staging and selling strategy. Remember that this house could be a treasure chest containing someone’s lifetime of memories. It is understandably hard to let go of objects and settings that have meaning and history. How many of us have had difficulty parting with our first or favorite car? Take care to be very empathetic and favor an emotionally intelligent approach to the situation. Gently feel out your client’s attitude about possessions before diving more deeply into the conversation. Solicit advice and background from family, if appropriate.

Stress health and safety. A cluttered home is unsafe on a number of levels. It can be unsafe physically due to the increased risk of falls and injuries; it can also be unsafe psychologically. People who live in cluttered surroundings are at a higher risk for frustration, sadness, depression and lack of motivation. Explaining to clients the advantages of living clutter-free might help them make better decisions for themselves for the long run. Even if in the end the client decides to stay in the home for the time being, you can still offer value by pointing out live-in decluttering tools, such as AARP’s HomeFit Guide. When they may be ready to sell, they will remember you!

Bring in the big guns. When faced with overwhelming tasks, let your clients know that there are professionals out there who can help. Sometimes the stress and work that is avoided more than makes up for the cost of hiring a professional—and is totally worth the momentum generated and the newfound feeling of liberation. Recommend a search on, which can yield a wealth of local service providers who assist in a variety of clutter scenarios: garbage and junk disposal, estate liquidation, antique dealers, home stagers, packing and moving, etc. You might also consider developing referral relationships with members of national nonprofit organizations, such as the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals and the National Association of Senior Move Managers.

To learn much more about how to provide top-notch expertise to senior clients, please consider checking out the education, benefits, and resources offered by SRES® Designation. This entire month of September, the featured 25% OFF course at the Center for REALTOR® Development is the Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES®) Designation Course, which is the basic requirement toward obtaining the SRES® Designation.

For more information, please visit RISMedia’s online learning portal from NAR’s Center for REALTOR® Development (CRD) and the Learning Library. Here, real estate professionals can sign up for online professional development courses, industry designations, certifications, CE credits, Code of Ethics programs and more. NAR’s CRD also offers monthly specials and important education updates. New users will need to register for an account.

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