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The SRES® Council Honors North Carolina Real Estate Professional for Outstanding Service to Seniors

With nothing but love in her heart for a career that became official just a few short years ago, which engaged her passion for serving older folks in her community for most of her life, Jill Hart—REALTOR® and broker at North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Real Estate—is the 2020 recipient of the Seniors Real Estate Specialist® (SRES®) Outstanding Service Award.

The SRES® designation, offered through the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), is geared toward REALTORS® interested in meeting the special needs of maturing Americans, whether they’re relocating, selling, buying or refinancing.

Each year, the SRES® Council selects one or more outstanding senior-focused REALTORS® who have earned the designation, highlighting their achievements by recognizing them with the SRES® Outstanding Service Award.

As Hart explains, when she was just five years old, her dad invested in his first house with the intention of fixing it up and reselling it decades before “house flipping” was a thing.

“That was in 1975—I started my real estate career scraping paint off windows on that and a number of other houses he bought,” says Hart. That “flipping” pursuit carried Hart through high school and college—and into her marriage, where she and her husband continued investing in rental properties.

Hart also spent years caring for her grandmother who moved in with the family when she was just nine years old. And after her dad had a stroke, she helped coach her parents through the downsizing process so that they could relocate to a smaller, safer and happier home.

This combination of experience is what helped equip Hart for the rest of her career.

While Hart has only been a licensed REALTOR® for five years, from the moment she decided to “go pro,” she knew she wanted to serve the senior population. So as soon as she was licensed, the next order of business was securing her SRES® designation.

“It was scary making that decision, because all I kept hearing was how a real estate professional has to be everything to everybody. But once I got over that and realized it was where I could thrive and really enjoy the work, I understood that it had so much more meaning than just selling someone’s house, or selling them a house,” says Hart.

Hart quickly became a leader, not only in supporting her older clients in their real estate matters, but engaging with agencies that serve the population as well.

Besides attaining her SRES® designation, Hart advocates for seniors through active involvement with a variety of organizations and on issues affecting the aging population in Western North Carolina.

Aging Projects, Inc. named her their 2017 Provider of the Year for her exceptional commitment to serving senior clients in the real estate market. The local agency provides resources to clients—and anyone who provides care to them—so that they can remain in their own homes as they age.

She’s also involved with the Henderson County Council on Aging, another senior support effort called TRIAD and the Blue Ridge Literacy Council.

“Our county council oversees Meals on Wheels, a congregate meal program that we oversee with volunteers and staff, a senior nutrition program and a lot of other services,” says Hart. “They also employ a dedicated person to answer questions, make referrals and solve problems for older residents when they call for help.”

Her work with TRIAD focuses on senior fraud and elder abuse prevention.

“We mostly work with bank sponsors who help us by providing document shredding, but we also have a presentation on fraud and abuse prevention that we provide free of charge to AARP and community groups, homeowners associations, and Rotary and Lions Clubs.”

With six years on the local literacy council, Hart continues to provide literacy education for adults, also serving seniors by leading Medicaid and Medicare seminars, health literacy training and technology training.

“It’s kind of a non-traditional approach to delivering literacy services, especially the healthcare part, but it’s so well-received by the senior community,” she says.

Hart even puts on her own senior workshops to educate seniors about home staging, geriatric care, fall prevention and how the moving process is different for older clients.

As part of her role in educating seniors when it comes to helping them feel confident in their ability to navigate a move successfully, Hart wrote a book titled “Downsizing With Heart.”

“It’s an introduction to the physical and emotional considerations that can make a senior move more challenging,” says Hart, who gives the book away at workshops, at buyer and seller consultations (when appropriate) and on request. “Many of my clients have found it so useful that they ask for additional copies for their friends,” she adds.

Drilling down even further, Hart’s community has hosted an annual aging in place conference for the past six years, and Hart has graduated from being an attendee to becoming a featured speaker. This depth of community involvement has opened countless doors for Hart, because when she is calling agencies looking for resources, those agencies and their workers know she is not just a real estate agent looking for leads.

“I have found that I don’t need to market myself a lot. Because of the helping aspect, the business just comes,” says Hart, who points to the SRES® designation as an important piece of the puzzle for any real estate professional who wants to serve the aging population.

“Having the SRES® designation has really helped with the credibility factor, not just with clients, but with other colleagues who work alongside me in the community.  It’s also important for the children of clients who look for the designation,” she says.

Being in proximity to countless community leaders has also helped Hart see first-hand the difference a REALTOR® with their SRES® designation can make in the lives of older buyers and sellers.

“Working with seniors during a move does require some special expertise,” says Hart. “There are a lot of things that happen in a senior move, and a lot of things an untrained agent may not know. There’s a place for all kinds of personalities in the real estate world, but once seniors realize how important having trained representation is, they fall in love.”

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John Voket is a contributing editor to RISMedia.