An interview with Erickson Living's Sharon Baksa, national program manager
Since 2007, the Erickson Living Realty and Moving Services (ERMS) program has helped thousands of residents make seamless transitions to our senior living communities across the nation. Understanding that the prospect of moving can feel overwhelming, Erickson Living, a national leader in developing and managing continuing care retirement communities, created a network of resources to help future residents simplify their moves. These unique services include everything from selecting a local Realtor® to partnering with a trusted senior move manager.
As we face the pandemic together, sales team professionals at Cedar Crest in Pequannock, NJ, are still helping priority list members with downsizing, staging, planning and moving to our communities—safely. Our personal moving consultants and preferred vendors understand that individual services are needed more than ever, and they are ready to help.
Sharon Baksa serves as Erickson Living's director of talent development programs and national program manager for ERMS. She recently discussed how the program is adapting to the current situation through the use of technology as well as tried and true personal touches. Sharon also detailed the current real estate market, which is more robust than many perceive.
Q: With various social distancing guidelines in place, how are our personal moving consultants assisting reservists and priority list members?
A: Sharon: By staying connected as people practice social distancing! Some of our personal moving consultants have been sending customers care packages with books, cards and even tape measures for those who want to stay on-track and move soon. Others have been hosting Zoom meetings with reservists and priority list members, too, for planning discussions or just friendly chats about their day over a cup of coffee.
As always, our sales team continues to share their expertise with reservists on preparing their houses for sale, complete with timelines and 'to-do' lists.
Q: How is technology being used as part of the Erickson Realty and Moving Services program?
A: Sharon: The personal moving consultants utilize their smartphones and tablet device cameras to conduct virtual tours of available and reserved apartment homes for priority list members and future residents, respectively. Because we spend a great deal of time learning about customer preferences, we monitor apartment home availability—they can be reserved over the phone now. This gives new reservists time to plan accordingly.
Our reservists use their digital devices as well, to tour us through their house, so we can learn more about the furniture they would like to bring to their new apartment home. Remotely, we then measure room sizes, "space-plan" their furniture and send a completed floorplan to them. We even offer 3-D views.
Q: Can you provide a few examples of how preferred vendors interact with customers?
Sharon: Our preferred ERMS partners--Realtors®, senior move managers, downsizers and more--are just as eager to communicate with priority list members as we are. They are using social media to share recipes, provide engagement ideas during social distancing and virtually show houses. For reservists, our network of preferred Realtors® are sharing Coming Soon listings on their websites and social media platforms to gain interest and multiple offers. They also host virtual house parties to showcase a new listing on Zoom; they've even used drones to share full interior and exterior views of properties. We've seen that buyers and sellers need not leave their kitchen tables for a sale to occur. All transactions can be accomplished via drive-thru signings or electronic signatures.
Our senior move managers and moving partners are also hard at work, using electronic devices and phones to keep customers on-track for scheduled moves. Downsizing and move estimates can easily be managed without anyone visiting our customers in their houses, until move day.
Q: You receive feedback from informed moving and real estate sources across the nation. How would you describe the current housing market?
A: Sharon: I have spoken with many of our partners, including Maureen Campbell. She's the Senior Vice President for Premier Transitions Senior Relocation Services. We're learning that projections for real estate sales in 2020 are extremely positive despite the economic challenges we are currently experiencing as a nation. With a shortage of listing inventory and an explosion of online real estate searches by buyers spending more time at home, there could not be a better opportunity to sell your home.
Vacating homes prior to listing, once thought to be a negative, has now become a tremendous advantage. Because online camera appeal and pricing are so critical in this environment, our team's expertise in market appeal, research and analytic data is more valuable than ever.
Finally, millennials looking for their first houses are enjoying low interest rates. The industry expects this to be a seller's market as streamlined processes benefit all parties involved.
Q: Why is now a good time to move into an Erickson Living-managed community?
A: Sharon: Recent months "sheltering in place" have given us all the opportunity to ponder our futures. Many seniors have realized the importance of having great neighbors to rely on and vital services at their fingertips. Fortunately, our communities offer both. People are moving into our communities and enjoying creative social interaction, bountiful meals delivered to their doors and healthcare that's on-campus, if needed, in a safe environment. Residents may have been apart, but they were never alone. I think that's why so many people are already inquiring about how they can become part of one of our close-knit communities: for the tangible convenience of quality amenities and services and the intangible benefits of friendship, support, and peace of mind.
Spring selling season is here, and Anne Connor, the personal moving consultant at Cedar Crest, is ready to help you achieve your goals! Anne can be reached at 973-270-8592. You can also find more information about ERMS services conveniently at Cedar Crest's ERMS webpage.