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Karen Willison on closing a deal with ‘lots of moving parts’

Multiple sellers and buyers, a lot of planning and many moving parts – the scenario may be common in industrial/commercial deals but not so much in the residential world.

However, real estate agent Karen Willison of Royal LePage Locations North in Collingwood, Ont. recently put together such a deal as the perfect solution for her client, Bruce, and his wife Joan.

She met Bruce in Thornbury’s town square when he was having coffee with a mutual friend. Bruce, a paraplegic for 25 years, and Joan had worked with a half dozen agents in the past but none had done anything to find a house that would suit his special needs, says Willison. She says she loves to find creative solutions to her clients’ problems.

The property had to be within three blocks of downtown Thornbury so Bruce could hop in his chair and go, she says. Willison came up with a plan. Bruce and Joan would go for a drive and look for some properties they liked. She did the same. Together they came up with 13 potential properties.

Prior to hitting the pavement, Willison prepared information packages, complete with comparables, and personalized each with the owner’s name.

She spoke to Bruce, telling him she didn’t want to be disrespectful but wanted to know how he felt about her telling his story. He gave his approval.

Then she went door knocking. It was not the time to door knock – in fact, CREA recommended against it, she says. However this was a special needs’ case and she says she wasn’t door knocking as a strategy to solicit business. She followed COVID-19 protocols and precautions. “It was precarious because of COVID. I’d knock on the door and stand back, but everyone let me in.”

One woman was in a wheelchair. The next home was owned by a man using a walker and his wife. He listened to Willison but didn’t give her his phone number. So she drove by the house whenever she could and finally saw him on his lawn mower and stopped to chat. The downsizing elders, as she calls them, had put a deposit on a leased land retirement community but because of his mobility issues, they hadn’t put the house up for sale or started downsizing their possessions because the prospect was too daunting.

Willison drew up an offer so they could “see it for real on paper. It was our strongest and best offer, like we were competing.”

She says the couple’s daughter wanted more but they signed it back at the same price, reasoning the house had been lived in for 40 plus years and had water in the basement. They gave the couple a few days to think about it so they wouldn’t feel pressured. The downsizing elders accepted, saying it was helpful not to have to go through the listing process, and that they felt they were being treated fairly. Having a deal designed to meet their needs also played a crucial role.

The offer closed in November 2021 but Willison says the downsizing elders leased it back until this April. They didn’t have anywhere to stay until their retirement townhouse is ready. Their daughter’s house is not set up for someone with mobility issues.

Willison knew selling Bruce and Joan’s waterfront cottage would not be a problem. It was listed exclusively, then was marketed as a “coming soon” before it was listed on MLS. The cottage sold and closed in September.

Bruce and Joan usually go south at this time of the year. They rented a wheelchair accessible RV as their “bridge” home.

Once the downsizing elders move out in April, Bruce and Joan will begin the teardown and prep the land, excavating first for a pool and creating winding paths on the sloped property so they are usable by Bruce. Then they will build their dream home. Their goal is to have it functional so they can move in by Christmas.

Despite, “here, as everywhere, where the inventory is low and the market is fast-paced,” Willison was able to put together a strategy that worked for all.

It’s all about determining what an individual’s pain points are and coming up with a way to take away the pain. For the downsizing elders, not having to get the house ready for sale and knowing they would have a place to stay until their new residence is ready was paramount.

For Bruce and Joan, finding the right property in town so they can build their new home and selling their waterfront property was the goal.

This deal, says Willison, had a lot more planning and moving parts. It’s a matter of being organized, she says. Willison credits licensed assistant Mary Law for helping pull it all together. (“I like her name – she’s the cop of all paperwork,” Willison says.)

“It’s important to have good communication and to listen to the clients,” she says. As for elders (anyone 70 years and up) Willison gets a family member, such as an adult child, involved as soon as possible. She says it’s important to have a clear contract and intentions, and to make sure everything is above board. “Otherwise the optics might not sit well with the family” if they don’t know what’s going on, she says, adding the process works better when the family is involved.

Willison is a Red Diamond award winner, which represents the top two per cent at Royal LePage. She works with buyers and sellers in the southern Georgian Bay area. The Collingwood native says she enjoys everything the area has to offer.

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