New Senior Living Shopper Demands Price Transparency

In an era inundated with search terms and virtual shopping bags, some continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) are realizing that being upfront about price is what consumers are looking for when searching for a senior living community.

“Historically there have not been many [providers] that have been forthcoming about pricing online,” says Susannah Myerson, vice president of Research & Applied Strategies at market and consumer research group ProMatura Group, LLC. “I think it is a competitive advantage for providers to list pricing on line. Even though several providers are moving to this, most currently still don’t.”

Brad Breeding, founder of LifeSite Logics, says his company’s nationwide CCRC database is a product of consumers’ demand for price transparency.

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When Breeding founded the company in 2011, he noticed there was a lack of resources for prospects wanting to compare CCRC costs, he says.

“We feel the future of the CCRC will involve greater transparency because, for many consumers, it’s not just about services and amenities — they want more details about the provider’s contract, financial stability,” Breeding says.

Following the economic downturn, many CCRC operators found consumers were seeking more information than previously. That includes property financials, history and management information.

“We see where the industry is heading,” Breeding says. “Consumers are more savvy. Families evaluating CCRCs are more educated, and it’s been brought to light there’s a lot more to this decision than, ‘Is there an indoor swimming pool?'”

Consumers can search the LifeSite Logics database, currently 860 communities strong and spanning 22 states, by location. Much of the information is free of charge, while a full report will cost users about $40. The full report includes details such as financial stability, entrance requirements and payment steps, an entrance and monthly fee snapshot, contract options and more.

“Some providers are more willing than others [to share pricing information upfront], but those providers that embrace that idea of transparency stand to gain the most in the future,” Breeding says.

Information is collected from state documents, and providers can also contact Breeding to update their information on the site.

Katie Kubinski, marketing director with Minnesota-based CCRC Trillium Woods, says the senior living provider has embraced the idea of transparency when talking costs with prospective residents and their families.

“The hardest part about what we do is trying to educate people and evaluate the financial benefits of type A community,” Kubinski says. “You want to use a tool that isn’t connected to our company because [otherwise] it looks biased.”

Consumers who can run the numbers and evaluate what fits best with their financial plan save both parties time and energy, and price transparency often generates more meaningful follow ups from prospects, she says.

“The industry is confusing to a lot of people, and it’s awfully hard to compare apples to apples, so having more opportunities to find what it is that you want [makes planning] easier,” she says. “Putting the numbers out there opens up the dialogue.”

Myerson says more CCRCs should be open to being upfront about costs.

“The market is demanding it,” Myerson says. “A lot of adult children are doing the shopping now, and they want to see the cost. Ten years ago residents were doing the shopping and might have had the time to personally visit these different communities. But, if the adult child is doing the initial shopping they might be calling on their lunch hour, from the office. They’re going to ask, ‘Can you show me your prices online?'”

Across many product groups — senior living included — companies and marketers are having to meet the preferences of Internet shoppers and their changing behaviors online, according to Caring.com, a major senior living search hub.

Tal Ziv, the co-founder of senior living pricing guide Silver Living, was inspired to create the website after going through the process of finding a senior living community for his grandmother.

“There was [no information] available online,” he says. “For research, you can only find what the community publishes for themselves. It’s not sufficient. I was trying to figure out, ‘How much do these [communities] cost?’ It was a big black box that no one really wanted to open up for us.”

Myerson says while some providers might think concealing cost will entice prospects to visit the community, the opposite is true.

“If it’s in the right price range, they’re going to come in and tour,” Myerson says. “If it’s Jaguar pricing and they’re on a Honda budget, they’re not going to tour anyway; so, you’ve just saved yourself and the client time.”

Written by Cassandra Dowell

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