Behind the Biggest Mistakes in Senior Living Tours

The importance of a senior living tour is undeniable. For many prospects, it seals the deal to move into a community; but if the tour isn’t done right,  it can lead potential residents straight to a competitor’s doorstep.

While perfecting the ultimate sales pitch takes practice, insight from tour-takers and tips from one expert reveal the biggest mistakes — and best practices — in conducting senior living tours.

“We all know how important tours are,” said Katie Roper, vice president of sales at, during a recent webinar. “People who schedule a tour with us move in three-and-a-half times more frequently than those who don’t, and move in 25% more quickly. So clearly the data shows that tours are drivers of move-ins.”


A recent survey of 1,181 women baby boomers on showed similar results.

“Of the people who toured a community in the last six months, 40% had already moved in and 8% more were scheduled to move in,” Roper said.

This survey, conducted in April 2015, uncovers what prospects and families really think about senior living tours — and what exactly gets them to move in (or run away).


Tours: By the Numbers

Roughly 76% of survey respondents at some point in their search for senior living had been invited to tour. Of that group, 66% toured at least one community; 31% were invited to tour but didn’t sign up; and 3% were scheduled to tour but did not end up attending.

“One interesting point is that of the 24% of people who were not invited to tour, … 75% of them may still be open to touring,” Roper said.

The findings reflect previous research conducted by student mystery shoppers at George Mason University, who found that in 21% of their calls made to senior living providers on behalf of a fictitious prospect, they were only offered a brochure by mail — even though the prospect should have resulted in a “100% tour offer rate.”

Additionally, for the 31% of survey respondents who were invited to tour but didn’t sign up, 20% declined to tour because of transportation-related issues, Roper said.

“A lot of communities do offer transportation as an option,” she said. “If your community is willing to pick people up or if you’re a marketing director and willing to do home visits, I would encourage you to ask [prospects] if they would like you to do that.”

That may be one way to create a competitive edge versus other providers, which is increasingly important as research shows that most prospects and families visit more than one community in their search for senior living.

In fact, only 17% of survey respondents visited just one community, while 25% visited two, 24% visited three and 34% visited four or more.

Once a prospect has entered the community, however, there are a number of ways to create a memorable experience that will distinguish it from the provider next door.

Key Insight From Tour-Takers

Despite all of the disheartening data out there on senior living marketing, roughly 95% of the survey respondents felt welcomed when they arrived for a tour at a community, and 91% were impressed with the staff.

Perhaps more interesting, 68% were surprised at how nice the community was.

“Of course if you were checking into a Four Seasons hotel, you would never say ‘I was surprised by how nice it was.’ You would just have the expectation that it’s nice,” Roper said. “[That’s] a big challenge for those of us involved in getting the word out about senior living — our goal should be to have almost nobody surprised at how nice it is.”

On the down side, 18% of people who visited a community said they were never contacted post-tour.

“If it’s a well-conducted tour, your goal really is to schedule that next step before they leave the building,” said Jeanine Aspen, president of DEI Central, which provides senior living sales training. “When you’re with a client, schedule your follow-up meeting. Once you’ve lost the traction of that face-to-face interaction, it’s hard to get them back on the phone.”

To learn how to avoid these common mistakes and to set your community apart from others during the touring process, stay tuned for a follow-up guide from SHN. 

Written by Emily Study

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