By Michelle Seitzer
Imagine looking at a house online, and the listing said “Prices ranges from $100K to $800K depending on market value, buyer preferences, and other factors.”
Now imagine there was no price or photos on the listing at all, and you had to book a showing in order to find out what it cost—at which time you’d also discover the look and feel of the interior, or completely and horribly gutted.
And whether your budget is $100K or $800K doesn’t really matter: Most prospective homebuyers want to better understand the value of a property before taking the next step for a showing—a reasonable expectation for anyone investing such a large sum of money.
The same is true for seniors and boomers making decisions about senior living, either for themselves or a loved one.
Investing Emotionally and Economically
With the prevalence of internet shopping, we know consumers are searching online for products and services, and they are coming to expect to find prices online as well. We’re also seeing this in their search for senior living. Before they even click “Call me for more information” or “Schedule a tour,” pricing helps families to place a value on what they’re researching. Families might also reach out to a friend or coworker who just transitioned her father to a local memory care home, and see if she can speak to the cost.
Why the shift in preference? A recent AARP survey says there are two main reasons: convenience and trust—which begs the questions:
- Is it convenient to find a senior living community without a definitive price point?
- Would you trust a company that would assign value in a vague way?
When considering the emotionally complex and economically significant decision of senior living, families want to know the anticipated costs, and they want to trust that senior living providers are transparent about those costs. And if today’s consumers are expecting to find the pricing answers they want, they may leave the site if they cannot find.
Gain Their Trust
Though it’s not been a senior living industry tradition to disclose pricing online, there’s no better time than now to change that convention. Tech trends already point to an overwhelming majority of decision-makers turning to information in an easily accessible 24-7 digital format.
Even if it’s just a average rate offered or “starting at” amount, make your pricing information simple and straightforward on your website. Though consumers are digitally savvy, they often may not have the luxury of time (or patience) to review all the options, so when they have options that list pricing, they stand out.
In a crowded marketplace that’s always expanding, price transparency helps providers like you gain trust immediately by presenting the information the consumer wants. If they don’t find what they’re looking for when they want it, they often will get frustrated and move on.
Open the Conversation
Consumers want to make an educated decision. When they’re considering senior living options for their loved one, they want to prepare for their top three community visits as much as possible, and sometimes having done their own research first. While word-of-mouth recommendations are still valuable, the consumer will likely make sure they can afford the community before visiting.
Ultimately, what they want is control—particularly since this is a life phase when things can feel very much out of control.
The more you can give them upfront, the better—even if you have to include the caveat that an in-depth conversation about the breakdown, plus a thorough assessment of the individual’s current and future care needs, could change that number slightly or dramatically.
By giving them a starting point, they’re more likely to stick with you. As an APFM pricing test revealed, more families inquired about a particular community (and ultimately moved in) when pricing was shown on the website.
Facing Fears Through Transparency
One thing providers and consumers share in common here? Fear.
Providers are afraid consumers won’t understand all that’s included in the price, and that sticker shock will send them away. But they may also be apprehensive about sharing too much cost information that could be misinterpreted, or of how to present just enough information to keep potential residents moving forward without giving them a hard and fast number—because without knowing the individual who’s moving in, that’s pretty hard to do.
Consumers are scared as well. They’re afraid of what happens if Mom outlives her money, or needs additional care later on but can’t afford it.
Facing these fears with transparency is a win for both: By bringing consumers to the table for more open, honest conversations about cost earlier on in the process, you can better able to manage the process. Now that they’re engaged, there are more opportunities to educate them about what happens should more care be needed down the road, or to present alternative options to paying for care.
A valuable tool to introduce at this point in the journey? A Place For Mom’s Senior Living Cost Planner, which helps families plan for the costs of senior living. The cost index draws on our large database of families that have moved into senior living and assisted living homes between 2012 and 2017, giving families a better baseline, plus future projection.
We understand that pricing for senior living is very much a moving target. We can also appreciate how breaking down the costs of memory care or skilled nursing is not as easy as doing so when buying a house. But as more and more industries move toward greater transparency, the costs of staying closed off—fewer tours, fewer leads, and fewer move-ins—are just too great.
Investing in transparency will open up those difficult cost conversations so you can open the doors to more prospective residents and families.