Concierge Services Come of Age

Imagine the lobby of a luxury hotel. Tucked in the corner, behind an elaborately carved desk, sits an exquisitely coifed concierge. Male or female, their purpose is the same. To provide you, the vaunted guest, with an endless supply of suggestions and solutions to enhance your stay. They provide recommendations about tried and true places plus an extensive array of services.

Now change the time and place. Picture yourself as a guest in your own home. There may be no lobby of consequence, or mahogany desk in the foyer, but you too could have access to concierge services to enhance your life.

Take a moment. Make a mental list of the many things you no longer have the desire or capacity to do. While many of these things still require doing, the very thought of executing them exhausts you. What you need – is a personal concierge. And chances are pretty good that there is one someplace close to you.

No longer the exclusive domain of the rich and famous, personal concierge services have become ‘democratized’ as a range of services has emerged to support the needs of a wide variety of people at all income levels. While some businesses have carved out a niche working with high net worth individuals, an emerging group of concierge businesses is focusing on fulfilling everyday needs of people like you and me who do not have the time or inclination to complete certain tasks themselves.

The list of services provided is limited only by the imagination and a good concierge is recognized by their capacity to create tailored solutions. However, the services that are easiest to visualize, and the ones in highest demand by most clients, are the very same ones that you might value. Louise Nettleton, owner/operator of Simplify Lifestyle Concierge in Port Hope, breaks down her portfolio of services this way:

  • Running errands: Picking up groceries, providing personal shopping, picking up dry cleaning or returning merchandise

  • Transportation: Driving you to medical appointments, social events or the airport

  • Party Planning: Birthday, anniversary, retirement etc.

  • Home Organization: Creating order out of chaos so that you can live more comfortably

  • Home Watch Service: Someone to keep an eye on your property when you cannot

  • Virtual Assistant: Booking reservations, research, document services etc.

Seniors, as a group, are embracing the idea of concierge services. They fulfill critical needs like transportation (for individuals who no longer choose to drive) or home watch services (for snow birds who want to ensure their homes are under a watchful eye). The services can also relieve seniors of more mundane tasks that require doing, but deplete their energies. Imagine outsourcing weekly grocery shopping to someone who knows your specific dietary needs. Picture the ease of door-to-door transportation when you visit your doctor, book club or grandchildren. Have a few drinks after the theatre knowing that a trusted driver is available to shepherd you home.

What about Price? Many concierge services are priced À la Carte reflecting the complexity of the task and the time and resources required to fulfill it. In the Toronto area, rates can range from $30 – 150.00/hr, depending on the provider and the service required. Some companies have embraced the idea of a monthly subscription model that allows you to tap into a specific number of hours each month for a fixed fee.

SAGE’s recommendation is to take the time to investigate local concierge providers and choose one that provides the best combination of services, price and personal relationship. A successful concierge relationship has all the hallmarks of a good friendship: dependability, confidentiality and trust. Invest the time to find your best fit and watch your life get easier!

All About Online Auctions

ARRRGH! How am I going to sell this stuff? Who’s going to buy it? What’s it all worth?

As Move Managers, these are 3 of the most common questions asked when working with clients who are downsizing & divesting themselves of ‘things’. As creatures bred in an acquisition-prone culture, many of us have bought & stored more items than we even remember owning. The day of reckoning finally comes when downsizing and you realize that many things simply can’t & won’t fit into your next place.

Increasingly, one of SAGE’s ‘go-to’ solutions is to coordinate an online auction event for clients through providers such as MaxSold. If you are one of the many who are unsure about online auctions & how they might benefit you, we’d like to offer our perspective.

First, let’s define an online auction event. Unlike eBay or Kijiji where sellers post individual items for sale, an online auction event focuses on selling a collection of items from one client. This is SAGE’s preferred solution when clients want to clear a large number of goods quickly with a minimum of disruption & promote their goods to the widest audience possible. Benefits include:

Ease: Unlike traditional auctions, items never leave the home until the buyer picks them up. Before the auction, a project coordinator will photograph & measure the goods while collecting all relevant data. This information needs to be is accurate & well photographed because it becomes the basis for what the buyer bids on.

Viewing Time: A typical online auction runs for 5-10 days allowing buyers ample time to examine the info, do competitive research & consider their bid. Contrast this to a traditional auction when buyers have a limited preview period followed by mere minutes to bid.

Marketing Muscle: By its’ very nature, online auctions are unlimited in their geographic reach. Running 24/7, they have the ability to reach buyers in any location at any time. In reality though, good online providers understand that most buyers come from geographic areas close to the seller’s location. With this in mind, they tailor their online marketing efforts to reach & influence buyers in this zone.

Value: What’s it all worth? As the saying goes, the value of any property is defined by what someone is willing to pay for it. The Internet has made it possible for anyone with time & interest to verify current values of goods in their market. Ready access to this data helps both buyers & sellers set realistic expectations. Be forewarned that prices of many products continue to decline as boomers flood the market with merchandise. No matter what you think it’s worth, the ultimate arbitrator will be marketplace demand.

If you are downsizing, chances are 100% that you will need to divest yourself of a variety of items. If selling is part of your plan, we encourage you to consider online auctions as one alternative. When part of an overall plan that also includes donation & disposal, an online auction can help match your items with new owners & free you to move one step closer to your new home.

 

 

 

Lessons Learned From the SMM Trenches in 2015

If year-end is a time for reflection, then I have more than the usual amount to reflect on.

SAGE Relocation Services was launched in 2015 with a modest goal of providing Senior Move Management (SMM) services to the communities on the eastern fringes of Toronto.  As a business focused on seniors, we accepted and embraced the fact that the first year would be full of new learning and unexpected lessons.  What we didn’t anticipate was the strong degree of support and interest from our communities.

We are grateful! I’d like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of our clients for entrusting us with their projects.  We appreciate that we became part of your lives at a critical juncture.  Through working with each of you, we learned about each of your unique lives, the characteristics of your generation and the common challenges faced by seniors in transition.  It was a year full of joy and too many ‘AHA’ moments to recount.  

As a small ‘Thank You’ to our clients we’d like to impart a few ‘Sage” lessons learned that are worth sharing.

1.    YOUR home is NOT the messiest, most disorganized, overstuffed or cluttered house known-to-man.  Trust us when we say that we have seen worse - and have been able to create calm order out of seemingly insurmountable chaos.  Our message for new clients is this. “Feel free to invite us into your mess.”  Our job is to bring order to your world so that you can move on.

2.    The word ‘Collecting’ is a verb for a reason.  We have met avid collectors of fascinating artifacts of all description.  While each collection is impressive, the sheer number of items becomes a burden to an owner interested in downsizing.  Our message is this.  “There are creative ways to retain the joy and satisfaction of a collection – while letting go of many of the physical items.” Talk to us to find out how.

3.    Downsizing does not always equal less. It many cases, it equals more! How is this possible you may wonder?  It has been our experience that the clients we have downsized, emerge with a renewed sense of calm, energy and increased happiness.  They tell us this is due to their decision to let go of the previous chapter of life and move forward with less ‘stuff’ and more ‘purpose’.  Downsizing means fewer items to maintain, less housing-related costs, less space to clean and less home maintenance.  Inevitably, our clients state that they should have done it sooner.

These were just 3 of the many lessons we learned.  You are welcome to apply them to your own life.  Talk to us and we’ll be glad to tell you more.

In the meantime, SAGE would like to acknowledge and thank all our clients.  You made 2015 more joyful and meaningful than we could have imagined.  We move forward into 2016 with eager anticipation for the new clients, friends and experiences that lie ahead.  

Seasonal Gifts for Seniors

Holidays are on the horizon. Amidst the approaching cheer, a nagging question begins to float in your head. “Is there anything new I can give mom or dad this year?”  You want to delight them, but ran out of bright ideas years ago.  You don’t want to resort to the same predicable gifts that have become holiday staples. Is it even possible at this stage of life to surprise and delight a senior with a novel yet meaningful gift? 

AT SAGE we say YES and we’re here to offer suggestions that are fresh, affordable and easy to store.  As one of our primary services is downsizing, we expend a hefty amount of time helping seniors dispose of items they no longer have space for.  We invite you to fight the urge to add to their collections.  Adopt gift ideas that are space neutral yet guaranteed to evoke a smile.  Here are a few ideas:

The Gift Of Food

Food gifts can be practical, delicious and unique.  Seniors in retirement residences or small homes often have limited kitchen space, capacity to shop or the ability to prepare anything but the most basic meals.  Solve these problems with a custom gift basket brimming with foods your senior loves and has an emotional connection to. Make the time to add baked goods from family favorite recipes to elicit happy memories.  When selecting items, be mindful of dietary restrictions or perishable items.  Smaller appetites mean that perishable items may expire before they can be enjoyed.  

The Gift of Anticipation

Gift cards can be magic!  Small and versatile, they offer the promise of future gifts or experiences to enjoy.  Choose cards wisely to reflect the unique interests and capabilities of your senior. Restaurant, theatre or movie cards can provide a future outing to look forward to and possibly an opportunity to include a guest if you purchase the card with this in mind. When appropriate, include a taxi chit as well so that transportation will never be a problem.

The Gift of Music

Every era has music that evokes memories and joy.  Make a gift of an affordable MP3 player preloaded with music that is unique to the life and times of your senior.  By preloading the music, you make it possible for any senior to simply enjoy the music without having to own and operate a computer.

The Gift of Memories

Shoeboxes are for shoes, not photos.  Yet at SAGE, we regularly find boxes of all description packed with unmarked photos bearing testament to the lives and times of our clients.  Help preserve your senior’s memories by assuming the task of digitizing and organizing some of the collection.  Consider creating a digital book that includes a collage of photos, newspaper clippings, ticket stubs and invitations that they have spent a lifetime saving.

And finally, remember to offer the gift of TIME throughout the year.  The joy of the holidays is lovely but transient.  Remember that the life of the senior you love can be enriched by the regular gift of your companionship throughout the year. 

“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” 
― Mark Twain=