Category Archives: Buyers

Client Knows Best

bfde9ad766297d20f829ded2996ab3c2Selling real estate can be one of the most rewarding careers around. What other profession affords its members so many opportunities to become proficient in a variety of disciplines? Brokers and agents alike often find themselves wearing many hats during the course of a transaction. Aside from being a parent, I cannot think of many jobs that require the level of flexibility and expertise that real estate professionals do. 

I frequently work with first time home buyers. They are my favorite to serve but often require a greater scope of expertise than a seasoned home buyer. As real estate agents, we must be prepared to adapt and deal with a variety of emotions, situations, and circumstances each time we meet a new client.

Keeping abreast of the changes in real estate law and with new ways to stream line business is something most of us do without thinking. Being skilled and informed in these areas is the key to achieving and maintaining a successful real estate business. However, we also need keep in mind the important role that our approach to each client plays and also be mindful of the importance that strong interpersonal skills play when working with people of all types.

Taking steps to learn and understand as much as we can about what makes each individual client tick often makes the difference between a successful close and a lead that drops of the radar. Listening to a client who may be afraid or unsure will go a long way towards them feeling comfortable with their decision to sell their home. 

What approach works for one, will not work for others. The aggressive sales approach often will frighten a new buyer who is in the beginning stages of their journey. Letting the client dictate the pace and rate that information is disseminated is something that we all need to consider. Some clients do not want to be contacted immediately when a lead comes in.  Others call every ten minutes with a question or concern.

Shifting our approach is not easy, but is a critical part of the equation. The range of people we encounter can vary from those who know everything to those who are clueless. 

Being able to add the skill of discernment to successfully meet a client wherever they may be in their process is sometimes more important than having all the right answers about a home’s features or the steps involved with buying and selling a home. Remaining mindful of their needs is a sure fire way to keep buyers and sellers feeling confident in not only our abilities as agents, but in our abilities to relate to them on a personal level.

Agents who understand that the job is equal parts business operations, law, customer service, and psychology will be in an excellent position when their referral business begins to grow. Word about how we interact and our level of patience and understanding will get around. Creating connections with our clients does not mean becoming their therapist, or best friend. That is a completely separate blog.

It means doing everything we can in our power and scope to leave every customer feeling like they are the only one. It means holding their hand, offering guidance as the transaction moves along, and giving a high five at closing when the keys are handed over. Every effort agents make to this end will increase the chances that when they pass along your name to their friends and family it will be done with a smile on their face.

Changing Seats at the Real Estate Negotiation Table

I have worked with many home buyers over the years and done my fair share of real estate contract negotiations. Many eventually call me when it is time for them to list their home for sale. These repeat customers are the highest form of compliment an agent can receive. When a past buyer contacts an agent to sell their home, it conveys their confidence in my expertise and I successfully earned their trust and built a positive relationship with them. The buyer then becomes the seller.

There are many types of home buyers and sellers. Each specific category brings its own unique perspective when looking to purchase a new home. First time home buyers can sometime require a greater degree of hand holding as they navigate the home buying process for the first time.

They are often unfamiliar with the process and need to feel reassurance as the transaction moves from offer to closing. More seasoned buyers may not need as much information as a first timer, however still need an agent that has a proven track record of negotiating, a keen sense of the market and valuation, and strong communication skills.

For buyers, agents are tasked with ensuring that the buyer’s sales price is as close to market value possible and to facilitate the successful completion of the transaction. For sellers, agents are relied upon to come up with an accurate valuation of market value and to get the home in front of as many potential buyers as they can.

In a real estate transaction, the perception of the buyer is often that they are in a subordinate position. The seller has the final say about what offer they will accept. When a buyer turns into the seller they can often get drunk with power.

I noticed an interesting trend developing when past buyers become sellers. The mindset, perspective, and attitude is definitely influenced by which side of the transaction they are on. How a particular client is as a buyer does not always indicate the kind of seller they will be.

real etsate negotiationsI chuckle when a seller is unwilling to repair something that their buyer has requested and believes that the buyer is being petty or inflexible. Negotiations can go off the rails when ego take over. I often have to remind them of their requests when they were purchasing the home.

When they put the selling hat on they can be offended when a buyer asks for closing costs, even though they received closing assistance when they purchased the home. In fact many of them could not have purchased the home in the first place without the seller concessions.

When a buyer is making an offer they ask for the moon and hope to get a star or two. Buyers feel that sellers should help cover closing costs and accept an offer that may be below market value. Sellers feel that it is not their job to give up any of their profit for the sake of a buyer. Understandably, sellers want to walk away with the most money possible. Round and round it goes. This is the challenge that agents face regardless of which side of the transaction they may be working.

Tips for better real estate contract negotiations.

When the buyer becomes a seller, it is my job to remind them that moderation and compromise are a part of a successful outcome for both parties. Walking a mile in the seller’s shoes may take years for a past buyer to experience. Watching a loyal and satisfied customer experience both sides of a transaction can be frustrating and even amusing at times. The opportunity to see things come full circle is a reminder that walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is one of the most effective and powerful teaching moments in life.


Firing A Buyer in Real Estate

Firing a buyer is never pleasant and is one of the most difficult decisions a real estate agent can make. The concept of caveat emptor is as old as dirt and I bet there are few out there who are not familiar with its meaning. Real estate professionals are well aware of this phrase. Buyer beware. It is a simple concept that speaks to the need for due diligence prior to any purchases.

The burden of information gathering and sound decision making rests on the shoulders of all who find themselves in the position to buy something. But what happens when the real estate agent is the one who should beware?

In real estate, the nature of the contracts we use afford buyers numerous opportunities to make certain they understand every detail of a property. Home inspections are a key example of this. Buyers who choose to forgo a home inspection are the poster children for the buyer beware club. Most buyers are very diligent in their efforts when they are purchasing a home. It is my job as their Realtor to impress upon them the importance of home inspections.

This week I “fired” my first buyer. The experience got me thinking about the concept of Caveat Realtor. Realtor beware. When a buyer contacts a real estate professional they have an expectation that we will offer our services, time and expertise to help them navigate the often stressful and unpredictable road to home ownership.

First time home buyers are my favorite buyers to work with. They rely upon me to explain the process and help them achieve their dream of owning a home for the first time. They are often terrified but full of enthusiasm. There is no greater feeling than watching first time homeowners receive the keys to their first home. This is the feel good part of selling homes.

Other buyers can be a challenge. The ability to work well with different personalities is a critical skill and is not mentioned very often in the real estate textbooks. There are many kinds of buyers. Some are more active in their home searches, others take a passive approach. I have worked with them all over the years. I never thought that I would have to decline working with a buyer. I am very good at adapting to demanding and difficult personalities. Last week that changed.

The buyer was adamant about what she estimated the value of homes to be. My comps did not matter. For three weeks I did my best to educate and present information to support why her low ball offers were not being accepted. She required that I respond immediately to her texts, emails and phone calls. I complied. We looked at many homes and submitted a few offers, all of which were rejected. I was blamed for the rejected offers. The price range of the homes she was interested in made it worth my time to suck it up and deal with the demands. The entire time I was professional, realistic and accommodating.

She let me know that she was also conducting her own search and that if she found something that I did not show her that I would not be the selling agent.  I had hoped to convince her of the benefits of committing to one agent for her search, she was not convinced. She would contact listing agents directly on the properties that I had shown if I did not respond to her immediately.

It was a bit of a nightmare. A day after the last rejected offer, she called to let me know that she had found a for-sale by owner that she would be putting a contract on. I cautioned her about the risks and she thanked me. I was not surprised by this. I was disappointed, but not surprised. Mea culpa.

Three weeks after later she contacted me again to let me know that the FSBO fell through and that she wanted me to resubmit an offer on a HUD home. I told her that I would be asking her to sign a buyer agreement before we went forward. I explained that I had numerous buyers and sellers in my pipeline and I was unable to continue working with her if she was going to continue the search on her own at the same time. She refused.

Simply, spending the amount of time and energy that she required would not be the best use of my time if she found something on her own again. I got burned once before and it made sense to cut her loose. I gave it the old college try. I never like to end a relationship with a potential buyer. There was no other option with this particular buyer.

As real estate professionals we must be able to work smarter and harder, but not be willing to run in circles without a commitment from a buyer. There are exceptions to every rule and the vast majority of buyers we deal with are not like this one. However, understanding that there are times when the situation dictates letting a buyer go is the perfect illustration of Caveat Realtor in practice.

Old School Real Estate

Recently I realized that there is no better way to test the skills and commitment of someone who sells real estate for a living than to work with a customer who does not travel on the information super highway, at all. As real estate professionals, we rely upon technology, the internet, our smart phones and the variety of time savers known as CRM systems on a daily basis. The art of selling real estate is evolving not only for our customers but for us as well. Each month I come across many articles and suggestions about how other Realtors are utilizing the latest Apps, email marketing plans, advertising, or leads management systems. The business model is changing and adapting as more informed buyers and sellers quench their need for information at lightning speed. Social media has become an invaluable tool in staying connected to our sphere of influence and in communicating with the public. These are all wonderful things and greatly enhance our overall productivity on most days, but what happens when your client is 100% unplugged?

This is what I call Old School Real Estate. I have been working with a very lovely man, who happens to be an octogenarian. He sought me out specifically as a result of an old fashioned mass mailing that I grumbled through at the beginning of the year. My reluctance was related to how expensive it seemed at the time and that I did not believe that it would yield any real leads or contacts. I especially questioned my decision as I sat at my dining room table for over 6 hours folding, stuffing and stamping over 1200 envelopes with a personal brochure and a letter. No one in the family would help me, so I was on my own on this one. I was certain that after this I could say that this kind of marketing method was going to be a bust. Come on, it is the age of technology. Who does mass mailings anymore? I came to find out that he had gone into our small office and spoke to my broker and informed him that he was only interested in working with me. I was pleased that the information contained in my mailing made that much of an impression on him. Within moments I quickly found out that he was completely unplugged. No computer, internet, wi-fi, smart phone or even a fax machine. This is a very common situation when working with elderly customers.

I set an appointment, got the listing, brushed off my old school real estate suit and began the work. For this customer, my typical way of operating was not going to work. I have to say, that overall, I prefer this way. The act of selling his home and finding him a new one was one of the most challenging and enjoyable I have had in months. We communicated by phone and I used no less than 12 reams of paper as I printed out listings and disclosures for weeks. Each time I called I was greeted with a “What’s up doc?” and every time we hung up he would tell me “Over and out.” It was sweet. In the end, after sending apologies to the forest that was sacrificed for this sale, we toured a total of 5 homes. He was relying on my judgment in choosing the homes based on what he had expressed as important features. I had to listen more and talk less. I realized that I was his only way to get information. He was a very sharp gentleman and I had to be on my game. I was both pleased and humbled when he said to me, “You done good” at the end of the day. That is a good day as a Realtor if you ask me.

I have noticed that when working with this age demographic things that may cause 90% of younger buyers to voice an objection, i.e “I wanted granite, stainless, open concept”…blah blah blah…are not in play. This generation is concerned with functionality and actually enjoy a home that may be deemed outdated. Wallpaper, border print, mauve walls are just not that big of a deal. Where they may be more laid back in terms of décor or layout the opposite is true when it comes to their expectation of superior customer service, patience and professionalism. In dealing with this transaction I was reminded of the value in returning to the old school way of selling and helping customers buy.

When I was a teen, I helped clean my uncle’s real estate office for extra money. The one image that has forever stuck in my mind was the table that housed the giant machine that was used to input listings. I also remember the room with the 7 inch thick books with listings in them that were the only way an agent knew what was on the market. It was a labor intensive process to sell homes in the “olden days,” as my kids would call it. Real estate sales has come a long way since I was a kid and as a Realtor I am grateful for the role technology and social media play in today’s marketplace. Even though technology is changing how we work, in order to be truly successful we must remember that we can still be “Old School” in our relationships and effort with each customer. There is no substitute for good old fashioned hard work, customer service and listening to our customers. Over and out.

Feels like the first time.

I love first time home buyers. Many Realtors that I have spoken to pick this group as their least favorite to work with on a transaction. There is nothing more gratifying and enjoyable to me than experiencing the buying process with someone who has never gone through it before. Sure, there may be more explaining to do about every little detail and step of the sometimes long process, but the joy that you see as the keys are finally handed over makes the journey well worth the commission.

The time spent with each buyer is like a constant reminder of how important it is to communicate clearly and effectively. They may be green around the gills, but there is no more willing and interested student than a first timer. As I spend time explaining the process, my skills are being honed as not only as a real estate agent, but also as a teacher. Every buyer is different and may need a different approach. There are those who are decisive and set in what they want and there are others who really just know that they want to buy a home. Helping them navigate the process includes not only great communication, but also a very good understanding of multiple aspects of the journey to homeownership. Dealing with lenders, title companies and the sellers can be very overwhelming at times. Even as a Realtor I have had many days where it seemed like everytime I checked my phone or email there was a newly discovered issue. In fact, this is the case for most transactions and the frequency and urgency of each little fire that needs to be put out is inversely proportionate the the amount of days until the sale is scheduled to close.

As Realtors, it is so critical to remember that we were all once first time home buyers. Keeping a positive and patient approach to those new buyers is always the key to a really happy conclusion. Working with the first time buyer can be a great opportunity to grow professionally and personally. If you have not worked with one in some time I encourage you to seek some out and enjoy being a part of their special once in a lifetime event.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

There is no better feeling than when someone calls you out of the blue and would like to discuss a new listing. This is especially true if the home is large and worth quite a bit more than most listings in the area. I live in a very diverse community where the prices can range from the low 30’s to over 400K. My last call was one of the out of the blue calls. I answered the phone and landed a listing appointment. Easy peasy. Until it wasn’t.

In this line of work there is a dance that we all do. For me a listing presentation is just as much about deciding whether or not I would like to work with a seller as they are about whether or not they want to list with me. In my experience, a good fit for both seller and agent is critical to a successful transaction.

I began to spend time putting together my presentation. This property was a unique property and finding comps was quite a challenge. I had some background and the seller had informed me that she had just fired her last agent. Red Flag. But I gave her the benefit of the doubt since she shared that he did not list the property on the MLS and they were upset that they were not getting any showings. In my research, I discovered that the home was listed for an insane amount. Not just high, but fall down, hit your head on something price. I proceeded anyway with the work needed to give her a comprehensive picture of the market and what a realistic expectation for sales price could be. She originally had let me know that she wanted to walk away with $150K after the sale. Red Flad #2. I knew that the comps and what they owed would not even come close to this net amount. Seller’s wanting more than they will actually will get? Unheard of. Convincing them of otherwise was going to be a challenge. I am always up for a challenge.

I am an optimist which is why what happened next is so frustrating. The day before our scheduled appointment I called to confirm the time. She informed me that she had decided to go with another Realtor that she had spoken to a couple of days ago. This would not have been such a big deal if I had not spent money on materials for the listing presentation and the hours of time preparing a very complicated CMA. Consummate professional that I am, I wished her the best. She seemed surprised and felt bad about not calling me sooner. By the end of the call she had waffled and wanted to ask her husband about still meeting with me and she could not find him but wanted me to call her later in the afternoon. I had an opportunity to swoop in and have her choose me, thereby bailing on another agent, who, she mentioned, was a friend for a long time.

Needless to say, i did not. Sometimes it is difficult to determine whether or not to stay or go when it comes to working with a seller. Other times the decision is clear before you even get out of the gate. In our world, some consider it crazy to walk away from a potential listing, no matter the circumstances. The rule of thumb I have learned is that all people show things about themselves. These are clues about how things may roll as they pick up and get running. I consider that had just dodged a bullet and potential disaster before I did any other work. Instincts can be just as valuable as facts in real estate. Sometimes walking away is the most profitable choice.