If you want to create a memorable buying experience that will have your new homeowners singing your praises, here are seven steps to really enhance the services you currently offer and some ideas of how you can improve some of the things that you are already doing.
1) Mind the money – Have you ever watched a home buying show and asked yourself why the real estate agent is showing the buyer homes much higher than their price range? If a buyer asks to see $300,000 homes, assume this is the price range they can afford. They will let you know soon enough if they want to up the budget, because of the compromises they may have to make at a lower budget, but NEVER up the budget for a buyer before they give you the go-ahead. What if the buyer falls in love with a home that is out of their price range? You are setting them up for a big disappointment that is not easy for a buyer to get over.
It is easy to go up in price visually (by seeing nicer homes in a higher price range) but trying to go down in price will make your job all the harder.
2) Preview homes before you show them – this is one of my biggest pet peeves in real estate! I can’t tell you how much of my time has been wasted as a buyer when I have been looking for real estate out of the area with a real estate agent who took me to homes that he/she clearly had never been in. Sometimes the agent could not even find the property (see my next tip)!
Unless you have previewed a home you just can’t give the buyer all the pertinent details or plan how you will tour the home with the buyers to roll out all the amenities that are important to them. Also, you may be able to rule out homes that looked good on paper but might not have included most of the buyer’s “must haves”.
If you can’t preview the homes on your home search tour because of the buyer’s timeline then at least let the buyer know that you are making an exception to your rule. When you have previewed a home you look like you have taken the time to do your research.
3) Plan your driving route – Make sure that your route to the homes you are showing will be the route that the buyer will most likely take if they were to own the home. I know it can be tempting to take back routes to save time, but you want to show off the area for the buyer which means taking regular routes. You never know when the property may be wrong but the neighborhood may be right, which targets your search down the road.
Trying to get directions as you drive is a nightmare! Have all addresses input into your GPS before the client arrives. You are a tour guide and nothing squelches confidence in an agent more than if they are driving up and down a street looking for an address and a “For Sale” sign.
4) Avoid the temptation of elaboration – If your buyer has an objection or question, answer the objection but don’t volunteer additional information in a speculative fashion. For example if the buyer asks if the basement is finished and your reply should be factual and should end there.
I was viewing a home once where I asked the agent if the basement was finished. The real estate agent answered, “Not only is it not finished, but it looks like the rest of this house needs work too.” That was NOT a good thing for him to say! I actually loved the house, loved the idea of finishing the basement myself, and loved the idea of a house that I could gut and make completely mine. This agent was not an inspector or a contractor and his comments lead me to believe there was more wrong with the house than just the cosmetic challenges, whether there were or not.
I don’t expect you to love every house you show, let the buyer decide whether or not the house is a good house for them overall and let the inspector inform them of any material defects, unless you know for sure of something that has been disclosed. Taste is a very personal issue. You never know when you have said too much so remember to think before you speak.
5) Allow enough time –Allow enough time for buyers to see a home thoroughly. If they walk into a home and love it, don’t rush them just because you are on a timed schedule to get to the next house that they might not even like. Be open to adjusting your viewing appointments as the seller is able so the buyer experience can be improved.
6) Be Switzerland – It is easy to get caught in the middle between two buyers, but it is important to remain neutral. If you are working with a couple let them work out their differences on their own when it comes to choosing the right property. Present the material facts about the property and allow them to decide which is the right fit. You are not a marriage counselor. Some couples banter back and forth and while they might appear to be arguing it could just be the way they process information.
7) Don’t overload them with visual information – This is one of the biggest mistakes agents make! Showing too many houses can leave the buyers confused and exhausted. I used to provide a viewing checklist for buyers to take notes along the way with some photos of each home. You can even include the house flyer along with a page for notes. However, you still need to give the buyer enough space to process what they have seen. And, of course, if they haven’t found the right home just yet, you want them to want to see more, not be overwhelmed by the process.
As a managing broker, I would often see agents frustrated that their buyers couldn’t make a decision and as a result, kept adding on more homes to see. This process just led to buyers discarding every property they saw in the first few minutes instead of really taking the time to examine the possibilities. Your clients need time to think and imagine.
Take the time to really think about your buyers when you take them on their next home buying excursion. And make it an exciting event that could lead to a major change in their life. Helping someone buy a home is a great honor, so make their experience sensational by following these seven easy steps.