Discovering one’s dream home is hard work. Buyers usually begin with an emotion and work out from there — i.e., "warm and cuddly" or "clean and modern." Function follows form — at least at first.
After some hard work on the part of the buyer’s agent, ferreting out the true desires of the client (bedrooms, baths and living space), it’s back on the road to do the real home sleuthing.
This is the critical point at which a lot of agents trip up and spend many precious hours retouring the same four homes over and over again. She just had to see it … again.
Buyers have notoriously bad memories. Agents do not. Why? Because we have a practiced eye. Walk through a house once and we’ve got the entire 3,560 square feet filed away (with details!) in our catalog-of-homes brain cabinet.
Buyers on the other hand, have only a vague sense of up and down on tour day. Not surprisingly, it can be the forgettables that catch their attention and somehow make impressions on the first pass.
One fellow, whom I’ll remember forever, fell head over heels for a den containing a leather couch and a framed poster of Steve McQueen on a motorcycle. Throughout the rest of our tour, he continued to remind us of "That one house with the really comfortable cou … (he started to say "couch") den, you know the one, the den? With the dark walls and that Steve McQueen print?"
Honestly, I think we all knew his priority was a new couch and his own space. The point is, he was so enamored with the emotion of buying a man cave that he lost sight of every other home we toured.
These experiences are universal and unavoidable. The best we can do, as agents, is provide a memory service. And with today’s technology, it’s really too simple not to do on a regular basis.
Some tips for refreshing your client’s memory:
1. Use video
Every smartphone out there has a camcorder feature (or use that Flip you bought a few years ago). Email the videos to your clients that evening. They can review them on their own time. Five-minute clips of homes can make a world of difference to confused buyers.
2. Review each home before you leave the property
Do not drive away without asking pertinent questions. Do not ask throwaway yes or no questions, like, "Wasn’t that house pretty?"
Rather, make your buyers think about what they saw: "The master bath didn’t have a tub. Was that a deal-killer for you?" Let your clients see you write down their responses. Not only does this demonstrate you are a good listener, it also is an invaluable reference tool for later discussions.
3. Provide your clients with their own review sheets attached to the listings visited
Let your clients write down their own thoughts; things they may not want to share with you. Some people don’t bother to even open up the notebook, but others do an absolute brain drain on the listings.
One woman I worked with went through three ballpoint pens and a sheaf of paper.
Whether you utilize an iPad or an old-school city map, provide your buyers with a map of where they are and where they are going. Highlight or pin every house visited. Refer to the map when you arrive at a home. Even if they already live in that city. No excuses. Not only does the map itself answer a myriad of questions, it is another memory tool for buyers to reference later.
5. Disposable cameras
These are for the kiddos. (Yeah, I know, every kid these days has a smartphone, even the 2-year-olds! It’s ridiculous.) But something magical happens when you give a 12-or-under kid a camera and tell the child to document the most important features of the homes. They take it seriously — sometimes much more seriously than the parents.
In fact, I have often observed adults deferring to 8-year-olds for final approval of the purchase. Of course, you’ll always run into the ones who document gravel and dead flies, too.
Client services should extend beyond filling in the blanks on the purchase agreement. Done right, every moment leading up to their signatures has solidified their trust in you and their own good decision-making. This part can even be fun.
Alisha Alway Braatz is a buyer’s broker for Coldwell Banker Advantage One Properties in Eugene, Ore., and a real estate humorist.