How many times have you heard this sentiment: The money in real estate is in the listings. It’s guaranteed cash at closing.
Conversely, we’re told, buyers can be brain-drains and time-wasters, spending your money through weekends, gasoline and snacks. I know that personally, I’ve never gotten over that one lady who accidentally (I hope?) scribbled all over my car’s backseat leather interior, having forgotten a ball-point pen in the back of her jeans.
But I still believe buyers can be wellsprings of forward momentum in our real estate businesses — if they are managed correctly. .
Here are three key elements to managing a buyer without losing your head:
1. Never start entertaining a buying client without a sit-down meeting at your office or place of business. The meeting must include a complete overview of expectations (both yours and theirs) as well as the signing of the client contract.
How often will the client be touring homes? Are they only in town on the weekends, or strictly after 5 p.m. Monday through Friday?
But most importantly: The meeting doesn’t take place unless the prospective buyers bring you an up-to-date pre-qualification letter from a mortgage broker and a filled in buyer questionnaire (see below). Right? Right.
2. Ask the deep and probing questions. As a new agent, I had trouble nailing people down. I just didn’t want to offend them. By what? Asking if they were serious buyers or merely tire-kickers? Nowadays, I have NO problem going straight to the heart of the matter. You don’t start touring houses and talking earnest money until you know the nitty-gritty. Make sure you at least know the answers to these questions:
How long have you been looking? Five years? Okay then, now you know where to file them.
Are you working with any other salespeople? In other cities, or just here? I once lost a sale to a gal working with "my" buyers in another state!
Why are you buying? If we identify the right property, are you ready to make a decision today? This is a tool to weed out potential lease-option or first-option buyers.
It’s a big bummer to get right down to writing up a contract and your buyer say something like, "You know, maybe we should rent for a year and see if we like the neighborhood." That takes you down a notch.
My solution to identifying a good prospect came with a buyer questionnaire that included these questions and many, many more. It’s actually three pages long!
I expect the buyer(s) to fill it out together and bring it to our first sit-down meeting where we discuss every answer to every question together. You’d be surprised at how many couples had "no idea" that their spouse or significant other wanted an acre back-yard, or chicken coops, or couldn’t live without an en suite bathroom. When it comes to managing a buyer, call me Perry Mason. I will solve the case.
3. Communicate incessantly. Just call them. Even when there’s nothing to say except "Hi! Just checking in with you," or "No news on the loan docs today, but I’ll call you tomorrow with an update."
My friends make fun of the messages I leave on their voice mails because the sentence: "Hi! I just called to check in on you. How’s it going? Call me soon," just flies out of my mouth. It just does. I can’t help it.
Think of it this way: When you were dating (or are dating) and in a serious relationship, you call each other like, twenty-five times a day. You have to sign up for unlimited texting. You hound your true love’s Facebook page. You get constant alerts on their Twitter status. You cannot wait to talk to them again. Well, that’s a new client. A truly serious buyer is going to be as invested in their home search and purchase as they are in the beginning stages of a serious romance. Got it? Just call.
Lastly, put your personal credo on your website and include a downloadable PDF buyer questionnaire. You might be surprised at how many more prospective clients contact you because they see you are not only professional but serious about helping them find a house. And maybe most importantly, you have a plan.
Wading into a home purchase is nerve-wracking, whether it’s your client’s first time or 23rd. It’s emotional! There’s always something new to learn — not to mention the fact that the process and paperwork are in constant states of change.
So, to sum it up: Give those prospects a good talking-to. Be Perry Mason, and romance the heck out of them.
That’s how to manage a buyer.
Alisha Alway Braatz is a buyer’s broker for Coldwell Banker Advantage One Properties in Eugene, Ore., and a real estate humorist.
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