With the national search portals just a tap away via their smartphones, today’s homebuyers are armed with data. They expect their agent to be a tech-savvy local market expert, excel at contracts and negotiation, and deliver the customer experience they’ve come to expect from companies like Apple and Zappos. What’s more, they expect you to be one step ahead of the game with answers to questions and solutions to problems even before they arise.
Sound overwhelming? It doesn’t have to be. Know the answers to a handful of critical questions and you can prove your mettle to any homebuyer, no matter how much advance research they’ve done. Whether you’re new to the industry or a seasoned real estate professional, nail the answers to the following critical homebuyer questions and you’ll prove you’re a rock-star real estate agent they can trust.
Question #1: “How do I determine how much I can afford?”
If you can help your buyer set an overall budget before beginning the home search, they will feel more confident that they truly can afford their monthly expenses, avoid financial problems down the road and find a home they’ll love. While many will have toyed with mortgage calculators and jotted down estimated payments, you can help them get a more accurate and personal assessment by advising them to work with a trusted mortgage professional.
Be prepared for this question by having a list of recommended mortgage professionals they can contact to obtain a realistic estimate of how much they can afford. Take it one step further by including this recommendation list in your introductory package and you’ll have anticipated their needs like a true rock-star agent.
Question #2: “How much should I offer to buy the home?”
This is a tough one to answer, but it’s arguably the most important question in the entire transaction. For one, there are so many factors to consider. In answering it, your objective must be to help your clients understand that there are “reasonable” offers, “competitive” offers and “the right” offers — all of which can be different.
Many homebuyers believe they should immediately respond with a lowball offer; however, this may not be reasonable. A reasonable offer is one that carefully considers market data, how the property compares to others that have sold and the buyer’s overall desire for the property.
A competitive offer, on the other hand, often means taking it a step further and considering other terms, in addition to price, that may give the buyer a leading edge. For example, can your buyer make an all-cash offer or include a preapproval letter with their offer? Perhaps they can limit the number of contingencies in the offer or can close quickly with a sizable earnest money deposit.
Finally, advise your buyer that making the right offer is not an emotional decision. Rather, it’s one that should be based on research and market data. When you provide your homebuyer with comparable data, show them the competition and discuss the current market’s temperature, you’ll help them make a knowledgeable and informed decision — and will look like the rock-star agent you are!
Question #3: “We really love this house. How can we win in a multiple-offer situation?”
Your clients have found the house they love — but so have three other buyers. When faced with a multiple-offer situation, today’s rock-star agent needs to know how to make his or her client’s offer stand out. It’s important to remember that the listing agent needs to find the most ready, willing and able buyer to purchase the seller’s house, but he or she also needs to make sure the deal is going to stick. Rock-star agents help their clients give the impression that if their offer is accepted, the seller will soon be sitting at the closing table.
Perhaps this means scheduling an inspection prior to placing an offer, thus giving your clients more knowledge of the home and making it easier to waive inspection contingencies. One of the best ways to communicate that your client’s offer has a better chance of sticking vs. another offer is to improve its terms and limit its complexity. Offer a larger down payment, attach a preapproval letter, shorten the due diligence period. We’ve even heard of buyers writing letters to the sellers expressing their interest in the house, their plans for it and how much their kids will love the treehouse out back.
Walk your clients through a multiple-offer situation all the way to the closing table by thinking outside the box.
Question #4: “What are our closing costs and how do I calculate them?”
This is a question that you can only partially explain, because the lender has the final word. Explain to your homebuyer that closing costs are fees charged by those involved with the home sale and are in addition to the down payment. This includes things like lending fees, title origination fees, fees charged by inspectors and appraisers, and the fees that local government offices charge for recording the deed.
A good rule of thumb is that closing costs are between 2 and 5 percent of the purchase price. Be sure your homebuyer asks the lender for a copy of the HUD-1 statement, which provides the final breakdown of costs associated with buying the home.
Rock-star agents also know that lenders will collect interest for the current month at closing. By setting the closing date late in the month, your clients can reduce the amount of interest collected. Closing at the beginning of the month means they’ll be paying a full month of interest, while closing toward the end of the month means paying just a fraction of that cost.
If you’ve worked with the escrow and title companies your client is using, you may be able to explain typical charges for certain items and suggest smart ways to save.
Question #5: “What should I be on the lookout for in a home inspection?”
While most buyers know they need a traditional home inspection, during which items like the electrical, HVAC and plumbing will be inspected, a rock-star agent knows to advise them of other types of inspections that may be standard in your local area.
A wood-destroying organism inspection, for example, looks for termite infestation and damage. Clients also may need chimney, lead-based paint, foundation, pool, septic system, soil stability or easement inspections.
Of course, these are just a few of the many critical questions that today’s homebuyers may have. Do you have a favorite question that you wait for as your moment to shine? Share it and your answer in the comments below. We want to hear from rock stars like you!
Andrew Flachner is chief real estate enthusiast at RealScout, the collaboration platform for agents and their clients.