Agent

A story about a lead

The trials and errors of selling to leads

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Takeaways:

  • Clients don’t always understand the facets of our business, such as what a lead is and agency, until someone explains it to them.
  • Buyers want it both ways: They want an instant response to their questions, but they don’t want commitment or to pay for the service.
  • Our business models are a kind of all-or-nothing approach, which can result in poor service to potential buyers up until they want to make an offer.

Once upon a time there was this woman on the East Coast who did not want to be a lead, but she became one.

She wanted to move to St. Paul, Minnesota, so that she could live closer to her only child.

She found some condos, and she wanted to see them during a visit to the area. So she found an agent who was willing to show them to her on short notice.

The agent did not know much about St. Paul, but a lead is a lead, and as a newer agent, she had to start somewhere.

The woman from the East Coast was most disappointed with the agent because she didn’t seem to know the area well, and she seemed pretty inexperienced.

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When she got back home, she started researching downtown condos and St. Paul real estate. She found my blog and sent me an email.

She said that she wished she had found me before she found the agent who showed her the condos. I asked her if she had signed a contract with the agent, and she said no.

photo.ua / Shutterstock.com

photo.ua / Shutterstock.com

I explained to her that she had become a lead and told her she could become my client. I told her I can help her learn the area and find the right condo. I explained agency to her and sent her a copy of our agency disclosure.

As we began working together online, she told me stories about the difficulty she has had contacting real estate agents and getting her questions answered. I sent her information about condos for sale, and she sent me questions.

One day she found a preforeclosure on Zillow. She wondered why the home was not showing up with any of the listings that I was sending her and decided to pursue it on her own.

The home was perfect for her, so she clicked on the face of the agent to the right of the listing. She later forwarded some of the replies she got from him via email to me.

She was most upset when he repeatedly tried to get her to give him a phone number and had no information about the home for sale. He also started dripping email on her, but he was rude in the way he responded to her questions.

She contacted me and asked about the home. I did some research and discovered that the home wasn’t for sale. It might be for sale at some point in the future.

Like any home with a mortgage on it, it could be foreclosed upon and end up on the market eventually.

When I told her the home wasn’t for sale, she was kind of angry. I explained to her that agents pay money to have their faces next to the homes that show up on Zillow and that homes for sale are bait for lead capture systems and services. She still had unkind words for the agent she clicked on.

She’s not a fan of our business practices even after I reminded her that someone spent a day driving her around and showing her condos. Even after I told her that she was not charged anything for that service and that real estate agent did not get paid to drive.

Like most buyers, she wants it both ways.

She wants an instant response from an agent, but she doesn’t want to make a commitment, and she doesn’t wish to pay for service.

Yes, sometimes my bluntness puts people off and sends them running to the Internet where a nicer agent can capture them.

I won’t be showing the lead any homes until she signs a contract with me. I am comfortable answering her questions because I can do it quickly, easily and inexpensively.

In general, I find her insightful, and it is likely that I am learning as much as she is.

Buyers don’t want to bother anyone, and they just want to go out and explore on their own. They are not looking for a relationship or friendship or even someone who will send them a birthday card and a calendar each year. They are looking for as much free help as they can get, and they want to buy a house.

Many buyers would purchase a house all on their own if they could. They don’t work with us because they want to, but they feel they have to. Most buyers don’t like being leads, but that is how agents find business.

It is probably possible to unbundle the services we provide buyers and maybe build an app so buyers can summon us like an Uber driver.

Buyers could just pay us for showing them some houses, and we could just leave them alone until they want us again. Our business models are a kind of all-or-nothing approach, which can result in poor service to potential buyers up until they want to make an offer.

The agent who showed homes to the buyer lead might be good at capturing leads. But clearly, she has no business acumen if she drives a total stranger from out of town around all day without even having her sign a contract.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker-owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.

Email Teresa Boardman.