- Time is of the essence for a buyer's agent.
- Engage a client in a conversation.
- Go beyond the call of duty.
It’s no secret that real estate buyers often talk to more than one agent. This is true for local Americans testing the waters with multiple agents, but it is especially common for overseas investors who are looking to enter the U.S. real estate market.
For example, before overseas Chinese make the decision to buy in the U.S., they talk to friends, agents and anyone who knows something relevant to the U.S. real estate purchasing process such as laws, taxes and the general state of the economy.
This early-stage, information-collection period is critical for their decision-making, and it affects how they will proceed.
To get the most precise market information, overseas Chinese investors get agents involved during this pre-decision stage, and they usually talk to more than one agent at the same time throughout this process.
Based on our experience, many overseas Chinese buyers talk to at least three agents in the U.S. at the same time. As such, you might be an agent conveying a lot of important information without knowing how to close the deal.
While this is a challenge, here are some ideas to help you deal with buyers looking for properties. Follow these strategies to increase your chances of being the selected agent and get the deal closed.
1. Respond quickly to inquiries
This shows that you, as an agent, are working hard. By not responding promptly, you’re forcing the client to reach out to other agents. If the buyer is serious and has a question, he or she will certainly remember the first agent who responded.
Obviously, this assumes that you know the answer or are able to help out. For example, we notice that some agents in the U.S. are responding to emails and calls in a matter of hours (taking into account the time difference with China) while others do not pick up the phone or respond to an email at all.
2. Be professional
Whether it’s by email or over the phone, act professionally, provide information clearly and demonstrate you’re knowledgeable. Always evoke confidence — an important element of your professionalism.
3. Acknowledge the client’s needs
During the early information-collection stage, many buyers don’t know what they want. For example, overseas Chinese buyers may not directly say that they prefer new construction houses, but they are also never satisfied with the unrenovated 20-year-old homes they’ve seen.
Buyers initially want everything — proximity to good schools, higher rental yield, higher appreciation, space — all within their budget, but they don’t know how to prioritize.
These clients will start to ask questions, but if you provide narrow answers, you won’t stand out.
Share your wealth of knowledge, listen to the responses of your clients, make them open up and talk more and start understanding their situation. By fully understanding their needs, you can find the right property and show them what they can truly afford.
4. Engage the client face-to-face
Overseas Chinese buyers talk to many agents, but mostly just over the phone. Your chances of winning the deal increase after a face-to-face meeting.
Nothing is better than meeting in person and looking into the client’s eyes to build trust. Agents should meet with the client as soon as possible and prepare materials beforehand.
While the distance is obviously a challenge, setting up a conference call or a WeChat group (the most popular phone app in China) is a great way to get started.
5. Don’t push too hard
Some buyers will try to find a new agent as the one who they got to know initially is pushing them too hard to get money ready and buy immediately. Clients feel the pressure and they will feel more comfortable talking to another agent.
6. Check in regularly
Marking your calendar and checking in with clients on a regular basis is a sign that you care. It also helps you avoid losing the deal in case the client takes action faster than expected.
If you fail to do this, when you check in after several months, the client may tell you that he or she has already bought a home.
7. Be helpful outside of the property search
Provide additional information that extends beyond the transaction. This might include:
- Basic tax information for clients who are concerned about property-holding costs
- Verification on whether the property is assigned to a specific school (especially for clients who send their children to the states to study)
- Life in the neighborhood for new green card immigrants
- Materials on renovation, financing and property management services
This level of dedication will be highly appreciated by overseas Chinese clients, and it makes you stand out among agents. Clients may just buy from you because you provide the most comprehensive information in a convenient way.
It’s not easy to work with buyers who are using different agents at the same time. But with the above points implemented, the chances of you winning the deal increase dramatically.
Sam Van Horebeek is a director at East-West Property Advisors, a U.S. real estate advisory firm based in China. You can follow on Facebook and Twitter.