OpinionAgent

How a trip away can help you step into buyers’ shoes

Feeling like a bewildered, overwhelmed tourist can give you insight into your clients
  • How do you move to a city like New York and even know where to start? That's also how your buyers feel.
  • Real estate agents don’t sell homes; they sell lifestyles -- and that’s really what people are looking for.
  • Agents should understand the fear and skepticism that your clients have when they call you.
  • Buyers should understand that a good agent can bring so much more value to the homebuying process than unlocking doors.

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Where do you want to drink your coffee?

Being a real estate professional is more than opening a lockbox and reading off a MLS sheet. It’s getting to know your clients and helping them understand how they want to live.

What I learned in Manhattan

I just got back from a five-day family trip to New York City. I had never been to New York, and to see the city decorated for Christmas with all of those people was an experience. We were able to see so many different things and get a glimpse into a way of life completely different from our suburban routine.

My wife and I love to travel, and we have found the best way to get to know a city is to just start walking.

We spent four days in New Orleans this year, and we would just head out the door early in the morning and pick a direction.

We ate when we were hungry and grabbed a drink when we were thirsty. We spent time in certain art galleries we when saw something interesting in a window or stopped to listen to a street musician when they played a familiar tune.

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We don’t want to plan every meal, but instead we love to pick cafes and restaurants that we stumble across on some lonely street. Meeting new people at the most unexpected locations and places is what makes traveling so interesting to me.

New York was a little overwhelming to me as we walked down the busy streets. There were so many different sights and sounds, and there were so many people!

The giant television screens and advertisements in Times Square. The smells off the food carts and the busy traffic was just crazy.

I love to ask myself what it would be like to live in different places. Where do you eat? How do you get to work?

As we walked past a school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I asked my wife, a school teacher, what she thought it would be like teaching here.

What would it be like sending your children to P.S. 6? Where do you buy furniture, and how in the world do you get it up 40 stories? I don’t see any Best Buys — where do you go to buy electronics or a new television? Where are the hospitals and doctors’ offices? (There was one thing you don’t have to ask — “where is a Starbucks?” — because there is one on every corner!)

How do you move to a city like New York and even know where to start?

And then it hit me: That’s exactly how my buyers must feel when they move to my area!

My hometown, where I am so comfortable, is as foreign to them as Manhattan was to me.

They don’t know which diner has the best pancakes or where to go to register their children for the local soccer leagues. They have never been to the Fourth of July parade or seen the sunset over the Chesapeake Bay from the dock of our favorite seafood bar.

All of these things are what makes each and every town and city special. You can find the same house, the same floor plan and even the same stainless steel appliances in similar homes all over the country. But when you put the home together with the different charm and nuances of each community, that’s what makes each place special and unique.

Our job as real estate professionals is so much more than finding a three-bedroom-two-bath home. Our job is to help people understand how they live and help them find the perfect house, in the perfect place, so that they can live the life they want to live.

Your daily routine

What’s your family’s routine?

Do you drive the kids to school? How far is your husband’s commute? Where do you work? What extracurricular activities does your family enjoy? What do you like to do during your free time? What type of restaurants do you enjoy?

Everyone answers these questions in completely different ways, and the way that you answer these questions determines what type of life and community you should choose in your home.

“But I just want a three-bed-two-bath! I don’t want to tell you about my child’s ballet lessons or that I really enjoy trail running through parks.”

I understand we just met, and some of my questions are a little personal, but I need to understand how you live so that I can find you the right three-bed-two-bath close to a park with running trails. As a real estate professional, I need to understand you and who you are so that I can help you find the perfect home that helps you have the life that you want.

I tell my clients that I don’t sell homes; I sell lifestyles — and that’s really what people are looking for in a home and in a community.

How to put it all together

So here is my advice for agents: Understand the fear and skepticism that your clients have when they call you. They feel like they have been dropped on a foreign planet.

Learn the right questions to ask. It’s so much more than “what type of finishes do you prefer.”

If you learn to help clients find the right home in the right area that gives them the lifestyle that they desire, then you will create clients that run up and give you a hug in the grocery store two years after buying a property.

And my advice to buyers: Understand that a good agent can bring so much more value to the homebuying process than unlocking doors.

Take time to think about the life that you want to live. Write down what is important to you; think deeper than the size of the family room and closets.

Interview several agents until you are comfortable with one who really understands you and your family. Take the time to tell your agent where you like to have a cup of coffee, whether it’s in your kitchen before the sun rises, or on your sun porch on a cold winter day, or maybe in the sunshine on the back deck.

Or perhaps your dream is to start each day with a cup of coffee in a bustling Starbucks overlooking Times Square!

Michael Reames is the team leader of the Reames Realty Group in Yorktown, Virginia with Keller Williams. For more articles, reflections on life, real estate, the housing markets and the economy, visit www.reamesrealtygroup.com.

Email Michael Reames