• Late night leads present a dilemma for agents -- respond or not respond?
  • Responding may set a precedent of "all access all the time," so manage expectations.
  • Before dismissing the need to treat these leads with the same immediacy as during normal business hours, remember that success is created with opportunities in disguise.

Real estate leads can come at any time, and in today’s super-connected world it might be via email, online internet inquiry, text message, Facebook messenger or any other number of ways people are communicating today.

Regardless of how contact was initiated, when they hit up your phone or inbox in the middle of the night, do you respond right away or wait?

I will admit, I’m that agent that has responded to a lead in the middle of the night.

As a self-proclaimed night owl, I was working late and figured, “why not” — it was one less thing to have to deal with a few hours later that morning.

The leads were quite surprised to receive a response, and I was asked on more than one occasion: “I can’t believe you got back to me so fast – are you actually working?”

I was sticking to the principles of “the early bird always gets the worm” and “success is where luck and opportunity meet.”

To respond ASAP or delay responding — that is the question

There is no right answer as every agent and lead situation is different, and I believe everyone needs to do what works best for them.

Opportunities in real estate don’t always come in perfect packages the way we want them to. Then again, if agents respond so fast, do they look desperate or too anxious for business?

Perhaps a listing that has been challenging to sell, with little to no showing activity, and this is the first sign of life in several weeks?

Responding to the lead as fast as you normally would during normal business hours could result in some lucrative opportunities, and the prospect could be quite impressed that an agent took the time to respond as fast as he or she did.

I’m not suggesting that you jump out of bed every time the phone chimes, but if you happen to be working, it’s opportunity taken versus opportunity lost.

Available all the time?

However, in balancing whether to respond immediately or delay, as an agent you must consider that if you do, you could be possibly setting a bad precedent whereby the lead expects access anytime and all the time.

Agents have lives, too, and though they are constantly “on” and are working nearly all of the time in some fashion, they want to balance being accessible with some sort of boundaries set in place (within reason).

For a prospect to send a real estate inquiry in the middle of the night as an isolated event is one thing, but to continually communicate and expect responses during off hours is another — unless that has been discussed. For example, the prospect works at night and sleeps during the day.

There is continuous debate and discussion about work-life balance in an industry that is open 24/7 and doesn’t bill for time compared to other professions.

Except for an emergency, would you expect a response from an attorney, accountant, dentist or doctor about a question or concern that was sent at 2 a.m. — and most importantly, would they respond?

Most likely not, but imagine the bill for the attorney’s time if they did! They’d charge more because they responded outside of normal business hours.

Legitimate lead or hoax?

With internet or email inquiries that arrive in the middle of the night, it is quite possible that the prospect is located in another time zone, so I’ll cut them some slack there.

A phone call might make you think twice about returning it at an odd hour; but the prospect may think he or she is dialing a voicemail or office line rather than a cell phone and most likely not expect a response.

People are so busy these days that many only have the late night hours to devote to a property search or researching agents to work with on buying or selling a home.

No matter how the lead arrives, the need to respond no matter the hour must be balanced with safety in mind. Answering an internet lead during an off hour may not seem like a big deal, but the truth is you never know who is on the other side of that inquiry.

The email and internet make it easy to hide behind someone’s true identity. What could appear as a legitimate buyer or seller may turn out to be anything but.

Vetting the lead as much as possible prior to responding may glean some insight if you have a name and phone number. Thank goodness for Google and LinkedIn.

In some cases, one must wonder about the late-night leads that never respond back: was it a fishing mission — perhaps drunk property shopping — or maybe a drinking game, of “let’s play who-can-reach-a-real-estate-agent”?

In all likelihood, most people of a reasonable mindset would likely understand a response by the next morning.

If the prospect is frustrated by the lack of an instant response to an email sent at 2 a.m., it may be a telling sign of “all business is not good business,” or perhaps the lead was never legitimate in the first place.

Respond or don’t respond; the choice is yours, and opportunity is what you create and make of it.

Cara Ameer is a broker associate and Realtor with Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. You can follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Email Cara Ameer

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