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First-time homebuyers certainly present an interesting challenge for any real estate agent. They put all your skills to the test as you balance trying to close the sale, dishing out cautionary advice and sometimes saving your clients from themselves.
Part of what makes this challenging is that your client has never done this before so they’ll inevitably be cautious and nervous. You’ll likely come across the first-time buyers who will be so nervous and overwhelmed that they won’t ask questions. Or they’ll ask too many. You might also run into the know-it-alls who have spent hours researching online and will second-guess your every move.
Yet, no matter how frustrating it gets, you’re their agent, and you have to find a way to ease their stress and confusion enough to get them a house that’s as close to their dream home as possible. Many agents find helping first-time homebuyers the most rewarding part of their job.
Here are six tips to make the process smoother for everyone:
1. Get to know your client
Spend time learning about your clients’ needs, what kind of house they’re looking for, their ideal neighborhood, their preferred house styles, etc.
Doing this early on in the relationship will save you hours of showing them house after house without closing on any of them.
To get a better sense of their needs, consider having them fill out a questionnaire that has questions on their “must-haves,” “nice-to-haves” and even things they’d like to avoid. This gives both you and your client a clear road map to work with.
2. Counsel your client about the homebuying process
Inexperienced homebuyers might be uninformed about certain aspects of the homebuying process.
To avoid confusion (and to make your work easier) sit down with them, and go through every step of the transaction together. This preparation ahead of time can help manage your clients’ expectations and ward off common rookie mistakes.
3. Answer questions they’re too scared to ask
Purchasing a house for the first time is a huge step for most people. Expect your clients to bombard you with tons of questions from the onset.
Anticipating some of the questions novice homebuyers might be too scared or embarrassed to ask will set you apart as a real estate agent who has their best interests at heart. Also, keep in mind that an educated buyer is likely to make an informed decision and be more satisfied with his or her purchase.
4. Talk about the financial bit too
It’s never a good idea to assume that your clients know all about the financial part of buying a home. Discuss the types of mortgage loans available, mortgage pre-approval versus pre-qualification, tax incentives, your clients’ budget and how much down payment they’re expected to put on a house, etc.
Make sure they understand closing costs, escrow fees, homeowner’s insurance, property tax or any other costs that might catch first-time homebuyers off-guard. It’s also a good idea to let them know of any maintenance costs they’ll have to foot depending on what’s listed in the seller’s disclosure.
5. Be knowledgeable about your market
Knowing your area and inventory will go a long way toward putting first-time homebuyers at ease. Your clients are counting on you to know every detail about every property in your area.
Having this information at your fingertips will increase their confidence in you. So make sure you’re not only familiar with the residences but also the neighborhoods they are located in.
What’s the security like? Is the neighborhood in a good school district? Are property prices going up or down in the area, and why?
It also pays to be knowledgeable about the down payment assistance programs in the area which can make it easy for your clients to purchase a home.
6. Manage outside opinions
Many of those looking to purchase homes for the first time are often eager to ask for advice from their parents, relatives and friends. Although this may not be an ideal situation for you, knowing how to manage these “outside opinions” might make the difference between closing a sale or not.
Remember that your clients trust these other people, so instead of trying to silence or exclude them, embrace them. Take the lead in the conversation, include them, listen to what they have to say, then respectfully correct any misinformation they come up with. The trick is to leverage these outside opinions to work in your favor.
When dealing with first-time homebuyers, you, as their real estate agent, will have to be a patient hand-holder. You will need to learn how to handle all aspects of the sale while providing adequate assistance and support.
Although their indecision, incessant questions and cautiousness might be frustrating, you should still strive to meet their needs. If you play your cards right, that first-time homebuyer can become a repeat customer or reward you with referrals in future.