If you find yourself working hard for clients who end up leaving you or eventually abandoning the idea of homebuying or selling altogether, listen up. Here are four qualifiers that will leave you with clients who won’t waste your valuable time.

What was I doing wrong? I had been successful in business for several years when I hit a long dry spell. Week after week, month after month, I showed homes to buyers and made marketing presentations to sellers with zero results.

Worst-case scenarios come true

I once worked an entire weekend with a financially well-qualified couple, previewing, mapping out the homes that suited them and driving them to each appointment. Sunday night, they promised to discuss the homes and let me know their decision the next day. When I called Monday they told me they had decided to buy a new BMW and stay where they were.

Then there was the seller who asked me to make a marketing presentation for his home. He was impressed with my clever sales ideas and helpful tips to prepare the home. He appreciated my research guiding him to the best market price. Little did I know he would list his home with his out-of-area sister.

This wasn’t a career, it was agony. Lack of success led to depression and a dwindling bank account. Finances pushed me to take a part-time retail sales position. My “outside” job kept me working a shift from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., so I handled real estate appointments during my off hours.

After three months of this dual work identity, I was astonished to find that I had three transactions in escrow. What changed?

The solution

Rather than eagerly tackling any and all prospects that came my way, I selected only those worth giving up my shift (and earnings) at the alternate job. Just as real estate prospects have the option to choose their agent, I had the option to choose them.

Before “taking them on,” I asked buyer and seller prospects these four categories of questions:

1. Qualified

Who is the decision maker? Who’s signing my paperwork? Will anyone else weigh in on the decision at hand? Are they financially capable to buy?

2. Flexibility

Do they understand finding a home that meets 100 percent of their needs is very rare?

Ask them this question: “If the perfect home is not available, can you expand your search to another area/price range/style?”

Will sellers work with you to prepare and access the home? To adjust the price if the market requires it?

3. Motivation

Can a potential prospect “stay put” indefinitely? If the answer is yes, it’s not a good sign.

Ask buyers this: “If we are fortunate enough to find the right home for you today, are you ready to make an offer?”

Select sellers who have a strong reason to move, and ask them, “What will happen if your home doesn’t sell?” If the answers are non-committal, you know you’re spinning your wheels.

4. Loyalty

If you commit your time and effort to their needs, will they do the same for you? Can they prioritize their schedules to work with you? Will sellers allow you to fully market their home?

Will buyers contact you if they see a home that interests them? Buyers may think that the more agents they have showing them homes, the better selection they will have. Explain how that plan can backfire.

You may choose to work with a potential client who doesn’t give great answers to all your questions, but at least you know what you’re risking.

If you have time and gas in your tank, go for it! Otherwise, first have a conversation with your prospects to determine whether or not to move forward. You don’t want to start working without another “client” who will take advantage of you and your skills.

Cari Lynn Pace is the broker/owner of Professional Publishing LLC in the San Francisco Bay Area. Connect with her on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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