Last week at Inman Connect New York 2019, Inman contributor and chief executive at Lamacchia Realty, Anthony Lamacchia, advised a crowd full of eager real estate pros to refrain from asking these two questions: “Are you pre-approved?” and “Do you have a Realtor?”
It is odd to me that a leader in an industry where professionals only earn income upon the final settlement of a transaction, would discourage peers from seeking answers to pretty simple and fundamental questions. It seems like such a rookie move to not understand the answers to those questions before spinning your wheels. Because of this, I met Lamacchia’s instruction with a bit of skepticism as both of these questions have served me well in the past.
The thing is, I realized that I ask these questions differently. In real estate, it’s all about the approach. Here’s what I mean.
Why you should ask about pre-approval
As a 16-year veteran in the business, I’ve had my own trials, tribulations and “learning” moments running all over Baltimore City working primarily with first-time buyers. I can’t begin to count the minutes I’ve spent, lost and will never get back with folks who either were not pre-qualified for the home they inquired about, maybe not pre-qualified at all, or even worse, already had a Realtor.
This is not done maliciously by the buyers. I suspect it’s because the public is not properly educated on how our industry works and what the process is for buying a home in a stress-free environment. It’s our job as Realtors to educate our clients, and that starts with the very first conversation.
I take a lot of pride in our team’s skill set in converting leads into clients and clients into friends. Our team doesn’t have the kind of sales volume that Lamacchia can tout. (We have three agents who closed about $55 million in 2018).
A decent percentage of our business comes from online leads. To my knowledge, online lead conversion across the country sits somewhere at about 3 percent. In 2018, we converted just over 6 percent.
I mention this only to provide insight to those reading and to provide some credibility that I might know a little about what I’m talking about. We’re not just lucky. We have trained ourselves for this result. I’ve spent the magical 10,000 hours working on this art, and we continue to try to fine tune things each day.
If Lamacchia meant literally do not ask those questions, then I read more into his statements than I should have. I’ve heard before that there are always five ways to ask the same question. If Lamacchia is suggesting not to seek the answers and that by trying to seek the answers “you may as well not have called them back,” I will kindly object. We absolutely seek those answers in our initial calls, and I can’t recall over the past couple of years getting much of any pushback to our questions.
Just ask right
Perhaps our success is a result of how those questions are asked and when they are inserted into the conversation. For example, instead of asking, “Are you pre-qualified?” we ask, “Where are you in the financing process? Have you spoken with any banks or lenders yet?”
Instead of asking, “Do you have a Realtor?” we ask, “Are you committed to a Realtor at this time?” Although the differences in the questions are subtle, there’s a big difference in how those questions are received by a stranger you’re talking to for the first time. That initial call is so important for establishing yourself as a professional, likable and relatable real estate agent.
Essentially, you need to build instant rapport over the phone while asking questions in a disarming, non-interrogative manner.
We need to spend time learning about our prospective clients and where they are in the process. We do this not just for ourselves and to protect ourselves from time vampires, but to add value to our clients.
In my opinion, one of the worst things we can do as Realtors in this business is to show clients a home they will absolutely fall in love with when they have absolutely no chance of being able to afford it.
Problems can also arise when affordability is not the issue and a client falls in love with a home that they can afford and want to purchase but haven’t been pre-qualified yet. I’ve seen too many buyers lose out on a dream home because they have to take two steps back to get pre-qualified before they can take the step forward to make an offer.
I won’t let that happen again.
My advice to my peers in this business is this: Be a professional, understand who your client is and where they are in the process, protect your time, educate your clients, and don’t be afraid to ask hard questions. That’s the winning recipe for a long and prosperous business.