Most consumers would theoretically be willing to use the same agent multiple times, but in practice few actually do. Real estate leaders shared tips Tuesday for fixing that problem at Inman Connect New York.

Too many agents “ghost” their clients.

Frank Malpica

During a session dubbed “Real Estate Noise: Don’t Forget the Consumer” at Inman Connect New York Tuesday, Frank Malpica — a vice president at Realogy Expansion Brands — said that 90 percent of consumers would be willing to work with their agents for a second time. Unfortunately, however, Malpica also said that a mere 12 percent of consumers actually do bring repeat business to their agent.

There are a few reasons this happens, but Malpica said one big problem is that agents simply fail to keep in touch with their clients after a deal closes.

“We hand them the keys, and then we ghost them,” he said, referring to the texting practice of never responding to messages.

To solve that problem, Malpica and other real estate leaders shared a number of tips Tuesday for maintaining contact — and retaining business — with clients.

1. Treat clients like family

Laurie Weston Davis — CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Lifestyle Property Partners — also spoke during Tuesday’s session and said that she and her firm don’t buy leads. They operate in a small town, which means that they end up seeing clients on the street, at the grocery store or otherwise out and about in the community. And when that happens, Davis and her agents try to interact with them in meaningful ways.

It’s a strategy that works in her community and that has proven more valuable than paying to find new customers.

“We want them to love us and for them to feel like they’re part of our family,” Davis said.

2. Have non-real estate conversations

Kristin Gildea Fox, a broker at Christie’s International Real Estate, appeared on Tuesday’s panel as well and recalled how recently she bought 180 bottles of windshield washer fluid. Fox loaded all the bottles into her car and drove around handing them out to her clients.

“It was a message that had nothing to do with real estate but let them know that I was thinking of them,” she explained. “And it opens up a conversation of, ‘how have you been?’ in a really natural way.”

Kristin Gildea Fox at Inman Connect New York. Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic / Inside Real Estate

That was a key point that several panelists brought up. Clients are people, after all, and agents would do well to engage with them regarding topics other than real estate.

“We don’t sell houses we sell lifestyle,” Davis also explained of her brokerage. “So we talk to people about how they live.”

3. Get involved in the community

Davis also makes sure that her brokerage is represented during community events.

“We do the golf tournament,” she explained. “We have a block party every year.”

Laurie Weston Davis at Inman Connect New York Tuesday. Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic / Inside Real Estate

The goal is to remain visible and find places to interact with clients, or potential clients, in settings that aren’t immediately related to the transaction.

“We’re trying to constantly engage with people,” she added.

4. Do what works for you

Malpica stressed that “there certainly is no ‘one button’ real estate practice,” and that each brokerage and agent is going to find different ways to engage with clients organically. Technology can also be a useful tool for maintaining relationships, he mentioned, though the key, of course, is to simply not ghost consumers who might turn into repeat customers.

Sometimes, the solutions are also incredibly simple.

“I learned the business in a very old-school way,” Fox said. “My dad’s message was go out and shake those hands.”

Whatever happens, though, agents absolutely must find something that works for them.

“You’ve got to do what works with you,” Jennifer Marchetti, Realogy Expansion Brands chief marketing officer and the session moderator, ultimately concluded. “It’s not easy to stay in touch with your clients.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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