Some buyer’s agents seem convinced they must hard-sell their clients. Although this might work in the short term, it often alienates buyers, killing the chance for long-term relationships. There is a better way.
Visiting an open house with clients a few years ago, I noticed another agent there with her clients. They were all chatting rather noisily, so it became impossible not to notice a few key things:
- The buyers’ agent had clearly not educated them on the process of buying a home.
- They were not pre-approved.
- The agent thought her job was to be a tour guide.
Constant chatter ensued throughout the tour, with the agent stating, “This is the kitchen. Here we have the living room. This is the dining room,” and so on throughout the house. She also pointed out numerous obvious facts, such as marble counters, tiled bathroom floors, wall-to-wall carpet and more.
Rather than allow the clients to ask questions, the other agent bombarded the clients with a continuous stream of the obvious rather than allowing them to ask questions.
On more than one occasion during the visit, my buyers looked at me with raised eyebrows while mouthing, “OMG.”
That day cemented in my mind a simple rule when working with buyers: “Stop talking and start facilitating.” Another way to say it would be, “Stop trying to sell, and start actively enabling a purchase.”
Buyers do not need a tour guide. They also do not need someone to sell them a home; they need a facilitator who will help them purchase the home they want to buy and protect them throughout the purchase process. When we tell our clients we will not try to hard-sell them anything but rather facilitate the purchase of the home that resonates with their wish list, they take a deep sigh of relief. The release in tension is often palpable.
Over the years, I’ve seen any number of agents touting the obvious while ignoring the important. Buyers need a competent agent who follows a system that covers all the bases and ensures that all essential details are systematically handled effectively and promptly.
Here is our list:
1. Begin with an information sheet
This could be an online form or one you email to them: It’s a simple way of gathering all their information upfront. In our case, we email a form to them that they fill out, save and then email back.
We ask for:
- The legal names of all who will be a party to the purchase
- Full contact information of all buyers, including current home address, cell numbers and email addresses
- Lender contact information
- How did you find us?
- What is your maximum price?
- How much money do you have for your down payment?
- What types of homes are you hoping to buy, and what types do you not wish to buy?
- List the features you are hoping for
- What is the most critical thing we need to know about you and this purchase?
- Have you worked with a Realtor before?
- Are you working with another Realtor now?
- What are your expectations?
- What are your fears?
- What types of services and support do you anticipate?
- What are your expectations of us as professional Realtors?
2. Insist on a preliminary meeting
Whether online or in-person, an initial meeting is critical. The goal of this first visit includes the following:
- Get acquainted with your new clients.
- Go over the “information sheet” they have provided and discuss their answers to various questions, filling in gaps or adding information as necessary.
- We provide them with two booklets:
- “Getting Started,” which includes a comprehensive checklist of everything that they must do before they can write their first offer. We go over the checklist item by item to ensure there are no surprises.
- “Guide to Buying,” a buyer’s guide that includes information about every aspect of a potential transaction.
- Confirm their lender relationship, and recommend lenders as applicable. We will not show a single home until we have their preapproval in our files. To spend time showing homes to unapproved buyers is a total waste of everyone’s time. If they insist on visiting homes to get an idea of what is available, suggest they start attending open houses independently.
- Confirm that they have enough funds to cover one-time closing costs.
- Explain how the home search process works, how you will set them up with MLS auto-feeds for homes that fit their specific criteria, and how they can get access to homes they want to see. Clarify that you will only send them profiles and provide access to homes they can afford.
- Explain how you will protect them by reviewing any inspection reports and disclosure packages for homes they are interested in.
- Explain the offer process, best practices, contingencies and so on. We also explain why lowball offers are usually not in their best interest.
- Explain the top 10 credit mistakes to avoid during the buying process.
- Explain how to handle open houses.
- Explain how to keep you in the loop as their agent for new construction and why this is important.
3. Get a signed buyer agreement
Whether a Realtor Association-approved buyer-broker agreement or a form you have created on your own, you want some written and signed agreement that cements the relationship between you and your clients and outlines expectations.
4. Facilitate tours
We typically follow buyers through a property and assume they are intelligent enough to figure out the obvious.
Here are a few helpful hints for the tour itself:
- Point out things that matter or are potential issues. For example, you may have seen dry rot a hundred times, but many buyers have no idea it exists. You are not there to be an inspector, but if you can see apparent issues, point them out and stress the need for inspections done by competent inspectors.
- Clarify that, as a licensed professional, you cannot violate federal fair housing laws by disclosing information on local crime rates, ethnic diversity and so on.
- Watch the buyers carefully as they go through the home — study their reactions to understand what they do or do not like better.
- If you are showing multiple properties and they clearly liked one of them, at the end of the tour, ask if they would like to revisit that specific property.
5. Review the disclosures, reports, etc.
If they express interest in writing an offer, secure any available disclosure package, and go through the documentation with the buyers.
In some parts of the country, you can expect a comprehensive disclosure package to be available upfront, including all seller disclosures, inspection reports, natural hazard disclosures, preliminary title reports and so on.
6. Run a comprehensive CMA (comparative market analysis)
I am continuously surprised by the number of agents who do not prepare a CMA for properties their buyers are considering writing an offer.
Even in the current hyper-competitive market, a CMA sets the baseline. With no specific information, buyers are operating in a vacuum and may end up paying too much for their home.
Once they have all the information, they need to make an informed decision and are fully ready to execute an offer, discuss the price and terms with them, come to an agreement, and then write it up.
At this point, we will also run their offer through our appraisal calculator to ensure they will not have appraisal problems.
At the end of the day, you are not looking for a single transaction; you are nurturing clients for life. By setting the stage effectively, you demonstrate your professionalism and open the door for more transactions down the road.
Carl Medford is the CEO of The Medford Team.