I am a home buyer. I am looking for my dream home. My list of wants is large and a little vague. My list of needs is much smaller and well defined. My past experience with REALTORS hasn’t been bad . . . but I’ve never been through a transaction without gasping a little when I saw the commission expense on the HUD-1. I’ve been cruising the Internet looking at listings for a couple of months and have sent inquiries on a number of properties. I have been surprised at how often my inquiries have gone unanswered (!). I have yet to stumble across an agent who seemed to have much to offer in my home search process. I mean: everyone was nice, but I didn’t get the sense they brought much to the table . . . except maybe a lockbox key and a fill-in-the-blanks purchase agreement.
This buyer – or one very much like him – is probably going to contact you today. How will you secure a working relationship with him?
It’s pretty clear that if you ‘wing’ it, relying on your sparkling personality and natural gift of gab, you’re probably not going to get anywhere. You’re going to have to do something different than all of the other agents he’s already contacted. Here are some ideas:
- Use the Help-U-Sell Buyer Data Sheet. It is designed to help you lead a caller through discovery of the tremendous value you bring to the transaction.
- Practice, practice, practice . . . but do so before the phone rings. Don’t think you’ll polish up your phone skills when this buyer calls. They need to be polished before you even say ‘Hello.’
- Answer the caller’s questions, but never answer without immediately asking a follow-up question of your own. “That home has 3 bedrooms, how many were you looking for?’ ‘It is priced at $289,500, in what price range were you looking?’
- Your goal is to gather as much information as possible, demonstrate your value, and build rapport. Conversational open-ended questions will help you do that. Open-ended questions are ones that cannot be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Look for opportunities to bring value to the process. Value is a perception. It’s something the caller either perceives or doesn’t perceive. It’s true that you can sometimes make the ordinary seem valuable by presenting it in a special way. For example, Al Savastano used to refer to his Conference Room as his ‘Media Room’ when asking prospective buyers to come into the office. ‘I’ll reserve our Media Room for you and we’ll go live on the MLS and search for properties.’ That sounds much more special than, ‘Let’s meet in the Conference Room and go through the MLS.’ Presenting things in the best possible light is fine. However, value is more than packaging and language. Value is real. It’s real stuff the potential buyer can use to make the search process easier or more enjoyable. Here are some examples:
- Your knowledge of inventory. If, after getting a clear picture of what the caller is looking for, you can rattle off 2 or 3 or 4 properties you’ve seen that match, the caller will see you as the area expert — someone who will bring great value to the home search process. I don’t believe you can ever be that quick or clear on the phone unless previewing inventory in your marketplace is part of your weekly routine. You have to physically go out and see the property.
- Your knowledge of finance. You don’t have to be a loan officer but you should know the basics of what it takes to qualify for a mortgage today, what typical downpayments are, how to calculate a payment on the fly and so on. Meet with your favorite lender and ask them for ‘rules-of-thumb’ you can use when talking with potential buyers. Things like, ‘If you have decent credit, most lenders will consider a mortgage that’s about 3 times your annual income.’ ‘At today’s rates, you’ll pay about $5.20 per $1,000 borrowed on a 30 year fixed rate mortgage, so if you borrow $200,000 your payment will be about $1,o40.’ NOTE: do not use the two examples I just tossed out. You need to talk to a local lending expert to get good factors for your own area.
- Your knowledge of special programs and incentives. Many States, Counties and Cities have special programs to encourage home ownership. They can include downpayment assistance, interest rate subsidies, even preferential pricing. You learn about them by digging: constantly ask your lenders if they know of any such programs in your area.
- A Buyer Consultation where you review the home search and purchase process, get an understanding of the buyer’s wants, needs and capabilities, and create a Real Estate Plan that clarifies what you’ll be trying to accomplish working together.
- Listingbook. If your MLS has it, I know of no better tool to give a potential buyer. Through you, they’ll get real time access to the MLS. You’ll be able to monitor what they’re looking at and you’ll also have the ability to communicate and share with them through the program. I’ve never met an agent who took the time to learn Listingbook that didn’t say it greatly improved their ability to convert buyers. It’s also very helpful on the listing side of the business.
- Sikku. Like Listingbook, Sikku provides a search platform for buyers based on the local MLS. In additional to a traditional website, however, Sikku allows them to get the information on their smart phones, so if they pass a home for sale and are curious, they can easily pull the information right there in the car.
- Free List. Whether it’s weekly, daily or at the moment, a list of properties for sale with addresses and prices can be very valuable, especially when some of the properties are not in MLS. There are many areas were a Free List of Foreclosed Properties is seen as valuable.
- A mortgage consultation where various loan products are explored and where a pre-qualification letter can be generated. You want your best lenders doing this for you BUT you want to be present, even if it’s happening over the phone. Remember: it’s about building YOUR value. The lender needs to be seen as an extension of your business, your service.
There are many other valuable services you can offer potential buyers — these are just some that are on the front of my mind. I’d love to hear what you’re offering buyers who call your office. Why not add a comment and tell me what you’re doing.