The real estate profession is full of challenges — don’t let disconnection from your client’s needs be one of them!
To help clear the fog between real estate agent and client, we’ve compiled a list of things your clients are thinking — but that they are either too embarrassed, unsure or polite to tell you about.
Keeping these points in mind will help you answer questions proactively and ward off problems before they occur:
- Your buyer clients don’t think they need you. In the era of online listing behemoths Zillow, Trulia and Redfin, your online-savvy clients think the biggest part of the buyer’s agent’s job is simply interfacing with the seller’s agent — locating the perfect house can be accomplished on their smartphones. They are unaware of the intricacies involved in buying, and the many advantages of hiring a buyer’s agent who has access to the multiple listing service (MLS). Show them the economic advantages of hiring an agent in your initial agent-client interview to move them off the fence and onto your team. [See RPI Form 103]
- Your clients think they are real estate experts (all of them). Whether it’s from watching too much HGTV or because the seller has lived in their home for years — everyone thinks they know more about property than you, the real estate professional. Sharing your expertise involves a delicate balance between letting your clients know you are in fact the expert they can fully rely on and being mindful of not coming off as abrasive or arrogant. Remember: you’re there to educate your clients about all that they need to know, not use the employment as a stage to flaunt your knowledge.
- Your seller clients think your fee is too high. Tagging along with number one and two, your sellers might be tempted to pursue a for sale by owner (FSBO) rather than hand over a percentage of the selling price to you, their agent. They might also try to negotiate your fee down, which is uncomfortable at best. But agreeing to a fee reduction is a slippery slope and sets a negative precedent which indicates your skills and expertise are not truly worth it. Instead, show your seller client all the extra steps you’re going to do (that they won’t and can’t) to get their home sold faster and for more money. [See RPI Form 102]
- Your clients have a natural distrust of salespeople. That includes you! A Choice Home Warranty poll conducted in 2013 found that 68% of the public distrusts real estate agents, according to the Los Angeles Times. Further, a study by Baylor University suggests real estate agents are likely to lie in their dealings with clients to protect their fees. It’s up to you to be completely honest with your clients, even when it might put your fee in jeopardy. It’s much better to fully disclose facts and keep your hard-earned reputation than to have a disgruntled client who you weren’t upfront with disparage you in an online review.
- Your clients want you to keep it simple. The buying and selling process is complex. While you certainly need to make yourself available for questions, there’s little need to explain every option available. For example, you don’t need to explain negotiating a counteroffer before you even receive the response to your client’s initial offer. Too much information at once can cause confusion and become overwhelming for your client. Read the temperament of each particular client to find that perfect balance of transparency and oversharing.
- Your clients want you to be available 24/7. While this isn’t a real possibility, it’s still good practice to treat each client like a top priority. To them, this transaction represents what is likely the biggest investment of their lives, and that deserves respect. As a rule of thumb, you might want to let clients know when they can reach you. For instance, tell them you will always return their call within two or three hours if received before 8pm. Or, request they contact your office if you’re going to be out of town or unreachable on a certain day. When necessary, it’s better for them to anticipate a delay in response rather than become impatient and feel neglected.
- Your clients are unsure of the timeline. Smooth the process for your clients — especially first-time homebuyers and sellers — by providing an anticipated timeline of steps that will occur. This will prevent confusion and frustration down the road when your buyer finds out they need to take time off work to attend an hours’ long home inspection, etc. However, remember to be clear that estimated timelines are just that — estimates. Like all things real estate, things are subject to change. Thus, give your clients the benefit of best estimation, but don’t over promise or set unfillable expectations. [Keep an eye out for first tuesday’s forthcoming First-time homebuyer kit, to include a downloadable buyer timeline for your clients]
- Your clients have no idea how much completing their transaction will cost. Buyers in particular need to know how much cash they need to have on hand to cover closing costs and other costs associated with buying their new home. For example, finding out a few days before closing they will need thousands of dollars they don’t have access to in order to pay their supplemental tax bill is a potential deal killer.
Experienced agents and brokers: what advice for navigating client issues can you share with your newer colleagues? Share your experience with other readers in the comments below!