Agents: how do you appeal to your existing buyer and seller clientele? Further, how do you solicit new business?

The best way to gain new clients and nurture old ones is to put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself — what are my buyers and sellers looking for in an agent? And how can I market and provide those services?

This article digests the 2017 Zillow Consumer Housing Trends Report on the relationship between buyers, sellers and the perceptions they hold about their agents.

Editor’s note — Zillow’s report offers a glimpse into national trends. As we know, California’s housing market is unique, and local trends vary further by region. So, as always, observe the broader conclusions but take these statistics with a grain of salt when applying them to your regional practice.

What sellers want from their agents

Sellers who sold in the past 12 months with the help of an agent surveyed by Zillow’s partnering research firm were asked what they value most when hiring an agent.

The most valuable skills and services reported were:

  • finding interested buyers;
  • providing guidance through the selling process;
  • taking the lead on contract negotiations; and
  • taking photographs of their home.

On the other end of the spectrum, sellers appreciated — but found least valuable — these other agent services:

  • promoting their listing on social networking sites;
  • creating print ads for their listing;
  • making recommendations for home improvements or renovations to make before listing; and
  • helping the seller locate and hire a competent home inspector.

Most sellers continue to use an agent versus attempting to sell the home themselves, particularly true for those who already have established significant home equity. Nationally, those who try (some unsuccessfully) to sell their home without an agent include:

  • 57% of Millennial sellers;
  • 32% of Generation X sellers; and
  • 19% of Baby Boomer and Silent Generation sellers.

The trend is due to a number of factors, including Millennials’ do-it-yourself attitude and familiarity with online tools that make for-sale-by-owners (FSBOs) more accessible.

But the biggest factor for these sellers who choose to attempt an FSBO is likely home equity.

Newer homeowners (like Millennials) have less home equity available, and thus the cost of paying a seller’s agent fee takes a bigger chunk out of their bottom line. More established homeowners can afford to give up the average 3% fee to their seller’s agent in exchange for the concrete values a seller’s agent offers.

What buyers want from their agents

What agent services do buyers find most valuable? The top agent services buyers value are:

  • providing guidance through the buying process;
  • taking lead on contract negotiations;
  • providing private home tours when requested; and
  • helping with the details of a home offer, such as setting a competitive purchase price.

Other services that buyers appreciate, but find least valuable are:

  • providing references for home repairs;
  • sending the buyer homes to consider during the search process;
  • previewing homes on behalf of the buyer; and
  • helping the buyer decide whether or not to make an offer.

Most homebuyers use an agent, especially buyers in suburban areas. Further, 47% of buyers reach out to more than one agent when choosing who to hire as a buyer’s agent, competitively shopping for the best representation. This percentage climbs with younger generations, and is smaller with older homebuying generations.

Where buyers and sellers find their agents

Now that you know what buyers and sellers are looking for in their agents — how do you get the word out that you can provide these valuable services?

Zillow’s survey also asked buyers and sellers how they found their agents:

Since buyers and sellers often choose between multiple agents, how do they choose who to go with?

Buyers report that the following are extremely important when choosing who to hire:

  • a good impression of trustworthiness;
  • a good impression that the agent will be responsive in their communications;
  • extensive local market knowledge; and
  • to a lesser extent, a positive reputation in the community.

Finally, buyers care least about whether the agent:

  • is part of a team;
  • has a past connection with the homebuyer;
  • has positive online reviews; and
  • is part of a recognizable brokerage or franchise.

Agents looking to grow their client base can focus on the above list of valuable agent attributes. Communication and local market knowledge are paramount, so highlighting these services in your initial meetup can only help you to gain them as a client. Remember, first impressions are critical. Thus, the positive attributes referenced above need to be made apparent at the earliest possible moment.

Most clients report desiring old-fashioned phone calls and in-person meetings, despite the digital age that has taken over home sales. This is part of the trustworthiness buyers and sellers desire from their agents. Buying and selling a home represents one of the biggest financial decisions your client will ever make — knowing that you are a trustworthy guide with a wealth of experience and expertise is all-important.