Archive for the ‘Working with Buyers’ Category

Our buyers are not liars. They are just people who know less about buying real estate than we do; that’s why they need us!

posted by on Random (Un)Common Sense, Working with Buyers

I just realized I promised a to be continued on an earlier blog post and, well, never continued.

The blog in question was called “To Pop-Tart or Not to Pop-Tart” and was related to the disappearance of Beverly Carter, the Arkansas real estate agent who was later, sadly, found murdered, allegedly by a buyer she agreed to meet at a vacant property.

At the time (and since) I have publicly said that if I were still in real estate, I would probably still be willing to Pop-Tart. Here’s why:

Every day in our businesses and our personal lives, we take chances. Most of the time, either consciously or subconsciously, we weigh the potential risk of our activity against the potential gain and make our decisions accordingly. When we get in our car to drive to a listing appointment – not knowing if a drunk driver is heading the same way; when we walk into Walmart – not knowing if a psychopath is shopping there today; when we’re the first one to arrive at the office – not knowing if we might be interrupting a burglary in progress…

In my rescue work, I interact with shelter dogs I don’t know on a daily basis, not knowing if one of them might be so frightened or unstable as to take a bite out of my face.

Risk. Reward. We make those decisions every day.

Presumably, Ms. Carter made the decision on that fateful Thursday that doing her job (as she perceived it) was worth the statistically unlikely risk that she would be harmed. Real estate agents across the country do it every day and the vast majority of the time, nothing bad happens; in fact, very often something good happens!

So yes, even after the murder of Beverly Carter, I would still include Pop-Tarting in my business model, using Reasonable Caution.

Reasonable Caution? What might that look like?

Reasonable Caution Tip #1: Use common sense when scheduling appointments. Don’t show homes at night or, frankly, any time of day to anyone who gives you the creeps over the phone.

Reasonable Caution Tip #2: When talking with the potential buyer, casually mention you will be bringing your husband (for women) or partner with you. No need for explanation, just say it. Or, related to this Tip, casually mention the owner may be home for your showing.

Reasonable Caution Tip #3: Carry mace or another legal, easy-to-use self-defense product on your keychain. Ensure that the buyer sees it, but make sure you don’t set it down where they could grab it!

Reasonable Caution Tip #4: Don’t go into basements with strangers, or be the first one to enter a room. Always keep the exit available to you.

Reasonable Caution Tip #5: Make it your personal policy to take a picture of the buyer’s driver’s license and text it immediately to your office (or shoot, just to anywhere!). Tell the buyer ahead of time you will be doing this. Be sure to do this for ALL buyers so you won’t be accused of profiling.

And finally, Reasonable Caution Tip #6: Realize that 99.999% of the people you cross paths with as a real estate agent mean you no harm (other than your ego from time to time). Even if you gave them every opportunity to abduct you or otherwise hurt you, they wouldn’t dream of doing it. MOST PEOPLE ARE NOT MURDEROUS PSYCHOPATHS! Please don’t go out into the world thinking the worst of people; what you expect to see is what you WILL see.

I have a few more thoughts on this subject, but will save those for another day…

 

posted by on Working with Buyers

As I write this blog, the real estate world is in turmoil over the recent disappearance of Beverly Carter, a real estate agent in Arkansas who reportedly vanished after meeting a stranger at a listed property.

While attacks on real estate agents are thankfully rare, they do happen often enough to inspire much debate around the www. as to how agents can (and should) better protect themselves when showing property or, perhaps, even abandon the notion of showing property all together without a body guard, permitted weapon or other protective measure.

Hold that thought.

Last Thursday, coincidentally the same day Ms. Carter disappeared, I did a teleseminar in the SWS Virtual studio entitled “The Art of Strategically Wasting Your Time” where I suggested a variety of activities real estate agents might consider doing even though traditional wisdom considers them to be a “waste of time.”

One of the activities I recommended (I even called it my favorite one!) was the practice of what many in the business derisively refer to as “Pop-Tarting.” To Pop-Tart means that the agent responds to an inquiry from a buyer who wants to see a home Right Now; she pops up out of her chair, fires up the Realtormobile and races out to meet the buyer right away.

Well, in the wake of Ms. Carter’s disappearance, you might be asking if I have re-thunk my stance on Pop-Tarting.

Actually, no. No, I haven’t.

Seriously, Jennifer??? Seriously??? You would STILL race right out to meet a perfect stranger at a home and risk your life for a silly commission check?

Well, when you put it that way it does sound kind of silly, doesn’t it? But let me back up a bit and explain my history with Pop-Tarting…

When I was an active real estate agent, I was happy to Pop-Tart and I did it often. And you know what? I got a LOT of great buyer clients as a result. Why? Because (the buyers told me) I was the only real estate agent who acted as if I welcomed their call. The only one who didn’t scold them for not being pre-approved or lecture them about signing a buyer agency agreement. The only one who didn’t require them to come in for a 2-hour buyer consultation prior to looking at houses.

They just wanted to see a house. And I was the only agent who seemed happy to do that for them.

And thus, they stuck with me and we made our way happily to the closing table more times than not.

“But, but, but… Jennifer, let me ask again, are you saying a commission is worth risking your LIFE for?”

To be continued…

 

 

posted by on Prospecting & SOI, Working with Buyers, Working with Sellers

Just this week I was asked three times essentially the same question: “What do I do with a backburner prospect (BBP) to stay in touch and not lose his/her potential business?
For example:

  • “I met with a homeowner who wants to sell his home ‘sometime;’ maybe by the end of the year.”
  • “I hold frequent open houses and meet many visitors who have ‘just started looking;'” and
  • “A friend asked me to ‘keep an eye out’ for a particular kind of home in a particular neighborhood.”

Since they asked, here are my thoughts on the matter!

First and most important…DO NOT put the BBP on any sort of drip campaign or systematized follow-up!!!! Puh-leeeaze! That’s what every other real estate agent is doing (and yes, they are likely talking to several) and trust me, being added to a drip campaign doesn’t endear you to anyone.

What to do instead? Howzabout this? Follow-up personally each and every time you do follow-up (to be discussed shortly). Put a reminder in your planner at appropriate intervals to check in with your BBP, no pressure or pitches, to remind them that you’re ready, willing and able to help when THEY are ready (see below).

Second, add the BBP to your regular Sphere of Influence communications if you do any – i.e. your mass email distribution list or snail-mail/doo-dad list.

Third, when you do follow-up with your BBP come armed with something of value (besides just “Are ya ready to buy/sell yet? Huh? Huh? Huh?”). This should be easy enough – if it’s a homeowner wanting to sell at some point, let her know when a neighboring property comes on the market, goes under contract or closes. And if previewing is allowed in your market, make a point to preview new listings in the area as they come up.

If it’s a BBP buyer, just keep an eye on the market he’s interested in. Put yourself on an auto-search for them and make an effort to preview new listings that come up so you can speak intelligently about them when you follow-up. Again, don’t just put THEM on an auto-search and hope they contact you if they see anything interesting… be more proactive than that!

And finally, when you do check in, never pressure your BBP that they need to BUY NOW or SELL NOW. In fact, just the opposite. Be casual, low-pressure, patient… “Just checking in – when you’re ready, I’m ready!”

Now, what if your BBP doesn’t respond to your check-ins? Don’t fret! They may have changed their minds about buying or selling and it’s nothing personal. Or they might have other things going on right now and you are a low priority for them (again, it’s not personal). But if you’ve checked in several times with no response, just make a final call/email saying “I don’t want to bug you, so I’ll leave the ball in your court. Just track me down when you need me and I’ll be ready!” I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised how often they will call you to apologize for not being responsive!

posted by on Working with Buyers

So, you have a buyer who is bound and determined to get a killer deal on some real estate, huh? He’s heard-tell of this here “buyer’s market” and wants to get himself a piece of that action. Even if it takes all year…

Sigh.contract

We’ve all been there. Worked with buyers who, in our opinions, were unrealistic about the extent of this here buyer’s market and the depths to which sellers are willing to go to offload their properties. They’ve listened to late-night seminars or their Uncle Charlie who provided “expert” advice on how to properly offer on a property (asking price MINUS repairs needed MINUS profit desired MINUS margin for risk MINUS 25%-for-good-measure) without regard for whether or not the asking price is reasonable or not.

They want a deal. And they want you to help them get a deal.

So, you find them exactly what they say they’re looking for. A well-priced home in a good location that needs just the right amount of work to satisfy their need for adding value with cosmetic upgrades.

Yay, sez you! Yay, sez your buyer!

You head for the offer table and the buyer wants to offer low. Really low. Obnoxiously low. Ridiculously low. Unreasonably low. (I’ll stop now, you get my drift).

What do you do?

Write ‘er up.

Yep, write it up as per the instructions of your client. No fussing, no arguing, no defending the asking price. If your buyer wants your opinion, he’ll ask for it. Not to say you can’t provide market data if he seems at all interested, but in most cases, especially early on, he won’t be. He wants a deal and he’s certainly entitled to go after it.

Why shouldn’t you try to talk him out of low-balling?

  • The buyer is the boss. It’s his money and he has the right to spend it (or not) the way he sees fit. 
  • You never know what the seller will accept. If you tried to talk your buyer “up” and the seller accepts his low offer, you’re toast in the credibility department.
  • The buyer hired you to be on his team. His wants are your wants. His preferences, your preferences.
  • If you argue with your buyer over offer price, he’ll wonder if you’re in cahoots with the seller or listing agent, again, jeopardizing your credibility.

Of course, it’s up to you to decide if you want to continue working with the low-balling buyer! You are certainly entitled to end the relationship if it’s not satisfying to you, just as he’s entitled to make whatever ridiculous, unreasonable, obnoxious offer he wants to. But before you fire a low-balling buyer, consider this…

Think of all the good that can come of this experience!

Um….what good, Jennifer?

Tell ya what – I’ve overstayed my welcome on this blog today, so I’ll open the floor to your comments. Any thoughts on why you might not want to fire that bottom-feeding, low-balling buyer o’yours?

posted by on Working with Buyers

Buyers can be hard to nail down and you’ll hear agents talk about the “Buyers Are Liars” phenomenon. It’s a phrase usually used in frustration either when an agent loses a buyer or when he’s at his wit’s end showing homes that the buyer says work for her, but don’t inspire her to make an offer. It simply means that buyers don’t really know what they want, and often it’s true.

Remember, buyers don’t shop for houses every day and they probably don’t know what they’ll respond to until they see it. So you’ll need to have a little patience with them.

Find out your buyer’s preferred neighborhood. If he is unfamiliar with your city, find out what kind of neighborhood he thinks he’d like – urban, suburban, rural, mountains, coastal? Any particular commuting distance? Does he like charming older homes near the city center or new contemporary homes near the shopping malls? Price range?

Moving on… number of bedrooms, baths, garage? Any special needs? Don’t get too specific though. Pushing buyers for too many details is counterproductive, believe it or not. If you keep pushing, he may start making things up to please you. Doesn’t everyone want a garage and more than one bath? But he might not really care that much and, if you limit your search to his non-critical parameters, you’ll miss a lot of great homes.

The other danger in asking for too many details is that your buyer will start telling you things like, “I really want a window over the kitchen sink” or “I want an open floor plan with lots of light.” Depending on your inventory, you may end up with nothing to show her if you rely strictly on her wish list. And if you show her homes that don’t meet her “requirements,” she may think you weren’t listening. You (and she) need to gauge her reactions to different styles of homes in person. Remember, buyers don’t shop for homes every day and don’t really know what they will respond to until they’ve seen it.

When I was shopping for a second home in Alabama, I told my agent that my “must-have’s” were four bedrooms, a two-car garage and high-speed Internet access. What did I buy? A three-bedroom home with no garage and dial-up access only. But my agent was sharp enough to switch gears in the middle of our search when she saw that I was emotionally responding to homes in the country, even if they didn’t have everything I claimed I had to have.

No, buyers aren’t liars. They’re just human beings who need our help… and our patience. And we are well-paid to provide both. In my opinion…

copyright 2007 Jennifer Allan

www.sellwithsoul.com

 

posted by on Working with Buyers

I have a handful of personal mantras that I’m pretty enamored with. In fact, my friend Kevin Miller at House of Magnets has immortalized some of them in magnet form – so if you order magnets from him, you might just find one of my mantra magnets in your shipment!

Anyway, one of my pithy sayings is “I Sell Real Estate Every Day – Sometimes I even get paid for it!” I use this mantra on two general occasions…

The first (to myself) is when I’m feeling frustrated that my buyers aren’t buying or my listings aren’t selling – at least not fast enough to suit my impatient nature. It’s not that I’m mad at THEM – not at all, but that when something gets on my to-do list, I want it DONE so I get to enjoy that feeling of satisfaction upon accomplishing a task. Reminding myself that everything I do, every day, might be leading me to a paycheck eventually, keeps me sane.

But the more important “use” I have for my “every day” mantra is to put my buyers at ease when they start to feel that they’re being too picky or too indecisive. Contrary to what you might believe, that’s the LAST thing I want them to feel! I DO have all the time in the world for my buyers and as long as I think they’re reasonably serious about being a homeowner, I’m delighted to take my time with them – however much time that is. Every once in awhile, I’ll work with a buyer who seems almost embarrassed if he hasn’t selected a home within a few weeks and I’d really really really hate for him to STOP contacting me out of this embarrassment!

So, my dear buyers… take all the time you need to find The One. I’m not going anywhere. After all, I sell real estate every day!

posted by on Working with Buyers

… Before I tell you all about how to select the right homes to show your buyer, let me put your mind at ease about something.

Do some of your buyers seem to be doing most of the legwork finding the houses they want to look at? About half of mine are; they email me every day with their new list of houses they want to look at… and with every emailed list, I feel just a little bit more guilty. Isn’t that MY job – to peruse the MLS searching for Just the Right Home for them? But they beat me to it and, between you and me, I’m happy to let them, guilt & all.

And you know what? They’re happy to do it! Buyers have always wanted direct access to our precious MLS database and now that they have it, they’re tickled. When I bought my first house back in 1994, I remember actually stealing borrowing my agent’s MLS book when she wasn’t looking and poring through it for hours. I hated waiting for her daily phone call with the details of new listings and always wondered if she was screening out The Right One for me!

So don’t fret about proving your worth to a buyer by beating him to the MLS every day. Let him take control of that part of the buying process; there’s plenty more value you bring to the table that he can’t possibly do himself.

That said, I must confess that I miss the intimacy I used to have with the MLS when I was solely responsible for choosing the properties my buyers saw. Before the days of a public MLS or automated email notifications, I was in my MLS several times a day searching for new listings, which, by default, kept my finger on the pulse of my local market. While I still keep up on the comings and goings of my market area, I’m much less conversant on the specifics of it than I used to be.

Ah well…

posted by on Working with Buyers

Ooooh, I must respectfully disagree with my friend Jim Crawford’s featured blog today. But that’s no surprise, I think Jim and I almost always disagree on matters of real estate philosophy. No worries… there’s room on this planet for both of us.

Jim’s blog is entitled “Desperate Times Require Drastic Measures: A Survival Guide for Real Estate Professionals.” It’s a story of how real estate agents are so foolishly desperate for business that they’re willing to work with anyone – egads!

But here’s what I’m thinking…If I were going to write an article or blog entitled “Desperate Times Require Drastic Measures: A Survival Guide for Real Estate Professionals,” it would have a 180 degree different spin!

As in… “Agents! Go out of your way to RISK your time and your gas! Bend over backwards to spend time with not-yet-qualified or not-yet-committed buyers! If someone is evasive and elusive with you, take even more time to gain their trust!”

Folks, in my world, buyers are not growing on trees or beating down my door. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I could use a few more buyers in my pipeline and if they don’t buy til next spring, I’ll take a paycheck in April just as surely as I’ll take one next month. I’ll also happily accept their referrals for years to come.

Here’s the thing… in the Good Old Days, a little triage was expected and necessary. When you had ten qualified, signed-up buyers in your pipeline, yes, you may have had to shuttle off the not-yet-qualified or not-yet-committed ones, simply due to the realities of the 24-hour day. What Mr. Crawford proposes in his Desperate Times blog makes much more sense under those circumstances than under today’s… where most real estate agents, even successful ones, are not buried under a pile of pre-approval letters and Buyer Agency contracts.

If you are so busy with pre-approved, EBA’d buyers, then knock yourself out blowing off anyone who needs a little winning over. In fact, please send them my way. I might have a little repair work to do to get them to trust me, after they’ve been summarily dismissed by the first five agents they spoke with (or tried to speak with), but I’m up to the task. I have the time… and I can afford the gas… and…

I LOVE a full pipeline!

ja

 

www.SellwithSoul.com

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Working with Buyers

respect

Last night I participated in a lively discussion about whether or not to require buyer pre-approval and/or a buyer agency agreement prior to showing a home. The author of the blog and most of the commenters agreed that it’s a waste of time to work with a buyer who does not have a pre-approval stamped to his forehead and/or hesitates to sign a buyer agency agreement upfront.

Such discussions always rile me up and I couldn’t help myself from approaching rudeness on someone else’s blog (sorry). But I have to ask myself… are real estate agents in today’s market So Darn Busy with qualified buyers and motivated sellers that they need to actively turn away those who show up at their doors looking for help? Wow! As I always say in these situations – I LOVE a full pipeline! Send ‘em my way! I’ll take great care of them and probably sell them a house eventually… as well as to all their friends through the years. And I’ll be happy to pay you a referral fee.

I have used the services of many real estate agents in my lifetime and I promise you that if any of them had shown more interest upfront in my financial qualifications than in my housing needs, I’d have found someone else … who showed me the respect I think I deserve. And I certainly would not be interested in obligating myself to anyone I barely know. Oooooh, I get bristly just thinking about it.

I submit that many agents are chasing away perfectly good buyers who are 100% sincere in their desire to purchase a house — and are likely perfectly well qualified to do so. But with these disrespectful efforts to tie them down, all they’re accomplishing is sending them elsewhere… fulfilling the prophecy that buyers are liars and confirming the belief that stronger “rules” are needed in the future.

I disagree. I believe that this approach simply irritates buyers, so they look elsewhere for more respectful assistance. I have to wonder if spending time with a buyer without a hint of obligation or pressure might be a much better use of  time than fussing so much over whether or not they’re worthy of a little time?

Relationships take time. There’s no way you can know upfront if a buyer will buy, regardless of the pieces of paper they bring with them or are willing to sign. If an agent can’t afford the $20 in gas or the two hours of time it might take to create some trust and rapport, then by all means, he’ll probably do better referring his potential clients out. And please don’t forget – we get serious paychecks when someone buys. Our paychecks more than offset the risk of a little gas money and time.

My friends, most buyers are not liars… Most buyers have better things to do than waste our precious time. Their time is precious, too. They simply want to be treated kindly, and with RESPECT.

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Working with Buyers

I’m so sick of hearing how real estate agents can’t afford to work with buyers anymore – UNLESS that buyer has signed a buyer agency agreement AND has an iron-clad loan commitment in hand – because of the high cost of gas. What a crock.car

Okay, let’s do a little analysis.

Over the last several years, gas has hovered around the $3.00/gallon mark. Sometimes higher, sometimes lower, but I think that $3/gallon is a reasonable place to start.

In some parts of the country, gas is now around $4.00/gallon. That’s $1.00 per gallon difference.

If your car gets 20 mpg, you’re spending ONE EXTRA DOLLAR for every 20 miles you drive.

If you take a buyer out and drive sixty miles with him or her, that’s three extra dollars you spent on him (over and above what you would have spent on him last year and the year before).

Are you really saying that you can’t afford to spend an additional $3.00 in exchange for a shot at a $7,500 commission ($250,000 x 3%)?

Tell ya’ what. I’ll be happy to take your Denver buyers for a ride, whether they’ve signed a Buyer Agency agreement or not. Whether they’re pre-qualified or not. Because I know that being out in my market with a warm body in my car (and that warm body probably has lots of friends he can refer to me in the future) is a MUCH better use of my time than sitting back at the office congratulating myself on saving $3.00 in gas.

I’ll even pay you a referral fee. So, on top of the THREE BUCKS you saved, you’ll also get $1,875 just for giving me a call!

posted by on Working with Buyers

jump

Want to build a raving fan base that will support your business for years to come? It’s SO easy – way easier than cold-calling, door-knocking or farming and a heck of a lot cheaper. All you gotta do is look for opportunities to impress the heck out of those who have the potential to be your future past clients and stop worrying so much about whether you’re wasting your time!

On Friday morning, I got a referral from an agent on Active Rain (Thanks Miranda!). The buyers live in the mountains, want to buy a home in Denver… this week? Nah, they have a house to sell first, so maybe sometime in the summer. That’s cool – I like a full pipeline.

Around 2:00 on Friday afternoon, the buyer calls me and wants to know if I can show her and her husband houses on Saturday. Yep, with a little re-arranging, I can do that. So, we did. Went well. Nice, nice couple with two adorable little girls. Found a neighborhood they love, so I promised to keep them updated on the market activity in there. They headed back up the hill to their mountain home.

7:30 this morning, my cell phone rings. The buyers are so excited about what we saw yesterday that they want to make another road trip to Denver today to look at all the other houses for sale in the neighborhood, as well as the ones we saw yesterday. Well, I have an open house at 1pm, three offers to present at 4:30 and dinner plans tonight, so if I’m going to accommodate them, it will have to be this morning and I do have a lot of things to do between now and my 1pm Open House.

Did I rearrange my schedule for them? Oh, yeah. We’re meeting at 11:00. Are they going to buy a house today? Not a chance. Are they pre-approved? I’m not sure, I think so, but I haven’t asked.

So, why am I “wasting my time?”

1.        My past clients are an enormous source of business for me. Because I put them on a five-year drip campaign and hound them for referrals? Uh, no. I think it has more to do with working my backside off for them and making their needs a priority over my paycheck. Even if (egads!) I’m inconvenienced.

2.       The agent who referred them to me could also be a sweet source of future business for me – she works in a resort market just an hour away, so if I impress her clients, in turn I impress her.

Here’s the thing… meeting them as requested will take maybe two hours out of my day. Big deal. I think that’s a very good use of two hours that I’d otherwise probably be surfing Active Rain or even whining to myself that I wish I had a few buyers. To me, taking advantage of the opportunity to impress someone who has the power to bless me with a $10,000 + paycheck is an excellent way to spend a Sunday morning.

 

  www.sellwithsoul.com

 

posted by on Working with Buyers

I was reminded yesterday that it’s been two weeks since I’ve posted here on Active Rain. Wow – that must be a record for me! Anyway, here I am… and I’ve been working on a Q&A for a Colorado online real estate school to include in their weekly newsletter, so thought I’d give one of the Q’s a test drive here…

So, without further adoooooooo…. 

Question:
How can I convince a buyer that now is a good time to buy?”

JA Answer:
I don’t believe in “convincing” anyone to make a huge decision like whether or not to purchase a home! Our buyers are adults and should be allowed to reach their own conclusions, based on their personal circumstances, beliefs and tolerance for risk. That said, you CAN help them reach the right decision for themselves by being knowledgeable, supportive and non-pushy.

  • Knowledgeable: Stay on top of market trends and data. Read those articles and reports that come across your desk or email regarding the local real estate market and economy (both the positive and the doom & gloomer ones). Be prepared with facts & figures in case your buyer asks for them (see below).

  

  • Supportive: Did you ever notice that when someone argues with you, you tend to dig in your heels and hold even more firmly to your opinion? I know I do, you probably do, too. So, if your buyer declares that the timing isn’t right for him to buy a house, acknowledge and respect his position. Don’t argue with it! Have you heard the saying “Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still?”

 

  • Non-pushy: Our buyers know that we’re paid on commission. Therefore, if you appear to be pushing them to do something they’ve decided they don’t want to do; you’ll likely lose their trust, and subsequently their future business. Buyers expect their agent to be looking out for their best interests, so any indication to the contrary (i.e. the agent seems more concerned with a paycheck than with the buyer’s needs) may seriously damage the relationship.

The Punch Line: Here’s the cool part. IF you are knowledgeable about your local market, supportive of your buyer’s opinions and you DON’T PUSH him, one of two things will probably happen.

First, once the buyer realizes you are on his team, he may actually ask you for your opinion on the matter, at which time you are free to give it (this is where having the above-mentioned market knowledge comes in handy). Once he asks for your advice, he’ll be much more willing to listen to it than if you’d pushed it on him, uninvited.

Or, second, he may decide not to buy a home right now, but will be back on your doorstep at a future date when he feels better about the market, the economy or his financial circumstances. And there’s nothing wrong with a full pipeline!

Happy Friday, my friends!

 

sws

 

 

Get an Autographed Copy of Sell with Soul!
www.SellwithSoul.com

posted by on Working with Buyers

SWS RocksI just started working with my wonderful graphics gal on the cover design of my next book, Prospect with Soul. I have a wide variety of visions of how it’s gonna look; what elements I want to include, what message I want the cover to convey, what font I want to use for the title and subtitle, etc.

We’re in Phase One right now. I just sent over a whole mess of stock photos I grabbed online with explanations of why I like each and think it would be a nice concept to consider.

So, as it stands at this very moment, the cover of Prospect with Soul may include my SWS Zen rocks… an ecstatic woman throwing her hands in the air… a businesswoman in a yoga pose looking out over the ocean… a beautiful sunset… a glorious blue sky… some bamboo… my SWS Daisy… a starburst… some water ripples that wrap around the book and… and… and…

In other words, I’m all over the board. In the end, the cover of my book will likely be something completely, utterly different from what I have in my mind’s eye right now.

Is my graphics gal frustrated with me? I don’t think so. She knows it’s a necessary part of the process. To explore different concepts, try them on; see how they feel. I throw out an idea; she sends me back a mock-up of it. She’s perfectly aware that everything we’re tossing around today will likely be tossed right out the window tomorrow. But she’s not rushing me or pressuring me to commit to a concept just yet; she’s playing along, again, because she knows, yes, it’s part of the process.

It’s the same with home-buyers, of course. They come into the game with an idea of what they’re looking for, perhaps based on nothing but where a friend told them they should live or a fantasy of what they always imagined their dream house to be.

As you show them homes, their vision of that dream home may change and evolve. They may want to explore other neighborhoods or school districts. They may want to consider other property types or floor plans. They may want to raise or even lower their price range. They might even, <gasp> decide that they want to change their timeframe.

It’s all part of their process and we aren’t going to rush them through it. Or, at least, we shouldn’t; it’s not in their best interest, or, frankly, in ours. If the buyer feels uncomfortable pressure from his real estate agent to make a decision before he’s ready, he may very well find himself a new real estate agent. Or perhaps he’ll make an offer on a home he doesn’t really want, and later have an attack of buyer’s remorse (and we all know who gets blamed for that!).

Respect the process. And everyone wins!

posted by on Working with Buyers

Liar

Buyers can be hard to nail down and you’ll hear agents talk about the “Buyers Are Liars” phenomenon. It’s a phrase usually used in frustration either when an agent loses a buyer or when he’s at his wit’s end showing homes that the buyer says work for her, but don’t inspire her to make an offer. It simply means that buyers don’t really know what they want, and often it’s true.

Remember, buyers don’t shop for houses every day and they probably don’t know what they’ll respond to until they see it. So you’ll need to have a little patience with them.

Find out your buyer’s preferred neighborhood. If he is unfamiliar with your city, find out what kind of neighborhood he thinks he’d like – urban, suburban, rural, mountains, coastal? Any particular commuting distance? Does he like charming older homes near the city center or new contemporary homes near the shopping malls? Price range?

Moving on… number of bedrooms, baths, garage? Any special needs? Don’t get too specific though. Pushing buyers for too many details is counterproductive, believe it or not. If you keep pushing, he may start making things up to please you. Doesn’t everyone want a garage and more than one bath? But he might not really care that much and, if you limit your search to his non-critical parameters, you’ll miss a lot of great homes.

The other danger in asking for too many details is that your buyer will start telling you things like, “I really want a window over the kitchen sink” or “I want an open floor plan with lots of light.” Depending on your inventory, you may end up with nothing to show her if you rely strictly on her wish list. And if you show her homes that don’t meet her “requirements,” she may think you weren’t listening. You (and she) need to gauge her reactions to different styles of homes in person. Remember, buyers don’t shop for homes every day and don’t really know what they will respond to until they’ve seen it.

And you know what else (by the way, this is new material from here on out)? Buyers change their minds about what they want or need. OMG! How dare they? I mean, they TELL us they want to live in this-and-such neighborhood and then, BAM! They find a new favorite neighborhood they’d like to explore. Egads – the nerve of them! (that’s sarcasm ;-])

When I was looking for a home in Alabama, I changed my mind at least three times as to whether or not I wanted to live in the City… or the country. Whether or not I could live without a garage. Whether that fourth bedroom was REALLY necessary. My real estate agent hung in there with me, never breathing a hint of annoyance at my incredible insensitivity to wasting her valuable time. Good thing, because if she had, I’d have found someone else more appreciative of the $7,000 paycheck I eventually generated for her, as well as the two other $7k-ish paychecks she got when I bought two rental properties.

My friends, our buyers are not liars. They’re just regular human beings who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. And we are well-paid to do just that.

posted by on Working with Buyers

I remember when I was a brand-spanking new agent back in 1996, I contacted my previous human resources manager and offered to show relocating employees around Denver if they were looking for a rental. I figured, what the heck? After all, they’re renters today; but maybe buyers tomorrow and besides, I could use the practice getting around town.

Good for me.For Rent

Just the other day, I talked with a new agent who is considering adding property management to his menu of services. I asked him why and he replied that he thought it would be a good opportunity to make contacts with people who will probably buy a home eventually.

Good for him.

But… here’s where I’d like to see that reasoning tweaked just a little.

Yes, renters may eventually become buyers, and later, sellers. But… not because they’re renters. They may eventually buy or sell a home because they’re human beings.

This is another example of the laser-focused prospecting I cautioned against last week. Agents try to identify specific groups of people to target with their marketing and focus their efforts on that group. Other popular targets include first-time buyers, home-builders, divorcing couples and newlyweds. Some agents watch the obituaries in hopes of scoring a good listing or two.

And there’s nothing wrong with identifying a group or groups of people you want to work with and customizing your approach to them! But you know what’s cool about our business? Almost EVERYONE who crosses your path “may eventually buy or sell a home” — whether they’re renters, builders, first-timers or newlyweds. Just make it your goal to cross paths with as many warm bodies as possible as you go about your day! And remember to smile… 

 

posted by on Especially for Rookies, Working with Buyers

Moving on from yesterday’s rant, here’s the third Secret to Being a Confident Rookie – Preview, Preview, Preview!! house

Before you go out with a buyer for the first time, preview every single house you’re considering showing him or her. I promise you, you’ll rule out more than half of them and will be relieved that you did. If you show a typical buyer a house that shows poorly, smells funny or has a crazy floorplan, he’ll figure you don’t know what you’re doing, because buyers think we know every house in town.

Even with interior photos and google earth and virtual tours, you cannot properly evaluate a house without going to see it. I mean, think about it – if a house has a major flaw, do you think the listing agent is going to spell it out for you in the MLS description? Or make sure that it’s highlighted in the photos? Uh, no.

As a new agent, making a habit to preview-before-showing will give you tremendous confidence as you work with your new buyers. You’ll look far more experienced and self-assured, and won’t be caught off-guard by a mis-advertised or fatally-flawed property.

Oh, and you’ll also ensure that you don’t get lost with your buyer in the car! More on that tomorrow

The Confident Rookie Series:

  1. Know Your Systems
  2. Practice with Your Printer (sounds silly, I know)
  3. Preview, Preview, Preview
  4. Drive Your Route Ahead of Time
  5. Cheerfully Waste Your Time
  6. Find Your Handyman
  7. Let Your Seller Prospect Do Most of the Talking
  8. Get Comfy with Your Commission
  9. Admit that You’re New
  10. What to say when you don’t know the answer

Stay tuned…

posted by on Especially for Rookies, Working with Buyers

Related to yesterday’s installment about previewing, today’s Confident Rookie Secret is to ALWAYS drive your route before meeting with a buyer. It’s mortifying to get lost with a buyer in the car and even worse if drivethey’re following behind you. Unless you’re showing in a neighborhood you know intimately, always always always drive the route ahead of time, even if that’s at 6 am before you meet your buyer at 9am.

Driving Your Route is not the same as Previewing. When you preview, you’re ruling out properties – you might start with a list of 12 or 15 homes and narrow it down to the best 7 or so. Therefore, your previewing route will not be the same as your showing route. KWIM?

A GPS is not the answer. You need to be able to get from house to house smoothly and effortlessly, as if you know every thoroughfare and side street in town… without that nice Garmin lady interrupting your conversation every 30 seconds. Of course, a printout of Mapquest Directions is even worse! Being able to talk with your buyers as you navigate from house to house will do wonders for your air of professionalism. And of course, becoming increasingly frazzled as you make u-turns and wrong turns will have the opposite effect!

Sometimes you don’t have much time between making the appointment and the appointment itself, so you might be tempted to rationalize that you simply don’t have the opportunity to Drive Your Route. But I promise you – you’ll wish you’d made the time. I’ve gotten up at 4am and hit the streets at 5am to ensure I didn’t make a fool of myself (and I’ve been doing this almost 13 years!). The good news is that there’s much less traffic at 5am!

Remember, the goal of these Ten Secrets is to give the rookie real estate agent the tools to look and feel confident and knowledgeable in situations he or she may not have been in before. We can’t prepare you for every single contingency, but the more you are prepared for the aspects you can control, the less stress you’ll put on your antiperspirant!

The Confident Rookie Series:

  1. Know Your Systems
  2. Practice with Your Printer (sounds silly, I know)
  3. Preview, Preview, Preview
  4. Drive Your Route Ahead of Time
  5. Cheerfully Waste Your Time
  6. Find Your Handyman
  7. Let Your Seller Prospect Do Most of the Talking
  8. Get Comfy with Your Commission
  9. Admit that You’re New
  10. What to say when you don’t know the answer

Stay tuned…

posted by on Working with Buyers

“The Only Reason Agents Hold Open Houses is to Prospect For Buyers”

Yes, this may very well be true. That doesn’t always make it right.

One of the first prospecting techniques new agents learn is how to “pick up buyers” at open houses. Agents are urged to be on high alert for open house visitors who don’t already have a buyer representative. Pushing sign-in sheets and personal brochures, agents strive to make their open house “productive” by walking away with a fistful of names and numbers of potential buyers who dropped by. The more contacts an agent makes at an open house, the more successful it was.

But aren’t we forgetting something? Or someone? Your seller client, perhaps?

Remember that you are in that home to sell that home. That is your first obligation. Put yourself in the seller’s shoes – he or she is excited about your open house and is imagining that you are enthusiastically marketing all the special features of the home – not hungrily trying to build your business. Imagine that the seller is watching you with a hidden video camera (who knows…?) . Don’t do anything the seller wouldn’t approve of.

Once I showed up at an open house with color printouts from the MLS of other comparable homes for sale. Of course, I was planning to share these printouts with interested visitors to demonstrate my expertise in the market, as well as my willingness to show and sell other homes besides the one I was holding open. The seller saw my printouts and was horrified. It had never occurred to her that I wasn’t there solely for her benefit, and frankly, it hadn’t occurred to me that this might bother her. But of course it did. Right or wrong, sellers put a lot of stock in your open house and they truly expect the offers to be rolling in by 4:05 pm.

So don’t make the rookie mistake of trying to talk to visitors about other homes while they’re still taking in the details of this one. Any attempt you make to lead potential buyers away from the home you’re holding open would certainly be interpreted with displeasure from your sellers, should they happen to overhear you. If a visitor truly is not interested in the home you’re holding open and seems open to hearing about other properties in the area, by all means, offer to help. But not at the expense of other visitors who might be interested in finding out more about your open house.

Something that might help keep you honest (besides the possibility of a hidden camera!) is to remember that some of your visitors may be observing your behavior to evaluate you as a potential listing agent for their home, should they decide to sell. If they see you aggressively marketing yourself and not the home you’re holding open, they may decide you are not the right person to sell their home.

Another area of confusion and conflict when holding open houses is when a visitor announces that she already has a buyer agent. This is especially disconcerting to the agent who is not the listing agent of the home, but is simply holding it open FOR the listing agent. Yes, you still need to graciously market the home to this represented buyer. Show her around, politely answer her questions and, if you sense real interest, please don’t fuss that you’re “wasting your time” on someone who isn’t going to become your client. Every once in a while, you might even get to write an offer for a represented buyer, if the buyer is anxious and can’t wait for her agent to come back from vacation.

Open houses can certainly be a source of business for you and if handled respectfully, no one will object to your prospecting efforts. Just remember to always put your client first, and everyone wins.

posted by on Working with Buyers

There’s a conversation going on at another forum about whether or not to work with an Internet buyer who wants to buy a home in June. The general consensus is that the agent shouldn’t waste his time on a buyer who is not ready, willing and able to buy today.

WHAT??????

This attitude completely befuddles me. Are real estate agents in today’s world so darn busy that they can’t spare a few hours to build a relationship with someone who showed up at their door – -LIKELY AS A RESULT OF THE AGENT’S ADVERTISING??? Are they so arrogant that they must actually belittle the buyer for contacting the agent TOO SOON???

Or, are they so damn dumb that they can’t see the value in having a nice full pipeline??

Hey, if someone is crazy busy and has a true need to triage his time; well, then sure! Refer to the buyer to a hungrier agent or, if he prefers, rudely blow him off. But somehow I don’t think that’s the case for most of us…

If you find yourself with a Denver buyer who isn’t up to your standards of readiness, send ’em my way. I’ll be delighted to work with them, build a relationship, and enjoy their business and referrals for years to come.

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Working with Buyers

Imagine this scenario… you’re sitting in your office and the receptionist forwards you a floor call from a potential buyer. The caller says something like this: “I’m lookin’ fer a little piece of land on the outskirts of town to move my double-wide to. Just a nice little place fer me and the missus to retire on. Kin you hep me?”phone

Okay, so you’re probably not overly excited about hep’ing this particular buyer, unless little pieces of land on the outskirts of town are your thing. You might be tempted to politely brush off this particular caller or, if you’re in a particularly generous frame of mind, find someone a little hungrier than you are to refer him to (and get that juicy 25% referral!).

But what if he followed up by saying, “Oh, ‘n my uncle will be movin’ up this-a-away in a few months and he’ll be looking fer a place to keep his collection of vintage Ferrari’s – mebbe something with a view and a pool, with a nice pasture fer his thoroughbreds.”

Hmmmmmm…. Suddenly you see Mr. Double-Wide in a whole new light, might you not?

Here’s the thing. Everyone you encounter during the course of doing business has friends, family and mebbe even a rich uncle or two. Whether or not Mr. DW ever buys his little piece of heaven outside of town really isn’t the point. Whether Rich Uncle DW ever shows up or even exists isn’t the point, either.

What IS the point? That it won’t hurt any of us to take that extra hour (maybe even two!) to make an effort to impress any warm body who voluntarily puts him or herself in our presence. Even if he’s not-yet-qualified. Even if she doesn’t plan to buy or sell til 2010. Even if they’re looking for a little piece of land in the flood plain.

Every person who crosses your path is a potential gold mine of business for you, if you treat them respectfully and competently. Treat every buyer like he has a rich uncle waiting in the wings and you may be surprised how many of them do!