Posts Tagged ‘Communicating with Clients’

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

To conclude (?) this week’s series on Drip Mail Campaigns (to drip or not to drip?) here are somethoughts on communicating with people who find you online – affectionately known as “web leads.”

***

I had a nice conversation the other day with a newer agent who called me looking for help managing his web leads, specifically asking if I knew of any drip-mail campaigns that had the SWS Seal of Approval. In other words, could I recommend a “canned” approach to communicating with online leads that didn’t sound canned?

Well, sez me, not really, for obvious reasons. Drip-mails are, by definition, impersonal and yes, canned, although I’m sure it’s possible to come up with verbiage that is warmer, more interesting and more sincere than your average drip.

I encouraged my new friend to consider responding to each potential client (I hate the word “lead”) individually, with a personal reference to what the potential client seems to be interested in. For example, “I see you’re looking at homes in the Washington Park area – I used to live there and loved it.” or “I noticed you tagged that awesome mid-century modern home on Belmont – I was just in it the other day and it’s fabulous.”

“But,” my friend protested, “I don’t have time to respond personally to everyone. Wouldn’t it be better to make sure every single lead gets something from me, even if it’s a little impersonal, instead of just responding to a few?”

Eh… couple of thoughts here.

First, no, I think you’ll have a far better success ratio if you respond personally to a relative few than impersonally to a whole bunch. Considering that the other agents these potential clients are writing to either are 1) not responding at all, or 2) sending out canned crap (sorry), your personal response will really stand out in the crowd.

But second, how much time are we really talking about here? Half an hour? An hour? It’s not as if you have to write a book to each person, just a warm note acknowledging their inquiry (which, frankly, you could probably copy and paste from one to the other), along with SOMETHING personal in each that shows it’s a real human being responding.

If you’re currently using an auto-responder or other canned approach to Internet leads and aren’t thrilled with your results, give the personal touch a try! If you already use this approach and would like to share an example how you respond personally to inquiries, I’d sure love to see it :-)

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

Earlier this week I posted a blog asking the question “if YOU were a potential seller, would you beimpressed that an agent took the … ahem… ‘time’ to put you on an automated email campaign?” with the promise to return and elaborate on my statement that “Professionals Don’t Need Drips.”

Let me share a personal story with you.

Earlier this year I approached a real estate agent about listing a property of mine. The property was tenant-occupied and would be for another month or so, so it was not readily accessible for viewing and obviously not ready to be marketed.

But this agent and I (I will call her Mary Beth Bonacci* since that’s her name) chatted a bit about the property and she promised to drive by it soon, do a little research and get back to me with her preliminary thoughts.

Later that week I heard from her with some comments on the location (“wow, very close to the highway but how awesome that it’s within walking distance to the pedestrian bridge,”); her thoughts on who the ideal buyer might be and an assurance that she’d preview the competition over the weekend.

“Cool,” sez  I. “Looking forward to your feedback.”

As promised, Mary Beth emailed me on Monday with the details of her previewing expedition and gave me a ball park range of where my property might fall.

The following week, she contacted me to ask if I knew when the tenant would be moving out.

A few days later she told me about a new listing that had come on the market in the same complex as my unit and promised to preview it right away.

The next day she emailed me to let me know she had previewed the property and that it showed very well. And that there were already multiple offers on it.

Fast forward a month or so. After my renter moved out, Mary Beth took a look at my property, and afterwards emailed me with her suggestions on what needed to be done to it before marketing, and offered up a few service providers.

A week later she contacted me to…

Get the picture?

At no time did she send me an email espousing the importance of hiring the “right Realtor,” warning me about the Dangers of Overpricing or even gently reminding me how much she LUVS referrals. No, she communicated with me as the real estate professional she is… and as a real live human being who actually cared about my upcoming home sale.

“But Jennifer, all that personal communication takes time! Imagine if I took that much interest in all my clients?! I’d never have time to prospect!”

Well, um…

Thoughts?

ore thoughts here: http://swsconnect.com/searchable/soul/professionals-dont-need-drips-but-what-about-web-leads/

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

A few years ago I wrote a blog called “Professionals Don’t Need Scripts” where I pontificated on my strongly held opinion that someone who is an expert in their field (or even reasonably competent) should not have to (or want to) rely on scripts when interacting with clients or potential clients.

So today, a mere 2.25 years later, I’d like to expand upon that notion with a discussion of the emailed script, aka “drip emails.” Let’s start with a definition of “drip emails.” A Drip Email Campaign (for the purposes of this blog anyway) is a pre-written series of emails that you send to someone you have met or had a conversation with about real estate. In all likelihood, you can “personalize” the emails with the person’s name (“Dear Matilda,”), but otherwise, the emails go out automatically with the exact same message to each recipient.

So, let’s say, you visit with a homeowner about selling their home. The conversation goes well, but the homeowner isn’t quite ready to make a decision. You head back to the office, knowing you will need to stay in touch with the homeowner so they don’t forget you when they are ready to sell. You add them to your “Seller Nurture Campaign” drip mail which will send them two emails per week until they list with you, list with someone else or die. And you promptly forget about them and move onto other prospects.

But your emails go out so that the potential seller doesn’t forget about you! Twice a week, they hear from “you” with reminders about how important it is to hire a Realtor (the RIGHT one of course!), helpful tips about preparing their home for market and the like.

“So what’s wrong with that, Jennifer? Aren’t we s’posed to follow-up?” Absolutely! At least, if you want a chance at inspiring that seller to want to be YOUR seller once they’re ready.

BUT… Remember the definition of “drip” – a pre-written message or series of messages (crafted by you or purchased from a marketing company) that go out automatically without any personalization other than the salutation.

Seriously?

Let’s say I’m considering selling my home sometime in the next six months, and therefore in the market to find a real estate agent to represent me. I meet with an agent and we have a productive meeting. I like her, but I haven’t committed to her yet. It’s still early in the process, but I’m looking forward to hearing from her with her thoughts on our home and updates on the State of the Market.

Do I hear from her? You bet! Every three days I get a “Dear Jennifer and Bruce” email with a fancy banner and signature block… and a canned message that has nothing at all to do with our home or situation.

Let me pause for a moment (as I see I’m coming up on 500 words already), and ask YOU… if YOU were the potential seller, would you be impressed that this agent took the … ahem… “time” to put you on an automated email campaign?

Click here to read some further thoughts on the matter…

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

Seen recently on a Facebook post of a SWS-minded real estate agent (an agent who follows Sell with Soul philosophies):Script

WHY THE SCRIPTS!? Are we not past this yet as business owners and marketing professionals? As humans? Really!?”

Hold that thought.

I went to the chiropractor yesterday – my hands have been aching lately and I was hoping to find some relief. When I checked in, the receptionist asked me a series of questions related to the Reason for my Visit – “What would you rate the pain on a scale of 1-10?” “Is the pain constant or intermittent?” “How long ago did this begin?” etc. etc. etc. She recorded my responses in my file and then asked me to take-my-seat, the-doctor-would-be-with-me-soon.

Fine. I’m sure she asks these questions a dozen or two times a day.

So, the doctor-met-with-me-soon and asked me a similar set of questions as she was poking, prodding and twisting me around. “Does this hurt?” “Do you feel any tingling or numbness when I do this?” “Would you describe the pain as shooting or stiffness?”

Fine. I’m sure she asks these questions a dozen or two times a day.

In the hands of the receptionist, the questions are a script since she (probably) doesn’t know much about what my responses to her questions actually mean. Not a problem; it’s not the receptionist’s job to cure what ails me; simply to gather information for the file.

But when the chiropractor asks these questions, she’s not doing it as part of a memorized spiel she learned in her chiropractor training – her questions are intentional and my responses are meaningful. Because… she’s a professional. She understands the Big Picture. She knows what she NEEDS to know and how my responses fit into that Big Picture.

With me?

Okay, so back to the Facebook comment referenced above.

The comment was inspired by a training program the SWS-minded agent was participating in (“was” being the operative word here; she demanded her money back) that pushes memorized scripts for every conceivable prospect-or-client encounter. Her reaction was exactly the same as mine when I hear of this nonsense – “Seriously?? We need a SCRIPT to guide us through a CONVERSATION with someone we’re hoping to inspire to trust us with a significant financial transaction? WHY? Do we not know what we need to know… and what we need to share…? Are we, as licensed real estate agents incapable of having an intelligent, meaningful conversation with a potential client? Are we, as adult human beings incapable of having an intelligent, meaningful conversation with another adult human being?”

If you know what you’re doing, you don’t need a script to do it. Period.

posted by on An Exceptional Agent

I’m going to pose a situation to you and ask for your honest feedback as to how you would respond if this situation were presented to you. 

Sometime in the next year, my husband and I will be selling our home and buying a new one. Since I’m not licensed in the state of Florida (and have no desire to be), we will be seeking the services of a local real estate agent.

Honestly, this scares me to death. I have rather high expectations for an agent who represents me – well, actually I don’t feel my expectations are unreasonable, but my past experience with hiring listing agents has been discouraging – my ‘I-consider-to-be-reasonable’ expectations weren’t even close to met and I spent a lot of my time frustrated.

So, how do I ward this off? I don’t WANT to be frustrated! But I want my agent to have a clear understanding of what I expect… and to be willing to live up to my I-consider-to-be-reasonable expectations.

Here’s my idea… to make a proposal to the agents we interview, outlining what we expect from them in terms of pre-market pricing research, photography, communication, marketing, ongoing market research, etc. And see who, if any, are interested in our business… 

How would you respond if someone took this approach with you? (Caveat – this “someone” has real estate experience and has maybe even written a book or two on the subject.)

Would you be offended and irritated? Or conversely, challenged and inspired?

Your thoughts?

Here’s a little survey on the matter – would love your input! http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07e68ydadch5pidebu/start

posted by on Working with Sellers

In keeping with our tradition of posting the Favorit-est Tips after our How-To shows in the SWS Virtual Studio, below are the Favorit-est Tips from yesterday’s show: The Proper Care & Feeding of Sellers from Contract to Closing.

The show was about a listing agent’s duties and responsibilities during the critical Contract-to-Closing period to keep everything on track and heading toward the closing table. We used my Listing-Under-Contract checklist (which you can find in my VIP Lounge) to refer to, although interestingly, a few of the most favorite tips weren’t even ON my checklist! (Thank you SWS Coach Deb Stephenson for adding your brilliance!)

So, without further adoooooooo…. Here are the Favorit-est Tips as voted on by the live studio audience, in reverse order of Favorite-ness!

Fifth Most Favorit-est Tip
Prepare the seller for the inspection by 1) asking them to vacate the home during the inspection so the buyers can begin emotionally moving into the home and 2) setting the expectation that the inspection may go badly so that if it does, they aren’t shocked, and if it doesn’t, they are pleasantly surprised.

Fourth Most Favorit-est Tip
Put up your SALE PENDING sign fairly quickly after contract. This is great marketing for YOU and for the local real estate market. SOLD signs always breed more SOLD signs and that’s a very good thing.

Third Most Favorit-est Tip
Do a walk-thru with your seller before the buyer does his or her walk-thru. This gives you the opportunity to make sure the buyer won’t find anything amiss and create a ruckus right before closing. Wish I could take credit for this one, but it was Coach Deb’s.

Second Most Favorit-est Tip (seriously)
When you pick up your sign and lockbox, take some toilet paper rolls with you to make sure there’s TP in the bathrooms. Many sellers inexplicably take their half-used TP rolls with them and it’s a drag for the buyer when they arrive with their moving truck… and there’s no TP to be found. The buyer may never know it was you, but it’s just good karma ;-] – Thanks, Deb, for this visual.

And…

The MOST Favorit-est Tip…!
Prepare for and attend the appraisal. Have good comps with you that support the price, as well as any that don’t and be able to explain the lower ones. Also bring an itemized list of any repairs, improvements or features the home offers, with approximate costs. Don’t annoy the appraiser with random chatter or get in his way, but do be there, be charming, and offer to help measure.

posted by on Working with Sellers

Related to a recent blog entitled “READ THIS Before Your Next Price Reduction Recommendation, today’s post is about HOW to recommend a price reduction if it comes to that without blowing your credibility, or, frankly, ticking off your seller.

In a perfect world (and why not strive for that?), a price reduction is rarely necessary. In this perfect world, real estate agents price, prepare, and present their properties properly (I love alliteration) and therefore homes sell in a reasonable amount of time without the need for a price adjustment. Agents don’t capitulate to the demands of sellers to overprice a home, nor do they “buy” listings with inflated estimates of market value, planning to push for a price reduction six weeks later.

Okay, so it’s not a perfect world and L’il Miss Smarty-Pantz JAH didn’t always score a 10 on the beam either when it came to pricing her listings for sale. Pricing is an art, not a science; the “right price” is a constantly moving target, and can be affected by many factors outside our control. So, it happens. Sometimes a price adjustment is the right thing to do.

So, what might be some ways to approach the price reduction conversation with your seller without jeopardizing your credibility (hey, YOU suggested or agreed to the price in the first place!) or otherwise creating unnecessary drama and angst between the two of you?

I have a few suggestions, but would like to hear yours!

1. Prepare the seller ahead of time that a price adjustment may be required if the market doesn’t respond as favorably to the home as we hope it will. But do this carefully, not with a pre-printed price adjustment form or with a snotty attitude of “Well, we’ll TRY it your way if you insist, but BE PREPARED to reduce the price,” but rather as if you have just as much to lose as the seller does. In other words, “as if” you’re on the seller’s team… which you are, right!?

2. If you recommended (or agreed to) a price believing with all your heart that you were in the ballpark, but discover that, um, you weren’t, take the blame. Admit that you were wrong and that you’re very sorry you got the seller’s hopes up. Perhaps something like:  “Bob and Sue, I blew it. I really thought your house was nice enough to overcome XXX, but I was wrong. I’m glad we gave it a try, but I do think we’re going to have to reduce the price significantly. Let me tell you what I’m thinking…”

3. As pontificated about in the original blog, it’s best NOT to lead with a price reduction as your primary solution, for several reasons. One of those reasons is that if you are able to suggest alternatives to a price adjustment and the seller rejects your suggestions (e.g. stage the home, replace the carpet, mow the lawn, etc.), then you can feel much better about recommending a price reduction because it’s actually the seller making the choice to reduce instead of fix or improve.

4. Related to #1, when a seller wants to push the price beyond your comfort level and if he’s not too far removed from reality, agree to try his price for a week to ten days, no more. Don’t get snotty about it because the fact is, you don’t have a crystal ball; maybe the market will respond more positively than you expect! Say something like this: “Okay, let’s try it for a week or so. It’s a bit higher than I’d like, but I don’t want to give away your money if I’m wrong. If we aren’t getting the activity we need or if the feedback indicates the price is high, we’ll reduce it to $XXX,XXX, deal?

So… there are some suggestions that worked for me… any you’d like to share with the class?

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

So… whatcha’ thinking I might be thinking here? More lunch dates? More blogs? More Facebook, Twittering or Linking In? Or, egads, more cold-calling, door-knocking or referral-begging?

Nope.

Here’s a reeeeal easy way to double your business every single year.

EARN one referral from every single client.

If every buyer and seller you serve, every year, were to send just one buyer or seller your way in the twelve months following your time together, you’d double your business, wouldn’t you? And of course, if your buyer or seller is that tickled with you that they’ll send one person your way, I’m guessing they might do it again… and again… and maybe even again!

So, how do you go about inspiring your buyers and sellers to refer business to you?

Expensive closing gifts?
Nope.

Incessant reminders of your affection for referrals?
Nope.

Monthly newsletters and postcards showcasing your listings?
Nope.

Boilerplate greeting cards on the one month, three month, six month and one year anniversaries of their closing?
No again.

A contract signed at closing where your buyer or seller commits to sending you at least three referrals?
OMG, no.

Gifts, drips, cards or contracts won’t inspire anyone to send you business. Oh, they might remind someone that you exist and how to find you, but unless they already think highly of you as a real estate agent, ain’t no business coming your way as a result of said gifts, drips, cards or contracts.

It’s so, so, so simple. Just be great at what you do. Take care of your current clients as your very first priority. Go the extra mile (where, to paraphrase Roger Staubach, there’s not much traffic). And then stay in touch just enough to remind without becoming a nuisance.

And watch your business grow…

RELATED BLOGS:
Y’think Your Clients Are Talking About Their Real Estate Agent?
If a Tree Falls in the Forest and Nobody Hears it, Is Your Realtor Doing His Job?
Okay, So the Sign’s in the Yard, What Next?
Ten Ways to Show Your Seller You Don’t Care
I’m the Best Listing Agent I know

posted by on Random (Un)Common Sense

Hi, this is John and you’ve reached my voicemail. Your call is important to me and I return my calls between 1:00 and 2:00 and 5:00 and 6:00. Please leave a message and I’ll call you back during those hours.”phone

The first time I heard this outgoing voicemail message I didn’t realize it was a script from a program; I just knew I didn’t like it. Why? I’m not sure, really (maybe others who feel the same way can shed some light) – the closest I can come is that I almost felt scolded, as if I called at an inopportune time and should have known better. Or like it was a power play or something.

Okay, yeah, I’m a bit sensitive.

Anyway, I suddenly started hearing this outgoing message all over the place and figured out that it was part of a program that apparently lots of people had signed up for.

Fair enough. Whatever works.

I never warmed up to it. Oh, I know what the point is – it gives your callers an expectation of when you’ll call back, provides structure for your day and demonstrates that you’re a busy person. All good things, I suppose.

But what if you stated your “I return phone calls” message and then strived to return your calls earlier, thus making your callers feel special! One of my lenders does this and it actually does the trick – instead of feeling relegated to the to-do-at-4pm pile, I feel as if MY phone call was actually important to him!

IMO, it’s a terrible business strategy to intentionally do something that might make your clients or prospects feel anything less than your Number One priority. Are they? Of course not, but every person on the planet longs to feel special, longs to feel important and if you can make that happen for them, there might be a future referral in it for ya (and you won’t even have to beg for it)!

posted by on Working with Sellers

We real estate agents should have strong opinions. We should be willing and able to share these opinions with our clients, especially our seller clients. We are not hired for our looks, so to speak, rather we are hired because we are experts in the field of marketing, selling and closing the homes of those who honor us with their business.

What if you visited with an attorney who told you had a strong case when in fact, you didn’t? Or if your physician told you that the little mole on your shoulder was nothing to be concerned about when indeed, it was pre-cancerous? If your CPA assured you that you were getting a tax refund when in fact you owed $5,463.75?

While you might leave your doctor’s, lawyer’s or accountant’s office in a good mood, that good mood would fade once you realized that you were misled. You would self-righteously proclaim that these professionals lied to you! Or that they were incompetent! Or that they didn’t have the balls to tell you the truth… and you might be right.

It’s the same in our industry. When sellers talk to us about selling their home, they deserve to know the truth. Even if the truth is difficult to hear…even if it’s ugly. Our job is not to make friends with our clients because we tell them what they want to hear, no, unfortunately, our job is to tell them the cold hard facts.

… to be continued …

posted by on Working with Sellers

The Condition of the Property
Just last week, I had a conversation with a young man who is putting his house on the market. The home is tenant-occupied and shows poorly, which he acknowledges. However, he has photos of the home taken when he lived there that “show how nice the home really is.” He wants his agent to display the photos in the home so that potential buyers won’t be put off by the current condition.

Well, nice idea, but unfortunately it won’t work. What he doesn’t realize is that buying a home is an emotional decision, not a practical one. If a typical buyer walks into a home that meets all her objective requirements, but is dirty and smelly, she’s not going to fall in love. She’s going to wrinkle her nose, give the home a cursory look-over and leave. Part of the problem with “dirty and smelly” is that it’s so personal! Other people’s dirt and other people’s smells make it quite difficult to imagine oneself “at home.” Even unobjectionable smells like leftover breakfast or lingering hair spray in the air will make the buyer feel as if he is invading someone else’s space, not exploring her potential new home.

The vast majority of buyers will not respond to a home that shows poorly. Buyers don’t overlook even obvious easy-fixes such as an unmowed lawn. Of course, the buyer knows the lawn can be mowed, but she’s not thinking that way. She’s looking first for an overall “feel,” and if that first impression is negative or even neutral, she won’t explore further. She’s just not interested.

Many sellers ask if they should replace ratty carpet or just offer a credit. My answer? It depends. If the carpet is apparent from the front door, change it out. The first impression is so important and if bad flooring is part of that first impression, it will dramatically affect a buyer’s interest level in the home. If the carpet in question is in a bedroom or office, an allowance might be okay (but not ideal). Finished basements? I always recommend replacing the carpet if needed; some people are hesitant about “paying” for finished basement space, so the nicer the space, the better they’ll feel about it. In Old Denver where the homes are small, basement square footage is valuable and should be maximized to its full, livable potential. Which includes decent flooring.

The bottom line? A home seller needs to know that the better his home shows, the more it will sell for. Buyers will not overlook clutter, smells or deferred maintenance unless the home is priced below market. Again, your seller will make the final decision as to how much effort he’s willing to make to get top dollar, but it’s your responsibility to see that he has all the facts.

To be continued…

www.sellwithsoul.com

copyright Jennifer Allan 2007

posted by on Working with Sellers

Loreena Yeo wrote a blog from her hospital bed today that, as her writing often does, inspired me to put my own two pennies on paper.

A few weeks ago, my partner and I put a Charming Denver Bungalow on the market. Our seller is one smart cookie and he’s sold several homes on his own. We didn’t want to insult his intelligence by boring him with all the details of having a home on the market; we figured if he had a question about the process, he’d ask. Oops.

Well, now he’s asking. In a rather annoyed tone of voice, as if he feels blind-sided by what is happening to him.

And I realize that no matter how smart, how experienced, how cooperative a seller may be, we can never assume that he has a clue what is about to happen to him. And more importantly, what his role will be in the home selling process.

It’s our job to make sure that our sellers understand…
1. What it means to their lifestyles be On the Market (basically, it sucks)

2. What they should expect from us (particularly the frequency of communication)

3. What we are expecting from them (see below)

4. How showings and feedback work

5. Why I won’t be attending most showings (the buyer has his own agent)

If your seller has to call you to ask these questions after the fact, he’ll likely have that annoyed-tone-of-voice with you, too!

It’s also our job to be upfront with our sellers, no matter how unpleasant what we have to say may be for either of us.

Topics such as:
1. Why they need to SCRAM for showings

2. Why they need to accept short-notice showings and allow a lockbox

3. Why the market will not overlook toothpaste spit in the sink or eau d’Chef Boyardee in the air

4. Why they need to be pleasant to buyer agents who show up early or late

5. Why it’s not okay to have barking dogs locked up in the laundry room

When your home is on the market, you talk about the experience with everyone you know. Especially if you’re confused by the process which will translate into dissatisfaction with your agent. But yet… aren’t listing appointments long enough without adding in all of the above??? How do you handle this issue?

posted by on Working with Sellers

A real estate friend of mine, who shall remain nameless in the interest of protecting her relationship with her clients, recently commented on one of my blogs as follows: 

Jennifer I just wrote an email to a seller who has a very overpriced listing. They swore they’d lower in two weeks if no activity. It is now 5 months later and two very good offers that they rejected.”

I asked her for an update and she responded with:

Jennifer their response was ‘they are perplexed that I didn’t mention this during the negotiations.’ I just don’t understand which of the 12 emails and 10 phones calls where I told them the current market they missed.”

So, I’m thinking… either these people are idiots, or they truly didn’t “hear” what their agent was telling them. Let’s give everyone the benefit of the doubt and assume the latter. I’d hate to call anyone an idiot.graph

Since the listing agent mentions emails and phone calls, I’ll assume that emails and phone calls are how she communicated her news. I’d say she did her job.

But two things come to mind. The first is something I’ll save for later in the interest of brevity. The second relates to how we communicate with our clients.

Again, it sounds to me as if our agent did a heck of a job communicating with her sellers. But, for the sake of argument, what if her sellers aren’t auditory-types and don’t “hear” well and/or aren’t “good on email?” What if they are engineer-types and need to see charts and graphs and trends? Or what if they’re visual and need photos and descriptive text? Maybe they would prefer a long, wordy emailed opinion without any data at all? Perhaps a face2face meeting would have done the trick? Or a tour of the competition?

My agent friend Loreena Yeo is a master of the CMA. Her market analyses are works of art and they impress the heck out of me. But, but, but… if I were a seller, they’d be too data-intense for me.. I like pictures and descriptions, so columns of numbers and graphs of monthly trends shut me down. If my agent communicated market data to me this way, I’d be just as “perplexed” as the sellers described above.

Do you attempt to analyze your client to determine the best way to communicate with them? How many different delivery strategies ARE there to communicate with our sellers? Please share yours!  

 

posted by on Working with Sellers

… continued from: Being Up-Front with our Sellers, Part I … 

Tenant-Occupied Properties
An obstacle I run into time and again is a seller who doesn’t understand the difficulties of showing, selling and closing a single-family tenant-occupied residential property. The typical situation is that my seller client has a nice little home with a nice little tenant and he wants to sell with the current lease intact. In other words, he doesn’t want to kick the tenant out before marketing because he needs the monthly income from the tenant’s rental payments. Fair enough.

What he needs to know from me are the various challenges this situation presents. First, tenant-occupied properties rarely show well (or smell fresh). A tenant has no motivation to keep his house clean, especially considering his landlord is trying to sell his home out from under him. Second, tenants are usually not happy about strangers coming into his home on short notice and he may not cooperate with showings. He may insist on unreasonable advance notice or limited showing hours, say between 6pm and 8pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Third, the ideal buyer for a single-family home is someone who wants to live there, to buy it as a primary residence. Typically, these buyers want to move in as soon as possible and set up housekeeping, not to wait three months or more until the renter’s lease runs out. The list goes on.

A phenomenon that I’ve experienced more than once is the two-faced tenant. The tenant tells his landlord that he’d be happy to cooperate any way he can with the marketing of his home. We all breathe a sigh of relief. Then, when I contact the tenant to introduce myself, he tells me in no uncertain terms that he won’t allow showings during the day, he must have at least 24 hour notice (48 on weekends) and that there will be no showings this weekend or next because his family is in town.

Have you run into these situations? Me too, and I’ll tell you a secret. Unless I felt that a property was unusually marketable, I stopped taking rental-occupied listings toward the end of my sales career. They simply weren’t worth the trouble. But that’s just me.

My point is that the seller needs to understand the limitations of your miracle-working abilities. If his situation is seriously limiting the number of buyers who will consider or even be able to look at his listing, he needs to know what this will do to his marketing time and his ultimate sale price. He will not get top dollar for a property that is difficult to show, shows poorly or will not be available for move-in at closing. It takes some finesse to be able to explain these difficulties to a seller without whining, and the best advice I can give you is to be direct, unapologetic and professional. And, if he seems amenable, offer alternatives or solutions. Think about a doctor who has to give you bad news. Sure, he has to tell you you’re sick, but hopefully he’ll also immediately tell you how he’s going to fix you. And what you can do to help him help you.

Some alternatives to offer this seller might be:

1. Reduce the rent or offer a bonus to the renter for his cooperation

2. Explain to the seller the difference in market value between selling his property tenant-occupied and vacant (and cleaned-up). You probably can’t give him an exact figure, but you can estimate. I usually said something like “We can probably sell your property for at least $10,000 more if it’s cleaned up, vacant and easy to show. If there’s any way you could make that happen, you will more than be repaid for your rental loss in your sales price.” (Obviously, don’t use this strategy you don’t feel confident in the marketability of the property, vacant or occupied.)

3. Wait until the tenant’s lease expires, clean up the property and sell it then.

4. Underprice the property and hope for a bidding war.

… to be continued …

 www.sellwithsoul.com

copyright Jennifer Allan 2007

posted by on Working with Sellers

telephone

What’s the Number One Thing “they” say that homesellers complain about?

All together now…

Communication (or lack thereof) from their agent. And, having been on the other side of the For Sale sign a time or two, I can certainly second that emotion. But “communication” isn’t just about calling every week to say “Hi, how’re doin’?” No, it’s also about keeping the seller informed on local market activity. On providing feedback from showings. On notifying him of new competing listings and recently closed sales. And, frankly, on making sure the seller knows exactly what his agent’s been up to to promote his home!

If the only time a listing agent contacts a seller is to ask for a price reduction or a listing extension, well, I can pretty much guarantee that seller is less than tickled with his agent. And that agent deserves every bit of his seller’s discontent! Oh, the seller may not complain to his agent, but I’ll bet he’s not keeping quiet around the coffee machine!

The good news is that keeping a seller happy isn’t that hard. They just wanna know what’s going on and that their agent cares. Is that too much to ask?

Here are sixteen things you can do to keep your seller happy with you. And a happy-with-you seller just might be a great source of future business!

  1. Notify him as soon as the listing hits the MLS and send him a copy of the listing
  2. Send him links to all your online advertising (Realtor.com, Craigslist, Postlets, Active Rain, your own blog, etc.)
  3. Send him a copy of the home brochure before it goes to print and ask for feedback
  4. Make sure he knows when home brochures will be delivered
  5. Schedule an open house right away (yes, you must do an open house)
  6. Call after the first showing(s) to see if he has any questions about the process
  7. Pursue and deliver feedback, especially in the first month
  8. If you do any print advertising, send the seller copies (including Just Listed cards)
  9. Send him a “state of the market” report showing all the competing listings. Update this report every two or three weeks
  10. Call periodically to find out if he’s running low on brochures (if it’s impractical to keep the box full, just remove it.)
  11. Be sure to provide feedback after open houses (if someone else does your open houses for you, be sure to follow up with them afterwards)
  12. Schedule an appointment to review the latest market activity
  13. Preview any new competition and provide feedback to your seller
  14. Refresh your Craigslist ads and send the seller a link
  15. Ensure that your photos are in season
  16. Ask for feedback on how you’re doing

How many of these items do you already do? If you do at least 50% of them, you’re blowing away your competition. Sad, isn’t it? The last few times I’ve had my own properties listed, my agents did ZERO of these activities. ZERO… Zero.

A happy seller is a cooperative seller. An unhappy seller is not, and will likely become more and more uncooperative as time goes by. You pick!

RELATED BLOG: Get Good… or Get OUT!

 

posted by on Working with Sellers

…and fun was had by all in this week’s debate over pricing versus condition versus pricing AND condition. Did you miss it? It’s good stuff – check it out at: Any Idiot Can Give Their House Away

living roomIn the 150+ comments, the question was raised – “So, how do you convince a seller to put some effort into getting his or her house ready for market?” I’d made the claim that at least 90% of my sellers hire my stager and my handyman and almost all spend at least $1000 (of their own money!) prior to going on the market.

Am I just lucky to have intelligent and motivated sellers? Maybe. But I’ll give myself more credit than that, although I have to say that every single seller prospect I’ve spoken with in the last 18 months has brought up the topic of “What do I need to do to the house to get top dollar?” They bring it up first! I spoke with a potential seller just yesterday who doesn’t want to sell til next spring, but wants to get started now on home improvement projects! Maybe I am lucky – is this NOT typical of sellers in other markets?

That said, here are a few ways to help a seller see the light, and then do something about it.

First, go in with the assumption that the seller wants to know what it’s going to take to get top dollar. Don’t pussy-foot around the topic, although it’s best if you’re polite about it, of course! Like I said, ALL my sellers ask me first, so maybe there’s some vibe I send out that inspires them to do so, I don’t know. But I will say that if a seller didn’t seem interested in preparing his home for market, I probably wouldn’t be interested in listing his home. I don’t say that to be snotty or arrogant – it’s just a fact. I don’t want a listing I’m not proud of.

handyBy far the best way to get your sellers to clean up, fix-up and decorate-up is to help them do it. No, you don’t have to do it yourself, although I’ve certainly rolled up my sleeves once or twice or a dozen times. By “help” I mean that you have the human resources on call to Get the Jobs Done. Contractors you know and trust… who know, trust and love you. How anyone sells real estate without a good handyman, stager and cleaning person on board is a mystery to me. When you can walk into a seller’s home and confidently say “Yes, that needs to be fixed – we’ll put it on the Bob-List,” or “Yep, let’s get Bob over here to give us an estimate on that,” or “No big deal, Bob can fix that,” you’re golden. Not only are you the hero, but you’ll also get yourself a sellable listing.

What I see most agents doing (if they do anything at all) is to give the seller a list of things that need to be done, smile sweetly and leave them to it. Well, that’s a recipe for failure. Our sellers are busy people and probably don’t know a good handyman, painter, stager or cleaning crew. They’ll open up the yellow pages, make a few calls and throw up their hands in despair. I’d do the same thing; in fact, I have when I was selling an out-of-state property and didn’t know who to call myself. My Realtor didn’t help; I didn’t get the work done… and guess what? The house didn’t sell. Bummer for us both.

Here’s how I handle it.

Seller:Tell me what I need to do to get ready for market.”

Smarty Pants JA:I see a lot of maintenance and repair issues that really should be dealt with before we go on the market. Let’s get Bob over here to give us an estimate. Are you around this Saturday?”

I use the same approach when discussing Staging. Frankly, I suck at decorating and furniture arrangement, but I know bad décor and awkward rooms when I see them. So, I just say “I’m a terrible decorator, but my stager, Geri, is the most wonderful woman you’ll ever meet. Give her a call and set up a time to meet. I think she charges $250 for a 3-hour consultation. I promise you – it’ll be the best $250 you ever spent.” (Here’s a news clip of me & Geri in action on one of my listings)

And I believe that. With all my heart. And that’s another part of the story – YOU must believe that the first impression and condition and décor matter… and you must trust your resources. If you don’t, you’ll never be able to sell the concept. I can “sell” staging all day long because I have a great stager and I know it works. I can whole-heartedly bring Bob into my clients’ lives because I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he’ll make me proud.

If you don’t have a Bob or a Geri, make it among your top priorities to find them. Finding contractor resources is a topic for a different day, but for this day, just know how important it is to your business. I credit Bob and Geri for at least half of my paychecks thru the years. Seriously.

Hope this helps.

posted by on Working with Sellers

On Wednesday evening, Loreena Yeo joined me in the SWS Studio to talk with me (and a few hundred of y’all) about “Pricing it Right – Helping Your Seller See the Light!” Well, I graciously let Loreena go first, thinking I’d get *my* turn soon, but it wasn’t to be. Not that Loreena was a microphone-hog or anything – not at all, but the audience clearly wanted to hear more from her than the time I’d allotted was going to allow.

So, being the primary decision-maker here in the SWS Studio, I made the executive decision to save my thoughts for a later day and let Loreena continue to wow the crowd for the entire 75 minute show.

As the title implies, the topic of the seminar was how to persuade a reluctant seller to price his or her home properly so that it will sell. Sure, KNOWING what that right price is is important, but being able to communicate it effectively might be even more so.

Loreena shared some great strategies and while I won’t describe all of them here, here are some of my favorites.

1. Come in armed with your stats
Loreena’s listings enjoy a way-below-average DOM, a higher-than-average list-to-sold price ratio and an extremely low fall-out rate (listings that don’t sell). In her early conversations with a seller prospect, she shares her statistics with him or her, which accomplishes several things. First, it clearly demonstrates that whatever she’s doing is working, which inspires sellers to want to know more. Second, it lends credibility to her CMA and pricing recommendation and third, it helps her turn down overpriced listings because she can respectfully say that her record is important to her and she’s not willing to risk it taking a listing she knows she can’t sell.

2. Spend quality (and quantity) time preparing your CMA
Being oh-so-efficient is way over-rated. Loreena spends several hours poring over her CMA reports so that she is intimately familiar with exactly what those facts and figures are telling her. When she is in front of a seller, she knows her stuff and it’s obvious to the seller that she knows her stuff. This gives her tremendous personal power when talking about price.

Conversely, if you wing it, a seller can easily fluster you with his protests that: “The house down the street sold for way more than THAT!” or “The other agent we talked to gave us a much higher price than THAT!”

3. Don’t try to be “listing specialist”
I’ve been singing this song for years. If you work with buyers, you’ll be a far better listing agent. After all, who buys listings? Buyers, right?! If you don’t hang out with them (buyers) on a regular basis, how will you know how they think, what they want and how much value they place on certain amenities over others?

4. And my favorite from the evening… After you’ve presented your data, sit back and smile sweetly
Loreena described how she comes armed with lots of paper – charts, graphs, lists, reports, summaries, etc… which she spreads out on the table for the seller to review. Once she’s delivered her analysis of all this paper, she sits back and smiles sweetly, and lets the seller take it from there. Numbers don’t lie and she just presented a lot of non-lying numbers. With her body language, she subtly forces the seller to acknowledge them.

posted by on Working with Sellers

House

Your listing agreement is signed and you’re heading out to install the lockbox and yard sign for your fabulous new listing! By this afternoon, the property will be entered into the MLS, and hopefully your fancy-schmantzy home brochures will be delivered by the end of the week.

Whew! You’re done, right? Time to move onto the next listing prospect!

Well, that’s up to you, but I don’t recommend it.

Those first two weeks of a new listing provide a beautiful window of opportunity to knock the sox off your seller and cement your position as his or her all-time favorite real estate agent. Oh, and by knocking the sox off your new seller out of the gate, you’ll buy yourself a little grace if, down the road, you unintentionally drop the ball (it happens)!

When you put a new listing on the market, strive to have contact with my seller every single day for the first week; and into the second week if possible. Remember, while listing another home may be just another day at the office for us, it’s a monumental event for most home-sellers. They are watching your every move (or lack of movement) very closely – AND – commenting on those moves (or lack thereof) to their peers.

So, what can you do to knock some sox those precious first two weeks of a new listing?

  • Send the sellers a copy of the MLS listing and ask for their blessing
  • Send the sellers a draft of the home brochure and ask for their blessing
  • Schedule the first open house
  • Create and deliver your first State of the Market report
  • Deliver feedback from showings, if any
  • Send links to your online advertising (Your Virtual Tour, Craigslist, Postlets, Realtor.com, your blog, etc.).
  • Ask seller to distribute the virtual tour to his social network.
  • Drop off brochures
  • Do your Open House
  • Deliver feedback from Open House
  • Ask sellers how they feel the process is going so far
  • Preview any new competition and share your feedback
  • Call to check on brochures – do we need more yet?
  • Prepare a market report with the number of showings and virtual tour hits, along with an update on the status of the competition.

After the first two weeks, you can slow down your attention a bit, although of course, do continue to provide showing feedback and check on brochures and such. Every 2-3 weeks, send an updated market activity report, and at six weeks, prepare a full CMA and schedule a meeting with the sellers to discuss it.

If your seller feels you’re being TOO attentive, he’ll probably let you know, but I really doubt that will be a problem!

Any other ideas of reasons to contact a seller? Please share!

posted by on Working with Sellers

Tree

Picking up from yesterday’s blog about what to do to impress your seller during the first weeks of his listing… (hint – let him know EVERYTHING you’re doing!)…

Are you the world’s greatest listing agent? (If not, let’s talk after class – it’s not that hard to be).

But if you believe you are, do your sellers know about it?

If you’ve ever had your own home on the market with a real estate agent, you know how important communication is to your satisfaction with that agent. I’ve had various non-owner-occupied homes of mine listed with agents around the country and I’m amazed at how few of them seem to think I’d want to know what’s going on.  And not only would I like to know what’s happening, I’d think they’d want to share with me everything they’re doing!

Apparently not.

Did my agents do open houses? I dunno. Did they keep the brochure boxes full (or even create brochures)? I dunno. Newspaper or Internet advertising? I dunno. Did they follow up on showings for feedback? I dunno. Heck, did we even HAVE any showings? Again, I dunno.

And what’s up with the competition? Had any of the homes competing with mine sold? Did any lower their price? Did any new listings come up I should worry about? Did the agents get any internet inquiries or sign calls?

Inquiring minds would really like to know.

Fact is, my agents may very well have been doing their jobs. They might have been marketing the heck out of my houses and keeping a close eye on recent market activity. But if I don’t know about it, does it really matter? Even if their efforts sold the house, am I going to give them much credit for that? After all, as far as I know, all they did was the 3P’s* and hoped for the best.

Last year I hired someone to do something for me. After several months of paying him to do what he did, I’d received no updates, no status reports, no nothing. So, I got pissy. He fired back with a long list of all the stuff he’d been doing on my account, all huffy and indignant and self-righteous, and yeah, I was impressed. But… it was too late. That tree most certainly did fall in the forest, but since I didn’t hear it… it might as well not have.

*The 3P’s – Put a sign in the yard; Put it in the MLS; PRAY

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Working with Sellers

Now that the listing agreement is signed and your FOR SALE sign is in the yard, you’re done, right? Onto the next victim prospect to WOW with your fancy listing presentation and 132-point marketing plan! Of course, most of those 132 points are pretty much fluff & nonsense, but by the time you’ve overwhelmed the seller with your promises of Exceptional Service and Total Commitment, he probably won’t notice.

SalesmanNo, he probably WON’T notice at the time, but he’ll certainly notice later. The good news is that by then it’s too late! He’s committed to stuck with you! And you’ll be damned if you’ll let him out of your listing agreement after you’ve spent ALL THAT MONEY and ALL THAT TIME on his listing! Besides, he probably won’t have the guts to even ask (whew!).

Want to Show Your Seller How Much You (Don’t) Care?

It’s easy! Just follow these simple steps…

1.  Don’t send your seller a copy of the MLS listing entry to get his feedback.

2.  Don’t let him know when his house officially goes “on the market.”

3.  Don’t offer to do an open house, and be sure to argue with him if he asks you to.

4.  Don’t call the seller after your open house with feedback.

5.  Don’t call the seller after you show his house with feedback.

6.  Don’t call after the first few showings just to check in.

7.  Don’t monitor showings, but the next time you talk, ask “Have you had any showings lately?”

8.  Put up a brochure box, but never fill it (or let it stay empty after the first batch is gone).

9.  Don’t send the seller copies of your advertising.

10.  Don’t contact the seller at all until it’s time to ask for price reduction or to extend the listing.

If you follow these simple instructions for each and every one of your listings, you will be assured a long, glorious career of prospecting, prospecting, prospecting to keep that pipeline filled! You’ll never have to worry about repeat or referral business distracting you from your all-important prospecting schedule…

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