So you’ve generated a lead, went on the appointment, and got the listing.  Congratulations!  Now what do you do?

Seems like an easy answer, and it kind of is easy, however you’d be surprised at how much inefficiency comes up, along with lack of communication…not to mention actually getting the darn thing sold.

So what do you do?

The best thing to do is to have systems in place to handle a listing from signature to under contract/pending to closing/escrow, and everything in between.  If you have a listing coordinator or an assistant, than I hope to God you have systems in place, or your paying someone to run around like a chicken with their head cut off, which is what most agents tend to do…so why pay someone to do that for you?

Seriously, if you don’t have checklists then you need to get them ASAP!  My preference was a hard copy paper checklist stapled to the inside of those manila folders the Title/Escrow Companies give out.  If you have an assistant, and therefore shouldn’t be in your files (ahem!), it’s still a good idea for the hard copy, so a quick glance is all you need to see the status.  However, your assistant will probably have it on the computer in contact software like Top Producer or something else.

And, your checklists need to be A-Z, even if A is the most basic, idiotic, mundane, everyone-knows-to-do-that, thing.  You’re doing a checklist so that you don’t have to think, ever.  And, if you hire an assistant (or re-hire if your current one leaves), it helps you train them that much quicker.

Also, it’s a good idea to have a communication log next to the checklist, so you and/or your assistant can document conversations with your clients.  It keeps you on the ball, especially if you have multiple clients.  And, God forbid if you end up in litigation, you have detailed, dated notes as to what was talked about.

Below are some ideas for what needs to be in a check list.  Yours may vary according to tradition or market, etc.

Checklist #1 – New listings:  Get key from seller, attach lock box, place sign, send broker signed copy of listing back to seller, place listing in MLS, write MLS number on folder, place on website(s), get/take pictures, get disclosure forms signed by seller, *call past clients/sphere of influence/neighbors, *call sellers weekly, *discuss price reduction.

* If you want your listing to sell, you need to price it right.  And, you need to call your past clients, sphere of influence and the neighbors around the listing to see if they know anyone who wants to buy the house.

*I can’t tell you the number of expired listings I used to take where the seller would say their previous agent never let them know what was going on, and basically disappeared.  I know, it’s a tough market and homes aren’t selling.  AND, there’s only one reason the home isn’t selling: price.  You need to communicate to your sellers once a week whether you have news or not.

*No news means it’s overpriced anyway, and I as I wrote in a previous blog, you need to have already pre-framed your sellers for the price reduction discussion.

***An over-priced, non-selling listing where you’re afraid to talk to your sellers is absolutely ludicrous.  What’s the point of having the listing?  Okay, maybe you’re getting buyer calls, but now you’re using the seller and not letting them know that.  Communicate to the sellers weekly.

(Oh, and by the way, be careful what you say.  If you want to give a seller good news by telling them the buyer says the house is pretty, or the people that walked through the open house liked it, or the brokers at the broker open all said it was a lovely house…all you’re doing is giving them ammunition for NOT reducing the price.  Bottom line, if there isn’t an offer attached to that compliment, it’s bull****.)

Checklist #2 – Listing under contract/pending: executed contracts back to buyer and seller, change status in MLS and internet, *second deposit date, *mortgage contingency date, *home inspection date, any needed tests by buyer or seller (water/sewer, radon, fire inspection, CO, etc.) closing date, *utility letter sent, title/escrow company in touch with seller, *weekly communication with seller, *ask seller for referral, make sure seller has proper proceeds (or shortage) information prior to closing, *call neighbors.

*Even though you have the seller, you want to be aware of the deadlines.  And, it helps you keep tabs on the agent for the buyer

*Here’s some more efficiency for you: have a form letter set to go out to your seller after all contingencies are met by the buyer.  This letter will explain utility shut off, or change procedures and provide the numbers of the companies they need to call.  It will roughly outline your checklist, letting them know what to expect, what you will do, and what they need to do.  THIS BEATS THE HELL OUT OF HAVING THE SAME CONVERSATION OVER AND OVER WITH EVERY SELLER YOU WORK WITH, ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE TO SPEND TIME ON THE PHONE GIVING THEM PHONE NUMBERS TO THE CABLE COMPANY, ETC.

*You still want to maintain communication with your seller, especially if there’s a long time between items and closing.  I know, you will literally have nothing to talk about sometimes, yet they will appreciate the communication.  It will go a long way for them to remember you as a past client, and for referrals.  Just call to tell them you have no updates, the next thing on the schedule is 3 weeks away, and you wanted to know if they had any questions.  Oh yeah, ask for referrals….

*The happiest time in a seller’s life during their listing period is when they go to closing and get the check.  The 2nd happiest time is when the house goes under contract.  The third happiest time is when all contingencies are met by the buyer, and the home inspection items have been successfully negotiated.  So, when you have good news, capitalize on it and ask for a referral.  “Mr. and Mrs. Seller, I’m happy to tell you that the home inspection came back with nothing major, and the buyer isn’t asking for any repairs at all! We’re going to closing on the 15th!  Thank you for letting me help you get your home sold, and I’d like to ask if you know of any friends or neighbors looking to make a move that I could help.”

*Depending on how long it is between pending and closing, and how fast you got it sold, you may want to call the neighbors again and let them know you sold the home.  Then you can ask if they planned to move, or if they know of anyone else.

Normally you call the neighbors after closing.  And again, depending on if you got a good price, sold it quickly, and/or if it’s a long way off from pending to closing date, you can call them when it’s first pending, and maybe even after it closes, too.  I used to call both times, and by the third call (first listed, pending, closed) it’s a pretty warm call for most people.  And if you don’t get anything from them by way of selling or referral, you can pretty much add them to your sphere of influence.

Remember, it’s illegal to tell them the sale price before it closes, so watch out for that question.  If it was a decent price, tell them that.  If it sold quickly, tell them that.  I guess technically you can skate around the issue, by saying, “I can’t tell you what it sold for, but if you’re interested in listing, I can pretty much tell you the asking price,” but you have to sleep at night, and I would only use that on someone who’s going to set an appointment with you to list.

Checklist #3 – After Closing: Call day after closing, 7 days after closing, 30 days after closing, every 90 days, send after closing thank you letter and customer satisfaction survey, send postcards quarterly, holiday card (I like the Thanksgiving card because it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle), HUD-1 form.

To grow your business you need to generate new leads AND be in regular communication with your past clients.

When you call them the day and the week after closing, you want to thank them for their trust in you, make sure everything went well, that the money cleared for them, were there any issues that you can help them with?, etc.  If they’ve moved to a house in your market, hopefully you handled that transaction and you can ask them if the new house is working for them, etc.  Let them know you’re going to follow up with them, just in case things come up.  If they’re buying out of market, let them know you can help them, too.  Obviously, you should already know where they’re buying and hopefully could have referred them to someone, however, either way, if something’s come up, you can offer to investigate issues for them (they rarely will have issues, and they’ll probably want the other agent to deal with it, but it’s nice to ask).

At the 30 day mark, just let them know you’ll check in from time to time and see how they are, and of course ask if they know anyone you can help.  You should call your past clients once every 90 days, and send them something once a quarter…minimum.

The customer satisfaction survey is a great tool for you to improve your service.  Don’t be so egotistical as to think you’re clients love you, and don’t be so scared as to think you did a horrible job.  Send it out with a stamp and let them tell you what you did well and where they think you need to improve.  And, no matter what they write, call them to thank them for their comments, and/or apologize for whatever they felt was a problem and that you will change it immediately.

Finally, make a copy of the closing sheet (HUD-1) and put it in a pre-addressed, stamped envelope with a form letter that says something like “just in case you need this for your tax records.”  Send the envelope on the following January 2nd.  To be efficient, just have a box with the envelopes.  Every time you have a closing, address an envelope and put it in the box waiting for January 2nd.

To not be stressed out, to not be a 24/7 realtor even when you’ve only got 2 listings, 1 buyer and 1 pending, to sell lots of real estate, to give great service…the keys are systems and good, clear, consistent communication with your clients.

Scott Friedman