Recently I wrote about lead generation, and pre-qualifying your leads.
So here you are with a good, qualified lead. What now?
For this post, I’m going to talk about buyers. We’ll talk about sellers (listing appointments) in part 2.
1. If it’s at all possible, have the buyer(s) come to your office before going out to see homes. I guess, if you take a sign/ad call and they want to see the house right away, and they are pre-qualified by your standards, you can go meet them. However, since studies have shown that the average buyer usually looks at 50+ homes, and the NAR says that a very small percentage of buyers actually buy the house the call in on, be prepared to be disappointed and have to set up another appointment with them.
Having the buyer(s) come to your office sets up your professionalism right off the bat. Those who just want to meet you, or want you to jump in your car right away are interested in two things: a) looking at houses on their personal time frame, without input from you, the necessary evil in their minds, and maybe or maybe not buy one, and b) controlling the situation for various reasons (could be lack of trust for agents, and the way some agents behave you can’t really blame them).
Regardless of the reasoning, having them come to your office puts you in control, and as long as you maintain having their best interest at heart then I advocate the professional agent being in control of the appointment.
And, it frees you up to RE-qualify them and their wants and needs. You can go over the houses they will look at and see if they want to avoid some based on certain criteria. You can add or subtract houses based on their new information. You can show them houses right there on the computer screen.
While you can do a little of that on the appointment (today’s technology is pretty amazing), it takes away your control and professionalism if you try to have everyone huddle around your PDA on a sidewalk or in your car while you try to dial up new listings for them to see on the fly. It’s not as impressive as you think it is.
**By the way, take only one car, preferably yours. Two cars allows them to just say “Sayanora” and shove off after seeing the last house. And that equals no offer and, at best, multiple appointments if they ever come back.***
2. Don’t be surprised by your buyers – With the internet, buyers can look at all sorts of houses. When you set, and/or confirm the appointment, you want to find out if they’re going to look at houses on the computer, and then have them email or fax the houses to you at least 24 hours prior the appointment. That way, you have time to find out if they’re still available, see if they do/don’t meet the buyer’s criteria, see if they’re good buys/deals, set up the appointments to show them if they are good, etc.
Having sellers present you with all the houses they found on the ‘net when they get to your office is going to mess you up big time.
Consider pre-framing your clients during your pre-qualifying, or when you confirm the appointment:
“As I’m sure you realize, it’s pretty easy to look up houses on the internet these days. So, if you do search for homes, to make sure that I’m best serving your needs, would you please send me the houses you’re interested in seeing a couple days before the appointment? That’ll help me prepare better as I research the houses on the MLS. And, I just want to prepare you for the fact that only the MLS has the most up to date information, so don’t be surprised if any house you find is already under contract, or other wise doesn’t meet your criteria, okay? In fact, I can set up and automatic MLS email that notifies you of the latest listings that fit your criteria, will that work for you?”
**Now, you need to let them know the computer doesn’t know their tastes, so some of the listings won’t be what they want at all. Even though you’re name is on the email, it’s not you personally telling them to look at that house. Trust me, if you don’t tell them you’re NOT actually recommending the houses that get auto-emailed, many times you will lose a buyer who feels you didn’t listen to them and don’t know what they want.
**Also, no matter what, they will still probably look on the ‘net themselves, and quite possibly still try to “surprise” you with homes they want to see that day. At least if you have most of them prior to the appointment you can do your due diligence. Many of them will have reasons to not show them based on the criteria the buyer already provided.
“You said you had to have a fireplace, and this one doesn’t have one. Do you still want to see it?”
“Oh, no. I didn’t realize it didn’t have a fireplace. Let’s forget that one.”
The bottom line is if you’re showing them 5 houses, you want to have personally picked no less than 3, and ideally 4-5 (giving for the fact that they may have called in on one). You’re the professional, you know the inventory and the market. If you asked the right questions, you’ll be fine. If most of the homes you show them are their suggestions, then you’re letting them run you around and you should prepare for many more appointments with them, and maybe never sell them a home.
Think about how you buy things, and how much you want to look at all the possibilities before you make your purchase. Did you look at just one cell phone, or many of them to fit your needs? Now, can you see how most buyers would like you to show them houses that looked good to them in the picture on the internet, but are missing features they asked for, just to see if they should rule the homes out or if they can make due with what’s missing? At least with the cell phones, you’re in the store already. With an extra house or five, you have time, energy, gas/mileage and other stuff to factor in. Not to mention, they won’t want the house…because it doesn’t have the features they asked for!
3. Which brings me to … Never show them more than 4-5 houses on an appointment – Personally, I want my coaching clients to go on as few showings with the same buyer as possible. One appointment per buyer is the goal. I know, there are hundreds, if not thousands of homes on the market these days, so how could you only show one buyer 4-5 homes in one showing and be done? And, yet if you do a good job of pre-qualifying, you will be able to narrow it down considerably and quite possibly do just that: one appointment, one offer, one sale, one happy buyer in their new home.
First, more than 4-5 houses will confuse the buyers, even if they take notes. It’s completely detrimental to the process. It actually sets you up for multiple appointments because they have so much information, they’re confused. If you’re lucky, the 2nd appointment will be to go back and see the best 1-2 houses, yet most of the time you end up showing them and more new houses that you didn’t see before.
“Wasn’t that the house with the blue shutters, the big fenced in yard and the walk-in closets? We liked that house!”
“I’m sorry, the one with the blue shutters had a big yard with NO fence, and the closets were big, but not walk-in. That’s the one that had the hardwood floors in the dining room, remember?”
“And the fireplace?”
“No, it didn’t have a fireplace.”
Holy crap, I’m confusing myself and I just made that dialogue up!
4. My preference is to take them to the best looking and best valued house first; the one you think best fits them. After that, the other houses won’t compare as favorably, especially if you ask them to compare them as they go along. It’s a measuring stick.
First, make sure you’re right and that they really like the first house. Then, each time they see another house, ask them to compare the good one and the one they’re in.
“Ok, so you really liked the other house on Smith Street, and it was $299,900 with all those features you liked in the neighborhood you wanted. This house is $329,900. Do you think it’s worth $30,000 more than Smith Street? (OR…this house is $269,900…do you want to put $30,000 into it, and if you did will it be as good as Smith Street?)”
The buyers will eliminate the ones they don’t want as they go along. And most likely you’ll have to take the extra step of going back to the first house…however that usually leads to an offer.
I said it’s my preference because you can do it the other way; show the worst one first and end up in the “palace” last and then ask them to make an offer. However, first impressions are hard to overcome, and you are now the agent that took them to that “dump” on Jones Street first. Psychologically, the buyers went from excitement to frustration, and they think you don’t know what they want.
So, while we know buyers buy on emotion, and there is a good argument for ending up in the best of the best, don’t start off with the worst.
**DO NOT THROW IN AN ARTIFICIAL STINKER ON PURPOSE. Under no circumstances should you “pad” your appointment with a really bad house. The “worst” home should still be a home that meets their criteria as best as possible. Sometimes worst might just be an overpriced house that clearly isn’t worth the price range they’re looking in, or it’s not in the neighborhood close to the schools that they asked for, etc. If you throw in a bad house on purpose, you will most likely lose a customer.
5. Ask for the order! – You are a sales agent, so you need to ask for the sale. You’re NOT a showing agent, otherwise you’d get paid to go on showings and get gas mileage reimbursement.
Some agents advocate asking the buyer if they want the house they’re in at each house. That can work, however I preferred to ask them a little less blatantly up front, so as to get them to mentally cross the home off or put it on their wish list (“Do you like this one, or are we crossing it off the list?”). Then at the end, I asked them to make an offer on their favorite home of the group.
**I’ve also already pre-framed them to be ready to make an offer on their favorite house when I pre-qualified or confirmed the appointment, so it’s not a total surprise to them.**
One final thought, to keep them focused on the homes they’re going to see, before you head to the first house, tell them that between your knowledge of the market and the needs they’ve stated, you have found the absolute best homes available to them. Let them know that they’ll see signs for homes that look good from the outside, etc., however each of those homes has been eliminated for various reasons such as price, under contract, missing features, etc. Then on the appointment, point out some of the nicer homes and let them know the reason they’re not on the list.
The reason buyers take so much time, look at so many houses, use multiple realtors and a high percentage don’t buy with you, if they buy at all is because most agents don’t take charge and don’t ask for the order.
You have to remember that you’re the professional. Do you go to your doctor and say, I have a headache, so you need to operate? No, you tell the doctor your symptoms and your doctor pre-qualifies you with questions and tests to find the proper diagnosis and treatment.
So, don’t let buyers tell you how to do your job. Most of them will confuse the hell out of themselves looking for the needle in the haystack if you let them.
As always, your comments are welcome!