One of the biggest blocks to good communication between people is the frame of reference, or point of view, people have when communicating.
Simply put, what’s going in your mind is most likely not going on in the person’s mind with whom you are communicating. And, many people tend to think that everyone has their point of view, and is therefore on the same page as they are. Actually, most people don’t think like that, they just have their point of view and go with it, unconsciously assuming that whomever they’re talking to is on the same page.
In real estate, agents are involved in the process of buying and selling real estate every day; whether by thought, conversations and/or actions. Conversely, their typical client is not anywhere near as involved.
The communication breakdown occurs when the agent talks to the client as if the client is right there with the agent.
For example, let’s say you list a property and somewhere down the line an agent brings in a written offer.
Most agents will call the seller(s) and present the offer over the phone, which typically consists of telling the seller the price, down payment money, the settlement date, any contingencies, and maybe a couple of other items on what can be a 10-15 page contract.
This is pretty standard practice, and usually acceptable up until the contract is agreed upon and it’s time to get signatures.
But think about the following scenario. This happened to me a coupe of times when I used to sell, and may have happened to you. Take the same situation as above, except the buyer and seller never come to an agreement. Now all your seller has is your say-so about an offer.
What if you then need to go for a price reduction? You’re seller might suspect you of playing dirty pool to get them to reduce.
What if it’s close to the end of the listing and you want them to extend? You’re seller might suspect you of fabricating the offer in order to get the extension.
But let’s take things one step further. Let’s say you get an agreement on price, the buyer has signed everything, and now you want the seller to sign it. So you fax, email, mail and/or bring the contract over to the seller and what happens?
All sorts of things can happen. The seller simply signing the contract is only one possible outcome, and a low percentage play. Most likely the seller will want you to go over the contract with them. Many will want to take their own time (a day or two) to go over the contract themselves before signing. And some will even send the contract to their attorney to look at it, before signing.
None of those things are bad, sellers should be informed and have representation. However, many times the seller’s actions take the agent by surprise. The agent didn’t even know they were going to use a lawyer, or the agent figured the sellers were just going to sign and have no questions.
Now, I know some agents present all of their offers personally in front of the sellers, and unless that’s the law in your market, I think it’s a waste of an agent’s time. What I believe is more efficient, and will go a long way, is to cover your bases while on the listing appointment.
Leave a copy of a blank contract for sale with your seller after taking the listing (or email it the next day). Tell them to read it and email you with questions. Or better yet, call them regularly with updates and let them ask you when you call. Let them know an offer will look just like that, but with the blanks filled in. And, if attorneys are optional in your market, ask your sellers if they plan to use one.
This works just as well with buyers, too. When you first meet them (hopefully in your office, and not at the property…but that’s a different post for a different time), show them a contract for sale and ask the same question about an attorney.
Have you ever worked with a buyer who tells you they want to make an offer on a certain property and then seems to take their sweet old time signing the contract? Sometimes days go by and they finally get back to you with a bunch of questions. God forbid it’s a hot property with the potential for multiple offers.
All of that could have been avoided if you got them on the same page as you before you started the process.
Can you see how just giving the client some information that they normally don’t have access to can do wonders for your communication with them?
As agents, you need to realize your clients aren’t used to the daily doings of real estate. Even if you only sell a few houses a year, most of your clients have only bought/sold a few homes in their adult lives…and that’s not even talking about the first time home buyer.
Denzel Washington played Tom Hanks’ character’s lawyer in the movie Philadelphia, and he used to always say to people, “Tell it to me like I’m a 6 year old.”
I’m not saying talk down to your clients. I’m saying that you shouldn’t assume your clients know what you know about a real estate transaction. Walk them through the process. Let them know what’s coming before they get to that point. Let them feel comfortable. Remember, this is a lot of money to the buyer/seller. And it’s a contract. People get really nervous about their own money, and about contracts. So the more you can help them with in the beginning, the easier it will be for them to listen to you and be okay with what’s going on as it’s happening.
Help your clients get on the same page as you.