Most consumers don’t understand the real estate process, and why should they? They aren’t real estate salespeople and they don’t help people buy or sell real estate on a daily basis, yet many real estate agents neglect to explain the basics of the process to their clients.
It’s like speaking another language and forgetting that there may be a need to translate the terminology and process for the client to understand. Agency is one of those terms that isn’t clear to most consumers, and sometimes not even to agents.
When working with agents, whether new or experienced, they frequently seem to forget that the terms and terminology that they use on a daily basis are “Greek” to the consumer. I often have to pull that agent back to the basics and work with them to establish a process to educate their clients before they ever begin showing them houses. When we fail to do this we are much more likely to find out clients have “wandered off” in another direction.
People don’t like to admit that they don’t understand something, so rather than say “What do you mean?” they will just nod their heads and go along with the flow of the conversation or tour. Then the following week when that enthusiastic buyer is not returning your calls, or communicating with you – you will be at a loss to explain it. The reality is this, many real estate agents are talking over a consumers head using real estate “jargon” and “lingo” that only confuses the client or customer.
The KISS principle applies beautifully here, but it’s a hard one to remember, keep it simple stupid, an in this case the “stupid” is the real estate professional who is in the process of scaring away their client.
Here are some tips to help you keep your clients, and communicate effectively with them.
- Start with a Buyer Education meeting. – When you first make contact, whatever the method of that first contact is, be sure to explain that your process involves a first meeting at your office to explain the process and answer questions on the real estate transaction, the buying process and the market conditions and practices.Part of this process is to also make sure that they are pre-approved with a lender and have a realistic and comfortable price point set for their needs. You are also using this time to set a series of expectations between yourself and your clients.
- Set Expectations and Share Explanations. – Making sure that your clients understand that you are there to serve their needs, and that part of that is to understand their expectations of you in the process is important. This also allows you the opportunity to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions about the process and the practice of real estate.Some expectations that should be reviewed at your first meeting include how they would like you to communicate with them, any specific time restrictions on your practice, how they can reach you if it is an emergency, and discuss and explain your commitment to them, as well as their commitment to you.
- The Mutual Commitment of Buyer Agency. – Explaining in the simplest terms what agency means is important, I find saying something like “What we discuss stays between us, I can’t discuss anything you tell me without your consent, and I am obligated to provide you with any information I learn about a property you are interested in. I am your agent, I work at your direction, as long as those directions are legal.” is a simple and effective way to explain it.
I also like to explain that when I am showing them properties in a certain area and price point, I am not also showing those properties to anyone else.I am making a commitment to them, in my time and business, and may be turning away other clients, because it would not be fair or ethical to create a competitive situation for them. You also need them to make the same commitment to you, which is why you then present the Exclusive Buyers Agency (or related) agreement to your client. They protect themselves, and you protect yourself, when all parties participate and understand the commitment of buyer agency.
Nothing hurts more than a client “keeping their options open” after you have turned away multiple other consumers in the same market as they are in to keep their best interests at heart, only to have them wander off and buy with another agent. It happens, and it truly sucks to be the one it happens to, especially after you commit time and efforts to helping people over many years, sometimes even helping them find resources for credit counseling, etc.
- Ask If They Are Working with an Agent. – I always do this, and I suggest everyone do this. Whether I was on office phone duty, or at an open house, I always ask a consumer who seems to want to engage my services if they have an Agent. Frequently they do not, but sometimes they do – sometimes they tell me they have not signed anything and their options are open. I will typically ask who their agent is, offer a compliment about that individual, or if I only know the name say “Yes, I have heard of them but have not worked with them, I only hear wonderful things” (keep it positive always), and I will redirect that client back to their agent. I will also call that agent as soon as possible to notify them that their client reached out to me, or was at an open house. I direct the consumer back to their agent, letting them know that their agent can show them any property that I can because we all participate with one another, so they won’t miss out on anything.
Occasionally a consumer will insist upon working with me, they don’t get along with their agent, or they like my experience better, or thing I will provide them with better service, whatever the reason, I make sure they don’t have an agreement with another broker before, and will frequently send a referral agreement to the agent they had been working with (after I get them to sign an Exclusive Buyer Agency agreement with me) after I have contacted them directly and explained the situation. Do unto others as the saying goes. It’s shame more agents don’t operate on this same principle. I can’t even fathom the amount of guilt I would feel if I did this to someone else. Ick.
- Provide Market Data. – I use RPR for this, I will pull neighborhood market activity reports, and also general neighborhood reports from NARRPR.com for the clients. These reports include some amazing economic indicators, demographics and some very sexy data in the form of things like heat maps for a variety of indicators. I will review a report with the client and explain what each section is about and what the indicators are. RPR is my secret weapon in impressing, and educating my clients.
If you communicate openly, effectively and respect other REALTORS we will all see a better public opinion of our industry I believe. As well as educating the consumer, we are also educating ourselves.
So stop talking “jargon” and “lingo” and start focusing on customer service and needs. If we communicate better, everyone’s experience gets better.