Last weekend, I took part in an online discussion among real estate agents about how we meet, exceed, or, from time to time, fail to live up to our clients’ expectations when helping them buy or sell a home.
The original scenario was this: Your buyer client has made an offer on a property and you have received a counter-offer from the seller. The buyer asks you to meet her to go over it and discuss what to do next. In this day of electronic signatures, how do you respond?
A host of people replied, “I’ll send it to you to read and sign electronically.” Others said, “Let’s discuss it on the phone and I will amend it as necessary and email it to you for signature.” A smaller number said they would meet the client but cautioned that if she didn’t respond quickly, another buyer might come along.
My response was, “I’ll be right there.” I got a little pushback from some agents who thought I should be setting more stringent boundaries with my time, but a number of them agreed with me when I insisted that my job was to make the process easier for my client, not for myself.
I’ve found that meeting a potential client is like going on a first date when you’ve both swiped right. If there weren’t some type of attraction, then you wouldn’t be there, but you’re both on your best behavior and are cautiously looking at each other as a potential mate.
There is no “one size fits all” for houses or the people who buy and sell them. That’s one thing I love about the job. Likewise, good customer service is in the eye of the beholder.
Accordingly, I recommend interviewing the agents you are considering hiring face-to-face in a comfortable setting whenever possible. This gives you an opportunity not only to listen to their presentations, but also to ask questions and observe their demeanor and body language to see whether you “click.”
For most people, personality also plays a large part in decision-making. In general, if you enjoy the company of the agent you hire and feel a mutual connection, then you’re more likely to trust his or her advice. Interviewing an agent who has been recommended by a friend can be a good start, since there’s at least one person that you both know and like.
Consider whether the agent is focused on you and your needs. Is he rushing through his presentation or taking time to explain how choosing him will benefit you? Is she allowing for questions and answering them to your satisfaction? Is he respectful of your time and your family?
A seller always wants to talk about price and commission, but there may be other important issues that need to be resolved. One point of discussion might be the type of marketing that will be done and where those materials will be displayed. You might also need to reach consensus on what to repair or improve, and whether to use your existing furnishings or a professional stager.
As a buyer, you’ll want to know your agent’s availability and whether it suits your schedule. Ask how he will help locate the right house and how he will protect your interests. Discuss any creative ways in which her clients have won in multiple offer situations.
Whether buying or selling, if you’re interviewing someone who manages a team of agents, you’ll probably want to know whether you’ll be dealing with the principal or another member of the team. It’s fine to interview the team leader, but you may also want to meet and talk to whoever will be your point person during the process and learn which team member will be helping you at various steps.
Most importantly, determine how you’ll keep in contact with your agent. In a service-oriented business such as real estate, poor communication is an issue that can quickly scuttle a business relationship. Your agent needs to know how and when you would like to keep in contact, so speak up to ensure that you’re both using the same definition of good communication.
For example, do you want to chat via phone, text, email or something else? Do you listen and respond to voicemail? How often do you want updates? Every day? Once a week? Just when something changes? And don’t forget to compare travel schedules to be sure you can stay in touch.
You’ll find most agents anxious to provide a positive experience and willing to accommodate your communication preferences. And, if you’re the tech-averse lady who wanted an agent to come over to discuss that counter-offer in person, then I’m at your service.
Just put on a pot of coffee and I’ll be right there.
Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland and Virginia and Director of Education & Mentorship at Real Living| At Home. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.