As a real estate agent, you know client retention is key to your success in the industry. There’s always the potential for repeat business and referrals when working with buyers. However, when you work with sellers, the promise is even greater, as most homeowners will also be in the market for a new home.
So, what can you do to ensure that homeowners want to enlist your services for both transactions? It all comes down to how you navigate your relationships with clients and use the tools at your disposal.
Being an effective agent requires you to be professional but personable, understanding but firm, knowledgeable but still eager to learn. This balancing act can be challenging at times, but applying these eight real estate agent tips to your daily practices will help ensure that your sellers always return to you as buyers.
1. Treat Every Pitch Like An Interview
The pitch is the first opportunity you have to make an impression on potential clients. As with any interview, you must be professional, prepared and personable. Not all homeowners are savvy about the industry, so they may not know what to ask you during the pitch. But you know the questions they should ask, and it’s your job to answer them, even if they don’t have the language to voice them.
Of course, you want to showcase your experience and skills during the pitch. However, you also want to reveal your humanity. Just as employers want to check that you fit the company culture, clients want to see that you understand their needs and can relate to them. Therefore, you must ask them questions about themselves and their motivation to sell.
“When you show up with your research done immaculately, and you are present to discern their true needs by asking the right questions and giving careful attention to all of their concerns, they will know that they matter to you and that they are indeed special for you,” says Brenda Di Bari, a licensed associate real estate broker for Halstead Real Estate in New York City. “They need to know they have your attention and your availability in the way they need it to best serve them.”
Sellers are beginning a process that will be emotional and stressful, and the more information you can get them to share, the more personal you can make the experience. As you learn about their goals, you can also find out what their plans are for the future. Addressing their next move at the beginning of the process will urge them to start thinking about employing your help in finding another home.
2. Develop Open, Personal Relationships With Your Clients
There’s a reason many people choose to work with friends and family members in the industry – it’s that they’ve already built a relationship with them; the trust is already there. Your clients want to feel confident that they’re in good hands. They want to know that you’ll always act in their best interest, not in the interest of your commission.
Achieving repeat business requires you to establish meaningful relationships with your clients. So, once you’ve scored the listing, it’s time to start bonding with your new clients. To do so, you must be attentive, inquisitive and open.
“Asking questions and truly listening goes a long way,” says Travis Carroll, licensed real estate salesperson with Oxford Property Group in New York City. “Getting to know your client as a person, not as a number, by really figuring out what makes them tick and being genuinely interested makes all the difference. If the opportunity comes to share something about yourself, a struggle you overcame or something that happened in your life that helps you relate to the client, talk about it.”
Revealing personal information about yourself may feel uncomfortable, but the relationship you create with your clients shouldn’t be just one-sided. If you expect your clients to open up to you, you must be willing to do the same for them. However, there’s a fine line between being open and being unprofessional. Always think about the implications of what you say before you say it, and never reveal anything that may cause your clients to question your judgment.
3. Manage Clients’ Expectations
Homeowners often have unrealistic beliefs regarding how desirable their homes will be to others. Considering how happy they’ve been in their home and how many memories they’ve shared in it, they assume that all buyers will see the value that they do. What they don’t realize is how profoundly nostalgia can color perception.
Some clients expect to receive a handful of offers over ask in just a matter of weeks. When they don’t, they assume their agent hasn’t been marketing the property properly or hasn’t been showing it enough. Your clients may have expectations that you can’t possibly live up to, which is why you must understand their emotions and find out what their expectations are at the outset of the process.
“Making clients’ experiences better than they could have ever expected starts with truly understanding what they are actually expecting,” says Carroll. “Do they expect you to sell their home in one week? Do they expect it to sell for way over the true market value? Successful agents are experts at managing those expectations from the very beginning by asking questions and explaining what the reality really is.”
After you determine what your clients’ assumptions are about selling their home, you can go over how the process typically unfolds. Walk them through how pricing is determined, print out all comparable listings and sales and point out how the properties differ from their own. Identify what the value of their home is based on the data, and if they seem confused or resistant, explain why it’s more or less valuable than each of the comparable properties. Discuss the average time on market and show how long it usually takes homes in their neighborhood to sell. Managing your clients’ expectations will be far easier if you use the data available to you as evidence.
4. Be Firm About Pricing
Presenting clients with comparable sales is the first step in helping them understand the true value of their home. However, not all clients are willing to believe the data. When clients stubbornly insist that their homes are worth more than the recommended listing price, many agents ignore their better judgment. Nervous about losing the listing as a result of disagreeing with their clients, commonly agents will list the property for more than they know it’s worth and watch as it grows stale on the market.
When homes are knowingly listed at the wrong price point, no one wins. The longer the home sits on the market, the more dubious potential buyers become about viewing it. By the time you drop the price, the listing has already lost all momentum. And sellers blame you for the lack of offers they’ve received. The best way around this dilemma is to be transparent with your clients from the very beginning.
“Demonstrating your knowledge of all that makes up the property, including finishes and details of the construction, will give the client the comfort they need to trust your opinion as educated. There is an art to pricing for certain, but a sound and complete reason behind the price an agent recommends is something most sellers will recognize and respect,” says Di Bari. “If, in the end, an agreement of price cannot be reached, it is incumbent upon the agent to walk away as opposed to mispricing, which in the end is a disservice to the client.”
Pricing is a difficult conversation to have, especially when homeowners debate it. However, you must remember that clients are enlisting your help with their properties because you’re the expert; you’re the one who has knowledge of the market. Being respectful but honest with your clients early on will help to build their trust. Whereas listing at their desired price with the intention of proving them wrong will only create tension within your relationship. If you can’t see eye-to-eye at this point in the process, it’s going to be a rocky road ahead, and your chances of repeat business will be far slimmer than your chances of receiving bad reviews.
5. Remain Transparent Throughout The Process
As you show properties, you must provide sellers with updates each step of the way. Selling a home is highly stressful, and clients grow increasingly anxious when they don’t hear from their agents regularly. Seeds of doubt begin to blossom in their minds, causing them to distrust that their agents are dedicated and focused.
You want your clients to remain certain that you’re doing everything in your power to sell their homes. To ensure their certainty, you must be transparent about all of your efforts, as well as buyers’ reactions to their home. Even when the news is grim – or there isn’t anything of interest to note – you need to be forthright.
You can assuage your clients’ fears by “starting with a detailed explanation, even providing a list with each step of the process you will be taking, so they are never wondering what happens next,” explains Carroll. “Communication is a top priority every single step of the way, especially prelaunch and the first couple weeks when their friends and family are asking them how it is going. If they always have an answer when someone asks how it’s going, they will feel much better as they likely feel confident in your ability to sell.”
Give them feedback after every showing and open house, so they know who has seen their home and what each potential buyer has thought of it. Show them how you’re marketing the property, how successful your efforts have been and what you’ll be doing in the future. When lines of communication are open and honest, clients will feel more comfortable leaving their largest investment in your care. And, when their friends and family ask them about the process, they’ll be more likely to recommend your services.
6. Don’t Shy Away From Uncomfortable Conversations
Client objections are common, and the success of your business hinges on your ability to respond to them appropriately. While some agents try to skirt around difficult conversations, doing so can come back to haunt you. Issues that are avoided don’t disappear; they usually escalate.
One of the reasons it’s vital to establish a personal relationship with your clients is that there are many tough conversations that you’ll need to have over the course of selling their home. With easy sales, there’s less need to worry. However, if their home ends up receiving little interest on the market, you’ll find that there are a number of awkward discussions that need to be had.
“There is always a reason if interest is low. Sometimes it leads to uncomfortable conversations, but as an agent who wants the best for their clients, these are the conversations that need to be had in order to keep their best interests in mind,” says Lukasz Kukwa, a real estate advisor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Westfield, New Jersey. “Whether it’s the place being unkempt, the price or unrealistic expectations, you need to be honest and assertive in the way you explain it because you are doing the sellers a disservice by not addressing it.”
Properties fail to sell for a handful of reasons. While some of them may be out of your control, many of them can be handled with your client’s cooperation. If the property is in poor condition, you must feel comfortable recommending that they make repairs. If the rooms are messy, you need to have the confidence to tell them to clean them up. If the furniture is outdated, you’ll need to explain why and come up with a solution to update it. Avoiding these conversations prevents your clients from making the changes necessary to get their home sold. So, don’t shy away from these sensitive subjects – it’s your job to be honest, even when it feels brutal.
7. Never Underestimate The Power Of Data
Sometimes it’s easy to see why a home isn’t receiving offers; other times, you may have no idea. Buyers are a useful resource, as they can provide objective feedback on the property, even when they’re not interested in making an offer. However, sometimes that feedback falls short of identifying the reason the property isn’t gaining more interest.
“When this situation does arise, the best practice is to look at cold, hard data,” says Jonathan Alpart, REALTOR® with Fathom Realty in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. “Are all other sellers having trouble right now? In what areas? Let’s examine why that is the case. What can we be doing to stand out?”
Agents know how crucial it is to analyze comparable properties. Before pitching a client and pricing their home, agents always consider the purchasing price of recent sales, as well as the asking price of current listings. However, not as many agents refer to that data after marketing the property.
Comps can provide insight throughout the home selling process and help you problem-solve. You should apply the same skills you used to price your clients’ home to determine why it’s not receiving more attention. When looking at the data, consider the following questions:
- Have any comparable homes sold since you listed?
- Has the inventory increased?
- Is your listing priced competitively?
- What does your listing have that others lack?
- What does your listing lack that others have?
By reexamining the inventory, you can decide if the price point is still appropriate. Furthermore, you can determine how to adjust your marketing to accentuate the home’s unique features and divert attention away from its lesser qualities.
8. Wow Your Clients By Keeping Your Finger On The Pulse
Maintaining your license requires you to complete continuing education courses every couple of years, but the industry is changing too fast for those courses to keep up. Providing exceptional service to your sellers necessitates that you go beyond the education that’s required by law.
To keep up with the times, self-motivated agents take it upon themselves to do the research. If you want to continue to grow as an agent, you should read up on the latest technology trends and consider how they can help you improve your processes and practices. You know how to do your job, but you may not be up to date on the tools currently available to help you with it.
Think about how new tools can help you solve recurring problems. For instance, when your listing seems to be growing stale, there are often ways to use technology to your advantage. “Generally speaking, eye-popping photos that use the best technological advances in graphics, such as Virtual Staging, Virtual Painting, Virtual Twilight, etc. give buyers the most possible visual aids they can use to envision themselves living in (and therefore first buying) the home,” says Alpart.
Implementing new technology into your business practices is an undeniable way to impress your clients. That’s because being at the forefront of technological advances signals to clients that you’re an agent who’s driven to constantly improve and remain ahead of the competition. Keep your finger on the pulse of the industry, and your sellers will not even question working with someone else.
Applying These Real Estate Agent Tips
To be effective in your role, you must be liked as a person but respected as a professional. Your clients must trust your judgment and know that you have their best interest at heart. In this business, reputation can make or break a career.
Whether you’re a seasoned broker or a brand-new salesperson, it’s always useful to compare your business practices to those of other professionals in the industry. The nature of the business is competitive and staying ahead means ensuring that you’re offering the best service available. These eight real estate agent tips will help you guarantee that your clients return to you for all of their transactions – and refer you to all of their friends and family members.
If you want to provide truly exceptional service to everyone you work with, check out our tips for improving your buyers’ experiences.
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