As a new year dawns bright and shiny, people's thoughts naturally turn toward one of the top evergreen New Year's resolutions: How will I make more money? If you're a real estate agent or thinking of becoming one, this year looks financially promising. The real estate market is predicted to stay strong even if a recession hits. There's room to thrive.
But it's also a tough industry where there's no single certain way of tapping into endless clients. No matter if you're just starting out or you're looking to improve on a solid 15-year career, there are still ways to build your business and find more clients.
And here's where I come in. I'm your potential client. Hello. You approach me at parties, on Facebook, in the gym, at formal luncheons -- almost everywhere. You don't know that I write about the industry, so you're not looking for media coverage. You legitimately want my business, modestly budgeted though it is. And I am always willing to listen… for about five minutes.
I've had the same real estate agent since I first moved to a new city four years ago. He was brand-new then, and he's still learning the ropes in some ways. I stick with him for pretty basic reasons, the first one being that he responds to messages. I'm here to share several more reasons -- tips that, from a client's perspective, go further to build trust and secure long-term business than any "law of wealth/law of attraction" mantras the sales mystics/real estate gurus have to offer.
1. Show the client what they ask for
I'm looking for a three-bedroom, two-bath apartment in a low-rise for $400,000, and you've sent me a two-bedroom, two-bath in a high-rise for $425,000? Why do so many agents do this? You're zero for three already; that's three strikes. And by the rules of another great American pastime, you know what happens next.
2. When you answer questions, be sure your answer is true
Clients need you to be an expert in things they're not. If you give a definitive answer that turns out to be wrong, it disappoints the client at best and can cause contracts to be dissolved at worst.
3. Encourage your client to gauge their budget not only by the asking price but by the PITI (principal, interest, property taxes, and insurance)
Save everyone's time by planning around what the loan officer is going to look at when gauging whether the client can afford a property. Be mindful of what the total monthly payment will be, including any HOA fees, and keep clients mindful as well, so that they're only looking at properties they can truly afford -- not just the entire loan but the monthly commitment.
4. Know local and state regulations well enough to explain them to your client
Sometimes, clients have big dreams for the future that may not fit with a certain property. A common one is that they want to renovate or eventually rent out a property where HOA bylaws and/or local regulations are severely restrictive. The more you can steer them away from unfeasible situations, the fewer false starts you'll have.
5. If you say you're a specialist, be one
Your clients appreciate specialists! Whether we're looking in a certain neighborhood, want a certain type of property, or have a specific usage in mind, we want an insider guiding us. BUT, if clients are focused enough on something to seek out a specialist, and you say you are one when you aren't, they'll see through you in the first conversation.
6. Decide whether you want to step on other agents' toes or not
Real estate is not a career for the meek. We get it. You need to be resourceful and a little aggressive. But I've witnessed professionals saying "I don't want to step on the current agent's toes" while actively trying to poach from the current agent. It's super-awkward for a client to feel like they have to protect an ethical line in the sand. Maybe if you take a few steps back, they'll come back to you when they're ready to try someone new.
The other strategy is to just own your pushiness and say, “I know this is stepping on toes, but hey, all’s fair in love and real estate -- I think I could do better for you.” At least you’re keeping it real.
7. If you're the listing agent, be a good one for your client -- don't hold back in an attempt to double-dip on commission
Too many times, I've seen a listing agent withhold access to a property because they're trying to also represent the buyer and are waiting for someone without an agent to come along. As a potential buyer, this is very annoying. As an agent, it's grounds for immediate firing and blackballing amongst one's friends.
8. If you "know a guy," make sure the guy is qualified
Being successful in real estate is all about your network, the popular wisdom says. This may be why real estate agents seem to feel like they're required to "know a guy" for everything. But if the guy you know turns out to be bad at his job, it could trigger a mini-catastrophe in your client's life -- and the bad feelings they have will leak over to you.
9. Make clients feel special
The other day a real estate agent sent me links to a few properties she was showing that Saturday. Assuming she was the listing agent, I said "Great, I'll have my agent get in touch to set appointments." Turned out she wasn't the listing agent. She was trying to get several current and prospective buyers together to tour the same houses together, and, presumably, then make offers against each other.
This was actually the 180-degree opposite of what I want from a real estate agent. Clients want to be worthy of individual time and customized service. They don't want to be staring down their competition over the kitchen island.
A good real estate agent is a valuable ally
This is a major decision for any buyer, regardless of whether it's their first house or their fifth. Make them feel like it's major to you, as well, and clients will not forget.