Before you set up the first home showing, you should have thoroughly interviewed your buyers to determine what they want and their capabilities to purchase it. Don't look on this as only a way to qualify them as to their financial ability or motivation. Look on this interview as an opportunity to help them to see possibilities they may have overlooked. You are the expert and consultant. Take on that role, and you'll gain the trust and respect of your buyer clients.
Go Beyond Their Stated Needs and Look for Alternative Solutions
As an expert consultant, you should be ready to advise your buyer clients in their best interests. Listen to what they say they want and make suggestions as to alternatives that would suit their needs also. This is not a selling ploy. If certain areas are mentioned, it's possible that they're unaware of other areas with similar characteristics. Open up the possibilities and you've increased your value to the client.
Perhaps their interests are in areas close to where they work. It's possible that an area just a little further out has better traffic arteries and is actually a faster commute. At least let them know, as they may want to expand their search a bit.
In your interview, they may tell you that a primary criteria is a large lot. They have children, and want them to have room to play outdoors. You happen to know that there is a home or two in an area they didn't mention that have lots larger than the norm in that subdivision. You will do them a service to mention this. In short, before you start the travel, do the research.
Do You Have a Signed Buyer Representation Agreement?
Due to the internet, this requirement is more important now than before. If you have a significant number of off-MLS or FSBO homes in your area, can you feel good that you've served your buyers well if they aren't shown those that fit their requirements? In your first discussions with the buyer prospect, you need to explain the situation and ask them how they want to handle it. Many agents are uncomfortable asking for a signature, but it's really in your buyers' best interest to do so in many cases. If you tell them that you're aware of homes off the MLS that might match their criteria, but that you'll need to make sure that you get paid if you scour and find them, they should be willing to sign the agreement if they want to see the homes.
You're not doing this for you…you're doing it to make sure you've served your clients well
Early On, Roll the Mouse, Not the Wheels.
Believe it or not, few buyers want to travel around and see dozens of homes that only partially meet their needs. In days of rising home inventories, it's even more important to get the list of candidates down to the ones most likely to satisfy all their requirements.
Of course, most agents do a thorough job of searching the Multiple Listings database using the bedrooms, baths, lot size, areas and other criteria. If you've got a buyer representation agreement, you should also be searching all the FSBO sites for possibilities.
What many don't do though is to try to find a virtual tour that isn't necessarily in the MLS. Many MLS databases do have a virtual tour link, but others do not. Also, some agents might do a virtual tour for their web site, but not link it to the MLS. If the MLS doesn't do a great job with the photos for a listing, you might be able to find a virtual tour or better photos on the listing broker's or agent's web site. Early on, your clients should spend a great deal of time in your office or receiving links from you at home that will help them to rule out properties. Every home that they rule out this way is one less that you'll have to spend time and gas money to show.
If you're concerned about sending them to other agents' web sites, perhaps you need to think about getting a signed buyer representation agreement. Above all, check the recent mls activity or hot sheet for any new listings or other information that might be relevant to the showings. You look good if a price drop happened overnight and you can share that with your clients while showing the home. You look bad if you didn't get the word and this perfect home they're standing in went under contract yesterday.
Get Outside of the List Price Box a Little
If a buyer tells you that they only want to purchase a property up to $250,000, you still shouldn't just search the MLS up to that number. In most markets there is negotiation room in list prices. For that reason alone, widen your search by the normal percentage of negotiation room in your market. If sold prices are running 3% below list, divide $250,000 by 0.97 to get the list price of $257,700 that might result in a sale of $250,000.
Conversely, if they gave you a range of $200k to $250k, search from $180,000 or so and higher. What if there is a true bargain out there? You don't want to have to answer their query about this later. At least give them the opportunity to nix the property based on low price or other reasons.
Group and Schedule Showings for Maximum Efficiency
Now that you've scoured the market and found a nice list of properties that seem to meet the needs and requirements of your buyer clients, make sure that you meet your needs also. You're in business, and all aspects of your business need to be efficient. Your time is your biggest asset, so schedule and group showings for the most efficient use of your time. Time of day traffic patterns should enter into the plan.
The efficient grouping of showings is also an issue of vehicle expense. In today's ever-rising gasoline prices, be sure to map out your showings to require the least distance. That should be modified by traffic and time considerations, as your time is still more valuable.
Let Your Buyers Know that it's OK to Say NO on Drive-up
It should be a standard statement before the first showing that you're quite OK with your buyers not wanting to see a home. If their first impression on driving up is negative and they want to move on, let them know that it's OK with you.
If you're concerned about the feelings of sellers that are at home, just knock and let them know that a situation has come up and your clients can't see the home right now. Thank them and move on.
Ask the Buyers What to do Next
We'll assume that you wrote down questions you couldn't answer for your buyers as they went through the homes. However, at the end of the showing day, you need to ask them if there were properties of interest that they think deserve a more in-depth look, or a second look.
Don't expect your buyers to know that there's more you can do for them on the research side. Tell them and ask which homes they would like to know more about. At least you'll start to get a feel for what their interests are based on actual homes visited.
This "What to do next" question is also meant to keep your buyers working with you, particularly if you don't have a signed buyer representation agreement. Get a commitment for another meeting or more property research.
Review of the Daily MLS Hot Sheet or Activity Report:
Working with a number of buyers, all with different property requirements, is normal for a real estate buyer agent. It is critically important that you know the current status of the market and what properties are coming on, going off and changing prices.
Answer Web Leads and Property Inquiry Emails:
If you're not giving your internet inquiries top priority, you're losing future business. There are very successful agents and brokers that do almost all of their business from the web. Knowing how to quickly and efficiently handle your email correspondence is a must!
Interviewing and Qualifying Buyer Prospects:
Your hours of work, commission income and frustration level are all highly dependent on this activity. If you know what you want from your real estate buyer representation business, you should know how to qualify buyers for motivation and urgency.
Not Offering One is Shooting Yourself in the Foot With Buyers
I'll admit that I never used the buyer agreement much at all in the past. When I looked at it, I got into my buyer's shoes and perceived it to be a way to lock them to me, without much benefit to them. Since my buyers mostly came from out of the area via my website, they were pretty loyal by the time we actually met, and there really wasn't a reason to risk alienating them with the agreement. It just didn't feel right to try and lock them in without some tangible benefit to them in exchange. Saying that it would assure them of my "best efforts" on their behalf would be a lie, as they would get that without signing anything.
The situation has changed dramatically now. Even if discounting isn't yet big in your area, there are more FSBOs than ever before. The Internet and FSBO websites are encouraging more sellers to try to do it themselves. With more of them out there, there is a definite problem for buyers who want to make sure that they've made a purchase decision with all of the information available. That isn't happening when we're not showing FSBO or discount listing homes.
The buyer sees it all – There is immense value to a buyer to sign a representation agreement that guarantees their agent/broker a minimum level of compensation. They will be exposed to every listing that meets their requirements, which will not happen otherwise. They won't miss a fantastic home because the seller only put it up on one obscure FSBO .com site, or because the discounter that listed them does minimal marketing.
Ethics & professionalism – The agent shouldn't be afraid of losing a client by offering the agreement. On the contrary, if presented properly, it should help to gain more buyer clients who see true value in your services. Who better to have all the resources to locate even the most obscure of listings, even if the seller has done a lousy job of exposure? One might be so bold as to say that not offering a buyer representation agreement indicates a lower level of professionalism at the least, and a possible ethical lapse at the worst.
Get listings, yes! – Most FSBO homes end up full-service listed when they fail at the do-it-yourself approach, as well as many who give up on the discounter when they don't sell. They've been bombarded with marketing stuff from those wanting to list their home. Part of that marketing stuff states that agents aren't showing their home for various reasons. But you've actually brought potential buyers into their home. Who do you think they'll consider in a friendly way when they decide to list? Say nice things about their home at the showing and leave your card.