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The Ten Commandments of Buyer Side Representation

Merry Christmas.  Happy Hanukkah.  Happy Kwanzaa… Festivus… all that stuff.  Lovely… now let’s get down to business.  I’m buying a house.  Along the journey, I’ve paid close attention to how the average Real Estate Agent operates.  I’m sharing these thoughts with my fellow Bloodhounds at the risk of offending some – or perhaps all – of you.  But it all comes from the right place and I hope you enjoy…

Commandment #10:  Have a freaking take.

Are you the type of Real Estate Agent who likes to open doors for clients and then stand silently with a pleased expression as they walk through the home?  If so, I suggest you consider a new profession.  Look, I want to know what YOU think about a home too… that’s one of the reasons I hired you.  I might agree with you, I might not.  But when you have a take, you engage in critical dialogue with your clients.  In my case, I’d trust you more if you tell me what you don’t like about something.  It would make me feel like you’re looking out for me.

Commandment #9:  Don’t tell me you’re a Top Producer.

Because if you are, I probably know that already and all it sounds like is bragging (which most of the time… it is).  Just let your work do the talking for you.  Oh, and here’s just a bit of a peeve… if you’re in the “Million Dollar Club” is that really something worth crowing about anymore?  What is that… 3, 4, maybe 5 houses a year? 

Commandment #8:  Avoid this question:  “So what do you want to do?”

This commandment is closely associated with #10 above.  One agent I was working with loved to interrupt me with that magical question and eventually I told her what I wanted to do:  fire her.  Instead of asking what your client wants to do (which, by the way, they could easily figure out without your counsel)… you ought to continue tossing ideas/suggestions at them.  And if you REALLY want to impress your clients, give them the upside and downside with every suggestion you make.  Then listen.  Simple.

Commandment #7:  Get over the B.S. cliche’ “The Buyer’s Agent service is free because I’m paid by the Seller.”

I almost didn’t write this one because I know it’s going to set some people off.  But Commandment #10 forced me to come clean.  Every seller has their number… their bottom line number.  And whether you like it or not, we live in a new world where access to information is faster and easier – especially for Real Estate Shoppers.  Ten years ago home shoppers would mosey off to buy the Sunday newspaper and leaf through the Homes and Garden section.  Today, we subscribe to RSS feeds, watch Virtual Tours, and hook our iPhones up to listing data via GPS.  No, information isn’t always “instant” (which is how one agent tried overcoming this objection) but it’s instant enough for most consumers.  So, instead of clinging to the B.S. notion that Buyer Side Agents are the “keepers of the data” and provide a “free” service to their clients, I think it’s going to be absolutely CRITICAL in 2011 and beyond to articulate a true value proposition.

Commandment #6:   Pour your online foundation – now.

When I found a home I wanted to make an offer on, quite honestly I didn’t trust that my agent was going to look out for me during the due diligence period.  So I decided to find my own inspector.  Problem was, I didn’t know anyone and needed to start from scratch.  The good news:  my search and subsequent decision was made in about 15 minutes of web work.  This is because Domicile Consulting has committed to the web – and they’ve built an impressive body of work online.  For me, all I had to do is read the Yelp reviews and my mind was made up after a 5-minute conversation with Ross Neag.  Do you have a Yelp profile yet?  I put one together in about an hour and need to build upon it.  If you want to see an extremely impressive online resume, check out our good friend and fellow Bloodhound Mark Madsen and prepare to be blown away.

Commandment #5:  Take risks in 2011 – the kind that make your stomach just a little bit queasy.

I”m a firm believer that you cannot win unless you’re willing to lose.  And this commandment is the only one of my ten that comes from Mark Green the CRM guy instead of Mark Green the home shopper.  In this commandment I’m going to reveal why there isn’t a killer CRM product for the Real Estate industry.  It’s not an issue of building it… that’s relatively easy.  The reason the Real Estate industry doesn’t have a killer CRM product is because CRM vendors won’t commit to servicing a product that its’ clients won’t commit to using.  And here’s the straight dope:  if you ain’t using it, you ain’t gonna pay for it… regardless of how many bells and whistles the CRM has.  This is a debate I’m certainly interested in if anyone has an opposing viewpoint though.  The bottom line:  invest generously back into your business.  Why?  Because your competition won’t.

Commandment #4:  Don’t miss the softballs.

I can’t believe I even need to say this – but you Bloodhounds wouldn’t believe how few Listing Agents didn’t engage me AT ALL when I called about visiting one of their listings.  Seriously.  I’d call the Listing Agent about a property I’d found online. 

  1. Some agents never called me back – ever.  Okay, so maybe this means they had an offer on the home that looked 99.9% iron clad and they didn’t see the need in showing it again.  But hello, McFly, wouldn’t you want to find out my story?  If I had a Buyer’s Agent at that time, I wouldn’t be calling you myself.  Doesn’t this seem to be a pretty promising selling opportunity?
  2. Some agents did a fine job with everything on the showing side – but the sales follow through lacked.  For example, I’m assuming that the MLS here – which I’m guessing every agent in the area subscribes to – has a function where the agent enters a prospect’s email address and home search parameters and then an automated email goes out every day or two.  It wasn’t long before I was getting the same data… in the same format… at the same time… from multiple local agents.  So, the question becomes – how do you break through this clutter and stand out?

Commandment #3:  Conduct a SWOT Analysis & Consider Alternate Comp Models.

Per Commandment #7, technology is changing the way Real Estate is marketed and sold.  Redfin is a great example.  I predict severe downside pressure on the traditional compensation model in 2011 – who doesn’t?  I guess my question becomes:  which side are you on?  Are you clinging to the status quo and hoping for some sort of Hail Mary where everything remains the same?  Or are you willing to analyze how technology and trends might potentially impact your business model in the year ahead? 

I’m not saying that you’ll arrive at a different conclusion than 2010.  But what I am saying is that every business should formulate its’ annual plan.  I like renting a cabin and spending 48 hours focused on business planning.  Here are the steps we go through each winter:

  1. Review the past year vs. the previous year’s business plan.  Successes?  Failures?
  2. Conduct SWOT Analysis
  3. Conduct pie-in-the-sky brainstorming session (idea generation only – do not discuss merits of ideas yet)
  4. Grade all ideas in terms of cost, benefit, time to implement and risk
  5. Rank all ideas (implement first, second, third, etc.)
  6. Assign implementation/ownership of each idea

Commandment #2:  Increase your fiscal literacy.

I have a good friend in the mortgage business named Brian Larrabee.  He’s one of the most honest, hard-working and loyal colleagues I’ve ever had the honor to stand beside.  And I know he won’t mind me sharing one of his secrets to success:  Brian knows how to use historical data, math, logic, and a bit of financial acumen in overcoming common sales objections.  I think it would behoove Real Estate Agents to share this level of competency in this area – not just with a cursory understanding but rather a deep one.

  1. Rates are rising (yet they’re still extremely attractive and will look downright incredible a year from now)
  2. Home affordability (relative to inflation, real estate prices, and % of household income) has never been better
  3. Real estate should serve as the backbone of most Americans’ financial plans

If you’re looking to move some of your buyers off the fence, show them how the recent increase in rates has impacted how much home they could comfortably afford compared with 30 days ago.  Read and internalize what Brian Brady is saying here on this blog.  The beauty:  you’re truly consulting with your clients – and you’re motivating them to buy at the same time. 

Commandment #1:  Answer your freaking phone dude(ette)!!!

I have no idea why, but the average Real Estate Agent lets 94.3% of their incoming phone calls go to voicemail.  Now, of course that’s a made-up number – but to me, that’s about what it felt like.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the mortgage industry over the past eight years, it’s that top mortgage professionals answer their phone as close to 100% of the time as humanly possible.  Why?  Here are a few reasons:

  1. Because a commission check is often at the other end of the line.  Who wouldn’t want to answer that call?
  2. Because a client isn’t usually calling to talk about the weather.  They want or need something.  Now.
  3. Why the heck not?  In other words, what are you doing that’s more important at that given moment in time than servicing your client?

Well there you have ‘em – my 10 Commandments for the year ahead.  I sincerely do wish each of you the best this coming year.  I appreciate everything I’ve learned here at Bloodhound Blog – and all the friends I’ve made along the way.  2011 is going to rock.

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