A good real estate agent can be your best friend. But if you are just kicking the tires at open houses and aren’t quite ready to buy, you probably want to look around without being bothered.
Some agents will probably leave you alone. But in competitive markets, where clients are hard to come by, any agent worth his or her salt won’t turn you loose without first trying to establish some rapport.
At least that’s what they should be doing, said Debbie De Grote, a real estate trainer who has written numerous sales training scripts and closed more than 3,000 deals over her 16 years in the business.
Unless you really just like looking at houses – to get decorating ideas, perhaps, or to see how other folks live – there’s a reason you’re spending your weekends traipsing hither and yon.
Maybe you haven’t decided where you want to move, so you think there’s no need for an agent just yet. Perhaps you haven’t decided how much you want to spend. Or possibly you plan to hire your high school buddy or Aunt Matilda to be your agent once you take the plunge.
What Good Agents Will Do
During a recent webinar, De Grote, the CEO of Forward Coaching in Costa Mesa, California, told agents how to overcome those and other common objections so they can sign up new clients.
Good stuff for realty pros, for sure. But also good information for consumers who really would prefer to be on their own. After all, if you know what’s coming at you, you will be able to prepare for it.
A potential client’s objection “could be legitimate,” De Grote said. But it also could be “a question in the prospect’s mind” or an attempt to “rattle” an agent or salesperson. The agent’s job is to figure out which.
There are a dozen or so common protests from both buyers and sellers, the coach reported. But the most customary is, “I’m just looking.” Or said another way, “We’re not serious right now.”
“A cut-rate agent is not likely to obtain the highest offer. If it worked, everybody would use a cut-rate agent. You get what you pay for. If the agent was a strong, powerful, experienced professional, why would he work for 1 percent?”
— Debbie De Grote, CEO, Forward Coaching
A good agent will look you right in the eye and say something like, “I’d glad you’re here. It’s commendable that you are taking the time to do your research. I encourage all my buyers to do that.”
The object, De Grote said, is to put you at ease. To lower your guard.
Next, the question: “How long have you been looking?” And then the hook: “Maybe I can help you with your research, or you can use our research. Tell me where you want to live, and your price points. I might even be able to tell you about houses that are not on the market yet.”
Another common dissent is, “I already have an agent.” But De Grote said that shouldn’t matter, at least not right away.
“Maybe they do, maybe they don’t,” she advised. “So pretend they never said that and start selling yourself: ‘I’d love to help.’”
As the conversation commences, the coach said agents should ask several key questions, all designed to feel you out.
“Do you have a contract that obligates you?” Often, she said, people don’t. But even if they do, a good agent will continue digging: “Who is it? Maybe I know him.” “Where does she work?” “Is he full- or part-time?”
If your agent is two hours away and only works weekends or nights, that gives the agent in front of you an opening. “Go after them on that end,” De Grote advised.
Questions About Commissions
A third typical protest involves commissions. Most sellers hate to pay the full boat, which generally runs from 5 percent to 7 percent of the selling price. So, they sometimes bring up the possibility of listing with a discount brokerage, one that charges, say, just 1 percent.
Again, a good agent will sympathize with you to build that all-important rapport. “I feel the same way,” she might say, and then ask, “Is it the total amount of the fee, or are you trying to squeeze every last dollar out of the deal?”
Whatever you might answer, a good agent will respond with understanding.
“That makes total sense,” the sales trainer suggested as a comeback, “but let me break it down for you. Which path is better, a cut-rate agent or a full-service real estate professional?”
Notice that “discount” is now “cut-rate.” De Grote suggested that agents stress that theme – nicely, of course – but stress it nonetheless.
“A cut-rate agent is not likely to obtain the highest offer,” is her favored comeback. “If it worked, everybody would use a cut-rate agent. You get what you pay for. If the agent was a strong, powerful, experienced professional, why would he work for 1 percent?”
And then, the kicker: “You won’t be giving me any money upfront. I only get paid when the deal closes. I’m taking all the risk, providing all the services, so you might as well have the best.”
The message here for buyers and sellers: Hold your ground. Don’t be pushed into something you may regret, or into working with someone you’re not comfortable with. Take your time. The agent in front of you is just as likely to be available next month or next year.
Lew Sichelman has been covering real estate for more than 50 years. He is a regular contributor to numerous shelter magazines and housing and housing-finance industry publications. Readers can contact him at email@example.com.