Showing a house for sale to someone interested in buying one seems like a fairly easy endeavor from the outside. Of course as a real estate agent you know that’s not the case, as there are all kinds of strategies and ways to go about it that are only mastered via being schooled in the fundamentals and then through experience.
Certainly there are common procedures everyone employs, but agents will usually develop a selling style that works for them, meaning one that starts with an agreement to represent and ends with a commission check.
Like most professions, there’s always something new to add to your selling toolkit regardless of years on the job, especially since working with people interested in buying something is an art form all its own. And like art, most everything is subjective. There are some but not a great many absolute rights and wrongs.
Take the simple step of what to do with clients in the house for the first time. Two ultra-successful pros have differing approaches.
“When I take a client to a home, I always make sure to bring them through the front door,” says Dawn McKenna, of the Dawn McKenna Group with Coldwell Banker Realty, Chicago & Naples, Florida. “I never let them go through the garage or any other door but the front. There is something special about the front door experience that I like to make sure they have right away.
“When it’s a client’s first time at the house, I always give them a tour and point out my favorite things about the home. Then I let them go through it by themselves while I go downstairs or to another room so that they can flow through the home by themselves. A lot of times things are more apparent the second time around.”
Approaching it another way, it would be a stretch to say that Jeffrey Decatur, a Latham, New York-based broker associate with RE/MAX Capital, shows houses. He preps clients with detailed information about properties and the markets, then is there with them on site, but does not literally show the houses after also entering through the front door. All his ways have produced in the 28 years he’s been at it are completed sales non-stop.
“When I got my license I went through every sales class and learned all the seller catchphrases, but it wasn’t until I was in the business for 10 years that I realized I don’t need to be in the house with people and go, ‘ooh… look at the wallpaper, or ooh… we’re in the dining room,’’ he says. “Even though that’s what we were taught. Now I open the front door and tell them that where they need me is not what TV shows you. And it’s not the REALTORⓡ commercials, where I’m gonna sell you a house, make a bucket full of money and hand you the keys.
“Where buyers need me is behind the scenes negotiating, and how to get them through the transaction. Knowing the market, knowing the inventory. They don’t need me to get the feel for the house. I tell them to open the cupboards, look in closets and I’m here if you have questions.”
Decatur admits that some people need hand-holding when looking at houses, and he’s happy to oblige them, but that more often than not he gets no pushback when he pulls back. It’s not dissimilar to browsing in a store, where the last thing most people want is a hovering salesperson.
“It takes a long time to get to that point in your career where you realize you don’t need to be the salesperson,” he states. “Houses sell themselves, honestly.
“Usually, having done this long enough, I know before the buyers whether it’s the house for them or not. Their body language usually tells me. If they’re uncomfortable and uptight they look like Inspector Gadget when walking through, checking every little thing,
“But when they walk in and it’s the right house their shoulders go down, they get more relaxed and start moving more freely. We’ll get outside and I’ll be like, ‘that’s the house, check your phone. I texted you when you were in the dining room and said this is your house.’ And they’re like, ‘how did you know that!’”
So different strokes for different sales folks selling residential real estate, but some tips are useful for all, especially newer agents. Among them are:
- Keep clients moving. There may be only so much time for the visit, so no lingering around a pretty pool or having lengthy conversations just standing in one room.
- Know the area well. “Agents should always know the community very well,” asserts McKenna. “The best thing is to sell the lifestyle of the community in which the home is in. Before taking a client to a home, I take them on a 15-20 minute tour and show them the local schools, parks, restaurants, and more. You should also gather collateral about the community and package it up for the client to keep.”
- Play show and tell. Have a few things to tell prospective buyers that they wouldn’t see or know from the walk-through. Like how a sitting room would make a great home office, or perhaps something you learned from the current owner.
- Showcase their musts. If a client has expressed that they desire a very large master bedroom with walk-in closets, and the property has it, show it to them right away.
- Turn on lights and open doors. “I like to get to the home before the client and turn on all the lights, even the overhead light above the stove, open all the doors and put all the blinds and curtains up to make sure light is coming in the right way,” explains McKenna. “I feel that the light and open doors make the home feel more welcoming. I also like to play James Taylor music because I think it makes the clients feel at ease and makes the home approachable.”
- Have clients take notes. They’ll likely see many houses and can easily forget what was where. Provide a pen and notebook.
“Save the two best homes to show last,” advises McKenna for those times when there will be multiple listings visited. Like a movie climax, that’s what they’ll remember best at the end of the day.