Editor’s Note: The Playbook is an RISMedia weekly segment centering on what brokers and agents are doing to ensure they not only survive but thrive in these challenging times. Industry professionals explain the strategies they’re employing and unique ideas they’ve formulated. Tune in every Thursday for another addition to the series.
The REALTORⓡ profession relies in great part on always exuding confidence and a happy countenance with clients, difficult though some of them may be as the market meanders through these uncertain times. There are buyer hopefuls who may have lost out last year and have get-even attitudes now, as well as current sellers perhaps stewing over missing out on 2022’s bidding-war bonanzas.
So it’s a challenge you’re facing, even if the basic buying and selling processes haven’t changed. You’ll likely need to adjust to it, because If you don’t bring home a sale you don’t bring home a commission check. There are no ‘nice tries’ or second-place silver medals in real estate.
For the first half of last year a lot of agent job stress involved trying to cram multiple homebuyer-wannabes into one long, frenzied weekend of visits to a house for sale, then quickly considering the over-list offers with the owner before choosing the winner. But at least you knew getting paid was a certainty. It may not be a full-on buyer’s market now, with mortgage rates double what they were last year and inventory levels still low in many places, but there’s money to be made for agents who understand how to work with all client personalities.
“People want to buy a home, not be sold a home; there is a difference,” explains Jeffrey Decatur, a broker associate with RE/MAX Capital in Latham, New York.
With almost 30 years of real estate experience, Decatur acknowledges that his role is to listen to potential buyers and sellers, accept personality quirks or attitudes, and provide them with all the information possible to make sound decisions. Things getting testy is normal because emotions can run high with such significant financial transactions.
“There is so much confusing information out there…everyone thinks they’re an expert, and everyone has a different opinion,” he says. “People will quote various sources to support their point of view, positive or otherwise. What they need to understand is their local market, and consult with a trusted expert in that area.”
Longtime real estate executive Philip Gutman, president of PGutman, and managing director at The Continuum Company’s La Baia Bay Harbor, in Bay Harbor Islands, Florida, agrees that what’s most important in an agent-client relationship is relaying facts in a calm manner.
“Truthfully, a lot of agents don’t handle it properly,” he says. “When working with clients who are anxious or unhappy, you need to sit down, listen and try to find out exactly what the problem is. It’s important to come from a position of knowledge and reassurance. Let the client know what they can expect and what’s going on in the market. You need to identify any issue and openly discuss how to get around it. As an agent or broker, you’re responsible for using your market knowledge and expertise to help your client make the best decision possible. Listening to their concerns in a calm yet secure way is key.”
Importance of staying neutral
Louise McLean is a REALTORⓡ with RE/MAX Aerospace Realty, in Rockledge, Florida. She points out that not only must agents get along with buyers and sellers, but also with other agents who either have the listing or represent a buyer if it’s her listing.
“I’ve learned a thing or two about collaborating with other sales associates, as well as negotiating with buyers and sellers,” she notes. “ One major point is that I needed to be neutral. The transaction wasn’t about me, it was about the buyer and seller. You don’t own the buyer or the seller; you communicate with them. You convey information so they can make the decisions.
“You have to take your emotions out of the sale. You’re simply the person in the middle of the transaction who is there to convey and negotiate what is best for the buyer and the seller. It’s an emotional decision for both parties, so you must stay calm. You can’t control the other agent but you can control your reaction to him or her.”
Decatur seconds the notion of keeping neutral, adding that the agent’s role, in addition to providing detailed information, is to reassure buyers and sellers that they’re proceeding properly and will come to the correct conclusion once they’ve decided what they want, what they can afford, what they can accept, etc.
“No matter how someone is feeling about the market, they feel better knowing they have a trusted guide,” he says. “When you demonstrate to your clients that you have their best interest at heart, and have the experience to manage the transaction and their expectations, they will gain the confidence to move forward and make an educated decision.
“I find that newer agents are more apprehensive than those of us who have been through market shifts before. The best advice to them is to keep their nose to the grindstone and hone their craft. Get back to the basics, take continuing ed, and partner up with a mentor. Change is constant in real estate. Sometimes those changes are swift, and sometimes they are slow, but as they say, when the going gets tough, the tough focus and get going.”
Asking others for help is also a strategy Gutman advises.
“If you’re a newer agent, don’t be afraid to reach out to senior brokers around you for suggestions,” he says. “They should be able to offer valuable expertise and help guide you through the process.”
Getting back to communication basics
McLean has found that even as emails and text messages have become the norm, she prefers voice-to-voice as much as possible, especially when going back and forth with another real estate professional..
“When working with the other agent, pick up the phone,” she advises. “Too much information gets misconstrued via text or email. You can’t hear the other person’s intentions via text or email. Be clear in your communication. Then recap the conversation via email so that it’s documented and it details the message that you delivered.
“Years ago, I had a seller who only wanted to text. He texted me an answer to the terms of a deal and wrote ‘sure.’ So I called the buyer’s agent and told him we were all set. I wrote it up and sent it to the seller, but he said he was being sarcastic with his answer, and wasn’t agreeing to the terms. I would have known that if we had spoken to each other on the phone. Being successful in real estate is all about building relationships, and you can’t do that without understanding what motivates the other person.”
Decatur points out that working with a buyer differs greatly from working with a seller, in that a buyer can consider many properties, while a seller only has their property on the market, and if it doesn’t sell reasonably quickly for an acceptable price there can be negative consequences. Defusing such situations is crucial.
“Again, there is a lot of confusing information out there for the average person, and I have to help my sellers understand their local market conditions,” he says. “Sellers seem to be relieved that although some markets are stabilizing, it is not a free fall as in decades past. I remind them that although rates are higher, they are still historically low.
“Sellers who are not getting what they want have to look at the big picture and decide what their important future goals are, whether it’s happiness, money or whatever. No one has a crystal ball, you can only deal with your current circumstances and market. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet. Sellers seem to be a little more realistic than buyers at times because they have gone through the process of buying and understand it a little more.”
McLean concludes that the successful agent will do whatever it takes to help clients achieve their goals, including looking inward and making changes in their approach when necessary.
“Ask a lot of questions and then stop and listen to the answers,” she advises. “Be honest, and earn the respect of the buyer, the seller, or the other agent. Also be open-minded. Maybe your way isn’t the best way. Sometimes you have to adjust your communication style to the personalities in the situation.
“Be humble. Just because something worked for you in the past doesn’t mean that it will in the future. Be open to looking at all angles of the situation. We are in a highly ego-based business. Some people think that they know more than everyone. Don’t be one of those people. Be the REALTORⓡ who gets the job done professionally and in the best interest of the buyer and the seller.”
- Understand that things getting testy is normal because emotions can run high with significant financial transactions.
- Let clients know what they can expect and what’s going on in the market, then identify any issue and openly discuss how to get around it.
- Keep your emotions in check because you’re simply the person in the middle of the transaction who is there to convey and negotiate what is best for the buyer and seller.
- Communicate with other agents on the phone as much as possible. Then recap the conversation via email or text.