In the five years or so since Opendoor's launch, iBuying has gained all kinds of momentum. Competing platforms like Offerpad and Knock sprung up, often backed by significant venture capital. Redfin and Zillow launched their own iBuyer-like products. Legacy brokerages like Realogy and Keller Williams are getting into the act, too.
Meanwhile, on the ground, agents are asking questions about the latest potential disruption to their way of doing business. Are iBuyers friend or foe? Are they here to stay or just another short-term novelty? Should agents ignore iBuyers or accept and even adopt them as a new business tool?
Kelli Griggs, one of the top agents in the Sacramento area, is taking the latter approach.
It’s a beautiful Friday night in Rancho Cordova, California, and Griggs is getting ready for a listing presentation. She’s armed with her professional analysis of the home’s value, a compelling pitch explaining why the homeowners should hire her, and something new: an iBuyer’s offer to buy the home before it reaches the market.
The homeowners didn’t ask Griggs to bring an iBuyer offer. And they’re not in a rush to sell. It may seem counterintuitive for a successful real estate agent like Griggs to risk losing the listing by inviting these homeowners—who aren’t even her clients yet—to sell their home instantly. But Griggs is going to present it anyway. She sees it as good customer service.
“When I go out there,” Griggs says a couple of hours before the appointment, “I'm going to say, ‘Here are all the things that I can do for you. These are all of your options. There isn't anything that's not in my wheelhouse. I am a one-stop-shop for all of your real estate needs.’”
In the past, iBuyers weren’t a mainstream option for homeowners. Today, that ship is sailing. In some markets, iBuyers are blanketing the internet, airwaves, and roadside billboards with ads. Homeowners are weighing the pros and cons of getting a potentially lower price for their home in exchange for speed, simplicity, and convenience.
A recent survey by the Houston Association of REALTORS® found that 80 percent of homeowners are interested in seeing what an iBuyer would offer for their home. Many sellers have an iBuyer’s offer in hand before they ever meet with an agent. This is a new reality.
“When I go into a listing appointment, the seller has already Googled ‘What's my house worth?,’ says Phoenix-area real estate agent Chris Benson. “They've already crunched the numbers. Today's sellers are more educated than they've ever been.”
If you work in a market where iBuyers are active, HomeLight recommends this approach:
Walking into a listing appointment with a cash offer in hand keeps you in the “trusted advisor” role and ensures that you control the instant sale if that’s the route the homeowner chooses. Even if the seller doesn’t like the offer, you’ve established the floor in terms of home value and started that important conversation about pricing the home.
Griggs says agents need to evolve along with the industry and always focus on doing what’s right for the client.
“If you always put your customer's needs first, your business will flourish,” Griggs says. “That might mean taking a hit on an iBuy side so that you can move forward with a purchase and keep that client in your database and continue to market to them in your sphere. They're going to continue to refer other friends and family members to you if you’re always doing what's best for them, not what's best for you.”
Griggs has brought an iBuyer’s cash offer to every listing appointment since September. And that Friday night listing appointment in Rancho Cordova? The sellers were surprised and excited to see the cash offer upfront but decided to go for a higher selling price on the open market. Griggs beat three other agents and got the listing.
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