Is it the end for buyer broker agreements in real estate?
Every real estate coach I know has always insisted that the absolute best way to meet with a new or prospective buyer was to meet at our office and have an initial consultation. This initial consultation gave us a chance to show off our fancy office and give a presentation detailing the myriad ways we would help this new buyer find the home of their dreams. More importantly, it showed why signing an exclusive buyer broker agreement with us was in their best interest.
My team subscribed to this method and we excelled at it by signing up more than 95% of the people we met with to work with us as their exclusive buyer’s agent. And then along came COVID-19. How could I justify insisting that a new buyer come over to our busy office for an initial buyer’s meeting during a worldwide pandemic? And if I couldn’t meet with them and demonstrate our value how could I convince them to sign an agreement to work with us exclusively?
Our team has three basic categories of buyers we work with and here is how we pivoted to serve each of them uniquely while addressing our fears we had as we abandoned our old methods. These pivots have both improved the customer experience and increased our bottom line.
Out of State Buyers
The Gluch Group has a great online reputation and as a result we get a number of calls each month from people who are moving to Arizona from other states and need a great agent. Here’s how we handle these buyers.
- Initial Call – Prior to COVID-19, we would use the first call or email to set up a 30-minute online buyer meeting. This worked ok but now we just build a little rapport by asking them about the reasons behind their move and then set up a custom home search for them. We also answer any questions they have about Arizona, the market etc. This call takes about 5-10 minutes and we do it over the phone rather than through Zoom. We have learned that all of the extra information we were giving people on these calls pre-COVID-19 was wasted on them. We were just boring them with all kinds of details about us and about the process in general when all they really wanted was a list of available homes, a reference for a good lender, and the answers to a few questions.
- Follow Up – From the initial call until the client comes to town, we are working to refine their search and demonstrate value. We ask questions about what they like and don’t like and make recommendations accordingly. We utilize Loom quite a bit to give video feedback on different parts of town and our opinions on homes. The goal here is to have a great game plan in place for looking at homes the buyers will really like when they come to town. This is the ‘get to know you’ phase.
- House Hunting Trip – During the initial call (or whenever we get their travel dates) we pencil in two or three half days for showing homes when they arrive in town. While house hunting, we use the time at the various homes to educate them further on the market and the process of buying a home. We have found that people are much more ready for this kind of information while actually shopping for homes than they were when we were giving it to them during an initial meeting.
Property Inquiry Leads
Years ago, we tried to get people who called from our signs or leads we got from Zillow to come into the office and that almost never worked. So, for these leads we already had a different plan which was to just show them the house they called about and make that showing our “meeting”. We have not changed much in this area and here is how we handle those:
- Show Them the House – We show the home they called about almost every time, even when pending. The market is so hot and it’s easy to explain why a buyer should still view a pending home with no backup offers because there is always a chance the current deal will fall apart. In the rare instance that we truly can’t show the home, or the buyer doesn’t want to see it we move on to step 2 but we do it over the phone.
- Explain the Value of Working With Us – In a hot market the biggest value we add is getting people into new listings before they go pending and writing strong offers good enough to beat out other buyers. Most buyers have either been beaten on an offer or heard stories of friends who have so they really get this reasoning and we focus on it while we show the home. Often times the home is pending which helps us with this reasoning even more. Don’t overwhelm people, keep it simple and focused on these two points. We have a “secret seller map” which shows all of the coming soon listings and listing leads our team has. This shows value as well and demonstrates that we know about listings before they hit the market.
- Show Them Other Similar Homes – Line up two other similar listings and offer to show those as well. This gives you more time to build rapport and allows you to demonstrate value.
We are still doing in person listing appointments for the most part. If the buyer is also selling, we will actually do a brief in person buyer meeting as well. However, if the buyer is not selling, we now give people the option of meeting in person or just setting up a search on the phone in exactly the same way we do for out of town buyers.
Since we are no longer doing buyer meetings, we have just moved away entirely from having buyers sign buyer broker agreements. We have learned that if we follow the methods I outlined above we demonstrate so much value that people remain loyal to us. Occasionally we get a bad apple, but we identify them quickly and move on. The time we save from not dragging people through boring meetings more than makes up for the rare unfaithful client.
One big takeaway we are getting from COVID-19 is that some of our standard processes needed to change. Rather than trying to get back to the way things were, we have found it best to go back to the drawing board and ask: “what’s the best option for the client”?
John Gluch is a real estate agent with Gluch Group in Scottsdale, Arizona. He began his career in 2003 and now ranks in the top 100 of more than 40,000 agents in Arizona. He is proud to be the catalyst for change within the real estate industry and within the lives of hundreds of clients throughout the years.