Clients Don't Care How Much You Know Till They Know How Much You Care

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty Services

      I followed up with an agent the other day who had showed one of my listings and she made the comment to me that she usually doesn't let people in her car unless they have a prequalification letter. I admired that, and I got to thinking about my own experiences, and one recent circumstance in particular.

      As all agents know, time is our most precious commodity and where we spend it should be more about investing it than "spending" it. A couple contacted me about a home for sale. It was not for them, so we agreed that I would send them some e-mails with homes that met their criteria. At this point I could have asked them if they had spoken to a lender. I did not (often I will at this point). They sifted through the homes I sent, found some they wanted to see and we met on a Saturday to look at homes.

      My rule is this: I will take you out one time to look at homes without having talked to a lender. Usually, if I can get someone in my car they begin to feel comfortable with me and I can broach the subject of financing. Discussing it face to face is much better than over the phone because it is such a personal subject. I always try to recommend someone I have a working realtionship with. If they want to preview homes a second time they need to have talked to a lender.

      The couple in question applied to an online lender after our first visit and got "pre-approved." I was wary to say the least because they the details they were giving me did not make sense. I had given them the name and number of my friend at Regions Mortgage, but the couple did not take any action on that. They were making an effort, but we had not reached a high level of trust.  We went out a second Saturday for some second looks and narrowed the field. After a 3rd Saturday of looking at the 2 finalists, they made a decision. A few days later we sat down to write an offer.

     Before we sat down to write the offer, I had tried to get a pre-qualification letter from their lender, but was unsuccessful. I figured that we would probably not write an offer that evening. However, I had a very good opportunity to take control of the situation. We had driven around town together on 3 separate occasions and the level of trust was high. We talked about the lender and down payment and there financial situation, and I knew that the online lender was not going to work. They allowed me to recommend someone who handles less than ideal credit, and they got approved!

      This family really wants a home and they are willing to do what is necessary to meet the conditions of the lender. Plus, it will be a good sale for me. If I did not take them out that first weekend to see what was available, to dream build, all of the pushing and prodding in the world could not make them talk to a lender. They just would have found a realtor who was willing to show them houses. Instead, I have a new client that trusts in what I say and is willing to refer me business


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Bill Gassett
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Hopkinton, MA
Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate
Gregg - Although I don't work with that many buyer's being mostly a listing agent, you did exactly as I would have. I also have a policy that I will meet them once and then they have to get pre-approved. If a buyer is not willing to do that then they are probably not that serious. I will only work with a buyer who is going to buy! There will be no free taxi service here.
Aug 10, 2007 12:39 AM #1
Janie Coffey
First Coast Sotheby’s International Realty - Ponte Vedra, FL
Uniting Extraordinary Homes w/ Extraordinary Lives

Congrats Gregg, it is all about providing the service that lets them allow what they can and are able to buy. Good job on the follow thorough and consistency.



Aug 10, 2007 12:47 AM #2
Shannon Lefevre
John R. Wood Properties - Naples, FL
Shannon Lefevre, PA Your Naples Smart Girl

There is a fine line between being responsible for yourself, being responsible for your client and being responsible for both. Anyone who says, "I don't put anybody in my car until they sign something first...." does this so that everytime they "work with a buyer" they see a commission.  They are striving for an "I always win and never waste my time process" but what about the people turned off by the process?  I guess all of them decided not to buy a house?  What about all the houses you would've shown them?  That wouldn't have furthered your market education?  What about those seller's who sift through cards looking for their next listing agent because their current listing is about to expire and they want to work with someone who actually showed their home?  What about the referral biz that would've come from any of the above.  Yes, they always win in their minds.

Aug 10, 2007 12:48 AM #3
Patricia Reid
EWM Realtors, Inc. - Davie, FL

Gregg, when I am called by a customer who was not referred to me by a past customer or someone I know, I will ask them to meet me in my office.  If they refuse then I am not about to waste my time even talking with them. By meeting with them first we can talk about more things than being pre-qualified.  I can find out if they have special needs, such as a fenced yard for a beloved pet, or a one story home vs. a two story, and I can build a sense of trust with them.  Once they feel comfortable knowing that I am looking out for their best interests I then ask them if they have had the opportunity to discuss financing with a lender.  At that point, depending on what their answer is, I will then decide if they are ready to get into my car or not. Experience is the best teacher and you will instinctively know what to do.  It seems that your instincts were right!

Aug 10, 2007 12:52 AM #4
Brad Snyder
Sierra Vista Realty - Sierra Vista, AZ
Great story. I believe you have to take some chances with people. Sometimes you you waste some time and other times you will find a lifetime client. In this business you do not win on every deal.
Aug 10, 2007 12:58 AM #5
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services
I always request that buyer come to my office for an "orientation" meeting.  I tell them the benefits of doing preparation for their home search to make things less stressful.  As part of that meeting, I have them talk to lenders -- I tell them some stories of what can happen if they proceed without knowing for sure how much they can afford, and that they need a lender that will find the right loan for their situation.  I always work with a contract!  This approach is very successful and very few people will not followin my recommendations -- if they don't -- then it is not a good fit for me. 
Aug 10, 2007 01:20 AM #6
Lane Bailey
Century 21 Results Realty - Suwanee, GA
Realtor & Car Guy

There is another version of your title quote as well...

They won't care how much you care unless they know how much you know...

Caring isn't enough.  Knowing counts for something too.  I can see from your post that you have both bases covered.  And both need to be covered.  As real estate professionals, we need to care about our clients AND customers, and we need to know how to do our jobs well.   

Aug 10, 2007 01:37 AM #7
Thomas "Tommy" Morgan
Latter & Blum Hometown Realty ERA Powered Licensed in MS. - McComb, MS
Latter & Blum Hometown Realty ERA Powered
I like the idea of giving clients one "free ride" before requiring a pre-approval lettter.  To me it is hard to say to them upon just meeting them on the phone that we have to have a letter before we will show them anything.  I also like the idea of requiring clients to meet you at your office for the first visit.  This brings to mind a situation we have with a good percentage of callers.  They call the office from the property and want someone to come right then and show it to them.  Do you all get a lot of these types of calls, also?  If so, how do you handle them?  We're on a call rotation in our office and leave it up to the agent on call how to handle it.  Lately we've been trying more and more to set up an appointment with the caller.  Usually when we say they need to make an appointment, they lose interest.  I wonder how many of them end up going to another agent and end up buying something, and how many never intended to buy anything in the first place!
Sep 03, 2007 12:34 PM #8
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Gregg Tepper

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