The summers in Franklin Tennessee are hot so when the air conditioner goes out, it's unbearable. Actually, Tom and I don't have an air conditioner. We have a package unit heat pump. This is a very common way to heat and cool a home in the south. That's right we have one big package unit that provides both heating and cooling.
A couple of months ago, we went to Chicago to visit family. Upon our return, we found the house a whopping 92º. We contacted our heating and cooling specialist right away. We were told there was a leak in the condenser coil; a very expensive repair. We opted to have the unit charged with freon as a temporary fix while we investigated our options for replacing the unit. We decided to replace a second unit that cools our bonus room above our garage as well. We knew it was going to be an expensive proposition to replace the two units and we wanted to do our research.
The Research Begins
Like many home buyers, we began our search online. We started reading everything we could find on package unit heat pumps, ways to find the best installers and negotiating the replacement.
We found some very good information about various manufacturers. We also found tips on interviewing and hiring an HVAC contractor. Based upon our research, we decided to replace both our units with American Standard heat pumps.
We learned certain contractors only install certain manufacturers. We didn't have the ability to go to just any installer and ask them to install an American Standard unit. Therefore, we had to work with an American Standard dealer. We went to the American Standard website and found a list of local dealers. Their website used a 5-star rating system similar to Zillow's. From there, we did an independent search online to see what other buyers were saying about these companies. Based upon these reviews, we chose three local installers.
Initial Contact and Presentation
We contacted the three HVAC installers. Surprisingly, they were all prepared to send a salesman out within a day to give us a quote. High marks for everyone.
Installer #1: The first company sent an older gentleman. He was dressed in khakis and polo shirt with his company logo. He was clean and presentable. High marks so far. He looked at both our units. We asked a few questions and other than that, he didn't have much to say. He said a written estimate would follow the next day.
Installer #2: It was obvious from this young man's appearance that he wasn't a salesman but a technician. He was dressed in a uniform with a company logo. He looked a little confused when we told him we were replacing the units, not repairing them. He looked at both units, went back to his truck to do some calculations and returned to our front door. He handed us a document with the title System Performance Report--something we'd typically see when a repair is made. He had checked a few boxes and on a blank line written the cost for each unit. Not impressed.
Installer #3: This man also looked like a technician, not a salesman. He had jeans and a logo shirt on. However, he reeked of cigarettes. Not a good first impression. While this man wasn't dressed like a salesman, it was obvious that he was definitely trying to sell us. He came equipped with a huge binder with invoices from other contractors in our area and told us how the other companies typically misdiagnosed HVAC problems. He went on to say that their company wasn't the cheapest, but they were definitely the best. While there were things that were a real turn-off about his presentation, he did seem to be very knowledgeable.
Proposal of Written Estimate
At this point, we had one written proposal in hand from installer #2 and two pending.
The next day, we received a written proposal via email from installer #1. This proposal included all the work they would complete, the model numbers for both units and the thermostat model numbers as well. In addition, they gave us a discount for cash and installing both units at the same time. A very complete written estimate of the work. Plus, his price was $3,000 lower than the estimate received the day before by installer #2.
Installer #3 called me later that day. He gave me a verbal estimate over the phone. I asked if a written estimate would follow? No. Once we hired them, he would bring a contract out for us to sign. No idea of the work they would complete or the model numbers of the units. His price was very close to the estimate given to us by Installer #2.
I think it's worth mentioning that we were spending in excess of $10,000. That's a lot of do-re-mi. We were shocked that the presentation wasn't better for two of the three companies. Not only did we choose the company with the best price but they also presented us with the most comprehensive estimate of the work that would be completed.
You're asking, what does all of this have to do with real estate?
Does Your Presentation Need Improvement?
This process was a real eye opener. I was assessing each company from the very first contact; from the time I scheduled the initial appointment to receipt of the proposals. Have you critically looked at your listing presentation lately? How about your buyer's consultation? What impressions are you leaving with buyers and sellers when you meet with them? Do you leave them with something of value? Or do you just call with a number later?
In an industry that is widely criticized by consumers, we need to do our very best to conduct ourselves professionally. From the minute we first speak to a buyer or seller until the time we present them with a written proposal of our work. And yes, we should be leaving them with something of value; something they can actually hold in their hands after we've gone.
I am in the process of revamping my entire buyer's and seller's packages. You won't hear me say things like, "We may not be the cheapest, but we're the best." While installer #3's words proclaimed they were the best, nothing else about his presentation did. He should have worked harder to prove that to us.
As real estate professionals, we have a short window of opportunity to win over buyers and sellers. We should consider every facet of our presentation, from the way we are dressed to the items of value we leave with buyers and sellers. If what we're doing isn't working, then we need to make changes. We must be constantly adjusting our presentations to reflect the growing changes in our industry.
Does your presentation need improvement?