Homebuyers and sellers in the digital age have tons of options and resources at their disposal when it comes to finding a home. Empowered by the internet, the proliferation of smartphones and other mobile devices, consumers seeking to buy or sell a home can search listings, MLS data, mortgage rules, and real estate agents all with the press of an icon.
The opportunities for face-to-face encounters with your prospects has decreased as our lives become increasingly more complex. People want and expect more from the devices they use, the services they receive, and their real estate agent.
Getting your prospective buyer’s attention in today’s market is only the first hurdle. Successfully leading your client through the stages of home ownership is the second critical challenge.
Buyers And Sellers Behaviour: Do Agents Still Matter?
Are buyers and sellers still using real estate agents the way they did before the digital age?
Insights revealed in NAR’s 2016 annual report, Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers, provide a clear picture of consumer habits when it comes to buying a home:
- 90% of buyers purchased their home through an agent.
- 42% of buyers discovered their agent by word of mouth
- 95% of consumers research the housing market online for a home to buy
- 44% turn to the internet first before contacting an agent
- 70% of homebuyers interviewed only 1 agent
- 61% of first-time homebuyers were age 35yrs or younger (the highest figures since 2013)
The results point to the fact that, despite the heavy use of the internet, potential homebuyers and sellers prefer using a real estate agent to navigate them through the process of buying or selling a home. Word of mouth, as usual, continues to play a pivotal role in deciding on an agent, and a very small percentage will interview more than one agent.
What Does This Mean For Agents?
Key takeaways from all this? Real estate agents still have an important role to play in the industry. Buyers and sellers alike rely on agents for their expertise to advise them and guide them on the journey to owning a home. They spend more time researching properties than they do real estate agents.
So, if you have a strong referral network, coupled with a solid SEO presence online, generating leads won’t be a problem for you. Keeping your clients, on the other hand, will be your next major challenge. Consumers are taking longer to settle on the property of their choice, averaging 10 weeks compared to an average 7 weeks back in 1987. During that time, any number of things can cause your relationship with your clients to quickly evaporate.
So what are some of the key reasons buyers and sellers switch or drop an agent?
5 Reasons Buyers And Sellers Are Unhappy With Their Agent:
The number one quality consumers seek in an agent is trust. Buyers and sellers want full disclosure at all times about every document. They want to be given the heads up about important changes to housing regulations and mortgage rules. They want to be advised of realistic expectations to selling or buying their home, and dislike last-minute changes. Your pre-listing package should be comprehensive, and provide clients with a thorough plan for selling or buying their dream home.
Responding to emails and texts immediately is a sign to your prospects that you are dedicated to their success. 47% of buyers, and 44% of sellers, ranked responsiveness ahead of professionalism and expertise as desirable traits in an agent.
3. Missed Appointments
Sure, there are always extenuating circumstances for missing an appointment, but clients don’t want to know about them. They want to be advised of any change in schedule so they can avoid wasted commutes, additional childcare costs, and stress. If you miss your appointment, for any reason other than an act of God, you’re chipping away at your client’s confidence in your ability to follow through. Set reasonable expectations for yourself and others when it comes to planning meetings, especially when third-parties are involved.
4. Poor Communication
Miscommunications by email and text are common complaints held by prospective homebuyers and sellers who were unhappy with their agent. Faulty directions, confusing email conversations, and texts are not only annoying but suggest a lack of organizational skill. Invest in a robust CRM to keep track of your communications, schedule appointments, and follow-ups with prospective clients.
5. Lack of Personal Touch
Common courtesy goes a long way. Handwritten notes thanking your clients can leave a favorable impression on clients that will earn you referrals. Instead of texting, shoot your client a quick phone call to reassure them of your personal commitment to helping them reach their goal. Bring cookies or a game for the children, and keep important personal dates in mind (anniversaries, birthdays, etc) if you want to build rapport with your clients.
6. Poor Negotiating Skills
Among sellers and buyers alike, negotiating skills are important when it comes to renewing their listing with an agent. A consumer survey released in 2015 suggests that 16% of consumers wanted an agent who “fought harder” for their interests during negotiations.
Technology-based alternatives for buying or selling or home haven’t quite replaced the need for real estate agents yet. While most agents are investing heavily in lead generation, branding, and social media, the real challenge is retaining the clients you do get during the challenging stages of home ownership.
Your success as a real estate agent will always depend to a large degree, on the reputation you develop locally, through your sphere of influence. Past clients make the best referrals, and few prospects will interview more than one agent. Use technology to make you more efficient, but your personal touch and attention will earn you more referrals than a sophisticated IDX website.
So if you’re investing time and energy to generate leads, spend the effort to retain those clients by delivering an exceptional, personalized experience.