The skill set of a successful agent in 2013 is wide-ranging. Last year, there was aÂ viral videoÂ that parodied the Super Bowl â€œGod Made a Farmerâ€ commercial, which somewhat accurately documented the roles we all play, variously, as our clientsâ€™ financial advisors, detectives, psychologists and even, if duty calls, gardeners and bed makers.
Then this year happened. And the market began to recover, with home prices ascending at breakneck speed for months on end. In times like this, when the market is ticking up faster than buyersâ€™ expectations can keep pace, agents often find ourselves in the role of cheerleader. AgentsÂ find themselves called upon to constantly provide encouragement about how and why buyers should not get discouraged or give up in light of their repeated losses in bidding wars or the emotional upset that comes from the dawning realization that their money wonâ€™t go as far or buy as much house as theyâ€™d hoped for.
I submit that thereâ€™s a more powerful way to deliver this encouragement in a way that sustains your buyer clientsâ€™ hope while also positioning yourself as an authority who will use your know-how to lead the way to a successful home buying experience. Developing the skills and using the tools of a coach can move you from cheering your buyers from the sidelines to leading the way to a home buying win. Hereâ€™s what coaches do and use that agents should, tooâ€”especially in sellerâ€™s markets:
Â Every great coach has a great playbook, and every great agent does, too. Every home you have ever sold has undoubtedly left you with learnings and insights that you use when advising your buyer clients. You know what a clientâ€™s experience of a transaction will look like from start to finish, from pre-approval to housewarming partyâ€”including all the points at which they will freak out.
And you have:
strategies for collecting the information you need about competition levels and seller priorities from the listing agent
strategies for understanding the comps and a buyers personal finances to formulate your recommendation regarding offer price;
strategies for knowing when to recommend a client change course and save more, spend more, offer more aggressively or house hunt in a new neighborhood.
Normally, when you sit down with a buyer for the first time, they are ready to get in the car and start house huntingâ€”they might even start out by sending you listings they already think are â€œthe one.â€ But you know betterâ€”you know that youâ€™ll need to first interface with their mortgage broker, help them understand list price-to-sale price ratios and possibly house hunt in a lower price range, and whatever other strategic steps their success in your market will require.
You know what a realistic timeline looks like, what action items they need to do at the beginning of their transaction to set it up for a successful end, and when to kick in a Plan B, C and Dâ€”as well as how to create the Plan B, C and D in the first place!
So tell them, from the beginning, that you have playbooks for every stage of the transaction. Coach your buyers to successâ€”even in a heated market climateâ€”by sitting down with them from the beginning and helping them understand, play by play, how a normal house hunt in your area today unfolds, all the decision points that theyâ€™ll face, ways they can rethink anything that causes them panic and fear and even insider insights like how many homes the average buyer loses before they are successful. This positions you as a credible authority and causes buyers to relax into the feeling that they are being well advised and represented, when they do in fact experience things the way in line with the expectations your coaching has created.
regular meetings that move preparation forward. Every good coach holds practice. In sports coaching, practice involves all sorts of drills and conditioning work to get the athletes prepared, and also scrimmagesâ€”trial runs. Both of these sorts of practice come into play in coaching your buyers in a hot market. Preparation work and trial runs in the form of offers that donâ€™t get accepted can both serve as practiceâ€”so long as your buyer is more ready to be successful after the experience than they were before.
Buyersâ€™ potential to panic and feel out-of-control of the events of their house hunt can be quelled, in part, by setting up a recurring, weekly home tour appointment at the same time every weekâ€”just like a sports team practicesâ€”rather than one-off, scattershot meetings whenever you can make your busy schedules line up. To turn occasional meetings into a coach-driven â€œpractice, implement practices like having a set format for home tours, possibly:
setting up the list of homes via email in advance;
having a system for collecting their feedback during and after the tour; and
setting up next steps (and confirming the next practice time) at the end of every meeting.
As the coach, you understand that every â€œpracticeâ€ might not result in a sale, or even an offer. Make sure you let your buyer clients know that your definition of a successful weekly tour is that they are somehow closer to a successful home purchase at the end than they were before, whether that means they are more qualified to buy, more clear on what homes will and wonâ€™t work for them, more informed about what can be had in which neighborhood for the money, or closer to compromising with their co-buyer.
trial runs with takeaways. Buyers today are constantly frustrated and upset when they lose homes. But every home on which your buyer clients make an unsuccessful offer can become turned into a learning experience if you, their coach, position it that way by having a follow-up conversation about lessons and takeaways. Every offer that gets declined should lead to a conversation between you and your buyer that ends with the answer to the question: Â what will we do differently next time?
Â On an athletic team, the coach is the boss of when a time-out needs to take place. In the course of your clientsâ€™ house hunts, your role as the coach is to call a time-out when it makes sense to stop a string of ill-conceived offers, target properties that are wildly unrealistic or other frenzied, panicked or paralyzed buyer freak-out moments. You can use your time-outs as you see fit, whether to give a pep talk, issue a reality check, or try to get a buyer who is undergoing excessive â€œprice creepâ€ a big-time reality-check.
But you take the initiative to call it. Â And try, when possible, to make it an in-person sit-down: in this digital age, just the fact that you are asking the buyer to come have coffee and talk about what tweaks need to happen to their action plan can grab their attention and help them understand the import of the advice youâ€™re about to give.