Don’t Be a “Set It and Forget It” Real Estate Agent

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I love a Crock•Pot. When the temperatures drop in fall and winter, there’s nothing like throwing a bunch of ingredients in and coming home on a chilly evening to a lovely stew; the whole house smells amazing…warm, cozy, and inviting.

But real estate is not a “Set It and Forget It” business.  It shouldn’t be — not for the average homebuyer in the market to purchase a home.

This is not a food post. “Set It and Forget It” is not a recipe for real estate…at least, not a recipe for success.

Let’s Set the Scene

I met with new homebuyers today who are relocating to Georgia to be closer to their family. They had previously been talking to an agent who was referred to them by a well-meaning family member (who, coincidentally, has not yet closed on a home with that agent). When the buyer (I’ll call him Dave) first called me, he said, “We are talking to another agent already, but I’m just looking for some advice for our first trip to Georgia.”

They had only had a few conversations with this other agent (and they hadn’t signed a Buyer Brokerage Engagement — don’t worry, I asked!), who had set them up on a search, let them know that (s)he’s regularly out of town on the weekends, and hadn’t been available to answer some basic questions about what they might want to do on their first visit to the area. They only wanted to drive around and check it out — see the downtowns of some of Atlanta’s suburbs, get a feel for the area, the home styles, the shopping, and dining. In short, they get an idea of where they want to live.

I answered Dave’s questions — not giving advice, per se (since we cannot legally give advice in Georgia without having that brokerage engagement signed), but suggesting some areas for them to check out that sounded like what he was asking about (restaurants, downtowns) and some landmarks for their GPS, and letting them know that I think it would be very productive for them to drive around, get lost, drive past houses and neighborhoods, let the map lead them, just get to know the area a bit, as they decide if  they want to move here, and if so, where they may want to focus their search.

That evening, Dave texted back: was I taking new clients? (Always.) Would I be willing to meet with him and his wife when they come into town? (Of course.)

So today, we met — at my office to discuss their home search in more detail and to decide if we’d like to work together. It turns out we’re a great fit — I appreciated their candid conversation about their homebuying needs, finances, and timeline, and they were appreciative of my knowledge of the area, experience and expertise, and the high level of service I had already been able to provide in just a few short days we’ve been communicating. I’m looking forward to adding two more names to our always-growing list of happy clients!

A Home Search Cannot Be a Crock•Pot

When Dave mentioned to me that he thought the other agent’s strategy was “set it and forget it,” I immediately thought of that favorite kind of slow-cooked meal. I said to him, “Sounds a little like a Crock•Pot.” He laughed immediately and said, “YES! I think she just wants us to be in touch with her when a house pops up that we like — but we have to sift through a bunch of homes that don’t really fit our needs. We thought that was something she would help with!”

If this is what a buyer has requested — meaning, they’re only just beginning to think about their next home purchase, they’re just perusing the area, or even deciding if it’s the right time (and place) for them to buy — this may not be a bad thing. We’ve had plenty of clients over the years who just want to see what’s out there for a while first. Okay, then — we’ll set that Crock•Pot to LOW and let it percolate away and send you listings as they pop up. But if that buyer is seeking a high level of customer service, someone to guide them (not steer them, since they drive the bus on where they want to buy and what type of home, etc.) answer their questions, suggest properties, and most likely weed out the ones based on their criteria that aren’t searchable in the MLS (only backs up to woods or a Greenway/trail, doesn’t back up to or on the corner of the main road, doesn’t back up to other homes, etc.), then the buyer should not have to demand that service; it should be implied. We ask for a buyer’s permission to screen properties for them in this way, and most of the time, they look relieved. They likely don’t have the time (or the inclination) to look through dozens of properties that don’t fit their needs for the reward of the few that do.

And now…I’ll step off my soapbox. Thank you for coming to my TEDTalk.