It’s estimated that there are up to 2 million Realtors in the United States — and for every one of them, there can be a unique approach to showing a home. Showings aren’t what they used to be, either. Today’s clients are smarter.
They research on their own online and have a good idea what’s available before they even call a Realtor. They also watch television shows that give them tips.
“The person you’re working with today is so different than 10 years ago,” says David McKey owner of Coldwell Banker One in Baton Rouge and the regional vice president for the National Association of Realtors.
Following are expert tips for having a fantastic first showing, whether the home is newly built or a resale:
1. Do your homework.
There is plenty of work to do before the actual first showing to maximize the potential for a good client relationship. Making sure your buyer is pre-approved and knowing their top priorities will help you steer clear of a home that is not a good match. “If you can preview a property before a showing, it’s a huge advantage,” recommends McKey. “Knowing the condition of a home will make you more comfortable showing it and you’ll be in a better position to answer inevitable questions.”
Having a conversation with the builder’s sales staff or the seller’s agent beforehand is also a good idea whenever possible. Remember that a lot of what makes a home — newly built home or otherwise — a good buy is stuff you can’t see, like new insulation, for example. A seller’s agent can point all of that out.
2. Start at the front door.
A lot of times the lockbox on a house is placed on a side or back door, but experts say it’s always best to enter through the front door when showing a home for the first time. It helps buyers get oriented and experience the house in the flow pattern it was intended. This is otherwise known as the home’s first impression, the energy you feel when you first step into a home. When a house is a good fit, that feeling is palpable.
3. Embrace the silence.
A lot of Realtors talk their way through a home as they’re showing it, rather than letting buyers discover things on their own. “It’s nice to point out what’s (not) so obvious, but go ahead and let them open a door they thought was a closet only to discover it’s an indoor pool, for example,” says Linda Harris, a 30-year veteran who’s now with Keller Williams in Orlando, Fla. “Many times people are just uncomfortable with silence, so they fill it up with talk.”
The problem is you can end up putting your foot in your mouth. “I once said a wall color was crazy and that it could be painted over and the buyer said she loved it!”
4. Walk buyers through once, then give them space.
“I always say to clients, ‘Let’s walk together and see how it feels to you, then if you want to walk back through on your own to feel the rooms or talk to your partner, you can,” says Harris.
The first loop is for first impressions and to point out key features. The second allows couples to discuss what they see and feel with a bit of privacy. Just make sure you’re not distracted with your phone or too far away to answer questions or keep an eye on what’s happening.
5. Give them the whole truth.
Resale homes are rarely 100 percent perfect. There is always something that someone might want changed and that’s to be expected. What’s not okay is withholding key pieces of information in the hopes that your client will fall so in love with a house, they won’t care. Most of the time, this can backfire.
For example, if a house is near train tracks, buyers need to see and hear it for themselves, even if that doesn’t happen on the first showing. Make sure you mention it and make an appointment to return at a time when they can see and hear things for themselves. Perhaps nothing damages the client-Realtor relationship more than the feeling of being manipulated in pursuit of a sale.
“Remember, you can change a house, but you can’t change a neighborhood,” Harris warns.
6. Listen to what buyers aren’t saying.
Nonverbal clues tell a thousand stories. If your buyer is eerily silent, crossing her arms or whispering to her partner, pay attention. Try to ignite conversation as a way to get to the heart of what buyers are concerned about. Sometimes clients give you a list of needs and leave out the wants that would really make a difference to them because they think they’re more flexible than they really are. Other times, it’s the opposite. The only way to know is to keep your eyes as open as your ears.
7. Add your own magic touch.
“I know a Realtor who set a breakfast table overlooking the water with coffee and cheesecake at sunset,” recounts Harris. “The buyers were able to appreciate the view and what living in that particular house would mean for them.”
Of course, this depends on various circumstances, including how well you know the buyers. But, over time it’s important to find something that sets your real estate services apart.
Ana Connery is former content director of Parenting, Babytalk, Pregnancy Planner and Conceive magazines as well as parenting.com.
While editor in chief of Florida Travel & Life magazine from 2006-2009, she covered the state’s real estate and home design market as well as travel destinations.
She’s held senior editorial positions at some of the country’s most celebrated magazines, including Latina, Fitness and Cooking Light, where she oversaw the brand’s “FitHouse” show home.
Ana’s expertise is frequently sought after for appearances on “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America” and CNN. She has interviewed the country’s top experts in a variety of fields, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and First Lady Michelle Obama.