By Michele Lerner
The combined forces of rising demand and low inventory have increased buyer competition this year and REALTORS® are competing for listings. If you haven’t updated your listing presentation recently, it may be time to revamp your technique.
The way you prepare for a listing appointment should be different according to your relationship with the homeowners, but even if you know the potential sellers well, you should do your research and anticipate competition from other REALTORS®, says June Burt, a broker with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate The Shanahan Group in Winchester.
“If you don’t know the sellers, then you should ask questions about why they want to sell and pick up clues that can help you be the person they choose to represent them,” says Burt.
Most REALTORS® schedule a walk-through appointment that can last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. At the end of that meeting, they schedule a second appointment for a full presentation based on research and the home preview.
Jerry Rossi, a real estate coach, author and owner of Rossi Speaks in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., says that consumers today don’t want to listen to a hard sell pitch from a REALTOR®. He says REALTORS® should learn to listen to their potential customers and not to try to manipulate them.
“Be calm and confident and comfortable with yourself and then just tell sellers the truth based on your market knowledge and experience,” says Rossi. “You need to be able to explain what makes you different from the other REALTORS® the sellers are interviewing.”
Bernie Hassan, manager of Weichert REALTORS® Briarwood Real Estate in South Easton recommends starting off the presentation with a photo and information about the sellers’ house.
“The presentation shouldn’t be about the real estate agent, it should be about the sellers and their house,” says Hassan. “We create customized flyers and direct mail pieces and multiple examples with their house in the photos to show the sellers how we’ll market their home. This takes a lot of time but it also shows the sellers how hard you’ll work for them.”
Lee Joseph, a REALTOR® with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Worcester, says it’s important to ask the sellers what’s most important to them at the first meeting so she can gear her presentation to their interests.
“If the clients don’t have the time or money to do a lot of repairs, or if they’re eager to move and less interested in getting the highest price, then I can talk to them about adjusting the price so the property sells as fast as possible,” says Joseph.
Mark Madden, a REALTOR® with Century 21 Commonwealth in Watertown, says he has potential sellers complete a three-page questionnaire before he does a listing presentation so that he can customize his information to match their concerns.
“If they’re worried about finding a home to buy or about how I’ll market the home or about their buyers getting financing, I can address those topics in my presentation,” says Madden.
Price and Condition: When and How to Talk About the Two Most Important Subjects
For most sellers, the top concerns are how much they can get for their home and how much time and money they need to spend to bring their home to marketable condition. Both of those topics can be fraught with tension between a REALTOR® and a homeowner, so REALTORS® need to learn how to address them with sensitivity.
“I always tell homeowners that I’d love to get them a million dollars, but that in the current market you need to price your home correctly and make sure that the property will appraise, too,” says Joseph. “The appraisal is the most critical piece of the transaction. You don’t want to have to renegotiate a contract or cancel one because you priced the home too high.”
Rossi suggests recommending a price at the beginning of a listing appointment to make your presentation stand out. Many REALTORS® prefer to discuss price at the end of their presentation after they have shared their marketing plan. REALTORS® have different approaches when it comes to arriving at an appropriate price recommendation.
“Sellers can see for themselves what’s on the market and what sold recently, but they can’t see the absorption rate, which is what has sellers in the driver’s seat right now,” says Madden. “We drill down to different things and try to be as specific as we can get with our statistics. Sellers are usually grateful if you tell them the truth and back it up with evidence rather than just tell them the price they want to hear.”
Madden discusses the absorption rate and a comparative market analysis including three or four homes under contract, three or four recent sales, three or four active listings and three or four expired listings to generate a recommended sales price range.
Hassan prefers to focus entirely on recently sold properties to generate a price.
“I bring in all the information I can including the sales price, photos and data such as how many days the property was on the market so I can do a virtual walk-through with the sellers to compare their home to places that sold,” says Hassan.
Joseph pays attention to homes under contract since those will be the comps used for an appraisal in a few weeks. “I also look at active listings because you need to position yourself within the market so that you offer the best product in your price range,” says Joseph.
When it comes to discussing the condition of their home, Madden says most sellers know they need to update their property. He calls it the “HGTV effect.” Madden has recommendations for a handyman and a stager for sellers that need assistance.
“We use a certified stager for all of our listings, so I bring her to the home for a consultation as soon as I have a signed listing agreement,” says Burt. “This takes the pressure off me to talk about the condition, too, since it’s her job to explain to the sellers the buyers need to be able to envision living in the home themselves.”
Tech Tools for your Listings
While many REALTORS® prefer to meet with potential sellers in their home for a listing presentation, Madden brings sellers into his office where they can view a presentation created with Prezi.com on a flat screen TV and use the conference table for materials.
“Our presentation includes information about our company, our team, and explains our marketing plan,” says Madden. “We include up-to-date information from that morning about the market.”
Madden uses Evernote to collect all information in one place about each listing and Docusign to speed up the transaction process. He creates a personalized website for each listing along with YouTube videos that are a guided tour to each property.
“We use apps from Better Homes and Gardens for our customers,” says Burt. “One of the best tools we have is a Pinpoint marketing system that gives us access to a database for demographic searches for potential buyers based on their age or income or other factors.”
Hassan says the customized presentation his company creates for each seller is available for laptops and tablets, but he says most agents like to use a large full-color portfolio to keep prospective clients focused.
Professional quality photos and virtual tours are important elements to Joseph’s marketing plan. She also explains to potential sellers that she pays extra for the highest level of exposure in all search engines. She sends a weekly email to her clients listing the number of hits their property has received on each site.
Whether you prefer a high tech or low tech approach to listings, the most important thing is to never leave your first appointment with potential sellers without a signed listing agreement or plans to meet again after you do some additional research, says Burt.