This is absolutely and utterly crucial. It makes no difference how many potential buyers see an advert in the paper, or request details by phone, or click on an internet link, if the agency is poor at following up leads and enquiries. If buyers’ needs aren’t established, if details aren’t sent, if calls aren’t returned or viewing appointments not made, then all the will in the world won’t sell a house.
There are four questions to consider. How much information does the agent take from people who enquire about buying property? How well does the agent follow up each contact? How does the agent market new properties to its existing database? And how effective is the agent at dealing with its customers? We’ll consider these questions one by one.
How much information does the agent take?
The agency should find out as much as it can about each and every house hunter to make sure its database of potential buyers is as detailed as possible. After all, today’s enquiry might be the perfect buyer for tomorrow’s new instruction… and that instruction might be your home. The agent must know what buyers are looking for and how to contact them when a suitable home comes on the market.
How well does the agent follow up each contact?
This would seem straightforward: if a new homebuyer calls to register, the agent should match and send them details of suitable properties. If a potential buyer calls for details of a particular house, they should receive them within a day or two.
If someone wants to arrange a viewing – even if it is on a weekend or an evening because the viewer works late, or is from out of town – then the agent MUST make arrangements for them. Sometimes, the best buyer is the person who can only view at 7.30pm, or on a Saturday afternoon, or even a Sunday morning.
At very least you should be asking the agent about these things before you put your house on the market with them… but, fortunately, all of these things are easy to check! Simply call an agent that you are considering using, and make some enquiries about the homes they have for sale. Then wait and see what kind of response you get!
How does the agent market new properties to its existing database?
This, again, is a crucial question. Many homes will sell to someone who has already registered their details with the agent. Indeed, if an agent sell a home quickly, it usually means they have a great database, and have been running the business effectively for some time. So it’s important to know how, and how quickly, an agent starts to promote a newly listed home.
Far and away the quickest and most effective method is email. Emails can be sent to all prospective buyers as soon as the new home has been taken on. These days, most people in general and house hunters in particular will have email accounts which are checked several times a day. Even if you don’t use it yourself, remember that nearly everyone else does!
Some properties, in some streets, have a particular appeal and scarcity. Again, a good agent should know if any of their existing house-hunters – those who have been on viewings recently – might be interested in a new house. If there are such ‘hot prospects’, then the agency should telephone them. This is particularly relevant if the agent you are thinking of using has sold a home similar to yours in the recent past. That agent will, most likely, have a list of people who showed an interest in the first house, that will also be interested in yours.
After email and telephone, a number of agents are using SMS text messaging to alert buyers to new properties. This can help, but a few words on a text message can’t do too much to sell a house. It might encourage an enquiry, though, which once again throws the emphasis onto the quality of the agent’s follow-up.
These days, posting out new property details is almost ‘passé’. Compared to email, printing and posting details takes at least a couple of days longer… in which time, ever-busier house-hunters may well have seen and agreed to buy a different home emailed to them a day or two before. Of course, some mailing of details is required – to buyers who don’t have email addresses and don’t want SMS text alerts. But if an agent uses mail-outs as a first choice, then their sellers’ homes are the last ones that buyers will see.
How effective is the agent at dealing with its customers?
This could be said to cover a multitude of issues, all of which point back to an essential customer service ethos within the agency. Most of all, this demands the flexibility to adapt the agency’s service to the personal needs of each individual customer.
This can include the systems and practices of the agency. For example, for many people, accompanied viewings conducted by the agent are a pre-requisite… though others prefer to do the viewings themselves, or at least to be ‘in’ when a viewing takes place. Some agencies open late, or at weekends. These are ‘systematic’ issues regarding a company’s policies.
Other, ‘softer’ skills may be harder to evaluate. Will agents conduct viewings out-of-hours when required, or at weekends… particularly if buyers have difficult shift patterns, or are from out of town? In general, the more time you spend talking to an agent – on the phone, in their office, or on viewings – the more you will get a sense of how much that company actually values its own customers and clients.
Summery -It’s all about service!
Great marketing, a clean office in the middle of town, pretty logos, newspaper adverts… all amount to nothing if the staff aren’t up to the task. In many ways, the staff are the biggest and most important part of a company’s marketing. When you deal with an estate agent, you are not dealing with a corporation, but with an individual sat at a desk. When an email comes in, or the phone rings, it is answered by a human, not by a system or a colour scheme. Customer service drives the success of any agency, so look for it in the manner and attitude of the people you meet and talk to. It will make a difference, both to your experience of selling your home, and to the level of success you are likely to enjoy.