The Buyer Agent Playbook: Winning Strategies When First Meeting Potential Clients

Editor’s Note: The Buyer-Agent Playbook is a new iteration of RISMedia’s biweekly Playbook segment, specifically centering on buyer agency and how agents are navigating the changes and trends in a post-NAR settlement environment. The series will provide brokers and agents with insights and information to ensure they not only survive but thrive in these challenging times. Industry professionals explain the strategies they’re employing and unique ideas they’ve formulated. Tune in every Thursday for another addition to the series.

It wasn’t so long ago that meeting a prospective homebuyer was not so different than a first date. Lots of smiles and polite small talk, hopefully leading to a continuation.

Now? After all the lawsuit drama, and with high interest rates and inventory issues? It’s more like you’re at a stressful job interview. The pressure is on you to do the impressing. Any slip-up, big or small, could lead to being told, “Appreciate your time… we’re gonna review everything and we’ll see about circling back.” Which, we all know, is a polite way of saying “adios.”

The Burnett fallout changed many things for buyer agents. Chief among them is that homebuyer hopefuls will have to know from the jump how much they will pay you. Pre-Burnett, the commission fee did not have to be openly discussed, or at least certainly not right away, because it was usually baked into the sales price. Now, clients will likely want to know precisely what they are getting for their buyer-commission dollars.

So what’s the plan successful agents now have when meeting potential new clients? Here’s what several REALTORS® had to say…

“The first contact with a new buyer usually comes from a referral by email or through my online presence,” says Pam Rosser Thistle, with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS® in Philadelphia. “I use a homebuyer’s guide as a reference. No gizmos. But the most powerful offering to new buyers is a meeting, which may be in person, on the phone or by Zoom, listening to their real estate goals, timing and preferences. It is a lot like an interview a reporter might have. I ask questions and offer advice based on the buyer’s answers. Then, I take that information, provide more resources and set up a time to show them houses.

“The giveaways with buyers are the information I provide, the guidance and the wisdom of having sold hundreds of homes in the area where they are looking. I am encouraging, honest, supportive and resourceful. I respect that they are venturing on an enormous step and am there to guide and protect them. In the new decoupled commission environment, I will probably update my buyer’s guide. It will become as important as a listing presentation.”

Jeffrey Decatur, a longtime broker associate with RE/MAX Capital in Latham, New York, also makes sure to listen more than talk after initially providing a step-by-step for what to expect on the home-buying journey. He also promotes local MLSs as the best source of information, as opposed to generic national portals.

“When I have a new prospect, first I try to get them to ‘come to the office,’ meaning Zoom or face to face,” he says. “I do a presentation to manage expectations and educate them on the process, during which I give them a new buyer’s package. In it I have a resume, testimonials, some franchise propaganda, a guide, lists of mortgage professionals, a questionnaire and a set of future paperwork, including agency and fair housing as required by law.  

“I go over the whole process from beginning to end, find out their wants and needs, then do an MLS search with them and show the number of homes available within their criteria. I show them that the local MLS is the source of information all the public portals upload from, and how much faster and more accurate the true source is. After our meeting, they usually know what to expect, and feel confident, prepared and excited. 

“I also give them a magnetic to-do list or calendar for the fridge. On the to-do list I fill in the first two notes, one saying ‘apply for your mortgage’ and ‘don’t change your credit score.’ The next note says ‘please refer anyone you know who needs real estate help to me.’ As we progress through the process, I have lists of Top 10 rules for showings, making an offer and inspections.”

Rylie Schroeder is the founder of Schroeder & Co. Real Estate, focused primarily in Austin, Houston and San Antonio, Texas. She is brazenly blunt about what she expects clients to think about her after the initial meeting.

“I want any new client to feel shocked at the level of knowledge, guidance and value an agent was able to provide them in such a short amount of time,” she states. “I want them to feel immensely confident in their real estate journey with me by their side. I want them to feel relaxed and in good hands, knowing they made the right decision hiring me to advocate for them during the biggest financial purchase in their life. 

“The bar is often set far too low in this industry, and it’s important to me to change the way consumers view real estate agents, starting with our value and the way we communicate it. Each of my new clients get a ‘buyer survival kit’ at our consultation or first showing that has our buyer’s guide, which includes common terms and an overview of the process, hand sanitizer, moving labels, a journal and (a) Schroeder & Co. pen to take notes about the homes we see together, and a branded measuring tape. This is an exciting time for them, and I love commemorating it with a valuable and useful gift to start their home-buying journey.”

Purchasing a home is certainly not an exact science, and as such, cannot have an exact timeline. It takes as long as it takes. Some clients can find the house of their dreams the first week they start looking. For others, it could take months… or longer. Charlie Kerr, with RE/MAX Heritage Properties in Chester, New Jersey, makes sure newbies know there will be no rush.

“The first visit is all about the first impression,” he says. “My goal is to present in a manner that my buyers will view me as very personable, knowledgeable, trustworthy and willing to listen to their needs and what they are looking for in a new home. I also emphasize that I will work with them at a pace that they are comfortable with and will never be a ‘pushy’ salesperson. I make it clear to my buyers that the purchase of a home is a big decision and can be stressful at times, and that I will always be aggressive for them but not with them.”

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