I took my 7 year old son today to open his first savings account at the bank. He had managed to save $23.50 so far from his allowance. As I was going through the process with him, explaining how the bank knows to put the money in his account vs. another one, what he was signing, and how to deposit money, I realized I missed a minor point: when we went to deposit his money with the teller, and he handed her his entire wallet. I let him know that he needed to take his money out of his wallet and give it to the teller.
I started to think about what we do for home buyers as real estate agents. I had some buyers who were relocating here from another area. We talked about their needs, and started to look at homes. As we went along, they started to look at larger and larger homes enamored with all of the “space.” I talked with them about budgeting for increased utility costs associated with a larger home. I threw out some numbers based on my own personal experience and encouraged them to consider a smaller home. This seemed to fall on deaf ears, and they called me after they got their first utility bill. Take shorter showers, remember to turn off your lights, and keep the house colder were my suggestions at this point.
I often hear buyers expressing frustration with their buyer agent and the lack of “professional knowledge.” What I think most buyers want is for agents to help them think through the basics of home ownership. My buyers that relocated were not first time home buyers, but were moving from a 1200 square foot home to a 2800 square foot home with vaulted ceilings. While it is always our clients’ decision about what they purchase, I think we need to help them think through the consequences of their choices. Isn’t that what our professional knowledge is all about?
Part of being a buyer agent means we are part mental health therapist, part negotiator, part financial counselor, and part educator. We have to help our clients manage their stress level through the process, write offers that help them get what they want, crunch the numbers with them about the impact of that mortgage payment on their budget, and educate them about permits, zoning, and the million other factors that go into the purchase and ownership of a home. Anyone can open a door and say “you want to buy it?” What buyers seem to be screaming for are agents that take their skills from the sales level to the service level.
As I watched my son give his wallet to the teller, I realized how easy it is for us to forget all of the small steps that go into a home purchase. I think because we are dealing with adults, we can often make assumptions about what a client knows or understands about the process. It was a good reminder to me to make sure that I don’t skip what I would consider “basic knowledge” from the process. We have had many homeowners hand over their entire wallets to homeownership in the past few years with disastrous results. I wonder if things would be different, if ALL agents took the time to really learn how provide professional level service to their clients and forget the sales attitude.
Home buyers really need a lot of assistance to make good personal choices for themselves, and what they really want are professionals to help them do just that.
(c) Copyright, 2008. Melina Tomson, All Rights Reserved. DO NOT COPY this without express written permission from the author.