Closing Strategies of Top Producers

by Chicago Agent

By Dan Provost

Lisa Trace, an agent with Lake Forest-based Griffith, Grant & Lackie, never gives up on a deal. This tenacity has paid off during her nine-year career.

Trace points to a recent deal that she completed in Lake Forest. Her clients in 2009 had fallen in love with a historic home in the suburb, one that was on the market for a price slightly over $3 million. Trace’s clients made an offer under that. The owners rejected it.

Six months later, Trace led her clients to a new Lake Forest residence. This deal was a tricky one; it was a short sale. But Trace’s clients also loved this new house, and were happy to work through the short-sale process.

Short sales have a habit of moving slowly. This one, though, became especially frustrating. Five months after making their offer, an offer that the home’s owners accepted, Trace’s clients still hadn’t heard back from the lender. They were in limbo.

Then something interesting happened: the original historic home in Lake Forest, the one that Trace’s clients initially wanted to purchase, went down in price, significantly. It was now priced in the low $2 million range.

Fortunately, Trace had kept in contact with the agent representing this house, even after her clients seemingly missed out on it. From conversations with the listing agent, Trace knew that the sellers were now serious about moving the property.

The upshot? Trace’s clients were thrilled with this new opportunity, and happy to leave the short-sale process behind them. The buyers made an offer that was remarkably similar to the one they had made in 2009. The sellers accepted the offer this time, and the deal closed in 30 days. Trace’s clients ended up with the home that they had originally wanted.

“The big moral here is that the agents stayed in contact and communicated regularly about this property,” Trace said. “It ended up being a win-win for everyone.”

Communication is key, and developing strong relationships with other Realtors can mean the difference between finding the perfect home for buyers or leading them to residences that are merely “good enough.”

“My clients had moved on thinking that they’d never have that home. At the end of the day, thanks to the communication between myself and the listing agent, they got it,” Trace said. “We all have to remember that communication is so important. Deals are so difficult to close today. The relationships that you maintain with agents within your office and outside of it are key for putting a deal together today.”

The listing agent in this case called Trace every time her sellers reduced the property on their historic home.

“The agent let me know when the seller was getting more motivated to sell,” Trace said.

This was important, Trace said, because no deal is certain today. Even though her clients were trying to close on another house, there were no guarantees that this deal wouldn’t fall through, as it eventually did.

Trace’s clients moved into their new Lake Forest home last November.

“They’re thrilled,” Trace said.

Taking the Extra Step
Natasha Motev, a top-producing agent with Chicago’s Koenig & Strey Real Living, could have let a deal die.

Her sellers had landed a solid offer for their single-family home in Lincoln Park last year. The home inspection, though, almost scuttled it.

The buyer’s inspector turned in a report that cited serious structural problems in the home. The problems seemed so severe that the buyers were ready to back out.

Motev, however, wasn’t willing to let this deal crumble. First, she did her research on qualified structural engineers, and hired one to tour her client’s home.

This engineer completed his own study of the house. His findings? There were no issues. The structural problems that the first inspector had found did not exist.

This satisfied the buyers. They completed the deal, and Motev’s clients landed a solid sale.

“These are not easy times,” Motev said. “All of the closings today are tough. You have to know how to be accommodating to both the seller and the buyer. You have to know how to pull a deal together.”

Because the local home-selling market is a challenging one, both buyers and sellers tend to be nervous up until a deal closes, Motev said, and agents often have to act as calming influences.

“You are dealing with so many different personalities when you work on a real estate deal,” Motev said. “You have to make sure that all the ‘T’s are crossed and all the “I”s dotted. There are no more simple closings today.”

She says there are essential qualities all top-producing agents must have: integrity, honesty, loyalty and devotion to serving both buyers and sellers. Agents who don’t display these traits won’t close many deals in today’s difficult economy.

“Today, it is more important than ever to be professional,” she said. “It’s important that I treat everybody I represent in the same way I treat my own family. I have to be willing to do whatever needs to be done to help them close their deals, even the difficult ones.”

Bringing in the Experts
Patrick Turley credits the relationships he’s formed during his years as a Realtor with helping him close even the most challenging of deals.

Turley, an agent with the Glen Ellyn office of Keller Williams Realty, points to a deal last year that almost fell through thanks to asbestos concerns.

The home in question sits in Glen Ellyn. Turley’s clients accepted a fair offer for the property and looked forward to closing their sale.

But a problem popped up during the home inspection. The buyer’s inspector found a material in the home’s walls that he said might contain asbestos. This frightened the buyers. They, their attorney and the home inspector all requested that the sellers remove the material, a process that would have been extremely costly. But without doing this, it appeared as if the deal would collapse.

Turley stepped in. He immediately phoned an environmental engineer with whom he has worked with in the past.

“Just because something looks like asbestos doesn’t mean that it is asbestos,” Turley said. “There are products out there that look like they contain asbestos but don’t actually have the material in them.”

Turley’s environmental engineer visited the house, knew almost immediately that the product did not contain any actual asbestos, and advised the buyers that problems would actually happen if they disturbed the material.

“I found the right environmental engineer who had experience with that product,” Turley said. “He knew the statutes regulating that material. We proved without a shadow of doubt that it was better to leave the material alone and not remove it.”

Turley said without his relationship with the engineer, the deal would not have closed.

“We do what I like to call bulletproofing,” he said. “We have a real competent team, not only internally, but externally, too. Everyone on our team has an expertise.”

This team has made life easier even as the housing market’s troubles continue, Turley said. And he’s been in the business for 34 years – more than enough time to compile a team of outside experts who can deal with a wide range of potential problems: home inspectors, attorneys, environmental engineers, lenders and other specialists.

“It’s so important to have relationships with qualified experts,” Turley said. “They can come to the rescue when you need them. Clients can go with other agents. There are a lot of agents out there. But if you have a great team behind you, that’s a big value. That keeps the clients coming to you.”

Networking Can Save a Situation
Closing any residential deal is challenging today with the sluggish economy and tighter lending standards. But closing a sale over state lines is even more of a challenge.

That didn’t stop Sue Perdue, a veteran real estate agent with the Crystal Lake office of Baird & Warner.

Earlier this year, Perdue represented clients who were selling their home in Cary and moving to the East Coast. Perdue and her clients priced their local home aggressively. Because of this, they sold it in just two weeks.

Thrilled, the clients found their dream home out of state and put down an offer. When the sellers there accepted their offer, her clients were ready to move.

Then the economy struck. The buyers of the Cary home had to back out; an unexpected job loss meant the buyers could no longer qualify for the mortgage loan needed to purchase the residence.

This left Perdue’s clients in a quandary. They had a home to buy, but they needed to sell their existing home first.

This is when Perdue called on her network of fellow Realtors.

“I told my clients, ‘Just relax. I’ll call some agents I know. We’ll get this done,’” Perdue said.

She made some calls within her network, eventually finding an agent who was working with a client looking for a home in Cary. This new buyer toured the house, liked it and made an offer. Best of all, the new buyer was a cash buyer.

Perdue worked out an arrangement in which the buyers provided a larger chunk of earnest money, an amount sizable enough to cover the down payment that her clients were putting on the house that they hoped to buy. This way, if this latest deal fell through, Perdue’s clients would have enough money to cover any dollars they’d lose by having to back out of their East Coast purchase.

This happened on a Friday. By the end of day Sunday, Perdue had, again, sold her clients’ house. This allowed Perdue’s sellers to finalize their East Coast plans.

“These cases do happen from time to time,” Perdue said. “It doesn’t throw me like it used to. Now I have the experience. You just have to look at the problems and figure out how you’re going to get around the obstacles.

“It helps to know who the agents are who are selling in your neighborhood,” Perdue added. “You never know when they could have that one client who is perfect for your listing.”

For more on Chicagoland’s top producers, check out our top producer survey.

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