Even when I managed five other agents, I liked to think that I always stayed on top of things pretty well.
So when I worked with a first-time seller who was constantly searching for information on his condo online and checking each of the major listing sites for glitches in everything from the order of the photos to my description of the rooms, I felt I had met my match – here was a client who knew how to cull any information he needed on his own. I started to doubt my value as to him as a Realtor. And as younger generations begin buying and selling their homes, we’ll start to encounter these types of clients more often.
Why work with younger clients at all? Many agents have a steady stream of clients who are middle-aged. These clients tend to bring the greatest value per transaction and have enough experience with real estate transactions to have a hold on the basics. But younger clients represent value in another way – not just in the repeat business that the years will eventually bring, but in the role they’ll play in determining how our industry evolves.
Demonstrating Your Value to Younger Clients
When working with a younger client, be it a first-time homebuyer or a savvy real estate investor, the stakes are higher in representing your value, both as an individual broker and as a member of the real astate agent community. Younger, tech-savvy clients grew up with the Internet, and as a result, take for granted their access to a wealth of information on any and every topic. So how do you demonstrate your value?
As listing search sites develop channels for more comprehensive information and try to push agents out of the traditional commission model, real estate agents will prove their worth doing what they’ve always done best – providing excellent customer service and the expertise that comes with experience. These pillars of the industry are what the new models will lack, and what will keep the best agents thriving.
Here are three ways to demonstrate your value on a younger client’s terms:
1. Communication Channels – Use your judgment early in the relationship to determine which method of contact is preferred by the client, and make this your default method of outreach, unless plans are made to the contrary. If you have a detail-oriented client who expects you to have a hold on all the details at all times, try to keep communications through email.
2. Transparency – The job of a real estate broker is often to shield their clients from the many snags a transaction can hit along the way. But giving your client full access to the process as it unfolds, or even before it unfolds, can ease their minds, prevent unnecessary time wasted on miscommunications and remind them of important deadlines. Most brokerages have a book outlining the selling or buying process for clients, but a customized guide to the process can be more effective.
For example, Trello is a free, collaborative Web application that allows you to create boards with categorized “cards” (see above: these cards can be reminders, tasks or discussions), which are then shared between users of that board. Imagine if each of your transactions was managed through a separate board, with each category representing a phase of the transaction process, and each card representing the order of tasks that need to be completed. That way, both you and your clients are able to visualize and discuss what needs to be handled as you move through the process.
Of course, CRMs can help you to maneuver the whole transaction from your end as well, but provides less in the way of client transperency. Establishing a transparent environment in the beginning of a relationship with a new client can be beneficial for communication, efficiency and accountability.
3. Social Media – Post photos of your listings, or of your buyers happily holding the key to their new home (with permission), onto your Facebook business page. Your clients will see that you’re marketing on all channels, and will also have the satisfaction of enthusiastically sharing the post with their sphere (which ultimately could bring you even more business). If you’re paying for half-inch print ads of your listings to appease your clients, this might be a more economical way to go about it.
Integrating new technologies into your business for younger clients is not about finding a new way to practice real estate. Rather, you’re tailoring the way you demonstrate your value as a real estate broker to how your technology fits into your client’s life. In short, technology won’t simply give you an advantage in competing for the business of younger clients; it will act as a qualifier for working with them in the first place. Technology is the practice, but service is the value.
Aaron Woodman has sold more than $200 million in real estate assets and has managed a portfolio of more than 1,600 multifamily units, working for several large property management companies as well as for Exit Realty and Keller Williams Realty. Recently, he has focused his efforts on using his breadth of experience to act as consultant for a variety of real estate businesses, including individual residential brokers across the country, national property management firms and real estate technology start-ups. Find him on https://twitter.com/aaronwoodman and http://about.me/aaronwoodman.