Saturday, October 20, 2007

Converting home shoppers to buyers

A number of studies have been made attempting to determine how buyers go about finding the right home. The print advertisers believe homebuyers will choose a local newspaper or home magazine and begin previewing written ads or pictures of properties. The Internet companies believe homebuyers will begin their search online. Many web sites download the listing information from the MLS and the information is available to their visitors. Some buyers, who know the specific area where they want to live, drive the neighborhood looking for “For Sale” signs and open houses. All the research confirms one thing. Homebuyers don’t start the home buying process by walking into a real estate office or calling an agent and saying “I want to buy a house.” Why not?

In an attempt to attract business, real estate companies spend thousands of dollars renting strategically visible locations. Yet, many homebuyers feel visiting a real estate office is akin to a visit to the dentist’s office. A stranger is going to be poking around sensitive areas. It’s going to hurt and it will costs money. “Hey, doc, that’s a long needle!” “Rest easy, you will only feel a little pressure.”

Nobody wants to feel pressure from a needle or a salesperson. We naturally avoid pressure situations which occur when we are about to make a major decision like which wine to order with dinner, paper or plastic and should we hit a soft sixteen when the dealer has a face-card showing. Since buying a home is the largest major decision most of us will make, it warrants serious consideration. If we don’t like its aroma we can’t ask the sommelier to take it back.

Buyers enjoy the anonymity, control and convenience they have when shopping on-line or at the kitchen table. Some buyers will take extronary precautions to avoid the stress of speaking with an agent and accelerating the home buying process. At some point, however, a buyer will reluctantly make that call to an agent in order to move the process forward. There are steps agents and buyers can do to remove much of the stress and pressure of buying a home.

Shopping for a home may not be as fun as visiting Disneyland but it should be at least an interesting and rewarding experience. Homebuyers have an opportunity to discover new homes and places while meeting friendly or at least interesting people. Many avoid the experience for fear of being pressured into a decision. The pressure of making a major home buying decision can be easily removed when homebuyers and agents agree in advance not to buy any home on their scheduled tour.

Once my clients get their seat belts adjusted, I have a routine explanation of the days showing process. We are going to have fun and get acquainted. I will answer all your real estate questions. We will not be measuring closet space for a home that you will not buy. We will pass up looking at a home if it’s in an area you do not like. We will not show excitement about a home you like, if the seller is there. I will not follow you around the house pointing out oblivious features. We will not buy a home today.
By not allowing buyers to sign a purchase agreement on a home on the same day they preview, removes all the pressure of making a buying decision. Buyers feel more relaxed and receptive to the experience. They have an opportunity to focus on their lifestyle preferences than having to make a decision on a specific property. It tweaks the sales agent image to one of counselor/advisor. The second showing on a home of interest is more important than the initial one. Every home has a story and between the first look and the second or more, allows an agent time to discover the “story.”

The standard California Association of Realtors (CAR) purchase agreement provides for many opportunities (contingences) for the buyer to pull out of the agreement and cancel escrow. Standards of practice should provide buyers an additional one. No buyer should be allowed to sign a purchase agreement until they have inspected a home at least twice and 24 hours have elapsed since their first viewing.
When an agent understands that a client will not be making an immediate buying decision, it relieves their guarded expectations. It allows them to focus more on the relationship with the client rather than nudging a client into a decision on a specific property. All parties are more comfortable with the process and more home shoppers would turn into homebuyers.


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