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Re-Thinking the Agent-Seller relationship: Deliver What Home Sellers Really Need

6 min read
Porter Farthing
Head of Operations

In today’s hyper-competitive market, the agent's contribution to the real estate process has never been more in doubt, yet at the same time, human interaction and perspective has never been in more demand.  So what should the modern agent-seller relationship look like?  More data-driven, more perspective and experience-based, or some magic combination of both?  Here’s my perspective on what the ideal agent-seller relationship looks like in 2020. 

An important (and stressful) event

Agents should always remember that selling a home can be one of the most daunting and stressful undertakings of their clients’ lives.  The sheer number of variables involved can feel overwhelming, and that’s before they consider emotional attachments and the stress of moving.  Add a layer of financial ramifications, like how much home they can buy with the proceeds, and it's crystal clear how important you, as the agent, are to influence the outcome, and your collective sanity.  

The challenges

Like all big decisions with financial implications, there are no shortage of interested parties looking to “help” your potential clients.  Once they mention to friends or co-workers that they’re looking to move, names of other agents will come up.  If they type ‘home value’ into an internet search or real estate platform, good luck, they’ll be inundated.  As you know, they will get multiple calls within the hour, and the path to closing that business gets much more crowded.  

Now with the addition of iBuyers, agents have the added layer of competition with scientific pricing models offering home sellers cash and a quick close.  If it feels like uber-competitive agents and tons of available cash are working against you making genuine connections, well, you’re right.

The agent as the solution

To establish yourself as the home seller’s perfect match, compartmentalize the challenges and keep it simple.  Start with the facts, apply them to the house and then to the client.  To do that, let’s take a look at what impacts the sale price of a home most directly, and boil it down to 5 key questions to answer.  How you answer these questions determines where to focus before pitching the seller, and guides your follow up.  

What 5 things that matter most:

  1. Pricing: Maybe the most important variable.  What is the optimal price to generate the right amount of interest AND get the best price?  Home price estimate prices should be your baseline, and add 3-5% or you’ll lose out to an iBuyer.  But your expert assessment of comps and amenities should help you reach the right conclusion.  

  2. Repairs and upgrades: Another critical decision.  What repair, remodel and upgrade options are most important to buyers in this price range and neighborhood.  It is critical to improve, but not over-improve, to maximize value.

  3. Storytelling: What is the narrative that will push the sale price up?  The ability to tell the story of your home is key -- how the seller used it,  what they loved about it, and how it will satisfy the needs of buyers is a significant part of executing a sale.

  4. Build trust: There will be huge decisions to be made.  Take the time to get to know what is most important to your client, so that information can be applied when the deal gets tense.  You may have to counter multiple offers or you may need to reduce the price; and success depends on communicating the options, knowing why the decision matters and coming up with solutions that feel right.  

  5. Costs of sale: How much are they paying for your service?  Commission pressure is coming, whether we like it or not, here’s a chance to get ahead of it.  You know the iBuyer will be cheaper than you, make sure the bump they get by using you more than pays for the difference.  

Let these questions guide your advice.  Become a pro at answering those and success will follow.  

So how can you communicate this expertise to sellers, but in a way that will not drive them away?  What does it mean to apply answers to the house and seller?  Nail the details of the home and sale, then turn your focus to your seller and become a personal advisor.  While suggesting the answers to those 5 keys questions, separate yourself from other agents and the algorithms.  Know the objective info, but define the subjective.  Technology has given everyone access to the basic data; it is how you extrapolate that matters.  Here’s a chart to help: 

What makes the difference?

The starting point- what every agent knows The differentiation- what advice you provide to get business
# of bedrooms How the next owner can use those bedrooms to their best use.
Square footage Provide suggestions on best use of space.
Remodel history Why those remodels matter in relation to the market.  Suggest 3 key upgrades and the cost benefit.
Tech home price estimates They vary a little among themselves, but A LOT among humans.  Know the results of algorithms, add 3-5% and figure out what it will take to improve by 10%.
Comps Expert agents know the comps inside and out, and can provide the “why”behind the comps, and nuance beyond simple price per square foot.
Staging's effect on price Can the seller use some of their own furnishings to save money?  How much will staging their home help in real financial return. 

Bottom line: be the solution

In 2020, the agent's contribution to the real estate process has never been more in doubt, yet  has never been important.  Focus on answering the critical questions, using data-driven measurables as your baseline,  and connect with your people skills. That will keep you relevant and make you money.  Think objectively about the essentials, provide them, and apply them subjectively to the house in a way that speaks to the seller AND to a varied group of buyers.  

Having the key questions answered and providing thoughtful solutions will allow you to focus on what a home seller really needs -- to feel at ease knowing they’ve found the right real estate partner for a very important life event.

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