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Real Estate Brokerage

Safety concerns are top of mind for realtors, but what about our clients?

Seller safety is an overlooked topic that the industry should focus on to create an overall secure transaction for all, from meeting to closing.

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There has been lots of advice recently about Realtor safety, but what about the home seller’s safety?

This area seems a little scant on advice, as a profession we probably owe more consideration to the sellers who pays for the food on our table. The appropriate moment to discuss safety with your new client is probably right after the listing is signed.

There are the points you should be covering with your seller:

Explain that you can’t protect valuables

If you’re planning on hosting an open house, remind them that you likely won’t be following every prospective buyer around the house. Unless you are insisting on visitors signing in or checking IDs, you also won’t know exactly who’s walking through the house either.

Unless you as the agent plan to be there for every showing, you’ll need to explain that you can’t protect their valuables.

Remove pharmaceuticals for every tour

Jewelry, laptops, iPads, personal mail, and especially pharmaceuticals are prime targets for thieves if not put away properly. Encourage your seller to remove prescription drugs from the home prior to every showing, or properly dispose of expired prescription drugs.

Mail may contain personal information and bank statements and are a risk from identity fraud. Explain that agents don’t want to be confronting someone taking these types of items from a home.

Put away knife blocks

Ask the seller to put away any knife blocks before showing. These may be a safety issue for any showing agent in the home.

With all those high-definition images of the home’s interior out there on every listing site, it’s like a robber’s take-out menu.  Suggest to your seller that they consider putting high-end stereos, flat-panel TVs, etc., in storage until they sell.

Surprising tip: remove pics of kids

If your client has photos of their wife, teenage daughter or children displayed, tactfully suggest that this might not be appropriate, if say a pedophile or stalker walked through their home.

seller safety tip

Tell sellers to not offer tours on their own

Even without a sign outside a property, the fact that the address is on every website in town is an open invitation (or an excuse) for someone to knock on the door and ask the sellers to “take a peek” inside. Explain that it’s not a good idea to let them in and that they should simply state “Please call my agent with any questions or to make an appointment”.

Explain Craigslist scams

With the growing rental fraud scams (listings are scraped by scammers who post bogus rental listings on Craigslist and other sites) potential renters could possibly be showing up at their doorsteps too, ready to move in

Check locks after tours

Discuss with them how to make their home burglarproof when it’s on the market and the need to check that a prospect has not deliberately left a door or window unlocked, so they can gain easy access later.

Recommend that if they don’t plan on returning directly home after a showing, they should ask a trusted neighbor to pop in, to make sure your doors were locked and the windows are secured.

Consider that there would actually be a whole lot less to worry about if we knew exactly who was looking at a home.

How are we protecting sellers?

So why are we letting any old Tom, Dick, or Harry look at homes in the first place? Why are we allowing unverified buyers into our seller’s homes?

Agents should consider counseling the seller to only allow verified prospects into their home.

The Des Moines Area Association of Realtors has already come up with an innovative seller contract, that states that no real estate agent is allowed to show the home to anyone the agent has not previously met and identified.

As a positive side effect, with this contract in place it allows agents to tell prospective buyers they have no choice but to first meet the agents in public because it is required by contract with the seller.

The other upside to this is respecting the seller’s time and effort in preparing for each showing.

After all, sellers are expected to keep up with tidiness and be ready for the next showing. I’m sure many sellers spend quite some time preparing for the next showing, then having to leave the house, sometimes with kids and animals in tow.

The cheat sheet for your sellers:

Here’s a shortened version of the suggested list of points you should discuss with a home seller:

  • Explain you can’t be there for every showing or be responsible for their valuables.
  • At open houses, you won’t be showing every visitor around the home.
  • Jewelry, money, laptops, cellphones,  gaming systems, and pharmaceuticals should all be stored away from plain view and out of the front of drawers.
  • Put high-end stereos, flat-panel TVs, etc., in storage until you sell.
  • Remove any knife blocks and mail on their kitchen countertops
  • Remove personal photos of your wives, teenage daughters, or children.
  • Never agree to let in a stranger knocking on the door.
  • Check doors and windows after each showing.

September is Realtor Safety Month

Consider making these recommendations your own personal standard. Ask your broker to incorporate these into their Broker Safety Policy (they have one, right?)

Talk to your local Realtor Association about the Des Moines Area Associations initiatives and how you can implement it.

(Disclosure – Peter Toner is founder of the safety app Verify Photo ID which verifies strange prospects photo IDs and checks against a National sex offenders list).

Peter Toner is a third generation real estate agent who has been practicing for nearly two decades. He is the Founder of Verify Photo ID - a safety app that verifies the identity of strange prospects before you meet - in three simple steps; it includes a Safety Monitor with panic alerts.

Real Estate Brokerage

Red flags that signal potential homebuying regrets for your clients

(BROKERAGE) When helping clients buy a home, steer your buyers away from these potential dangers in order to avoid regrets.

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Man seated in trunk of car, head in hands as he feels homebuying regret. Avoid these with your clients.

Satisfied clients aren’t buyers who have just found the perfect home – their customer swho bought the perfect home, and still feels great about it a year later.

Buyer’s remorse is a real risk, especially on a large, expensive purchase like a home.

Not just a number

As a real estate agent, you can certainly pressure your customers to make a quick decision just to close the deal, but that’s not how you create lasting relationships or satisfied clients.

Instead, help buyers make the best decision they can so that they don’t have regrets later.

Tim Lemke at Wisebread has offered a list of the “Biggest Regrets of New Homeowners.” By examining what homeowners are most likely to regret after purchase, you can help your clients avoid find a home that they can be happy with for years to come.

Money regrets

According to Lemke, most post-purchase regrets arise when the buyer fails to budget or properly finance the purchase. This includes buying a home that is too expensive, making a down payment that is too small, setting up the wrong kind of mortgage, or making the purchase with a low credit score or while still in debt.

Help your client create a budget for the home that does not exceed 30% of the household’s gross income – and stick to it!

The budget should also factor in at least 20% of the cost as a down payment. If the down payment is too small, the available loans will be less than ideal, and the buyer will lose money on private mortgage insurance.

False hope regrets

You should also advise clients to avoid other common pitfalls that can leave homeowners dissatisfied. A fixer-upper is great if the client is handy, but if he or she doesn’t know how to do home repairs and renovations, they could easily end up with an unlivable property that will cause stress and require a lot of time and money to repair.

In order to avoid other unforeseen repairs, make sure your clients also get the house inspected so that they don’t end up with surprise problems.

Diligence regrets

Finally, encourage your clients to not only check out the house itself, but to research the surrounding area. Too often, buyers fall in love with a house, but end up regretting their choice of neighborhood.

Help your clients make the best decision they can – no regrets!

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Real Estate Brokerage

How to spot If a client or fellow agent is lying to you, and get the truth out

(BUSINESS NEWS) When a client or even an agent on the other side of the deal is lying, here is how to pull the truth out of them.

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Woman and man in an argument determining if one was lying.

Trust is important when it comes to running your business. So what should you do if you suspect that one of your team members, or even a client might be lying to you?

Shining a blinding light in their eyes and pounding on the table to demand answers may work on TV, but it’s not very effective for real people, says retired Green Beret Sergeant Major Karl Erickson.

Erickson, who perfected the art of identifying fibbers and extracting truths while in the military, and by studying interrogation techniques with John E. Reid & Associates, recently shared his insight.

First step – establish truthful behavior.

He notes that it is harder than people think to tell if someone is lying based on their body language alone. Sure, liars may have shifty eyes and jiggling knees, but so do honest people who are just nervous.

He suggests starting off by asking innocuous questions about things that the person will likely be truthful about. You could even use Facebook to find out more about the person, so that you can ask them innocent questions about their family or their latest vacation.

That way, you can establish an idea of the person’s general behavior.

If they break a sweat and bite their nails while telling the truth, then you’ll know that these habits aren’t necessarily associated with lying.

If you start by asking questions they won’t lie about, then slowly turn up the heat, you’ll be more likely to notice if they start behaving differently when you get to the juicy stuff.

Ask a question in various ways.

Erickson also recommends asking the same question at least three different ways. A liar won’t likely mess up their story, even when asked repeatedly.

However, they may reveal “carefully repeated phrases” and an “overly deliberate choice of words” that suggest that they’ve rehearsed their answers.

Don’t try to intimidate.

Being friendly and compassionate works better than intimidation. Erickson says that he’ll tell someone, “if I was in your shoes, I’d probably have done the same thing.”

Soften them up, and they’ll be more likely to confess.

Tell a version of the story.

Lastly, Erickson suggests telling the version of the story that you imagine could have happened.

The more you elaborate and exaggerate, the more likely the person will interrupt you to correct your assumptions, resulting in at least a partial confession.

Good luck! You deserve to know the truth.

This story was first published here in September of 2016.

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Real Estate Brokerage

5 steps you need to take in order to provide next-level customer service

(BROKERAGE) Some small steps that business owners take in order to show customers appreciation, loyalty, and service that turns into business success.

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Person holding phone representing customer service.

I can’t think of the last time I called a business in need of help – it could have been my cable provider or the electric company – and I was immediately reminded of what they couldn’t do for me rather than what they could. It makes me wonder if customer service is becoming a lost art or maybe it’s a generational thing, that people at a certain age demand too much as customers.

I’m not expecting a mint under my pillow or even a gift card. Although both would be nice. But what I am expecting is to be treated as the asset that I am: a customer. Call me silly, but last time I checked, without customers, the bills don’t get paid and the mouths don’t get fed. If that’s not enough to treat customers like royalty, I don’t know what is.

It’s the little things

It’s easy to be on the outside looking in, but I’ve noticed that some of the most successful small (and even large) business owners got to where they are by keeping an eye- not on the bottom line- but on the little things. You know, those crazy small steps that business owners take in order to show customers appreciation and loyalty and that can go a long way in building and sustaining fruitful relationships (that in turn translates into sustained business).

Every face-to-face is showtime

It’s been said that time is money, so think of time well-spent as an investment. Three minutes spent talking to a customer shapes his or her impression of your company more than the combination of your name, pricing, design, website, and product features. This is your shining moment to be the best you can be, to blow the person away with how cool it was to contact you.

Customer vs. Company (and guess who wins)

This is probably a no-brainer, but if you want great customer service, you need to make a choice up front and decide that your customers’ happiness is your top priority, even above company profitability, and then make sure everyone in your company knows it and acts that way.

Be generous

All great service comes from a feeling of generosity and abundance. All terrible service comes from a mindset of scarcity, from business owners who feel they’ll go out of business if they don’t fiercely guard their bottom line. So share. Be nice. Give refunds. Take a little loss. You can afford it. Of course, it’s also just smart business. Losing 10 cents on extra sauce can mean winning the loyalty of a customer who will spend $1,000 with you over the next 10 years and tell 20 friends you’re awesome.

Take the high road

Whenever a customer is upset, let the person know he or she was right and the company was wrong. The customer wins. You lose. And you’re prepared to do whatever it takes to make the person happy again.

Happily ever after

There are a lot of great lessons to be learned out there and certainly, this is not the be-all-end-all when it comes to customer service. But if you treat your customers right, after awhile the mindset becomes part of your social fabric.

It’s just the right thing to do.

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