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Why home buyers call the listing agent despite having a buyer’s agent

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When a buyer strays

Today I got a call from one of my agents who showed houses to a buyer who bought with another agent. It stinks when you have a buyer who calls another agent from a sign, or who buys a property when you’re out of town… or a seller who doesn’t renew your listing contract after you’ve worked your hardest to sell the property and they’ve ignored your advice.

You must remember that it’s not personal, it’s business. Someone sits in front of a new listings, staring at the sign and if (a big if!) they call you, and you don’t pick up, they hang up and call the number on the sign, right? We say they don’t “get it”–that we’re working hard to find them a house, sacrificing our nights/weekends and family time, why can’t they just be loyal to us? Why can’t they wait 30 minutes or three hours or a day for us to call them back and get them in the property? Why do they call the listing agent???

Why aren’t buyers loyal?

Why? Because they DON’T CARE about us. Big revelation — right? They care about THEM. They want a house and they want/need to see that new listing they spotted now. Before it’s gone.

Even if they like us and treat us like friends (or we ARE friends!) their motivation to find a house drives them right now. Erica didn’t pick up her cell phone? (Maybe I’m with another client, or at the doctor’s office, or in a dead zone…) Oh well, call from the sign and get the price. Yes we want to see it, can you get us in?

They don’t MEAN to hurt us, they just want what they want NOW.

Discovering a parallel with retail

I’ve known this in my brain for ages, but it was driven home when I went computer shopping. I needed a new computer. Old house computer is fried (spent 2 days getting my data off it and I’m thrilled I got that far). So off to Staples I go. I have a Dell account and normally order online, but I wanted it NOW and I wanted to set it up over the weekend.

I went right to the computer department, where an elderly salesman was helping a young guy with his computer choice. You’d think the 16 year old would be lecturing the old man, but no! The kid had no clue. So I hung around the area for about 15 minutes, playing with the models and narrowing it down to two. He gave this kid 100% of his attention (good customer service for the kid!) and didn’t even notice I was there. Just as he sent the kid on his way, with a box, another person asked him a question and off he went with her. Again I hung close by, waiting to catch his eye–no go. Another 10 minutes and I had figured out on my own which of the two I wanted. Give me the box.

So I went to the cashier and told her I wanted a computer off the shelf and knew which one. She paged computer guy. He responded he couldn’t help as he was with a customer now. She looked at me like I must be stupid! Can’t I see he’s busy? I told her I just wanted to buy one and knew the model if she’d send someone for the box. No can do. Seems there’s only one computer guy who can do that.

I waited another few minutes, stood in front of the model I wanted and waited for him to take his time explaining all the features of every computer on the shelf to a woman. I’d had it.

I picked up a few jump drives and went back to checkout. The girl NEVER ASKED if I found what I wanted or why I didn’t have a computer. She just rang me up and I walked out.

Back home, I went to dell.com and in 15 minutes had purchased a more expensive model than I planned to at Staples. I didn’t care. I will have it in 3-5 days instead of walking out of a store with it. I don’t care.

I like Staples and order online all my office supplies from them. I stop by when I have to. But do I care that I bought a computer directly from Dell instead of the system I planned on buying in the store? Nope. My needs are met. Staples lost out this time.

Consumers don’t care who looses out

NOW… it’s not 100% perfect analogy. I’m not personal friends with Staples or their owner. I don’t have a relationship with Staples, not personally. I’ll still use them in the future, but don’t care if they lost out.

Think there’s a little relationship there to our buyers/sellers? They just want what they want, when they want it. We have to learn not to take it so personally. And we have to do everything in our power to show our clients that we are working hard for them, even when we cannot pick up the phone.

One technique I use is this: When I am with a new buyer/seller I keep my phone ON. If we’re at a table I put it on the table on vibrate. If I’m with them 1-2 hours, it’ll ring like 20 times! At some point, the person will say, get that if you have to. Then I say: Joe, my appointment is with you right now. After I leave here I’ll return all those calls, maybe even before I leave your driveway. But right now, you are my priority. If you call me and I’m with someone, I will call you back immediately after I am finished. That’s how I give all my clients full attention.

Then they GET IT. The lightbulb goes off and when they call, they’ll leave a message: I’m sure you’re with someone, so call me as soon as you can. They usually don’t hang up and call another agent, or don’t think I’m slacking.

The key here is you MUST MUST MUST return their calls promptly, or they think you truly are ignoring them.

Erica Ramus is the Broker/Owner of Ramus Realty Group in Pottsville, PA. She also teaches real estate licensing courses at Penn State Schuylkill and is extremely active in her community, especially the Rotary Club of Pottsville and the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce. Her background is writing, marketing and publishing, and she is the founder of Schuylkill Living Magazine, the area's regional publication. She lives near Pottsville with her husband and two teenage sons, and an occasional exchange student passing thru who needs a place to stay.

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31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. Sara Bonert

    October 13, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Google Voice transcription (while certainly not perfect, but free) texts me my voice mails, helping to prioritize which are more urgent than others when in meetings. Also, I like it because I can easily respond via email or text to a voice mail.

  2. Ryan Schattner

    October 13, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Great Article! Lately when I miss calls the client just ends up texting me with questions. Lets me respond fast no matter what I'm doing.

  3. Matt Fuller

    October 13, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Did you walk out of staples because you didn't get immediate gratification or because you were feeling ignored and taken for granted?

    My clients are willing to leave a message for me, but like you say, they need to know I'll return it promptly.

    In my experience, most buyers are pretty loyal. But anyone – regardless of industry or price point – will walk away in a heartbeat if they feel taken for granted or ignored.

    Nice article,
    Matt

  4. Karen Nathanson

    October 14, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    I think most consumers want instant gratification. It is important to always return calls promptly but this won't solve every case. Give the best customer service always and hope your customers appreciate this.

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Residential

Short sales: the top 3 title insurance troubles

Short sales are not without challenges, but knowing the answers to the most common obstacles and questions can aide in a less stressful transaction.

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short-sales

The importance of title insurance

When my husband and I purchased our first home, I was very young and very green. At the closing, our agent passed us our title insurance policy and said, “Put this in a safe place, and do not EVER throw it away.” At the time, I had absolutely no clue about title insurance, why it was important, and how it could save you from a world of trouble.

Decades later, working short sales, it’s the title reports and those dreaded liens that seem to be what gets us into all sorts of trouble. In fact, most of the reader questions that I received this past week related to title woes.

Three common short sale questions

Question: When I run the Statement of Information for my seller, it comes up with a child support lien and a mechanic’s lien. My seller says that he is aware of those liens, but has no money to make good on those debts. What should I do?

Answer: In short sales, the first lien holder will authorize funds from the proceeds to pay off a variety of expenses associated with the sale. These include commission, settlement fees, title insurance fees, and other mortgage liens. However, it is extremely uncommon for the short sale lender to offer to pay off a seller’s personal debts. Before you spend months and months processing the short sale, I’d strategize to ascertain whether you will be able to help the seller make good on these debts prior to closing. Otherwise, you should probably run like the wind.

Question: I am dealing with the IRS on a tax lien that needs to be released prior to short sale closing, and the IRS won’t budge. What should I do?

Answer: First off, it’s always a good idea to get non-institutional liens released early. At the time that you take a short sale listing, work with the title company to run a Statement of Information on the property owners. That way, if something comes up (like an IRS lien), you have plenty of time to work it out.

Generally, the IRS and the state tax authorities have mechanisms in place to remove these liens from title at no charge, since there is no equity coming from the sale. A tax attorney can guide you through the process. However, ask your title officer or title representative if they can work with you on this problem. The good news is that some title companies can help agents and you can avoid working with the IRS.

Question: I have a second lien on title with Chase Bank. Yet, when I contact Chase Bank, they tell me that the loan has been charged off and I need to contact the company where they transferred the loan. However, they do not have a record of where it was transferred. I’m between a rock and a hard place. What do I do?

Answer: This kind of chaos happens all the time with short sales, and it is very frustrating. Generally, if you contact the executive offices at the bank where the loan was held originally (in this case, Chase Bank), they can have their research department obtain information about where to call.

Another option might be to ask the lender for a “zero demand”. If they charged off the loan and show a balance of zero, then maybe they will send a zero demand and not further short sale negotiation would be necessary for this lien. Hey… without a second lien on title, maybe this won’t even be a short sale any longer!

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Coaching

How to avoid short sale buyer frustrations

Minimizing the frustrations that come with a short sale is often seen as a mythical possibility, but with these simple tips, any short sale transaction can go more smoothly.

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stress

Short sale frustration all around

Representing a buyer in a short sale can often be very frustrating. Primarily, that’s because of the unknowns associated with the short sale transaction. For one, nobody knows how long it’s going to take to obtain short sale approval. Actually, you don’t even know if you will get short sale approval. Not only that, but you also have to wait a fairly long time to learn the approved terms of the purchase. It’s frustrating to wait and wait, and then learn that the direction of the short sale is not the direction that the buyer is interested in taking.

Good communication is the key to short sale success. It’s vital for short sale listing agents to make communication with the buyer’s agent a regular and systematic part of the week. No matter how insignificant the short sale task, it is important to communicate with the buyer and the buyer’s agent and let them know that there are baby steps towards short sale approval.

One significant step towards short sale approval often comes after the bank’s valuation (BPO) when the bank makes a counter offer. Depending upon the short sale lender, this counter offer can come via email (in an email message), via telephone, or through an online platform such as Equator.

And then there are the counter offers…

Buyer’s agents and buyers often request to see the counter in writing. However, depending upon the short sale lender, this is often just not possible. Bank negotiators have contacted the short sale agent via phone, reviewed the settlement statement, and alerted the short sale agent as to what they will approve and what minimum net they might take accept in order to move forward with the short sale.

Since these counter offers usually do not come in writing, it’s important for the buyer’s agent to set the buyer expectations accordingly. Make buyers aware that there is lots of ‘verbal’ back and forth during the process. Many times it is only the short sale approval letter, the document that allows them to close, which comes in writing.

If buyers are willing to wait and keep the faith and understand that this process is a little more challenging and unique then most, they may find that they are getting a great deal on a wonderful property—often in better condition than the abandoned REO down the street.

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Coaching

Short sale: are there situations when agents can’t earn a commission?

Short sale: are there actually situations where an agent would not get paid? There are some complicated situations when it comes to short sales, and we address one here today.

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short sale agent

short sale agent
A short sale listing agent recently reached out to me to ask whether an agent principal can earn commission in a short sale transaction. This agent, Agent Alice*, was told that there are certain situations where licensees cannot earn a commission when buying a short sale.

The question:

Agent Alice received an offer on her listing from Agent Alex. Agent Alex is both the buyer and the principal. Agent Alice wanted to know whether the bank would pay a commission to Agent Alex at closing, since he is both the buyer and a principal.

The answer:

All of the major lenders including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac employ some sort of arm’s length affidavit in which the buyers, the sellers, and the agents acknowledge (often in front of a Notary Public) that none has a business or familial relationship with another party outside of the transaction. Between this affidavit and investor guidelines for short sale commission, it is uncommon for the short sale lender to permit a commission to be earned by an agent principal.

Agent Alice then asked me whether Alex’s Broker, Broker Bob, could represent Agent Alex and earn a commission. While I do not work for the short sale lenders and cannot predict each short sale lender’s response, I’d say that it would be best to avoid this scenario, since the two have a business relationship outside of the transaction.

My two cents:

When I recently posed these scenarios to a group of agents, many shared creative ways to obtain a commission for Agent Alex. Remember that any creative solution whereby Agent Alex earns commission must also show his commission on the HUD-1 that is approved by the short sale lender prior to closing. As such, it is highly unlikely that there is a legitimate workaround for this problem.

The solution:

The easiest and safest way for Agent Alex to purchase Agent Alice’s listing is to seek representation outside of his brokerage. Not only will this assure that the buyer’s agent earns a commission, but it will also assure that all parties comply with the requirements of most lender short sale addenda.

 

*The names of the agents and the brokers in this post are pure fiction. Any relation to real listing or buyer’s agents is merely coincidental.

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