One trait that separates a good real estate agent from a great one is their ability to build meaningful relationships — that means becoming a long-term partner their clients can trust to help them through the buying or selling process. A high percentage of a successful agent's business comes from word-of-mouth, referrals and repeat business, which is more important even in the current competitive market.
Even though you may have an ever-growing to-do list as a busy agent, it’s important you don’t overlook your agent-client relationships or make mistakes that might erode your clients’ trust and confidence.
Here are a few mistakes you might be making that could undermine your client relationships and jeopardize your future business:
Don’t rely on memory alone to recall the valuable nuggets of information your clients provide during your conversations. Use a real estate customer-management-relationship system to keep meticulous notes on your clients and prospects — from details about family pets, to likes, dislikes, milestones, and more. Is your client in the market for a vacation home, or are they in search of a property to flip for profit? You’ll create more authentic relationships, and your clients will feel valued (and impressed) that you remember so much about them.
Your prospects will naturally look to you for help with all things home related, whether it’s a referral for a home inspector, a mortgage broker, or a moving company. Build relationships with quality service providers you would whole-heartedly recommend and use yourself and be prepared to open your business directory and share your contacts. Make it easy on your clients by doing the legwork for them.
Knowing the specifications of a listing is the minimum. You should be able to provide your clients with detailed knowledge of the neighborhood, school districts, local market trends, and more — really, anything your client might ask about the market. Be honest when you don’t know the answer to your client’s question, but tell them that you’ll find out, and remember to follow up.
It’s easy for a seasoned real estate professional who’s been through the process many times to forget what it’s like to buy or sell your first home. Your clients won’t forget, though, if it seems like you’re just going through the motions. Tap into your empathy and step into your clients’ shoes, listening with care to their concerns so you can better meet their needs.
Sending a monthly email newsletter full of relevant, valuable information shows your network that you’re a knowledgeable professional, actively keeping up with trends in your market. Even if a past client isn’t ready to buy or sell, they’re more likely to refer you to someone who is if you’ve remained top of mind by staying in touch.
It’s crucial that all important and relevant details are recorded in writing to avoid any misunderstandings based on ambiguous or misremembered conversations. An “understanding and a handshake” will not suffice. Offers, acceptances, contingencies, modifications to legal documents, your client’s directions and expectations, and your contractual agreement with your client — all of it should be in writing. Follow up any phone conversations or video calls with a written recap emailed to all parties involved for your records.
Of course, you’ve done a thorough competitive market analysis on your client’s home and know how it should be priced. Be sure to keep in mind that caving to pressure from a client to list their home well above market price because they "just want to see what happens" rarely ends well. Typically, buyers move on to better-priced homes, your client sours when offers aren’t coming in, and you’re risking your reputation as a competent real estate agent when the price is ultimately reduced (maybe more than once). Think carefully before agreeing to this strategy with your client.
Agreeing to reduce your commission might be tempting in order to win someone's business, but ultimately it can undermine your self-confidence and lead to feelings of resentment toward your client. Think of it this way: Would you ask your lawyer for a discount? Or your doctor or accountant? Probably not. They’re skilled professionals with high-level expertise and knowledge in their given fields — and so are you.
You’re most likely juggling multiple clients and listings while keeping up with new leads and market trends. It’s understandable that following up might take a backseat on occasion. But life moves quickly in this super-connected age and clients often expect you to do the same. Consistent communication, even if it comes in the form of an after-hours auto-reply, is essential to keeping relationships strong in real estate.
Real estate is never going to be a 9-to-5 job, but believe it or not, you are entitled to down time. In fact, it’s necessary if you’re going to perform your job to the best of your abilities. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that working without establishing firm boundaries around personal time leads to burnout, stress, irritability and frustration with both your job and your clients. Again, communication is key: Let clients know upfront what they can expect when it comes to your availability and how you’ll handle inquiries made “after hours”.
Real estate will always, at its core, be a relationship-driven business. Agents who invest the time, skill, and patience in nurturing clients, listening with empathy, and taking the long view of developing leads into relationships are well-positioned to thrive.