Searching for a home and engaging with a real estate agent today is not the same as it was a generation ago. The space (both physical and virtual) between the buyer and the real estate agent was much larger, and coming together was slower and more methodical.
If a buyer saw a For Sale sign or an ad in the paper, they might call the real estate agency’s office, get some information, and move on. Or they could walk into an open house solo. They could be rather anonymous.
But today’s home buyers live online. They can click, text or email with agents, and seriously engage within hours. But does that mean they are active and serious buyers ready to transact? Not necessarily.
The real estate agent’s experience
Meanwhile, real estate agents, who are commission-only independent contractors, will sometimes drive around for hours showing homes. They may take these buyers around for days or weeks, thinking they have a live client they can help. They might make an offer or two on behalf of the customer, even be present at a two- to three-hour-long home inspection … all before the buyer decides to back out. They may buy a different house from the agent, or they may not.
Well-intentioned, hardworking agents can end up feeling like their time isn’t valued — particularly when they never hear from that buyer again.
Is it incumbent on the agent to be better at time management and qualifying their potential buyer clients? Or should the buyer be clear with the agent early on if they aren’t serious just yet?
I think that the consumer comes first, and it’s up to the agent to better qualify — as best they can. But it’s also part of the business, and par for the course. Agents sign up for a sales job, and they can’t win every deal. They need to ask lots of questions of their new “client” before offering up their time and cashing a paycheck that doesn’t exist.
Some consumers relish the attention they receive from this new “friend” who will drive them places, show them around, and teach them something new about the world of real estate. If the buyer isn’t paying for the agent’s time, the reasoning often goes, why not take a few rides and see some great houses?
But soon-to-be homeowners should be mindful of their intentions, and considerate of the resources the agent is delivering.
So what’s a buyer to do?
Should everyone stop looking online or clicking the “Contact Agent” button? No way. Consumers should always feel free to click away, ask questions and gather information.
But they should be mindful of how things work once they start seriously engaging. Most buyers don’t realize that there is a process to buying a home, and that it rarely happens overnight. From the time they first click on the photo of the killer master bathroom until they get the keys, it might be one year and three dozen (or more) house tours.
And if things don’t feel right with the agent with whom you engage early on, move on. Keep researching independently, or get a referral for a good local agent. Or, better yet, just go with the flow and the right agent will come along organically.
And what about agents?
Real estate professionals need to understand that one text, click or email does not make an active buyer. A good agent has a handle on the sales process, and asks buyers lots of questions to get a read on them. A good agent fills their sales funnel with a mix of folks in all parts of the home buying process.
Early on, an agent needs to be a guiding light, resourceful and ready to answer questions. As some of their buyers get more serious, smart real estate pros know where to direct their attention.