Real Estate Buyer Requirements
In my experience I have observed that most small time real estate agents operate out of fear. Oftentimes brokers are very secretive and guarded and will not disclose names, property details etc. out of the fear of giving away too much information which they fear may eventually lead to them losing out on business because the client can take that information and run with it and not contact them again. I believe in the modern world, this fear-based approach is self-defeating and does not serve any purpose. I like to approach new clients and leads with an attitude of transparency and helpfulness. We do not withhold any information from clients at the beginning because they haven’t committed to us yet. So we freely give whatever we can.
Remember the world of business has moved on from mobs and cartels, secretly guarded trading practices and closed ways of doing things to an open and transparent world in which raw information is easy to find. Anyone can go online and find information on just about anything and everything. Before the internet came into being, real estate agents thrived on exactly this – information that was out of the reach of the common man. In today’s world, brokers and real estate agents have to know what to do with the information – not just pass it on and expect to get paid by doing nothing beyond that! We believe that in the majority of cases, happily providing good information can only prove to demonstrate our expertise and enhance our credibility with a potential client rather than be suspicious of every one of his / her questions.
Like I mentioned in my earlier article here on Mastering the Real Estate Market, knowledge has a magnetic aura about itself and can attract people. The best way to show that you really know your stuff is to share your knowledge freely with others. Sharing your knowledge is way better and more convincing to everyone than just printing “We know best” or “Mumbai’s Real Estate Experts” on your business cards!
Which brings me to the topic of this article.
What a Buyer Looks For
A potential buyer is sitting across the table in my office. So what is next? The last thing I would like to do is to simply whip out my questionnaire form like they do at medical clinics and start asking a dozen questions – what configuration flat, what price range, what area, etc etc. And then after that, stick up an exclusive buyer agency agreement form up his face and ask for his signature! Well, that methodical and clinical approach may work in Western countries but it certainly does not work here in India!
Our approach is that every client who walks into the Gupta & Sen office is a guest. So the first thing to do is to be polite and make him / her feel welcome. Once refreshments are served and we are comfortably settled in, just make conversation as friends. It is then that I usually ask what sort of property the client is looking for. Questions are asked but it is definitely not in the shape of a formal questionnaire. There is plenty of time for all that later. Right now my main goal is to ensure that rapport and trust is built and of course post that, demonstrate my expertise! I never fail to remind you my dear reader of that do I?! Trust and Rapport are developed best by listening and not talking.
Below are a few of the questions that I would typically need to know during my first meeting with a prospective buyer.
- What type of property are you looking for?
- What type of neighbourhood are you interested in?
- Do you have a price range in mind?
- What is the time frame for closing the acquisition?
- Are there any specific must-haves in your list? (e.g. schools, proximity to parks and playgrounds, temples etc.)
At this point, I don’t even ask exactly how many bedrooms the client is looking for nor what is the minimum area he is looking for. Or whether the client needs a garage. I do not even ask whether he has spoken to a bank about financing. There is a lot of time for that. Any more questions than the ones listed above and I run the risk of chasing off the client before he has had the chance of growing to like me and trust me.
You Don’t Need a Questionnaire
Even after there is a rapport that develops between the client and me and he wants to move forward. Is this the time for the buyer to fill out a buyer questionnaire. Honestly speaking, I am not a big believer in Buyer Questionnaires. I do know that this practice has been brought into India by the old-timer real estate agencies like Cushman Wakefield, Knight Frank etc. But I do know from my own experience that filling up Buyer Questionnaires is a jaded exercise and at Gupta & Sen we actively discourage this practice. I believe that one can find out everything that one needs to know about a buyer’s requirements from simply having a regular conversation with him. The problem that I have with questionnaires is that they tend to get too comprehensive and scattered.As an aside I must talk here about the bad episodes in an agent’s life when a prospective buyer took a lot of their time and then vanished into thin air. Poof! So a lot of real estate agents and agencies come up with stricter rules to ensure that these kind of incidents are not repeated again. I believe that relationships especially business relationships take time to fructify and grow. I do know that time is valuable but spending more time with a potential 50 Lakh pay check rather than spend less time and think about the loss of time if the client does not return is a bad way to start off any relationship!
Let me dwell more about why one doesn’t need a buyer questionnaire. It all stems from the basic truth that most people do not shop for residential or commercial properties very often. So they do not really have a very clear picture of what they do want apart from a few must-haves here and there. But even those must-haves are subject to change or modification. It can actually be highly counter-productive to try and nail down and concretise on paper what a buyer wants because quite simply he himself does not know what he wants! And if you force him to write down answers to your questions on the form, he may be forced to make up a few answers just to make you happy!
Why would that be a problem you might ask? Well, as an agent you might end up excluding properties that the buyer may have liked but would not have matched with his answers in the questionnaire. Another problem that can arise is the fact that you tend to create expectations in the buyer’s mind that cannot possibly be fulfilled considering his budget and location preferences.
Details Come Later
The next step of my conversation with a buyer will obviously dwell upon the more detailed aspects of the buyer’s requirements such as the minimum number of bedrooms and bathrooms, parking slots and garages and other amenities that he is looking for in the property of his choice.
At this point most luxury or high end real estate agencies might try to get the buyer to sign a buyer-agency agreement. But well, not me. The buyer may be convinced about me being a right match for him to find the properties that he needs but that is about it. I have not yet earned the right to ask the buyer for an exclusive commitment towards me. We have in fact just scratched the surface when it comes to creating a feeling of trust and respect.
The next logical step for me is to schedule a time to go and look at the properties together. After that what happens – well you can take it from here 🙂