One of the greatest stories real estate agents tell themselves is that buyers and sellers are two different types of customer who need to be treated differently. But agents who ignore buyers to focus on vendors they can pitch to in the short term could be reducing their leads by as much as 75 per cent.
The new Buyer Perceptions of Real Estate Agents report reveals that the concerns of buyers are similar to the concerns of vendors. And the common theme of both consumer groups is that they want agents to lift their behaviour.
The Buyer Perceptions report, released last year by CoreLogic, is the second to be conducted on consumer experiences of real estate agents. It follows a report last year on vendor perceptions.
The Buyer Perceptions report identified that the behaviours and skills that buyers see as hallmarks of excellent service are identical to those outlined by vendors. Both buyers and sellers want good communication, help, empathy, fast response times and a transparent process from end to end that recognises both the emotional and financial enormity of buying and selling
The only difference is the degree to which buyers are likely to experience excellence, with the survey identifying that this was less than half as likely as in the vendors’ experience. The report shows 14 per cent of buyers experience excellence across the key skills and behaviours of agents, with most relegated to ‘average’ experiences.
The survey shows that buyers understand agents are there to serve the vendor and, as they do not pay an agent, they have limited power to demand better treatment. But it also reveals how genuinely confused they are as to why so many agents – always on the hunt for their next listing – just don’t seem to comprehend that good service creates referrals and new business.
“At the end of the day, the agent works for the seller – but treating the buyer as a client as well can only help grow their business,” said one survey respondent.
The survey delivers some extraordinary insights into the depth of feelings that buyers have around the legacy method of selling property, identifying opaque processes, complicated negotiations and political one-upmanship. Comments identify the frustration so many feel and how they are no longer prepared to be silently mystified – especially when they are the ones spending many hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Agents should just be honest, list the property in the ballpark of what it is expected to go for and not try and be clever,” one respondent wrote. “I can smell a manipulator and it really turns me off. I just like honest interactions and I like a person that just helps it all go through smoothly. Most people don’t buy and sell that often in life, so just help us understand the process and be honest.”
Agents who seek to defend or propagate these methods are most likely to be labelled ‘poor’ or ‘disastrous’ by buyers. While many agents think they are playing it clever, the report shows they are the ones losing the long game. Only 25 per cent of buyers expect to stay in touch with the agent they bought from, and only 57 per cent would recommend their agent to friends or family.
The figures identify the extraordinary client ‘churn’ rate that so many agents tolerate by turning their backs on buyers while chasing their next listing elsewhere.
This is reinforced by the insight extracted from the earlier Vendor report that buyers are assessing and ‘auditioning’ agents from the minute they meet them – usually at the first open for inspection. As such, the way agents treat buyers is a critical decider in whether the agent will ever get an interview and opportunity to pitch for the client’s business when they make the decision to sell.
But equally, agents have an extraordinary opportunity every time they hold an open for inspection.
When an agent delivers a quality service to a buyer, three things happen – they are extraordinarily grateful, they become a client for life and they tell all their friends.
This makes buyer-care one of the most powerful and affordable – yet undervalued – assets any real estate agent can own.
To this end, the survey confirms the view that the sales funnel for real estate agents is significantly larger than the majority of agents realise. It confirms that those who expend their energy and training on improving conversion rates of potential vendors only once the decision to sell has been made and they have been invited to present are focusing on the wrong end.
Providing an excellent experience for buyers can add significant numbers of genuine future sales opportunities when managed correctly. While the immediate financial pay-off for agents comes from vendors, having a process for supporting and helping buyers can become a highly valuable asset that sustains the economic growth of a successful real estate business.
HOW AGENTS CAN BE HONEST WITH BUYERS – WITHOUT UNDERMINING THEIR LOYALTY TO THE VENDOR
- Listen to what the buyer is looking for and make viewing recommendations based on what you know is on the market, not just on your books
- Provide lists of comparable sales rather than price guides, so that buyers can make informed judgments about what to offer
- Be ﬂexible on viewing times to accommodate genuine but time-challenged buyers
- Provide vendor approved quotes for repairs or remediation work on properties with issues so that buyers go in with their eyes open
- Respond quickly to inquiries and requests for further detail
- Know the property inside out, including building materials, block size, renovation dates, rates, strata fees (if applicable) and running costs, and have these available at opens.
- 58 per cent of buyers rated their experience of buying a home as positive, but just 14 per cent said it was excellent
- 33 per cent of buyers said the post-purchase follow-through of the agents they dealt with was negative, with 22 per cent describing it as poor and 11 per cent claiming it was disastrous
- 68 per cent of buyers stated agents had little to no interest in helping them ﬁnd a suitable property to buy
- 9 per cent of buyers claim the honesty and trustworthiness of agents was excellent; 28 per cent claim it was either poor (16 per cent) or disastrous (12 per cent)
- 28 per cent of buyers said the price guide offered by agents was poor (18 per cent) or disastrous (10 per cent). Only 9 per cent said agents were excellent in this area.
- 46 per cent of buyers are using property reports to help them understand pricing
- 57 per cent of buyers would recommend their agent to family or friends
- 25 per cent of buyers expect to stay in touch with their agent and use him or her again.