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How to foster winning transactions: Ewan Morton

All the tricky tactics, smart strategy and fancy dialogue in the world won’t help you sell real estate if your clients don’t trust you, Ewan Morton says.

The Morton Real Estate director believes the secret to getting a seller and a buyer to agree on a price point and a sale, is relatively simple, but often overlooked.

“It’s actually about showing leadership to the client and the buyer,” he says.

“We get so focused on what dialogue and technique will make a transaction happen, but what the clients need from us is for us to lead them and help them make the right decision.

“We’re always going to learn things, learn tactics, strategy and dialogue, but all of that is useless if you don’t have an authentic relationship where you’re listening to the other person to try and find a solution to achieve what they want.”

Ewan believes authenticity is the key to any relationship with a buyer or a seller, and the best way to achieve that is simply through listening.

At a recent auction, Ewan took the time to find out from the buyer that the reason they were interested in this particular property was because it reminded them of their childhood living in Saigon.

On the vendor side, Ewan was able to deduce that they wanted more money than the property was worth because they had already imagined what they would do with the money from the sale.

Taking this time to find out each party’s motivation enabled him to help the selling agent, Sarah Li, get the deal done.

The parties were willing to take Ewan’s thoughts and comments on board because Sarah had established a strong relationship of trust.

Ewan says agents are often too quick to try out the latest script they’ve read or learnt.

“They think, ‘ooh, there it is, let’s play the dialogue’ when in reality you’ve got to get the connection first,” he says.

“If you’ve got the connection and it’s an authentic conversation where you’re being authentic and thinking of the client’s best interests, the dialogue will actually flow naturally.”

An industry expert, Ewan has more than 25 years experience in real estate and opened Morton & Morton with his father, Mark Morton, in 1996.

In 2001 he decided to become a non-selling principal, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see him at an auction on the weekend.

“I go to the auctions to be with the agents, to either help them do the deal or, if it’s going to be a disaster, I go down with them,” Ewan says.

“But I can’t do my bit unless the agent has built that trust.”

Ewan says the Morton team follows a clear and straightforward process with every transaction, with each step taking the vendor and buyer closer to a sale.

The steps include collaborative pricing, effective communication, strategy meetings and ensuring the vendor is engaged with the process.

He says on auction day he can tell whether that process has been followed or not.

“I can tell whether the process has been followed properly and I can tell whether we’re going to be selling it (the property),” Ewan explains.

“If the agent has done their job properly it’s going like clockwork, and the right people have turned up, the right people have registered and then there’s a moment where the auctioneer is getting ready to get started and the vendor will turn to me and say, ‘I really want to compliment you on your agent, they’ve been great’.

“We haven’t even started the bidding and they’re turning around and they’re complimenting them to me.

“What that means is the agent’s been able to push the market and demonstrate everything so that the vendor is in the right position to be able to make the decision that they have to make.

“When that happens, I know it’s going to come together.”

Ewan says another aspect he and his team look for on auction day is the buyer’s perception of the selling agent.

While some agents may have tried to keep the vendor and the buyer separate, Ewan says it’s not uncommon at Morton auctions for the buyer to also compliment the agent in front of the seller.

“That’s a big thing with our firm, we like to get that right so that everybody’s had a win,” he says.

“Everyone concentrates on numbers and GCI and appraisal ratios and all of that stuff, and you’ve got to do that, it’s important.

“But what I think is really important is making sure you’re doing your transactions right because our biggest source of business is referral.”

The first step in the process is to establish collaborative pricing, which is where the agent sits down with the vendor to price the property in a manner that balances what the vendor wants, or hopes to get, with what price will engage the market.

Ewan says taking the time to explain the logic behind the pricing strategy is crucial.

“It’s an art form to be able to have that conversation in such a way that they’re engaged with the leadership you’re showing around that, and they want you to go forward and believe you to be the agent to get the best price,” he says.

Communication is the next vital step in the process and Ewan urges agents to ensure clients know what’s happening every step of the way.

He says agents deal with buying and selling real estate every day, but clients don’t, and without clear communication, stress levels can rise.

“Then we have a strategy meeting with the client to talk about what’s going to happen and what they can expect,” Ewan explains.

“Then we have a weekly face-to-face meeting or, failing that, we use Zoom.”

Ewan says it’s important vendors are engaged in every step of the process, even if things aren’t going to plan.

He says agents should avoid the temptation to withdraw an auction, even if there’s little interest in the property, as it can be a good learning experience.

“You do it regardless and make sure your vendor is there to see it because if they’re standing there watching the outcome of their campaign, there’s nothing like a failed auction to help them understand that maybe their price is too high,” Ewan says.

“Sometimes people need to physically see it and feel it before they’re going to believe you as the agent.

“The more window we can get into the vendor, and the more window we give the vendor about the truth of what’s going on, the easier it is for them to come to a conclusion that the offers they’re getting, or the price they could receive, are actually a good price.”

Ewan stresses that withdrawing an auction can also send a signal to the market of weakness, while pushing ahead, even if it fails, can strengthen an agent’s confidence and skill set.

“Where I think things go wrong is, when the steps or the process is not executed as well as it should be and the vendor and the buyer are not taken on the psychological journey that gets them in a position where they’ll make a decision to either buy or sell,” he explains.

Being able to communicate tough messages calmly is another critical factor in securing a smooth transaction, as is making sure you work hard at every stage of the process.

Ewan says it’s not good enough to list the property, advertise it on the portals and expect it to sell itself.

“You have to get on the phone to hot buyers and you have to inform the market that the listing is coming up,” he says.

“You need to do the work to understand what’s going on with those buyers.”

Knowing and understanding your buyers means that when it comes time to negotiate you can see the bigger picture and lead them in the right direction to making the deal, even if that means asking them to increase their offer.

“When you go to those people and say ‘you have to pay a further $10,000’, the thing that makes them pay it is that they trust you as the agent,” Ewan says.

“When we’re selling properties it’s got nothing to do with price; it’s all to do with winning.

“Everybody wants to feel like they’re winning.”

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Deputy Editor at Elite Agent.