The growing sophistication of the “knowledge pack” that an estate agent today has to have is in every way a big step forward for the residential property marketing sector, but, says Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group, no amount of knowledge and skill can take the place of the fundamental good manners and good service traits: punctuality, regular communication and total openness.
“Surveys taken from time to time in our group,” said Bill, “show a very high degree of satisfaction – some 78% of our clients have no serious complaints. However, where we do pick up dissatisfaction, particularly these days, it is not due to a lack of information or backup data (our valuations in particular tend to be very highly rated) but to a lack of punctuality, too little on-going communication and a tendency to gloss over or ignore awkward details.”
Emphasis on communication
The Rawson Property Group’s training courses, said Bill, always focus on and emphasise these three aspects of an estate agent’s service – with special emphasis on communicating with clients even when there is nothing new to report.
“When, despite advertising and the client base being kept informed, there is no response from potential buyers, it is only too easy for the busy estate agent to concentrate on other properties. However,” said Bill, “agents simply have to stay in touch with clients regularly, even when there has been no progress. In our experience, nothing will infuriate and demoralise a client more than the perception that he has been forgotten.”
Openness and transparency
Asked in what ways an agent can fall short on total openness, Rawson said that an agent without real moral values might deliberately fail to point out a defect in a property or might neglect to tell the potential buyer about future development plans for the area which later could detract from his pleasure of the property – and its value.
Estate agents, said Rawson, have to be coached to become consultants and advisers, not just sales people. Their aim should be to build long-term trusting relationships. One of the best ways of doing this, he added, is to spend time helping buyers to understand the banks’ loan criteria so that they prequalify for their bonds and, when their applications are submitted, have a 90% plus chance of success.
“A disinterested agent might well adopt the attitude ‘consult your bank and then come back to me’ – but an agent who sees himself as the client’s friend and helper will act as his credit advisor as well and in many cases, may do a better job in this respect than the bank consultant.”
Chat – don’t just email
Rawson warned, too, that a certain type of agent can become so email-orientated that he reduces his telephone and face-to-face communication to an absolute minimum. While this is understandable in an age that is so completely IT-orientated, he said, the best agents in his experience are still those who enjoy one-on-one, face-to-face meetings with their clients.
“A client will very soon pick up whether the agent is, in fact, working on the client’s behalf or purely for himself. It is far better to lose the occasional sale through openness rather than to bulldoze ahead despite that the deal may not be in the client’s best interests.”