Last month, my neighbor’s house sold three times. Once at 4pm on a Tuesday, again at 10 on Wednesday; and finally at noon last Friday. Too bad their listing agent didn’t know it.
Here’s a lesson, from where the rubber-hits-the-road in sales. Last month, I had first-hand confirmation of something I’ve suspected:
Real estate agents could sell more homes if they worked from them every day.
For years, I’ve disbelieved a common real estate cliche: Open houses don’t work. This, in an industry that insists it’s a “people business”? Certainly, if nobody shows up, that’s a marketing problem. But gather a bunch of consumers, (50% of which said open houses were very useful last year) in a place with a trained agent, and you can sell homes.
I’ve also maintained that, with today’s powerful affordable laptops, agents could increase their sales by increasing their time spent in the field. It makes no sense to work from branch offices these days. It’s not just a recession that’s teaching companies to ditch office space: It’s the possibility of spending more time in the field selling. With a laptop, iPad and smartphone, agents can sell from anywhere. All day long.
Why not work from the kitchen table of their listings?
Most sales people work with – or at least near – the products they sell. My tailor works near his suits. My car dealer works near his cars. Imagine what might be possible if agents could work from their listing more than once a month?
There’s hardly anything an agent might need from the office that they can’t get from the road. Every form of contact can be routed to a smartphone or iPad today. Cloud storage makes every document, presentation and form available wirelessly. A decent MacBook Pro’s battery lasts the whole day.
Imagine conducting a whole-day open house, a few days a week. Your product would be available for agents and consumers to stop by whenever it fits their schedule. You could offer more days, more hours, more convenience, to attract buyers. You’d open the home to consumers not ready for “an appointment” and those who can’t make a particular Sunday at a restricted time of the day.
How would buyers know? Simply add a phrase to the property’s description online: “Open every Monday from 9am to 5pm; No appointment necessary.” or “Open every other day from 9 to 5 pm until sold. Just stop by!”
Before you jump to the bottom and explain to me why this won’t work, let me tell you a quick story. It’s about my neighbor’s home, which sold three times last month, but is still on the market today.
One Tuesday I was watering the lawn late in the afternoon when a family of four came walking up my driveway. They asked if I knew anything about the house for sale next door. Did I know about the neighbors (me), street noise, walking distance to town and the school playground across the street? They hadn’t been inside the house yet. They were just driving by and saw the sign. And me. When they left thirty minutes later, I pointed to the sign. They actually said, “The neighborhood sounds wonderful. I think we’re going to be neighbors!”
The following Wednesday, upon returning from the gym mid-morning, someone was peeking in the windows of the still-for-sale home. They waved to me. Again, the scene played out. After a few minutes, they got that gleam in their eye, the one salespeople knows means, just close them! I encouraged them to contact the listing agent.
Last Friday, I came home for lunch. Again, a couple flagged me down in my driveway. They were relocating from Minnesota. Again, the same conversation. Twenty minutes later, I walked them over to the sign and said, Take out your cell phone and call the agent right now! Her office is two blocks away. She should be able to run right over and show you this home.
Three different times, three different days of the week. Buyers drove by a for-sale sign and stopped. They didn’t call, email or text the agent. They walked up the steps of the home and peeked in. They even told a complete stranger their life story and desires.
So, in an age where many agents insist real estate remains a face-to-face business, I say: I completely agree. But are you willing to show your face?
The house next door remains unsold. It’s been on the market since last November. It’s price has been reduced multiple times. There have been renovations and staging. One thing’s for sure, you can’t miss the sign out front: At least three couples prove that.
Yet, it’s not the internet or the sign that can make a sale. It still takes an agent. No matter how – and more importantly, no matter when – buyers show up.
If only the listing agent had been working from the home on just one of three days last month, I’d have some new neighbors by now.