Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher
 

If Only the Agent Had Been There

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 . 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: don’t work. This, in an industry that insists it’s a “people business”? Certainly, if nobody shows up, that’s a 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.

  • I love that idea of holding an open house all day, several days a week!  Bring your wireless laptop and portable printer.  Might be tough for those with multiple listings though.  And how about if the home is occupied by the seller with small kids at home all day?  Great idea for REO’s and empty short sale homes.

  • Brad:

    Thanks for your comments. If you have multiple listings, then just rotate as best as you can; Even three or four times a month will be a huge increase in availability, right? You might also consider getting one of the new agents who is just starting in your office to help out; teamwork!
    Glad you liked the idea!

    — Matthew

    Matthew Ferrara Learning Network
    matthewferrara.com – mflearn.com – facebook.com/mfcompany
    tel. 978-291-1250 – skype: mflearn

  • Or do nothing, mope, whine, hope, blame and bleed out.  Brilliant.

  • Hi Matt,OK… you’re being ridiculous.  You have no way of even GUESSING if those people were qualified and motivated.   They talk to YOU a perfect stranger because they don’t WANT to talk with an agent!  …probably because they KNOW they’re not buyers !   COME ON MATT, you’re a smart guy…. I read this blog because I KNOW the agent business model is broken and you have some fresh new ideas, but if agents don’t even know what it costs to show a house or conduct an all day open house, how will they know if that activity is worth while?   They DON’T.   So your idea perpetuates the broken idea that agents should do EVERYTHING for free at the WHIM of even the most unlikely prospects…. and if BY CHANCE they make a sale, the brokers, trainers, gurus, etc will be happy cause they’ll get thier peice of flesh from the agent and 95% of those agents will be gone in two years anyway so there will be NEW crop of the uninitiated to bleed to death.    With ideas like this one, the agent is DEAD already they just don’t know it yet !
    PS:  I still love you, just need to keep you in check every once in a while 😉 PSS:  I will admit, when open houses are part of your business plan, I believe short (one hour), recurring, weekly one’s are an excellent strategy. 

    Joe———————————Joe Montenigro  REMAX Home TeamBroker, GRI   (856)374-2800 x106Serving Gloucester Twp, Washington Twp & South Jersey Real Estate MarketsRead me:  http://hometeamNJ.com/blog Watch me:  http://youtube.com/joemontenigro

  • Joe:

    I have to say, I don’t think I understand what you’re saying. While you’re correct that I have no idea if they were qualified or motivated (although they seemed motivated after talking to me for 30 minutes in two cases) my point was that if the agent were present, they could have QUALIFIED them. Maybe it wouldn’t have turned out; but as of now, we can’t possibly know because nobody was present.
    As for “what it costs to to conduct an all day open house” I’m not sure it “costs” any more than sitting in the office all day if you don’t have any showings or listing appointments. Most administrative tasks, even PROSPECTING can be done from anywhere your laptop works…. I can guess that the “cost” might have been the three “possible” qualified customers, so I’d say it cost more to NOT be there than to be there. And yes, I know agents have a lot to do running around, but why can’t they base that from their inventory, rather than from the office?
    How can someone who’s sitting in the office waiting (like, Floor Duty?) be any worse off than sitting at their listing instead? In either case, nobody might show up. Yet my direct empirical observation for the house next door indicated that three buyers stopped, walked up to the house, and would have gone in if it were immediately possible. They did not want to call, email or otherwise make an appointment. I call that OPPORTUNITY LOST don’t you?
    Maybe my idea is only “partially” right – maybe there’s a part of it that works – which is holding more than one open house, different days, different times, because we never know when someone will show up.
    I appreciate you taking the time to respond; sorry we don’t see eye-to-eye on this one.
    Have a super day,
    – MF

  • Dmoore0783

    New thoughts, new ideas, new profile of most of today’s buyers. Nothing to lose. Gee, what if you actually sold it? What if you picked up a couple of new buyers for your pipe line or impressed the heck out of the neighborhood so they will wany YOU to list THEIR home? There are a million reasons to this idea. I actually had been thinking a similar thought.

  • Eric Lowry

    If they were so ready to buy why didn’t they call the agent and set an apppointment to see the home??  If they wanted to see the house they would have called or emailed or texted the agent.  The listing agent does not need to be sitting around in vacant houses praying that someone stops by.  You have many more bright ideas than this one.

  • Eric Lowry

    If they were so ready to buy why didn’t they call the agent and set an apppointment to see the home??  If they wanted to see the house they would have called or emailed or texted the agent.  The listing agent does not need to be sitting around in vacant houses praying that someone stops by.  You have many more bright ideas than this one.

  • Eric:
    Thanks for the email. In my experience, there are many reasons why people don’t take the “next steps” on a purchase, even after an initial interest level, and when all they have to do is call or email. However, I’m not convinced we should blame the consumers in this example. If an agent had been there, they could have done the work of qualifying, probing further, and asking for the sale. Strike while the iron is hot, as the saying goes. Besides, who’s going to explain to the seller that there were three buyers who showed up to the door, but the agent wasn’t able to capitalize on them?
    – MF

  • Eric:
    Thanks for the email. In my experience, there are many reasons why people don’t take the “next steps” on a purchase, even after an initial interest level, and when all they have to do is call or email. However, I’m not convinced we should blame the consumers in this example. If an agent had been there, they could have done the work of qualifying, probing further, and asking for the sale. Strike while the iron is hot, as the saying goes. Besides, who’s going to explain to the seller that there were three buyers who showed up to the door, but the agent wasn’t able to capitalize on them?
    – MF

  • Tina Merritt

    My question is…where was their buyer’s agent?  If they are active buyers, ready willing and able to buy, where were the buyer-agents previewing these homes for these buyers so they didn’t need to be out on their own peeking in windows?

    Matt, I really love the idea.  I honestly do.  But – with crimes against real estate agents at open houses increasing so much, I just don’t think it’s a good idea.  Sitting alone in someone’s house inviting complete strangers to walk in – it’s just not safe anymore.  

    Like I said, I do like the idea.  How about modifying it a bit?  Once a week schedule a time in the morning to meet your seller at their house, bring them coffee and sit on the front porch?  Or, perhaps meet another agent there and bring lunch?  In the evening one day, get a helium tank and some balloons and invite the neighborhood kids by to get a free balloon and a snack?  Activity brings attention to a home so anything an agent can do to increase even indirect sales activity would be a plus.

  • Tina
    Thanks for your comments! If only every buyer had a buyers’ agent… Alas, it’s not always the case.
    I hear you about sitting alone in the house. Try different variations! Bring another agent, work in teams, schedule a few hours when the owners will be home, or the cleaning crew there that week. I love the idea of hosting a luncheon. Experiment! Go for it! I’m sure you and other readers can come up with creative ways to make it happen safely!
    Thanks for stopping by.
    Matthew

  • Michael Toomey

    Matthew, what seems obvious to some people is quite contrary to others.  I learned 26 years ago that one cannot “sell” a prospect any specific particular home.  One CAN sell any prospect A home, however, hence the real value of an open house for an AGENT.
    If any of these prospects were real actual buyers then they would have taken it to the next step – there is no excuse in this day and age of not getting what they want in a very short period of time.
    News flash – any buyer that tells an owner (or a neighbor) how great a home is, is also most likey lying about about it.  Most buyers that are very critical of a home are most likley very GOOD buyers.

  • Michael, let’s say you’re correct on all counts, for the sake of argument. Then it makes the situation Triple-Bad for the listing agent who might have sold three different buyers “a” house, as you say, had she been present to capture these three sets of prospects. So, my neighbor’s house may have remained unsold, but three opportunities to meet and acquire buyers who seemed quite interested in something in the area were lost because the agent was not present. It still seems like that’s lost opportunity to me, especially if the agent was sitting in the office waiting for buyers to contact her rather than working from the home itself with the help of modern technology (am assumption, I recognize, but when more than 60% of agents nationally haven’t closed a single deal in 12 months, not a stretch…).
    I’m not sure that the “buyers could have done more to contact the agent if they wanted to” is the best way for the agent to have maximized the opportunity of buyers actually pulling over in their car and walking up to the home… But who knows!

    Thanks for your comments. Always fun to look at things from a different angle.

  • 8nesbitt

    on open house days agents that have buyers should go with them and not hand them a card to go through. im there to sell the house as a listing agent so  even if the agents not with the customer i should get the sale. buyers drive by on open house days and there agent never even know what house there l00king at. so why do they deserve the commissionwhen they never picked the house out or made the effort to go oiut with them.

  • Bob McTague

    Doesnt everyone know yet that you like to “stir the pot” and get some great dialogue flowing… I am forntuate to help many buyers each month purchase homes (more than the above average agent but who is counting)… if you do not have a good Internet lead generation plan that communicates with and convert prospects, then you should be doing some form of open houses or consumer meetings… the Internet is one way. The problem is that like the Internet, many prospects are 4+ months out on purchasing a home, and this false sense of security to the seller and agent can be detrimental if not understood fully.
    You need to have a purpose and plan no matter what you do and set your expectation level just high enough and just have fun!

  • Matt, 
    Great post and I like the way you think. I am curious though, why didn’t you direct the people interested in the property to a Buyer’s Agent you would recommend instead of the Listing Agent? I’ve always been curious why a Listing Agent would be interested in Buyers with no representation. It’s not beneficial to neither the Listing Agent nor the Seller. Especially since the Listing Agent fully represents the Seller and would be obligated to share any and all information gathered during the interaction between the potential buyers and the LA. 

  • Thomas:

    It’s a good point; I guess to some degree, my point was that if the listing agent were there, they could have perhaps moved a sale forward; then it’s up to them to offer dual agency or suggest they get representation (some consumers might still not do a buyer’s agent). At the least, however, the seller’s agent should have been there to welcome and engage a prospective buyer, regardless of their agency representation, right?
    From my perspective, I was just the “neighbor” who could have been any neighbor (I just happen to be in this business) and most would not know the name of a buyer’s agent handy… :>
    Thanks for your comments!

  • Christina Phillips

    Love, love,love this idea of working from the home and holding it open at the same time. It’s worth a shot!

  • Thanks! When you try it, let us know what happens!