Believe it or not, real estate is a service industry. We are providing a service to buyers and sellers – helping them to achieve their goals of liquidity, investment or finding a place to call home. In Jamaica, many people only see real estate professionals as sales people – indeed we are – but realtors should strive to paint a different picture. In any business, sales and service must go hand in hand to achieve success. There are three things I will mention which are important in any service environment:
The first is acknowledging the client. In my business, I know that buying or selling a house is an important decision, one that is not arrived at lightly. The client will appreciate being treated as if he or she is important to me, and I value his or her business. Take this scenario for example: one day last week I walked into a store to buy some chewing gum. It was a place I visited regularly and everyone knew me. The cashier was busy talking to her co-worker, I stood patiently waiting. I looked around the store, everyone seemed busy. Eventually I was able to pay for my gum left feeling like they did me a favour. About a week later I went in to another store close by, the cashier immediately made eye contact, smiled and said “Hi Mr. Marsh, how are you today?” Needless to say, that’s where I will now shop since that is where I feel welcome and valued.
The second point is to listen to the client. This is a big concern in every sales or service environment since we can only please the customer if we understand what he or she wants. There are times when people are not so sure of what they want, so they come to us to help them figure this out. Asking questions is what will help us to help the client. Open ended questions usually get the most valuable responses…what, when, how, why and where they want. Closed-ended questions on the other hand, help us to get confirmation and move forward. In all of this questioning, we must listen actively to the responses in order to solve our customers’ problems. I too am tempted to zone out at times, especially if you have a short attention span; but if you want a successful business, listening is key.
Finally, I will encourage gratitude. Unless you are able to monopolize your market, everyone has a choice of where to do business. A good handshake, a smile, and a thank you is all it takes to show gratitude. Depending on your business, some people follow up by sending a thank you note, a card or a bottle of wine…and please, send the survey a few days after, not as an accompaniment! I challenge you to find unique ways of thanking your clients and I promise you will see results when they tell their friends!
Staging is preparing your home to appeal to buyers, with a goal of getting the fastest sale for the best price. It is not a new concept, but not as widely used as one would expect, given the benefits it provides. It is however picking up pace in the USA, Canada and indeed here in Jamaica.
In one of my previous blogs I spoke about curb appeal, and this actually a part of staging, as it represents your home’s first impression from the street. The next thing you want to do extend that appeal to the inside of your house. The aim is to make the home appear larger, brighter and more inviting. It should allow people to visualize living there and most importantly it should make an emotional connection.
According to the National Association of Realtors (USA), staged homes sell 80% quicker and for up to 11% more money than non-staged. People are willing to pay more for a home that appears as turn-key, and they are less likely to fuss over small issues. Taking care of cosmetic deficiencies (such as chipped paint and outdated or old fixtures) can also help you to get a higher value from an appraiser.
Keep in mind also that staged homes look better in photographs, and since most buyers check online first, you are more likely to get more in-person views if your photos are impressive. In addition, staged homes appear to be well cared for, which means better quality for the buyer. When buyers walk away from a staged home, it leaves a longer lasting impression.
There are professional home stagers who help to highlight the best features of your home, while downplaying the defects. Sometimes they are recommended because they provide an objective view that will make the home appealing to a wide cross-section of buyers, instead of just those who share your taste. If you decide to do it yourself however, here are some tips from the pros:
- Remove personal items such as toothbrushes, used bars of soap, and personal photographs.
- Clear clutter to make your home seem bigger, brighter and more organized
- Make sure to clean up – pay special attention to the kitchen and bathrooms, and add a fresh coat of paint if necessary
- Group furniture into attractive sets away from walls, and add a rug or two
- Use a variety of lighting fixtures and increase the wattage to at least 100. Lighting makes the space look warmer and more welcoming.
- Add accessories such as flowers, decorative vases, a bowl of fruit in the kitchen, rolled up towels and candles in the bathroom.
- Make sure your home is smelling fresh and clean, but don’t use overpowering air fresheners as some people may be allergic.
Remember that the housing market is competitive, so if you decide to sell your house, make sure when buyers step in, they don’t want to leave!