Questions from home buyers before writing an offer

Business woman on the phone - Questions from home buyers - sizing them up Listing agents sometimes receive emails or calls from buyers’ agents with questions from home buyers before writing an offer. (This isn’t usually done by text.) Depending on how it’s handed or worded, this could help the buyers or hurt them.

A few years ago, I wrote an article on this blog about the real estate questions that consumers ask and the relationship between them and the ultimate outcome.  Today we’ll again consider questions, but instead those which are posed to the listing agent by home buyers or their Realtor before an offer is drafted.

One way to think of it is this: when the questions are submitted, the listing agent will be sizing up those buyers and their agents. What kind of impression should a buyer try to make?

Getting noticed in a good way helps: questions from home buyers can be good

In the days or week prior to offer submission, the better Silicon Valley buyer’s agents will make sure that they show up on the listing agent’s radar (surprises are not usually appreciated, so getting a contract out of the blue without a phone call or email prior is a mistake which is likely to make that offer a little less likely to be the winning one if there are multiple bids).

This is a chance to ask some questions and also to let the seller’s agent know that there is progress on the buyers’ side.

Even if there aren’t any questions per se, it’s a good idea for serious buyers to have their real estate agent “check in” and express interest early on. This is helpful in cases where there’s a pre-emptive offer (you might still get a chance) but also with multiple offers since that agent who’s said hello will look more professional and better to work with. It can be a good first impression.

Some agents consider this contact “massaging the relationship” to establish that the buyer’s agent is knowledgeable, professional, pleasant, and would behave well in escrow.

There are many questions to ask when buying a house, but many of them will be answered by reviewing the disclosure package, so proceed carefully and try to avoid asking questions that are answered in the package.

Good questions from home buyers before writing an offer

Helpful questions from home buyers include these:
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How responsive should your real estate agent be?

Stone stepsThe odds are good that if you are looking to hire a real estate professional, one of the criteria you seek is “responsive”. Those of us who sell real estate for a living know that consumers want to hear back from us as soon as possible when they call or email (or text, in some cases).

How responsive should your real estate agent be?

  • Most real estate agents will return phone calls within a half day regularly, or at the end of the business day worst case scenario
  • Some will answer the phone when it rings every time, unless they are with clients or otherwise crunching on something urgent, such as writing or reviewing offers
  • For emails, the response times can be similar – often within a few hours, but not more than 24 hours
  • When consumers text, the response may be faster since it seems urgent to the recipient. You’ll want to see if your agent wants texts outside of certain hours or not, or if texting should be reserved for things that demand a quick response.
  • Some agents may have a dedicated day off and will not return messages until the following day. It’s good to ask ahead of time about how time off is handled.
  • Be sure to ask about your agent’s schedule and communication style (when and how they’d like to hear from you). Make sure you let your preferred method be known so you can be on the same page not just for when to communicate, but how!

Responsiveness and phone calls

If not with clients or otherwise tied up, many Realtors (yours truly included) will pick up the phone when called during business hours. (Some won’t. Some do time blocking and return calls at set times, such as between 11am and noon and 4 and 5pm. Those who time block in this way will often put a message on their voice mail explaining when they will call back. Hopefully, that works for the caller!).  (more…)

How accessible should your Realtor be?

PhoneOne area of conflict with real estate professionals can be communication and expectations. The number one complaint to the National Association of Realtors regarding licensee’s behavior involves communication – or rather, the lack of it. Too many realty professionals just don’t keep in touch enough.

That said, sometimes consumer expectations can be out of line.   At times I have run into this with people who are not currently my clients, but strangers to me who may be clients later (“prospects”):

  • people I do not know, texting me questions without even saying who they are
  • folks asking for callbacks or response on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night
  • consumers getting frustrated if they call me, don’t reach me, but don’t leave a message so that I can phone back

Because many Realtors work much more than 5 days per week, some people have the expectation that we are always “on call”.  This is just not true – we are not always waiting by the phone for an incoming inquiry from someone we do not know.  We might be out with clients, working on an offer, preparing for a listing appointment, driving to preview homes, sitting in a signoff or doing any number of other real estate jobs in which we cannot pick up the call or respond to a text.  Training, coursework and continuing education, whether for a day or a week or online also eats into availability.  We might be doing volunteer work with our real estate board or some charitable endeavor.  Or we might be doing something personal that cannot be interrupted, as with a medical appointment.   (See “What do real estate agents do?“)  And just like everyone else, we also do need time off both from physical appointments but also from work email, running comps, and other computer or phone tasks which tend to take up a lot of time too.

A lot of times, the best reglationships happen when there’s been a conversation around availability (yours and theirs both), off time, response time, etc.  Here are some suggestions when you are just beginning to work with someone in real estate.

  1. Most Realtors would prefer that the first interaction not be by text, but instead by email or phone.  If you call, and get your Realtor live and in person, ask if now’s a good time to talk.  Many will pick up the phone not knowing if it will be a 30 second call or a 30 minute one, so do ask – he or she may only have time for the briefest of conversations right then and there.
  2. Do tell the real estate professional your full name (not “Tom from San Jose”), whether you are calling about buying or selling, and why you are reaching out.
  3. For the first call, try to be somewhat concise.  If you want to sell, I need to see your home in person, so telling me the infinite details on floor covering or curtains will not be useful right then – those items can wait.  We never want to cut someone short but if you err on the side of brief, we can always ask you for more details.
  4. If you get a voice mail message, please leave your contact info, the reason for your call, and your return number –  and say it slowly and clearly.  It is really nice if your return number is the same one you call us on.   (Realtors get a LOT of soliciations for web placement, advertising on bus benches and the like, so if you only say “This is Tom from Santa Clara, please call me back”, without anything else, you will sound like a telemarketer to us, and you may not get the call back at all.)
  5. Please allow a few hours for your call to be returned.  Sometimes we have relocation buyers in the car and it’s a marathon day before we have 2 minutes to check messages and return calls.  Most of us will try to get back to you as soon as possible.  I know that I certainly will.
  6. Sometimes, albeit rarely, there’s a lot of phone tag.  That doesn’t need to happen – worst case, set an appointment and talk when you both can clear the time for it.

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Why does that real estate agent keep calling me?

Phone nightmare - make it stop!You met a real estate agent – perhaps at an open house, perhaps you saw a few homes with him or her, or perhaps that person did a market analysis on your home and interviewed to list it – and now that person keeps phoning or emailing you.  Why?  Why won’t he or she leave you alone?

The answer to that is simple: that Realtor or other real estate sales person thinks of you as either a client or a potential client (a prospective client or prospect or a “lead”), so is following up to get your business.  Realty professionals are always looking for their next job; perhaps job # 1 is finding people who want to hire them since without clients, they are out of business.  To that end, when real estate agents are trained, they are told to stay in touch lest they lose business.  So those who are serious about being successful will do just that.   Some licensees will try communicating a few times and then give up.  Others will be undaunted for longer. (more…)