With housing inventories low, many listing agents are offering extra perks to attract clients
With the real estate market in rebound mode, housing is in shorter supply in many key markets – creating stiffer competition among agents vying for the same home seller customers.
Under these seller-friendly circumstances, agents often feel compelled to do more than simply lower their commission fees and put on an extra-happy face to entice clients and outdo their rivals. In fact, many are going beyond the call of duty by providing value-added extra incentives and services designed to downright dazzle seller prospects.
Consider, for example, Lou Cardillo, agent with The Lou Cardillo Real Estate Team in Yorktown, NY. For one seller who lost her job, Cardillo arranged for moving services and even paid the first month’s rent for the apartment she moved into.
He also takes care of setting up cable service and changing door locks for buyer clients. And he recently instituted a concierge service where clients can use his conference room, computers, phones and fax whenever they need.
“Plus, I offer a home sale guarantee: If I can’t sell your home in 60 days, I’ll buy it,” Cardillo says.
Mark Charter with RE/MAX Real Estate Concepts in Ankeny, Iowa, provides free moving services to his clients in the form of movers he hires and a dedicated truck he recently purchased. He’s also enlisted a professional interior designer who will go furniture shopping with clients and give them gratis home-staging advice.
Additionally, Charter’s clients receive a complimentary two-year membership to Angie’s List, a home service rating site, and no-charge professional photography for all home listings.
A recently widowed homeowner who wanted to move got the good Samaritan treatment from agent Dana Graham of Prudential California Realty in Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.
Graham patched and painted the walls of the widow’s home for sale, repaired her broken grandfather clock and negotiated a home sale that gave her an additional 45 days free rent after closing. Plus, she helped her shop for a new car, helped her pack and even personally drove her to her new home 400 miles away.
“To me, it’s worth it to go the extra mile. Offering my clients these things and treating them well creates an enormous amount of good will and it generates referrals to new clients,” Charter says.
However, extra efforts to satisfy customers sometimes go unrecognized nowadays.
“Some sellers have insufficient perspective to appreciate all the extra stuff an agent does,” says Graham, who has repaired roofs, sweated copper pipes and replaced dishwashers for many homeowners he’s listed. “But it doesn’t bother me if they don’t totally get how unusual my services are. It’s worth it to me just to do it.”
The risk to agents for providing such rewards is that it raises the bar for everyone.
“Once an agent provides extra [incentives], the expectation is there,” says Maryjo Shockley with Keller Williams Realty in Wellington, Fla. “If an agent is hoping for a future referral from that existing client, they must continue to build on that extra mile and grow their business.”
While not every agent will throw in such generous amenities as those mentioned earlier, it’s fair for sellers today in low inventory markets to expect their real estate professionals to offer some variety of perks, extra assistance or other freebies, many agents say.
“In an extremely tight market, it’s unfair for a seller to have to pay full freight and get no extras at all while the agent makes a nice-sized check in exchange for a relatively small amount of work hours,” Charter says.
Whether it’s a seller’s or buyer’s market, at minimum “sellers should expect a full-time, dedicated professional that completely understands the market,” says Oscar Marti, agent with Avanti Way Realty in Miami.
He says, “They should also expect that the agent has a professional marketing plan in place with the proper expected selling price for their property.”
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