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How a buyers’ agent should qualify a client

18 August 2017

Qualifying a buyer is one of the most important jobs of a buyers’ agent. So what is the best way to qualify a buyer?

Shelley Horton from Albion Avenue buyers’ agency and Chris Curtis from Curtis Associates recently presented a REINSW webinar offering their tips and advice on best practice in this area. Watch it here.

Chris explained: “Qualifying the buyer is the most important thing you can do at the early stages of your retainer. 

“You've got to be on the same page. It's establishing rapport and trust right from the outset. You need to make sure that your buyer is genuine in their readiness, willingness, and ability to buy.”

This continues all the way through the process and Chris added that it’s crucial to monitor a client’s ability to be a buyer. 

Shelley added: “You want to spend your time actively looking and working towards finding a property as opposed to sorting out misunderstandings. Your professional reputation is important and you need to be clear with your clients on with what you need them to do.” 

Ask quality questions

Questions are the key to finding out what type of property and client you will be dealing with. It is imperative to find out what type of buyer they are, what their financial situation is, if they need to sell first, etc.

Shelley said: “A true buyer test is the urgency. Are they looking to buy immediately? Is it a short-to -medium-term time frame for them? 

“Are they a first-time buyer, or someone who hasn't purchased in 20 or 30 years.”

Chris added: “The quicker you can get on the same page as your client, the better the outcome, because you're saving time - and time is very valuable in this competitive market.”

Managing expectations

Chris said: “Managing your client’s expectations is particularly difficult in the volatile market we're in. It’s probably at its peak in Sydney which leads to situations where higher expectations don't necessarily match the reality. It's your job to explain what's really going on in the marketplace. 

“I always say don't overpromise and under-deliver. It is always better to do it the other way around.”

Shelley said: “In a market, such as Sydney over the last 12 months, it’s very important to explain to your client that it is a fast-moving market and properties sell quickly. They need to make quick decisions, and you need to get them ready for that process. 

“It's also important as a buyers’ agent to explain your role throughout the process.”

Red flags

There are certain situations which can cause concern. These include:

  • Feedback coming back slowly from your client
  • Clients not engaged with the process
  • Unrealistic budget expectations 
  • Clients not accepting advice on price. 

Shelley said: “You need to make sure you're very clear on what you will and won't do for the client. If you're engaging other third parties on their behalf, let the client know and be clear you're not providing the advice.”

There are many due diligence reports a buyers’ agent can help co-ordinate that cover fields such as contamination, solar access, town planning etc. 

Chris said: “You must avoid the temptation for the client to think that you are a font of all knowledge. Recognise the limits of your own expertise. Typically, you won't be a practising lawyer. You won't be quantity surveyor. You won't be a contamination engineer. So recognise when you need to enlist a specialist.”

Handling difficult clients

Chris said: “You need to look for a pattern and have a conversation about what is concerning you with the client. This is a relationship of trust and confidence. You've both got to be on the same page and if you're showing properties that are a perfect fit which they refuse, find out why.”

Shelley said: “You have to call them out on it and regroup in terms of where things are at. I think a face to face meeting is better than email and phone calls because you might misinterpret something. It is also important to use the learnings from dealing with a difficult client when engaging other clients.”

Sometimes a buyers’ agent will have a client who inspects properties without letting you know.

How would Chris and Shelley handle this?

Shelley said: “I have an expectations conversation in terms of how the process works best and where it doesn't work best. If something like that is happening, you need to get to the bottom of it quickly. Is it occurring because the client actually doesn't trust you? If so, why?”

Chris added: “From the outset we say, if you sign or retain us, we become your exclusive agent. It's relationship of trust and confidence which cuts both ways.”