Viewing by month: September 2009

Respect your business if you want respect

Although CENTURY 21 is an international network, and nationally we are pretty much like a very, very large family, all of our real estate offices are independently owned. And that means all of our real estate franchisees are running their own small (or not so small as the case may be for some!) businesses. One thing that interests me immensely when it comes to small business is the attitudes that people have towards them – and I’m talking about the people who run the business here.


In real estate, we regularly tell customers that they have one chance to make a great first impression when they’re selling their home. We all know this mantra is true, and it’s true for more than real estate. In many aspects of life, you get one shot to get it right and to make people want to see or know more of you. So why don’t some people believe it for their own business? If you’re trying to win a customer, you again have only one chance to make an amazing first impression. Often when you speak to small business owners, especially in tougher economic times, you’ll hear lines like “it’s slow at the moment” or “the economy has really hit us hard.” Now, I’m not disputing that external factors have a big impact on many businesses, but you also need to realize that you are in control of your own business, and you need to take control to make it work. That’s why most business owners get started in the first place – beucase they want control of their own destinies. So to fall back on saying things like “people just don’t understand what the business does” is a cop-out of massive proportions.  


At all times you need to present your business the way you want people to view it. As a real estate agent, when you’re meeting a prospective client for the first time, you need to dress like you would for a job interview, and you need to pitch yourself like you’re at a job interview and you need to win them over with your dazzling track record and winning personality like you’re at a job interview because they ARE interviewing you! Be on time, promote yourself in a professional manner, and make sure every aspect of what you do and how you do it is up to scratch.

You need to respect yourself and your business enough for them to see that your business deserves respect.   

3 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 15/09/2009 at 9:07 AM | Categories:

Customer service lessons

Excellence in customer service is something that most of us expect when we’re paying someone to do something for us. Actually, maybe excellence is too strong a word. Although excellent customer service is what we all hope for, I think most of us just expect to be treated with respect and warmth when dealing with people. Not too much of an ask you would think. I’ve talked about this before. What amazes me however is how many people expect brilliant service, but then fail to give it themselves in their own business. How does that work?


I think all of us can recall an occasion where we’ve experienced exceptional customer service. It’s those little things like not having to ask for your wine to be refilled at a restaurant, it’s the person on the checkout who actually looks at your credit card and says “thank you Mr Mylott” before handing it back to you. It’s simple gestures of obvious care that result in us feeling totally looked after. These are also the gestures that result in us returning to the same places, or recommending a company to someone else. So why don’t we automatically do these things ourselves?

In real estate, customer service can sometimes be lacking. I’ve worked in the real estate industry long enough to know that many agents have their own interests ahead of their customers’. Obviously not at CENTURY 21 of course, but there are those real estate agents out there who definitely don’t apply the notion of excellent customer service the way that they should.   

This is one of the reasons that when you’re choosing an agent it’s important to look at things like testimonials, previous successes, and professionalism rather than judging them purely on their commission level. Could you possibly be paying a higher rate for a better result and better customer service? It’s the same mentality that applies when you choose a restaurant. If you choose a 5 star place to eat, you expect that the service and quality of the food will be better, but you also expect to pay for it. In the same sense, if you choose to eat at a low cost fast food chain, chances are you’re not expecting a gourmet meal or much customer service. But when it comes to real estate, for some reason that line of thinking seems to dissipate.

In today’s climate, you need to offer exceptional customer service to win business, and to keep it. Real estate is no exception. The next time you experience customer service that stands out, think about how you can apply that to your own business and your own clients. They’ll thank you for it, and chances are so will your bottom line.   

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 14/09/2009 at 4:34 PM | Categories:

How important is a home inspection?

I am always interested in stories that real estate agents and home buyers have about property inspections. Having worked in real estate for so long, I know how important it is to have a home inspection, and but I also know that some people shy away from them. As a buyer it’s important to know what you’re getting into when you’re buying a property. Chances are we aren’t talking about a paltry sum, so if large additional expenses are needed post-purchase, it’s best to know about them up front.


I know many an agent who happily attends all property inspections, and chances are you’re going to learn something by doing so, and it will generally be something relevant. It’s also interesting to watch some inspectors and how much enthusiasm they have for their job – it’s almost like they consider themselves detectives. There is the potential for some sellers to feel put out when an inspection takes place, and it’s important that they’re reassured it’s not a personal exercise! Just as they would want to know the current condition of the next property they purchase, so do the prospective buyers of their home.


I recently read a fairly funny story about a home inspection in which the outcome appeared pretty stock-standard to begin with but that the buyer agent discovered was actually anything but. From the exterior walk around, the inspector noted some cracks in the foundation, a few blemishes, but then a 50 amp plug-in receptacle caught his attention. This was a bit of a red flag to the inspector and he apparently bounded into the house full of beans about what he might find. I imagine the buyer’s weren’t quite so enthusiastic at the prospect.


Despite that, the rest of the house appeared quite normal apart from the group being unable to find access for the crawl space. After consulting with the selling agent, the buyer agent was given permission to remove the carpet in the area where the access should usually be, and upon finding the access, they also found the set up for a home pharmaceutical business! There was a misting water system, an electrical sub panel and grow lights and of course a very happy home inspector who had been the one to pick up that something was suspect.

The little old couple selling the place didn’t seem to fit the stereotype for such a set up, and it turns out the vendor hadn’t had an inspection done on the place when they’d purchased it a few years before. They had no idea what they’d been living with! Just goes to show that a thorough home inspection is definitely worth the effort!  

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 11/09/2009 at 4:43 PM | Categories:

Sticking to your real estate guns

I often hear real estate agents complain that they lose listings solely based on their commission rate. This is a common gripe, and when I read and listen to the musings of real estate agents outside of the country, I have come to think it is a universal problem. It seems around the world, real estate agents are being judged on their commission rate over anything else they are offering a customer. As a result, often agents are asked to reduce their commission and when they refuse, they are opening themselves up to losing the listing.


 I know of real estate agents who have won the standard “interview” process that a vendor goes through when they are looking for the realtor to sell their home. I also know of these winning agents then losing the gig because the vendor asked them to reduce their commission and they refused. In this situation, some vendors then go with the real estate agent that was actually their second choice rather than pay the higher rate to their preferred realtor come sale time.


This scenario interests me greatly because an agent with a higher commission rate usually has good reason for doing so. Particularly in circumstances where this agent is the first choice, it would seem the vendor actually knows that too. Whether it’s their reputation, record of sales or how much they are prepared to spend marketing the properties they have on their books, a higher commission rate is often indicative of a higher level of service. 


When these real estate agents who know they will do the very best for a customer lose a listing to a competitor based only on commission, it can be a bitter pill to swallow. Professionals know how much they are worth and why, and when it comes to selling homes, the proof is in the pudding. I have said before that the best choice when it comes to a real estate agent isn’t necessarily the one that seems to be presenting a bargain, and I stand by that. Although a particular agent may have a higher commission rate, have a look at why. Is it because he or she is a lot more confident in their ability to sell your property based on their past experiences? Because their record with selling properties similar to your own outshines other realtors in the area? Or maybe the marketing plan they offer for the properties they represent blow the competition out of the water? Chances are, there’s a valid reason and that should be considered as carefully as the rate of commission to be paid.

But if things still don’t work in your favour, who knows, if the cheaper agent ends up not being able to sell that home, the commission rate may become secondary after all.   

11 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 10/09/2009 at 9:23 AM | Categories:

Green real estate

I’ve mentioned before that thinking green in real estate is becoming increasingly important. More than ever people are considering their impact on the environment. I read recently that it’s even having an impact on the wedding market with couples wanting sustainable weddings. So it’s not really surprising then to realize it’s having an impact on real estate in several ways. Buyers are demanding more green features, which means sellers are looking at greening their homes in their renovations, and developers are considering green issues when establishing new properties.


When you consider the emphasis being placed on green everything at the moment, it makes sense that this translates to real estate. Buyers now are considering future generations too – not only are they concerned about their own footprint on the planet, but they’re looking at what future buyers will want, and if the trend continues, the greener a home, the more in demand it is likely to be. When the government is getting on board with various rebates and incentives, it can also make good financial sense.


Many green initiatives save money in the long run, which is something else likely to be on the mind of the future buyer. Although interest rates may be low currently, the cost of living does nothing but increase. That seems unlikely to change, and as resources become scarcer, costs of items we currently take for granted are likely to escalate. And if your home is greener and more efficient and cheaper to run than the almost identical one down the street, you can guarantee yours is going to look like a much better investment for the future buyer.

Many who are renovating are currently putting money towards energy efficient upgrades rather than the spa bath or in-home theatre system. In this way, green renovations can actually make a difference in real estate values.  I may not know all that much about being green, but one thing I do know a lot about is real estate, so when the two collide due to market demand, I know it has to be a smart move to get on board.   

8 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 09/09/2009 at 8:31 AM | Categories:

Choosing a real estate agent shouldn't be that hard

Finding the right agent when you are looking for a home is an important aspect of the property buying or selling process. You need to know that the person you’re entrusting with what is likely to be one of your biggest financial decisions is professional, honest, and hardworking. Often people also want to feel they have something in common with their agent too. This sounds like a difficult exercise, but truth be told – it really shouldn’t be that hard. Finding a good agent isn’t actually a difficult exercise. What is difficult is dealing with customers who don’t actually know what they want. I spoke about this very happening yesterday.


There are times in real estate when you pick up a home to sell from a vendor who had previously listed with another agent, but who for whatever reason, no longer wishes to list with the other person. Often, it’s due to time on the market – if the home has been listed for 3 or 6 months, or even longer, a vendor will sometimes decide to try another real estate agent.


When a listing like this comes the way of a real estate agent, it’s interesting to find out why the vendor had chosen the last agent they used, and why they are now choosing you. Actually, sometimes interesting isn’t the right word – astounding is often more apt. Explanations like “she’s a friend of my sister” aren’t that uncommon, and when you consider these same people will spend all day Saturday driving around homewares stores ensure their lamps match their curtains, it’s amazing how little time they’re prepared to spend on the decision that really matters about their home.

In every aspect of real estate, it’s your track record, your testimonials, your reputation for excellence that should get you the gig. Of course as I’ve just outlined, that’s not always the case. Sometimes it is just because you drop your kid off to the same school as someone. But an astute seller will know that this isn’t the way to choose the person dealing with one of your biggest financial transactions. Your incredible sales record will speak to those who know that a real estate mistake can be a lot worse than buying the wrong colour scatter cushions.    

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 08/09/2009 at 1:29 PM | Categories:

Focus in real estate

Changing your mind is a right, and it’s a right that people exercise often, frequently much to the frustration of others. When you’re in a people oriented business like real estate, you have to accept that people will change their mind, but that doesn’t make it an easy thing to deal with. When someone tells you what they want, you’re not crazy for presuming they mean what they say. But the number of people who change their minds partway through the real estate process can be incredibly challenging.


Of course I’m not saying people should be so rigid in their thinking that they can’t reconsider the backyard pool or the spa bath in the en-suite if they’ve seen a few properties that have shattered their illusions of said features. But that’s a very different thing to starting out asking to be shown warehouse apartments and then deciding you want a farmhouse. But amazingly, this type of thing happens in real estate all the time.


As a buyer or a seller, it’s important to have a focus from the start. Of course you can change your mind and maybe you’ll end up thinking you can cope with three bedrooms instead of four, and real estate professionals are there to help you with those sorts of decisions, but when you get into property mode, it’s important to have a clear list of desired outcomes. This way both you and your real estate agent can focus on getting you what you actually want.


I know real estate agents who have started work with a customer looking for a home near a particular school – location has been key – with a few other must haves such as room to renovate and a fairly tight budget. After the first outing with the agent who had lined up several properties matching their criteria, the customer decided that maybe the school wasn’t that important after all and other suburbs should be added to the list, so should new developments, and the budget could probably increase a fair whack. Now, all this is fine. After all, the customer gets to choose where they want to live and what they want to live in, and the agent’s job is to assist them with the search to find it. But when everything changes to such a great extent, it makes it difficult for everyone.

As a real estate agent, it’s important to get your customers to narrow their focus as much as possible so you can do the best possible job for them. But on the flip side it’s important if you are a customer to know your focus also. After all, if you know what you want, you’re a lot more likely to get it.
0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 07/09/2009 at 1:57 PM | Categories:

Real estate is a people game

There’s no denying that real estate is a people game. Yes, it’s also about property and sales and competition but essentially when you’re dealing with property, people are intrinsically linked to that. Actually, even if you look at it from a sales perspective, you can’t separate people from that process either. So it never ceases to amaze me in real estate when you come across an agent who doesn’t seem to be a people person. I don’t see how you can succeed if your focus isn’t on the people you do your business with.


In this vein, it’s very easy to see that when it comes to buyers and sellers, chances are when they speak to a real estate agent, one of the things they’re going to talk about, without fail, is their experiences with another realtor. And chances are, the stories aren’t positive. Sadly as I have mentioned before, some real estate agents bring home the negative stereotypes and as a result a lot of buyers and sellers are suspicious of the rest of us. And I think it’s down to the fact that the agent who left them with their suspicions wasn’t a people person at heart.


Although I believe that no-one in the Century 21 network is not a people person, there are agents out there who are motivated by money and not by what real estate is actually about – and that’s satisfying a customer’s real estate needs. A realtor who is driven by greed is not going to have the best interests of their customers at heart. In fact, only their own interests drive them and although this may have short term gains, ultimately a real estate agent who is not a people person can’t expect to enjoy long term success.


Century 21 prides itself on being accessible, expert and clear – all traits that make us people persons. And as a local real estate expert, we know it pays to really listen to what our customers want to ensure they get what they’re after when it comes to their property and real estate decisions.

I’ve said before that as real estate agents we are here to assist people with what is likely to be their biggest financial decision. That’s a fairly hefty responsibility, and if you’re not in the business for the right reasons – the people reasons – the number of people you get to help with the decision may soon dwindle.   

2 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 04/09/2009 at 12:05 PM | Categories:

In real estate, marketing counts

It’s common knowledge in business that one of the first things to be cut in times of economic strife is the marketing budget, much to the dismay of marketing managers everywhere, including in the real estate game, and on occasion here at Century 21. When the GFC hit last year and then continued into this year, media outlets everywhere reported downturns in advertising spends and brands that had been shouting their story from the rooftops were suddenly much more quiet. But the eternal question remains, when things get tough, should you really become silent on the marketing front?


It’s a tough question to answer, because in real estate like other businesses, when times get tough it’s a matter of how much money you actually have to spend, and if it comes down to paying your receptionist or continuing to advertise on that massive billboard over the freeway, most people put staff costs first. But the funny thing is, marketing real estate doesn’t have to be an expensive exercise and you can have a large, and growing, presence through very low cost means. Think blogging for example – the number of people turning to the internet for property information has skyrocketed. Similarly social media is becoming a more frequently used avenue for people wanting to interact with a company before they decide to buy, or in the case of much real estate, sell. It can be time consuming, but then so can checking copywriting for branding ads and liaising with ad agencies.

Although it can be the easier decision to tighten the purse strings when it comes to your marketing in tough times, there’s a saying I read recently which drives home the need to maintain a presence in the market no matter how difficult things get - A Business Without a Sign is a Sign of No Business! 

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 03/09/2009 at 9:10 AM | Categories:

A real estate rule to live by

One thing that peeves me immensely is people who over promise but under deliver. One of the first rules of good business, especially when you’re marketing services like we are in real estate, is that it’s better to under promise and over deliver than the other way round. When you think about it, it’s actually common sense. No-one likes to be let down, especially not one of your customers.


I am a firm believer in the practice of doing what it is that you’ve told people you’re going to do. It’s not actually that hard but it’s amazing how many people make promises and then just don’t follow through. If you tell a customer you’re going to do something, you do it. And if you think you may not be able to do something, even if the chance is remote, don’t promise to do it! Even if it’s something small like making a phone call. If you promise to call back within the hour, do it, and if that may not be doable, give a more realistic timeframe.


This is where under promising and over delivering come in. If you tell a customer that you’ll call them back tomorrow and you get back to them before the end of today, it makes you look like a competent, committed real estate agent. Your customer is also likely to think of you a lot more favourably for managing to do something sooner than you told them was possible. Under promising and over delivering also means no-one will be set up for disappointment.

Of course you shouldn’t under promise to the point that it makes you look like you’re doing a terrible job from the outset! Your under promising still needs to be realistic and acceptable, so when you do go above and beyond you look like a superstar rather than your timeframes appearing unreasonably long which may result in you looking lazy.    

2 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 02/09/2009 at 8:06 AM | Categories: