Developing The Art of Listening [Excerpt]

The following is an excerpt from the book, “The Art of Buying and Selling Real Estate”.

The Art of Buying & Selling Real Estate

In 1989 I had obtained my real estate license and immediately went to work at a small office called Shadowridge Realty. I knew no one. I had no referral base, no sphere of influence, nothing. I was green but bold.

I had no idea at the time but I had just chosen to purchase a home and start a career in real estate at the beginning of what would become perhaps the most difficult and challenging period ever experienced in the San Diego real estate market.

I was completely unprepared at first; the process of getting educated for your Real Estate license does nothing to prepare you for the practical things you need to know about the mechanics of a home sale. But the most difficult test was the market itself. It was steadily cycling downward. Prices were falling. There was little confidence in the market. Transactional volume in the marketplace was steadily dropping and would continue to do so for 5 straight years. By 1994 two-thirds of the San Diego County real estate agents that were practicing in 1989 had left the industry. You might say I survived the school of hard knocks.

So much has changed since then.

There was a lot of work done over the telephone back then, email wasn’t happening yet, I remember when the fax machine made the scene – now that was a big deal! There were computers but Al Gore had yet to really “invent” the Internet. We would submit listing information to our Board and within a couple of weeks it would get published in what we called the Blue Book. It was the size of a telephone directory – about three inches thick – printed on very thin newsprint. It was published every two weeks. There were 12 listings displayed on each page, in very fine print. That’s what we would use to select properties to show our clients. All the property information was in a very confined little box. There was only one tiny exterior photo of the subject property.

I was relatively new in the business. In the beginning, having only a few clients at any given time, I wasn’t being pulled in dozens of different directions at once. This allowed me the time to commit to good old- fashioned footwork at a level other agents either lacked the time for, were unwilling to commit to, or simply unable to do. Back in the day, after painstakingly filtering down the inventory presented in the Blue Book, it would not be unusual for me to spend 2-3 days driving around previewing 50 or 60+ properties prior to meeting my client. That’s really what it took to find the very best value and the right fit for a homebuyer. Doing this kind of footwork for a number of years also provided me with quite an education. The knowledge I acquired about our North County marketplace still comes in handy today.

This practice turned out to be a difference maker. It also encouraged me to become even more effective at the art of listening. Get it wrong and I could be on a three-day wild goose chase preparing to show my client all the wrong properties. Get it right – and after spending a few days actively previewing the most suitable inventory – the client was usually thrilled after seeing only one or two homes. After this kind of preparation, I was pretty confident about which listing was going to be the best fit for my client. I soon developed a reputation as a top Buyer’s Agent.

While so much has to do with asking the right questions of the client, much has to do with listening for what’s in-between the lines. Every client is different. They cannot always be effectively interviewed in the same way. The key is finding out about what attributes matter most to the client. Sometimes we don’t have all the right questions in place to effectively determine what matters most to a particular client. Sometimes the client hasn’t yet figured out what matters most and it’s up to us to help them find out. This makes listening effectively to everything the client is saying or not saying all the more important.

The art of listening includes carefully observing everything the client is telling us and showing us. Oftentimes, it can also involve determining what the clients may be hiding (on a subconscious level most of the time) from us, or themselves. It’s about observing what they are doing and not doing. Carefully observing how the client is reacting throughout the home buying or selling process – then effectively conveying that important feedback back to them – is a key element of this art.

I truly believe developing this art of listening while I was doing all that challenging footwork during those early years made a difference. Not only did this set me up for future success, I think the experience continues to serve my clients well today. I’ve always tried to prepare for my clients in a fashion that is not unlike that great attorney I just described. My experience suggests that; after the client’s offer has been accepted or their escrow has successfully closed, a homebuyer or seller should always feel as if they’ve reached a natural conclusion after witnessing and reviewing all the aspects of a well prepared case.

If your Realtor® is doing their job correctly, they’re bringing your property to market with a compelling message, they’re orchestrating an array of on-line resources to target the right buyers, and they’re actively engaging with the 20% of the agents out there that are typically selling about 80% of the properties. Hopefully you’ve hired an agent that belongs in that 20% club.

I recently went back 20 years to track where my business came from. On an average annual basis 73% of my new business came from repeat and referred clients. I’m really quite proud of this because it tells me I truly must be doing some things right for my clients. This referral percentage is way above the industry average.

I’ve always tried to work with my clients much as a consultant. Helping my clients build confidence in the process and educating my clients along the way is how I tend to operate. When it comes to helping my clients manage, what typically is their largest asset, it’s important to treat them and their situation with the dignity and respect such an endeavor deserves. Consistency with this policy has been good for my clients and it’s been good for my business.

To learn more about the author and the book, “Developing the Art of Buying and Selling Real Estate, click on the pictures below or head to North County House Hunter to find your next home in North County San Diego Real Estate!

Five Star Real Estate AgentAmazon Best Selling Author

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