House hunters can be widely different: some ask thousands of questions, others don’t ask or don’t know what to ask. Agents are often called upon to be fonts of information or else mind readers in order to help their clients. Here are some tips for dealing with tough questions:
Some of the hardest questions for agents to answer are also some of the most common:
• Is this a good neighborhood?
• Are these the good schools?
• Which areas are best?
These questions are difficult because they are subjective, but also because they demand a preferential response. What makes a neighborhood “good” and what makes an area better than any other? How should a school’s quality be gauged? Making a determination for something automatically sets other options in a poorer light, and speaking against something can be downright problematic. Who wants to risk offending a client by telling them an area, neighborhood, or school is bad, only to hear how they have friends or family there, or worse, that they were thinking of buying there and now won’t? Many agents feel put on the spot, and resort to politically correct answers to protect possible sales or hurt feelings.
Questions are asked to get answers, and no client wants to hear “well, all areas have their good aspects” or some other empty statement that whitewashes over their concerns. While “good” or “best” are subjective, many of the elements that comprise them are quite concrete. Successful agents work to develop an arsenal of information so that they can answer the tough questions with clear, unbiased facts that help clients make their own determinations without giving offense or sidestepping.
The facts that make up an agent’s arsenal may include the following:
• Crime statistics
• Median income
• School ratings
• Public transportation
o Rail, subway, bus, or shuttle
o Main roads, highways, bike routes, or sidewalks
• Distance to public services
o Hospitals, police stations, fire stations, or post offices
• Distance to amenities
o parks, libraries, museums, or other attractions
• Property taxes
• Homeowner’s Associations
• Local utilities and services
o electric, gas, water and sewer
o waste pickup and recycling
These types of facts are public knowledge that anyone can find with time and effort, especially in the wired age, but then, anyone can find a house themselves too. An agent’s purpose is to make her client’s lives easier by taking the time and effort to gather the information and sort through the options.
Other crucial elements to an arsenal are less public, but just as important:
• religious or ethnic groupings
• neighborhood makeup
o ages, professions, parents of young children
• school specialties
o Champion sports teams, Mathletes, exceptional theater programs
• Growth, decline, and transition
• Reputation and satisfaction of residents
Knowing these types of details can give the facts of an area a crucial element: personality. While a neighborhood may have a historically higher crime rate, thanks to the new school nearby it may now be filling up with teachers and families, causing local growth and improvement. Likewise, an area that used to be in-demand could be in decline or simply transitioning as different types of people move in or out. If the local grocery store is prospering under new management or the nearby golf course was damaged by a recent flood, this type of information gives house hunters vital information to decipher the ‘fit’ of a place.
House hunters look to these facts and details to help them determine which areas suit them best. By providing information, agents can give their clients what they really need: the ability to make their own judgments. By building an arsenal of information, agents can remove themselves from the tricky subjective questioning and focus on helping clients discover their own “good” and “best” – and a helpful, informative agent will soon develop her own “best” reputation as well!
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About Tom Davidson — Tom Davidson is Vice President of Colibri Real Estate, LLC. which operates online education providers Colibri Real Estate, Insurance License Express and License Tutor. Follow him on Twitter.