By: Carmen Hirciag, Membership Development Manager
Understanding buyers and their behavior prior to working with them can give insight into how agents could more efficiently structure their marketing efforts and deliver better customer service. The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) 2010 Survey of Home Buyers takes a look at why they are buying, what they are looking for and what they expect from their real estate agents.
It’s important to understand your target audience when developing your marketing plan. Knowing why people are buying and what they are looking for are important components in crafting an effective plan. With historically low mortgage rates and home prices where they are now, affordability has increased dramatically and has motivated buyers to purchase. In fact, buyers in this year’s survey cited price decreases and low mortgage rates as the two most important reasons for buying.
Buyers also reported on the importance of the Internet in the home search process. The top three websites visited by buyers were realtor.com, real estate brokerage websites and individual agent websites, with Zillow a close fourth. Print advertising is a far less effective advertising tool, with only eight percent of buyers using it to search for a home, compared to 20 percent in 2006. This indicates that agents would receive more value for their money by investing in their websites and advertising their listings on the websites most frequented by buyers. Moreover, a content-rich website provides buyers with multiple pictures, virtual tours, statistics on comparable sales or listings, and a neighborhood profile in the online listings they browse, which is so much more valuable to them than the limited, static information that is found in the typical print ad.
As they conduct their home search, buyers turn to the Internet to find not only the right property, but also the right agent. Buyers cited most responsive and most aggressive as the top two reasons for choosing their agent. Response time is very important in winning clients. In this era of ubiquitous and instant communications, clients have high expectations from their agents. However, when clients were asked to offer advice to agents, nearly a third mentioned the need to improve response time. While buyers are generally happy with their agents, with 72 percent claiming they would use the same agent again, there is room for improvement in communication speed.
The survey revealed some tips for practitioners to improve their business:
• Strengthen your value proposition. Buyers listed the following reasons for being satisfied with their agent: 1) quick to respond, 2) negotiated a good deal, 3) worked hard on my behalf, 4) helped to find the best home, and 5) listened to what we needed. Build on these to increase your value proposition to clients.
• Negotiate more aggressively. Buyers had high expectations of their agents in the negotiation process given the sharp price declines from peak years and the flood of distressed properties; they were looking for a good deal.
• Improve the speed of communication. Buyers also had high expectations when it came to the speed of communication. There are a variety of cost effective technology tools that can be of assistance in this area.
• Provide lender references. With tighter lending standards in the mortgage market, finding a good lender has never been more important. Buyers rely on the business relationships of their agents for referrals to a lender who can qualify them and ensure a smooth escrow process.
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