As a Real Estate Professional, helping clients find what they’re looking for always begins with questions. Some clients have a very specific vision, while others are open to a range of options. However prepared the client is, RE professionals need to spend time interviewing the client.
It begins with the standard questionnaire. Some RE professionals work in firms with prepared forms that guide them through a set of questions designed to get an outline of client needs. Others may design their own line of inquiry. These questions should form the basic level of understanding, and often include items like:
• Price range
• Building and lot size
• Room and bathroom number and type
• “Specials” – garage, pool, etc
• Area or neighborhood preference
These are a great starting point, but to best serve our clients, we should never be satisfied with the standard questionnaire. The next level of questioning should get more personal. Some examples may be:
• What items or features do you need? And what do you want?
• What missing item or present flaw would be a deal breaker?
• What style (modern, classic, rustic, etc) best suits you?
Encouraging clients to expand on their lifestyle and aesthetic can help you narrow down some options and help you isolate apparent complications, contradictions, or limitations for even further investigation.
If the client wants a modern house in a downtown where most of the inventory is turn-of-the-century townhomes, there could be a problem. Are they open to renovation? Could they shift to a newly built or rebuilt neighborhood? Would a modern condo in an up-and-coming section be a possibility? Would a classic design with modern upgrades bridge the gap?
How they envision using a ‘must-have’ feature can really open the door to the details.
Take a client that insists on a large yard: If it’s for kids, what about a smaller yard near a park, one with a pre-existing playset, or by a well-kept neighborhood green space? If it’s for dogs, what about a neighborhood with dog-friendly trails of a smaller yard that’s fully fenced? For privacy, would a well-established hedge or high fence, a dead-end road lot, or wooded property line work? For gardening, would a community garden, a glassed-in porch or greenhouse, raised beds, or a Grow Food Not Lawns set-up do the trick?
The key is to dig deeper. Ask specific and leading questions. Explore options based on the local market and inventory. Sometimes clients need help homing in from a broad perspective. Sometimes they need help breaking out of a too-narrow mindset. Sometimes they just need to figure out how their needs and wants fit into the existing possibilities so they can re-evaluate their plans and adjust accordingly. Going past the basic questionnaire and opening up the conversation gives Real Estate Professionals and clients alike the information they need to reach their common goal: a closed contract and a set of keys.
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About Tom Davidson — Tom Davidson is Vice President of Express Schools, LLC. which operates online education providers Real Estate Express, Insurance License Express and License Tutor. Follow him on Twitter.