The Effective Home Seller Series: Appointment Requests and Phone Numbers | BuySelf.com

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The Effective Home Seller Series: Appointment Requests and Phone Numbers

Today I will be coaching home sellers through an important detail that is easy and potentially costly to overlook: How agents can view your home when it is listed in the MLS.
Putting any additional difficulty in the way of agents to schedule a showing of your home is not a good idea as you can lose out on showings. Remember, losing a showing means you lose a potential buyer: Just like in basketball you miss 100% of the shots you do not take, in home sales you miss 100% of the offers from buyers who cannot view your home.
The simplest way to effectively meet the showing phone communication challenge is to purchase agent showing scheduling service from your flat fee broker. It is available in almost every area, and it involves the broker or a professional call center with extended "real estate hours" late into the evening and weekends where someone will answer the phone live and help the agent schedule the showing. This exactly mimics how the traditional real estate brokerage companies handle showing requests, which is a good thing for you the seller. The bottom line is that this service makes your listing a more user friendly or agent friendly property to show. Most brokers charge $70 to $99 for this service and it lasts for the entire time you are listed. The scheduling service then will take your instructions on how to contact you, whether you want to individually approve each showing or just be notified of the showings that are going on, and many other possibilities.
First, some of the basics:
1. Use a local number if at all possible. Is any explanation needed here?
2. Change your voicemail greeting to acknowledge that your home is for sale, and include a statement to agents stating that you will return their calls within __ minutes (hopefully a tiny number like 5 or 10). This confirmation is important so agents don''t think they have dialed or the MLS listing has the incorrect phone number on it.
3. Use a wireless number if at all possible. Keep this phone with you at all times so you can return the calls immediately if you are not able to answer the call live. Of course if you are at work or other places where your phone can't ring use the silent vibration mode.
4. Don't turn down showing requests, and hopefully you don't even need to ask them to change the requested time, even slightly. It is important to understand what the buyer agent has to go through to organize showings. When an agent has their buyer ready to do showings, they figure out a time that works for all of them, which can be difficult, especially when both the agent and both spouses may have job schedules, class schedules, social events, activities like piano lessons, sporting events, worship activities, etc. It is often a minor miracle that both the agent and both buyers can find a time that works for all three of them. Or sometimes it needs to work for even more people to arrange a sitter/activity for children. This is one of many reasons you don't want to ask an agent that requests a showing at 3pm to come at 11am instead. Keep in mind that some of the busier agents are working with multiple buyers, sellers, and hosting open houses, scheduling is often a major headache, which often translates into a showing request that is "take it or leave it" to the seller. This is also why for many properties showings will be evenings and weekends, although this is not always the case.
So the buyer agent is all ready to schedule showings for the time window they have agreed upon. Most agents seek to have this time agreed upon a couple of days in advance but schedules often make them take whatever is available, again "take it or leave it" and the agent knows they will miss 100% of the buyer agent commissions they could earn if they don't actually show homes to the buyer. Sometimes the buyers only have a few hours notice or less. The buyer agent will either select the properties that the buyer wants to show or the seller will have emailed addresses/MLS numbers of properties they want to view, or some combination thereof. The agent will look those properties up in the MLS, usually plot them on a map/or in their head, and determine the logical sequence of showings to minimize the time in transit between showings.
The agent may or may not how long it takes a buyer to view a property--some will tell the agent to "go to the next one" before they even get out of the car, some will look at a home for 40 minutes and then tell the agent it isn't even close to what they want. The agent then needs to guestimate how much time they need in between the showings, and experienced agents know that one or more of the listings may have sold, expired, or not be available to show, so take that in consideration so they don't have a big gap where they have to wait with their buyer until the showing time for the next home. Many agents, to make this simpler, will quickly call the listing phone number to confirm the property is still available to show. Most, but not all real estate companies, have someone available to answer that question quickly. If a flat fee seller doesn't answer the question or call back the agent quickly the agent may just schedule showings with the listings he/she knows are available to show. This is another point where an unanswered call or slowly returned call can lose a seller a showing.
Some sellers mistakenly think this is a more carefully planned and executed process then it is. Some sellers mistakenly think that if their home didn't get scheduled for a showing the buyer or buyer agent will realize that and circle back around (assuming they didn't buy a home from round 1 and there is a round 2). Sometimes, if a buyer is really, really interested in your property and the agent didn't show it because they couldn't immediately confirm its availability (or another reason), the buyer may ask "what about that 2 story on Maple Street?" but by then the agent has looked at 20+ addresses in MLS and will probably answer "a few of listings you wanted to see were sold or expired" and that could be the end of the chance of that buyer seeing your home.
Confirming the Agent Showing with an Electronic Lockbox
If you have an electronic lockbox, the showing system security is basically built in. You aren't giving out a combination so you just need to tell the agent it is an electronic lockbox. Some sellers still want to call back the agent to be absolutely certain they have the agents name and phone number (although another benefit of electronic lockboxes is that they record the agents identity, in addition to the time the box was accessed and closed). Other sellers for simplicity just tell the buyer agent that the showing time is fine and it is an electronic lockbox.
Confirming the Buyer Agent Showing with a Combination Key Lockbox
Lockboxes have been common for 30+ years in real estate, and a simple and effective security process in place: When an agent calls to schedule a showing write down their name, real estate company, and office phone number. Tell them you will call back the confirmation through their office. Call the office and confirm that the person is a real estate agent working there. It is a good idea to use the internet, yellow pages, brokerage lookup function on Realtor.com to confirm that the phone number you are calling is a licensed real estate office. You can leave the confirmation with the lockbox code and any additional instructions with the office (almost always you will be put into the agent's voicemail box) and they will pass it on to the agent. The confirmation message usually goes something like this "Confirming your showing request for [date] at [time] for [property address]. Combination lockbox combination is seven four six nine. Please leave a card and remove your shoes. Again, the combination is seven four six nine. Thank you."
Whenever we talk about showings and lockboxes we remind people of what should be obvious: Do not ever give your lockbox combination to anyone who is not a licensed agent.

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