The Mutual Release
How to Handle the Real Estate Breakup

How to Handle the Real Estate Breakup

Real estate is an amazingly rewarding career.  Each and every day we get to meet new people, and help these people lay down roots in communities, move closer to loved ones as well as capitalize on their largest investment.

Throughout the process of buying and selling we spend a lot of time with our clients, sometimes upwards of 4-5 days per week, and often for 2-4 months or more. During this period we develop a special relationship and connection with our clients and become their trusted advisors and confidants.  

As realtors our clients invite us into a pretty exclusive circle of knowledge, a circle often reserved only for their closest friends and family.  They share their dreams, their finances, their career aspirations and even their plans for future family additions.

It’s a unique bond that few other professions achieve.  Sure, your accountant knows about your finances, your doctor knows about a pending pregnancy, but rarely do these professionals get invited into all aspects of their client’s lives the way a Realtor does.

On top of all this personal stuff, we spend much more time interacting with our clients during the regular course of business. With your lawyer or accountant communication is typically limited to a couple times per year.  A Realtor in the midst of house hunt in a hot market can interact with their clients multiple times per day for months on end.  Even when that perfect home is finally found, we are in constant communication connecting the client with other professionals, keeping them on time with deadlines and supporting them each and every step of the way.

Then that fateful day comes … closing!  The good Realtors will, at the very least, stop by and deliver a closing gift, but unfortunately for most that’s where the meaningful relationship ends.  The stats are clear, 74% of clients never hear from their realtor again according to the National Association of Realtors.

This is the real estate break up.

We spend months dating, late night phone calls, paying for coffee & lunches, being that support figure and when they finally invite us in for the night … what do we do?  We sneak out first thing in the morning and we never call them again. Yeah, you’re that person.

Now, I know there are many great Realtors out there that do not operate in this manner and will see my analogy as a little crude, but you need to understand that from your client’s perspective this may be the way it is perceived when you don’t stay in touch. And not just stay in touch, but stay in touch in the right way.

As time goes on the client is left questioning if you were really the trusted advisor they thought or were they just another pay check in waiting?  Realtors don’t do the best job of changing this public perception, so you have to work even harder to make sure this label doesn’t get applied to you.  Think about your public perception a little here. Scan back through your social feeds. Are they filled with your latest real estate conquests, or are they focused more on cementing relationships with your faithful clients?

Real estate guilt

If you have been in the business long enough we all have those clients that have slipped through the cracks. We haven’t kept in touch like we should have and the more time drags on, the harder it is for you to reach out.  We feel embarrassed that we let the relationship drift, it happens, it’s human nature. 

But then ..

We see them in the grocery store and duck behind a food display like we are hiding from an ex, or perhaps that regrettable one-night stand.  I just came in for some milk, but now this is awkward, indeed. We fear that conversation, but had we simply put a process in place to stay in touch and keep informed on their life events, we would welcome that casual bump-in like reuniting with a long-time friend.

I’ve always struggled with this as a Realtor.  Many of our clients become friends during the process as we get to know each other’s lives quite intimately. But once the home closes, the need for constant interaction diminishes and both parties are left with a feeling of a relationship breakdown or like that of a friendship that is drifting apart.

I have heard it said that in life that there are friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for a lifetime.  It would appear that the client/Realtor relationship would fall under the friends for a reason category. We connect for certain period of time until that reason is no longer bringing us together.  To those that understand the 3 phases of friendship they are perfectly fine to let that friendship take a back seat until the next time the reason arises. These people become lifelong clients regardless of how frequently you interact with them provided that initial experience was positive.  However most people do not fall into this category.  The majority of people want to see an investment into the relationship.  If the investment is not made they are quick to start shopping for new relationships, or in your world this is known as a new Realtor.

Think about those friends that you have had for life.  Do you see them more frequently?

Personally, some of my best friends I see the least as life has taken us in different directions, but the common denominator is we can pick up right where we left off. We are always there for each other during important life events, no matter what.  As Realtors I am not suggesting we can become best friends with every one of our clients, but we can certainly learn from how these relationships stand the test of time without constant interaction.  We don’t necessarily need to stay in touch every day/week, but we do need to stay in touch.  Find out about those important life events in your clients lives and be sure to follow up next time you interact with them.  Social media is an amazing tool for this, people put their entire lives on social media. As a Realtor you need to be paying attention to other people, not yourself. Never forget that part.. 

 Be the glue

We all have those friends that if we think about it, are truly the glue that keeps the relationship alive.  They are typically the ones that contact you first, that wish you happy birthday, that invite you out for lunch, coffee, or to some sort of event.  As Realtors we need to be that relationship glue that keeps us connected even after the transaction closes.  And NO, sending a fridge magnet once a year doesn’t quite cut it.

Here’s another stat - every person in your database knows 4 people per year that will be buying, selling or investing in real estate.  What an amazing resource for each of us to tap into and all we need to do is stay in touch, to stay top of mind!  Yet 3/4 of us don’t.  We would rather spend our time, money and resources on expensive advertising campaigns, chasing dead end online leads and the latest piece of real estate tech that will solve all of our problems. 

We have already built relationships with these people, the hard part is done, now we just need to cultivate and maintain them.  The single best thing you can do for your real estate career is to develop a workable program that systematically connects you and your clients multiple times throughout the year, through a variety of methods (email, social media, phone/text and in person) and that connection must be in a meaningful way.

If you can do this successfully within a few short years - you will have a business that runs on auto pilot for your entire career. 

Closing does not have to be the real estate break up.  Although the reason for you coming together is now over, we can still keep in touch and add value to their lives through market updates, client appreciation events, annual real estate reviews and simple lunch & coffee catch-ups. The result is a relationship that stands the test of time so the client and realtor are not left with the guilty feeling of a real estate one night stand.

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