Nicole Slaughter Graham is a freelance journalist and writer based in St. Petersburg, Fla.
How to Give Investment Buyers the Best Service
These customer service tips can help your agents be the “boots on the ground” for investors.
October 1, 2018
With an abundance of bike trails, a swath of breweries and eateries, and a healthy job market, Portland, Ore., is a prime location for investment properties. The “City of Roses” also has more involved regulation requirements (like radon testing) and several micro markets, which is the type of information an investment buyer might not have on hand.
“It’s really important that I’m able to alert my clients to all of the intricacies of the Portland market,” says Shane Morgan, real estate broker with Inhabit Portland. This mindset doesn’t just apply to Morgan’s market, though. When it comes to working with investment buyers, agents and brokers have to adopt a jack-of-all-trades mentality, which means being experts in a variety of areas outside general market knowledge.
Many investment buyers rely on their agents for much more than helping them choose the right property, and providing the best service is a layered process. These examples will help you advise your agents on best practices for working with investors and come up with ways to standardize the services your brokerage provides.
Cultivate Trust Through Open Communication
Many of Morgan’s investment clients are either transplants to the Portland area or looking to buy remotely. “Sometimes, I only see my clients in person one time through the entire process,” he explains. This means communication is an essential component to his business. “It’s really important that I establish trust in the initial meeting. My clients need to know that I’m capable of taking care of things if they can’t be present.”
Much of the time, investment clients are juggling many responsibilities, so communication has to be on their terms. “It’s my job to follow the pace they set and meet them where they’re at as far as communication is concerned.” This means Morgan might be texting updates to one client and emailing or calling another client. The key is to make sure agents are tailoring their communication style to the needs of the client.
Make Sure Agents Understand Goals Upfront
The initial conversation is the time to ensure proper understanding of what the client intends for his or her investment property. Not every investor is looking for the same thing. Some plan to buy single-family homes, multifamily buildings, or individual condos, for instance. Sometimes, they want a property for long-term investment while others want to flip the property quickly. “Understanding my clients’ goals up front means I will be able to narrow down where to search and what type of property to show them,” Morgan says.
This decreases the margin of error and saves time. Providing agents with a checklist to use during their initial meeting with investors would be helpful.
Having a grasp of the client’s financial goals associated with their purchase is also important, which means an agent needs to have an intricate understanding of the value of properties in his or her market, as well as the cost of renovations and repairs. “In my market, a client usually needs to have the capital—cash or 40 percent down—for the transaction to make sense financially,” Morgan says. Having this knowledge shows investment buyers that their agent understands the financial side of the transaction, and it helps to cultivate trust.
Be Knowledgeable of Your Area’s Micro Markets
An investment buyer might be interested in turning their property into an Airbnb rental. Knowing which areas cater to different types of rentals is necessary to help investment buyers choose the right property. Knowing which schools are the best, proximity to major employers, and the style of home vacationers seek out informs an agent’s ability to find the perfect investment property in the ideal section of town.
Have a Team of Experts at Your Disposal
Many investment buyers will purchase a discounted property in need of repair. Some might even opt for a teardown. The more experts an agent has in his or her arsenal, the better. “The goal is for me to be the single point of contact for my clients,” says Morgan. “If I’m not the expert the client needs, I have to know who that expert is and how to get in contact with them quickly.”
To do this, Morgan has built rapport with contractors, painters, inspectors, and property managers in his market. This way, if a client needs some repairs done to, say, the plumbing of the property they buy, Morgan can easily refer his client to a local plumber. The point is to have all of these assets at his disposal to limit the work on the client’s part.
Unlike a buyer seeking his or her dream home, an investor is more interested in the return on investment than in making an emotional connection with a property. To accommodate an investment buyer, an agent has to adjust his or her own mindset and have a keen understanding of the business of investing. This, says Morgan, is fundamental to providing great service.
“In the end, it's my job to be my clients’ boots on the ground and their sound adviser when it comes to finding the right property for the right return,” he says.