Overcome Buyer Indecision With a Few Choice Words

Get potential buyers off the fence by clarifying their wants and needs before viewing homes.

January 1, 2004

Have you ever called a customer and had a conversation like this one?

“Hello, Mr. Smith, have you decided whether you’re going to make an offer on the Park Lane home? It seemed so perfect for you.”

“Well, yeah, but we think we’re going to hold off awhile. Why don’t you give us a call in a couple of weeks?”

If you’ve had dead-end exchanges like this, your problem actually developed long before this conversation happened. One of the main reasons people can’t make up their minds is a lack of clarity between salesperson and buyer about what the buyer really wants.

Clarify Wants and Needs Early

A lot of real estate professionals spend very little time questioning, probing, and clarifying the customer’s wants and needs. I call them “Pop-Tart practitioners” because as soon as they get a call about a house from a new prospect, they pop out of their chairs to show the listing. Avoid wasted time and falling victim to buyer indecision by getting buyers to think through their needs before you show a single home.

Understanding buyers’ desires starts with an initial counseling session. Take your time and use a good script or questionnaire to determine what type of home the buyers really want, what they can comfortably afford, and how ready they are to buy. For an example of a questionnaire you can use, check out the Buyer Questionnaire Form on my Web site. This form will help you take a prospect through some 30 questions regarding contact information, homebuying plans, experience with other real estate professionals, type of home desired, and ability to buy.

The next mistake many real estate professionals make is failing to reaffirm their initial understanding of the buyer’s needs during showings and casual conversations. As a result, they miss important cues about the buyer’s likes and dislikes. Reaffirming is accomplished with simple questions like:

  • “Do you folks like this?”
  • “Do you like what I’m showing you?”
  • “Tell me what you like and what you don’t about each home, so I’ll be able to show the houses that suit you best.”

Too often, practitioners avoid these reaffirming questions because they don’t want to hear the word “no,” as in, “No, I don’t like this house; it feels too closed in.” But in fact, “no” is just what you need to hear in order to steer your clients toward something they’ll like better.

Draw Out Objections

Sometimes a buyer’s indecision results from a major objection you have not uncovered or that has arisen only after the buyer began looking at homes. Suppose you have shown your clients numerous homes in a neighborhood they love, only to meet continual resistance. Ask, “You didn’t like any of the last eight homes we’ve seen. What seems to be the problem?” or “How are these homes failing to meet your needs?” You may find the buyers have decided this terrific neighborhood is just too expensive for them, too far from a school they want their kids to attend, or found some other reason that is causing their hesitation. Once you’ve uncovered the objection, you can use your knowledge of the market to help buyers find a neighborhood that better meets their needs.

Manage Expectations for a Quick Decision

Another major cause of buyer indecision is unrealistically high expectations of finding the perfect home. In such cases, buyers often feel unsatisfied with every home you show. Here’s a great script for that situation: “Do you realize there is no such thing as the perfect home? Say you tried to design the perfect home yourselves. You wouldn’t be in that home for 10 minutes before wishing you’d done something differently. Would you agree?” The buyer usually laughs and agrees. Now ask this: “What won’t you compromise on?”

Or try this script before your first showing appointment: “Let me explain how I work. On the first day, we’ll look at a few houses in five or six areas. Tell me exactly what you like and dislike about each one. Based on that, I’ll pick an additional five or six homes to view on a second day—any one of which will satisfy your needs and any one of which you’ll be able to buy. Then on the third day, we’ll pick the best of those five or six homes, negotiate the contract, and by the afternoon you’ll be under contract. Any questions before we start?”

If you’re doing everything right in determining needs, reaffirming as you go, and managing expectations, you still need to ask your clients to buy something. Practitioners who regularly show 30 or 40 homes are often uncomfortable asking for the sale. It’s amazing how often this simple question elicits a contract: “Do you want to buy this house?” If that’s hard for you, get permission from your customers beforehand by saying “One way I can determine that we’ve found the right house is by asking if you are going to buy each house we look at. If I forget to ask, will you remind me?” Also be sure to tell customers to bring their checkbooks to every showing appointment, so they’re ready to make a deposit.

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that buyer indecision may not be about the houses at all, but about discomfort with you. Get this issue out in the open early because ultimately, the customer is going to buy a house from another practitioner unless you find a way to resolve these objections. Ask from time to time, “How am I doing? Are you OK working with me?” or “What else do you want from me?”

Buyer indecision is a part of the real estate business. But by using variations on the scripts and responses suggested here, you’ll be in a better position to turn their hesitations into buying decisions. So pick a couple of the scripts you just read, practice using them a few times before you meet with your next customer or client, and then try them out. Practice will make them feel natural, and your closing ratio will increase.

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