Getting to ‘Yes’

When it comes to turning a stern “no” into an exuberant “yes,” persistence is key, knowledge is power, and creativity pays dividends.

April 18, 2014

The shoe in the box said everything Anthony Barone couldn’t. Fed up with rejection, Barone, formerly a broker-associate with RE/MAX at Barnegat Bay & RE/MAX International in Toms River, N.J., bought a pair of men’s dress shoes at a thrift store, put one in a box, and mailed the marketing missile to the cantankerous home owner with a letter that read: “Since I already have one foot in the door, would you consider letting me come over to discuss listing your home?”

Barone got the listing. Although Barone recently made a career change and left real estate in 2013, the story still serves as an example of the lengths to which sales professionals will go to get buyers and sellers from “no” to “yes.”

Leo Nordine, owner of Nordine REALTORS® in Redondo Beach, Calif., says surly clients often require more patience and TLC.

Responding to tightening inventory, Nordine started calling expired listings on Dec. 27. When one home owner answered the phone with a happy “ho-ho-ho,” Nordine felt optimistic. But the merry moment faded when Mrs. Claus grabbed the last word and hung up. Frustrated, Nordine tossed the lead.

“Then I remembered from years ago when I used to call expireds that a lot of the grouchy ones that hang up or are rude to you are actually good leads. They want to sell the house. But if they hang up on every other [agent], the one who calls back might have a shot. Somebody has to sell that house, but a lot of these people will test you. They start out really grouchy, but once you put up with them, they love you,” he says.

Memory jogged, Nordine plucked the crumpled lead from the trash and called back. True to form, Mrs. C hadn’t regained her holiday spirit. But Nordine held firm.

“I told her what was happening with her house, how the listing expired. Then she said she was leaving town. But I could tell she needed to sell her house, so I sent a [marketing] package over. I had it delivered that afternoon,” he explains.

By late afternoon, Nordine and Mrs. C were face to face in her four-bedroom Gardena, Calif., home. She was difficult. He listened. She made demands: Appointments only. No calls. No lockbox. He agreed. He talked marketing strategies and showcased recent area sales. By the end of the day, Mrs. C was smiling and Nordine had a deal.

“She was like, ‘Wow, he’s putting up with me.’ In the end, we really hit it off. She gave me a good price on it,” he says.

Nordine closed a not-too-shabby $58 million in gross sales on 130 transactions in 2013. And Mrs. C’s home closed in February.

He makes it look easy, right? It’s not. “I’m still hungry. I actually threw that lead away. But you can’t give up,” he says.

Gregarious or gruff, getting buyers and sellers to yes can be frustrating in any market, but real estate professionals say getting buyers to grasp the impact of limited inventories on market prices in the current economy is a major challenge. While investors often recognize the need to go above market to win a bidding war, many traditional buyers missed that memo.

“It seems that most buyers have been thinking that they're still just giving homes away, that they can offer just anything and they'll get the home,” says Daniel Biro, broker-owner of Castle Properties & Investments LLC in Satellite Beach, Fla.

Ignorance can be costly. “After they do inevitably end up waiting too long because they either don't fully believe you or understand the market yet, and lose that first property, they will understand and believe you for the next opportunity and say ‘yes’ much faster,” Biro says.

Buyers aren’t the only ones learning hard lessons. Will Rogers, an associate broker with New York–based Fenwick Keats Real Estate, says one listing with a trying seller and a noisy location took a year to get solid interest. Then, shortly after the buyer signed the contract, the seller told Rogers that she had a dream in which the aunt from whom she inherited the property told her not to sell the home.

“I was quite upset. I’d worked really hard,” he recalls.

Rogers took the apartment off the market, and the buyer went away. Several months later, the buyer expressed renewed interest, and the seller, regret now ceding to reason, agreed to the sale.

Brenton Hayden, founder of Twin Cities-based Renter’s Warehouse and RW Realty, the real estate arm of Renter’s Warehouse, Minnesota's largest residential property manager, says while information is widely available to sales associates and consumers alike, practitioners who cultivate specialized knowledge can set themselves apart and counter obstructions when getting to yes.

To cull highlights from the torrent of national real estate news that streams onto the Web monthly, Hayden uses The subscription-based software ($19.95 a month) sorts through white papers, webinars, and reports to produce simplified, narrated slides and videos that serve double duty as educational and marketing resources for sales associates.

“You can’t just sell people anymore. You need to be an adviser. If clients don’t understand something and throw up an objection, you need to educate them. They need more information to say yes. So you need to take all the time you need to educate them on what they don’t know,” he adds.

And make sure that counsel includes good and bad news, says John Federici, co-owner and managing broker of Krain Real Estate in Chicago.

“I tell my clients that I’m like their doctor,” Federici explains. “I may not always tell them the things they want to hear, but it will be the truth.”

Federici says the “doctor” approach comes in handy in discussions about going above market price. “People have a hard time pulling the trigger and going above list price, but when you put the numbers in front of them, it’s hard for them to argue with the facts. This approach removes me as a salesperson and lets the client know that I am acting in their best interest, above all else,” he explains.

While there are always reasons why you shouldn’t do something, Rogers says to get to yes, focus on the reasons why your clients should do something.

“In a lot of cases, we are simply easing people’s fears, because the process itself is so anxiety ridden. We become coaches, therapists. We hold their hands. We become the calming force they need to get through the process,” Rogers explains.

Hayden concurs: “You have to become a teacher. You have to have the heart of a teacher and the soul of a teacher, not the heart and soul of a salesman,” he says. “But to become a teacher, you have to keep current on all housing conditions.”