Many happy returns
July 1, 2005
Leaving a lasting impression on clients doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time. Just ask Amy Cherrie, e-PRO®, an associate with Dilbeck/Gibson GMAC, REALTORS®, in Studio City, Calif. Her closing gift is thoughtful and useful, and, best of all, it wows new buyers.
The evening before or the morning of a closing, Cherrie goes to the buyers’ new house—with the necessary permission—and puts a welcome mat at the front door and a fluffy bath rug in front of the bathtub or shower. On the kitchen counter, she leaves a vase of fresh flowers next to a bottle of wine or sparkling cider. Along with her gifts, which also include something she remembers the buyers saying they wanted, such as fireplace tools, Cherrie includes a welcome-home card.
“I want to make the house look warmer,” she says. “At the end of a long moving day, many homeowners just want to shower and relax. Having the bath mat means they don’t have to dig their stuff out of a box.”
Depending on the price of the home, Cherrie spends anywhere from $100 to $250 on her gifts, though on occasion she’ll spend more. The effort is well worth it. “Many past buyers refer me to others. And I’ve gone back to houses a few months later and noticed that the bath mat I bought is still there,” she says.
Here are more ideas to turn closings into openings for new business.
“I didn’t have much money at my first closing, but I bought the buyers a rosebush and some change-of-address cards. Together they cost me about $35, and every time the roses bloom, that client will remember the good working relationship we had.”
Stephanie Blackman, Berry Real Estate, Whitman, Mass.
“The very best gift I’ve found is the American flag. I order a six-pack of 3-by-5 flags with embroidered stars, sewn stripes, and brass grommets for about $110 from www.fivestarflags.com.”
Karen Wasson, Community Realty, Eureka, Calif.
“I like to tailor gifts to each client’s personality or situation. For example, I gave a client who was retiring to Florida gift certificates to local restaurants and a one-year subscription to Coastal Living magazine. When a family bought a house with a home theater, I gave them a large bowl filled with candy, popcorn, a gift certificate to Best Buy, and a one-year subscription to Entertainment Weekly magazine. I spend about $100 and get back so much more.”
Dawn Pfaff, Max Broock, REALTORS®, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
“I throw a housewarming party for buyers after closing. In addition to the guest list they give me, I invite the entire subdivision, which introduces the buyers to their neighbors and markets my services. I don my apron, serve the meal—lasagna—and clean up. The parties cost about $125 (buyers provide the drinks and ice). I also incurred a start-up cost of about $100 for reusable items such as baskets, tablecloths, and utensils.”
Barb Chew, ABR®, GRI, RE/MAX Fine Properties, Scottsdale, Ariz.
“I give clients a basket of cleaning products, as well as toilet paper and tissues, which they may not remember to bring when they move in. It costs about $30. The first thing many new homeowners do after closing is go straight to the home and start cleaning. This way, everything’s in one place.”
Rachel Rodriguez, Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate, Kendall Park, N.J.
“I give home warranties that cover all the electrical, plumbing, appliances—basically everything but the roof. It’s peace of mind for the buyer. Warranties cost anywhere from $370 to $400, but they’re well worth the expense because buyers know their first year will be headache free. Plus, when the policy is up for renewal, they think of me.”
Debra R. Attman, ABR®, CRS®, Long & Foster Real Estate Inc., Lutherville, Md.
“For first-time homebuyers, I give $25 to $50 Lowe’s or Home Depot gift cards. I then follow up and ask, ‘How are things going with the house? What did you buy with the gift card?’ Past clients have invited me to weddings, and most of my clients and customers acknowledge me with referrals.”
Suzanne Swyers, Exit Realty Metro, Southwest office, Orlando, Fla.
“My closing gift is a cordless phone. I spend anywhere from $80 to $150. It’s well received because the owners don’t have to search for their phone in their moving boxes. And inevitably they say, ‘Now we have a phone to call you the next time we sell our house.’ Plus, it’s a subconscious reminder of me whenever they make a call.”
Sigrid Meier, CRS®, GRI, Metro Brokers Nationwide Real Estate, Denver
“I give relocating clients a book of detailed city street maps from Mapsco (about $40). Two or three years later, I’ve found that some clients still have the book in their car.”
Brenda Wood, Brenda Wood, REALTORS®, Dallas
“In addition to being a real estate practitioner, I own a Michigan franchise of a company called Garagetek (www.garagetek.com). I offer high-end homebuyers ($500,000 and up) a garage makeover as a closing gift. I usually do a one-wall package that includes paneling, cabinets, baskets, activity racks, and shelving units. My packages start at $2,000. I visited one client a few days after closing. The house was a mess—nothing was unpacked. The only room that was immaculate was the garage.”
Don Eizen, Real Estate One, Farmington Hills, Mich.
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