The property market is relatively unchanged and has been for sometime in terms of many key performance measures. Earlier this year, the bank base rate of interest has celebrated its fifth birthday, transaction levels have been similar for the same sort of period and property prices, depending upon which report you read, have been broadly stable for a good long while in terms of the national averages. The Centre for Economics and Business Research predict house prices will fall by 0.8% next year – hardly anything to get uptight about.
The media will always seek out a story about house prices as it makes for reliable readership numbers – after all, everyone wants to know what the housing market is doing, don’t they? Problem is, the storytellers are sourcing their information from a wide base and ending up contradicting each other (and sometimes themselves!) due to the variances of data published. For those of us within the industry, these mixed messages may raise a wry smile or create a sense of irritation. For the wider public, they simply perpetuate confusion and uncertainty as to what the property market is doing.
Confusion can lead to lack of housing market activity. People tend not to act unless they are “disturbed” – thus there is a new and necessary skill for many estate agents to develop as the market has done the job of “disturbing” buyers and/or sellers in the past whereas currently we are in a market where many people can simply “wait and see”. In short, whereas historically the public were "disturbed into action" by market forces (particularly rapidly rising or falling prices), many are now sitting on the hands in a state of inertia fuelled by the aforementioned media-driven confusion - in other words, "I am waiting to be unconfused before I do anything"...or put simply, that no action is better than taking action they are unsure of.
When I look back on my own house moves over the past 30 years, it is patently clear that those moves that went the distance were driven by a state of “disturbance”. My first time buy was solely based on a fear of missing the boat, whilst a sale some years later was agreed with a smile despite the price being many thousands of pounds less than I paid for it prior to the early 1990’s price plummet. The smile was linked to the fact that another week or two and even more of my precious equity would have evaporated.
There is an old adage in selling – “Emotion creates motion” – in other words where there is an underlying emotion, people will move. Agents have to identify those clients and customers who are motivated and as importantly, what the true nature of that motivation is.
Customers act to achieve a goal and/or to avoid a penalty – for example, people are driven to move by the goal of giving their children a better lifestyle/safer environment or by fear of financial loss. Equally, house buyers may have a goal of making their life easier by living closer to work or to an ailing relative, or by the penalty of not seeing their grandchildren grow up or by continuing to live next door to noisy neighbours.
If a negotiator can establish the perceived penalties and/or goals behind the possible house move, he/she can use that information to “disturb” the customer to act.
“Disturbing” customers is a higher level skill and is built upon a strong foundation of broad industry knowledge. If a customer simply thinks you are trying to cajole them into increasing their offer, reducing their price, putting their property on the market now rather than next year or moving out into rented to break the chain, simply so that you secure a bit of business for yourself, your suggestions will fall on deaf ears.
However, if the customer is sufficiently convinced by your knowledge, authority and advice, you are far more likely to succeed.
A relationship of trust is essential – the use of an empathetic approach “If I were in your shoes, I’d probably do this…” works brilliantly if the customer trusts you, but fails dismally if they don’t!
Confident salespeople will use carefully worded questions to gently get the customer to think about the repercussions of not taking action.
“What will happen if you miss out on that property…?”
“As you’ll know, there is 10% less property for sale now than there was a year ago…”
“What will the implications be if house prices do fall next year…?”
“I would hate to see you reach a situation where…”
“Are you confident that you will secure a better offer than this one…?”
"What would be the impact if you were still unsold at the end of the year?"
“I’d hate you to miss out on the perfect property because you weren’t in a position to go ahead…”
The market demands exceptional salespeople rather than order takers or polite dispensers of information. The skill of “disturbing” customers sets the best agents apart from their competition and gets results.
Do not disturb at your peril!