I once went to see the owner of a beautiful barn conversion in Suffolk. The owner, an elegant silver-haired lady in her sixties, lived there alone with only her cat for company; her husband had died many years ago, and they had no children. Rose had lived there for over forty years, and had been trying to sell her home for nearly three of those.
We sat down in a beautiful drawing room on a chilly October morning, drinking tea out of China cups and I asked her, “Why are you selling?
I couldn’t have been more surprised by the story that she told me: Rose was moving to Australia to be with the love of her life: a man she had met in her twenties, whom she had rejected in favour of her late husband, then spent forty years wishing she hadn’t. He had moved to Australia to nurse his broken heart, and now divorced, had seen her husband’s obituary, and got back in touch.
It was a lovely story, and once she started talking, Rose, radiant with new-found happiness, wanted to tell me every detail. I sat, rapt, as the romance unfolded.
When she’d finished, I asked her if the three estate agents who had so far tried and failed to sell her house, knew this story.
“Oh no, they didn’t ask my reason for moving”, Rose replied. And what about the five other agents who had valued it? Apparently none of those had asked either.
If the estate agent – a professional adviser – doesn’t know the reasons their client is moving, how can they possibly give the best advice?
You need to build trust
After having put her trust in me by telling me her enchanting story, this elegant lady then put her trust in my services, and engaged me to help her sell her house. By knowing her motivation, plans and preferred timescale, as well as understanding her priorities, I was able to design a marketing campaign with Rose’s goals in mind. For example, she told me she wasn’t going to take a single stick of furniture with her to her new life in Australia. Not even an ornament. Knowing that fact meant that I could arrange for the sale of much of the large dated furnishings, and commission a home stager to present the house much more effectively.
Also, asset-rich but cash poor, Rose really wanted to take as much money as she could from the sale, so she could be financially independent in Australia, “If things don’t work out”. Having dropped the asking price from £750,000 to £650,000, she was delighted when I suggested a rise back up to £700,000.
What happened next?
Rose sold her barn conversion for £680,000 just two months’ later, and sent me an email from Australia. Apparently it was working out, so far at least!
If I had never asked Rose why she was moving house, I wouldn’t have known her plans and moving goals. Without that information, I could only have given her generic advice. By having her priorities and objectives at the forefront of my mind, I could be certain we were both on the same page, and as so often happens when client and adviser are aligned, the result is success. Not only did Rose achieve her aim, she also placed her trust in me, because we were working towards the same goal. She therefore felt confident I had her best interests at the heart of every recommendation I made.
Do you always ask a client why they are moving? Sometimes the response can be emotionally-charged, so it’s not something you can usually risk asking on the phone. Face-to-face, you can read the situation much more accurately and respond appropriately.
Every person moving home has a story to tell.
Very few people decide to move on a whim. Your task is to allow that story to be told, and to be a willing listener whilst it is. Only by showing genuine interest will that person be able to put their trust in you enough to tell you their story. If they can do that, you know that you have the firm foundation of a relationship you can build on. And that is so much more important than your valuation and fee. Those are just numbers. Their story is their life.
“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
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