At HomeTruths, we – that is, my consultants and I – offer a free consultation to homeowners who are struggling to sell their property. This is usually an hour-long visit, and over the last decade, we have collectively done hundreds of these consultations, honing them along the way, until they are the refined and polished visits we now enjoy.
The purpose of the appointment is to ascertain whether they want our help, and whether we want them as clients. We look at any aspect that may affect how saleable their house is, and discuss the implications of each one. Then we explain our fee and overcome any objections, if appropriate.
Does that sound familiar? It’s actually just like a valuation.
Having analysed all the possible permutations, formats and order of play, looking at the results of many consultations, I’ve come up with the perfect valuation visit blueprint. And here I’m going to share it with you.
Sam’s Valuation Visit Blueprint
Let me ask you, when you arrive at a vendor’s house, and she opens the door and enquires, “Where do you want to start?”, what do you say? Upstairs? Downstairs? Or “Let’s have a chat first”?
If it’s the latter, pat yourself on the back. My research shows that this is the single most important factor determining success on a valuation visit. Plainly speaking, if you do the sit down first, you are far more likely to win the instruction.
This is how a perfect valuation visit looks:
Listen > look > inform > close
Let’s take these four sections one at a time:
No one makes the decision to move home lightly. Every single house sale has a story behind it, sometime spreading over years. The person in front of you will tell you this story, if you give her the chance and the time, and if she feels she can trust you.
Her story will be full of clues about what’s important to her, especially the price versus time factors. Listen carefully, and your valuation will be so much easier, because you’ve understood her pain points, and where she is trying to get to – literally and metaphorically.
Remember – listening is not just waiting to speak. Make notes and listen intently, offering encouragement along the way. You will know when she has finished her story, so keep going until she does. Depending on the length of time she has lived there, and the challenges she has faced to put her house on the market, this part of the valuation visit can be over half an hour, or longer. But it’s the most important part, so don’t rush it.
When you take the tour, remember one thing – she has decided to move out of this house – so don’t gush about how wonderful it is. Firstly, you’ll sound fake, and secondly, it’s a pretty fair bet that she has fallen out of love with her house, and mentally moved on.
Where’s your spotlight shining? You can shine your attention spotlight in one of three places: your company, the house, or the vendor. Turn it on yourself, talking about you and your company, and watch her eyes glaze over. It’s not relevant to her.
Make the house the focus of your attention, and you’re in danger of talking about a home she no longer wants. And after all, it’s only bricks and mortar.
Talk about her plans – where she’s going to, and why – and watch her eyes light up with excitement about the chapter she’s about to embark on. Now you have her attention.
So when you look around the house, make it brief, without being rude. You’re not listing it at this point, remember; you’re just there to make sure there are no skeletons in the cupboards, either figuratively or literally.
When you’ve finished the house tour, come back to the living room, or wherever you were sitting, and tell her what you think of what you have seen in terms she will understand and appreciate.
The easiest way to format this section of the valuation visit, is with the Feedback Sandwich – Presentation > Price > Promotion
Presentation – if your vendor is female, as I’ve assumed here, she’s often interested in what you think of her house. She wants you to say you like what she’s done with it, and that buyers will do too. Don’t give away everything at this point though. How often have you been asked questions like, “what should we do with the kitchen?” and gone on to lose the instruction, either because she’s offended by your answer, or she was just milking you for information then instructing your competitor?
We have struggled with this challenge at HomeTruths, because most of our consultants are home stagers and property stylists. They can be too eager to tell all they know and dish out tons of great advice, only to find that they are no longer needed. Here are a some phrases we use to make sure we highlight the problem without giving the solution:
“I think you’re missing a trick with your box room – I’m going to have a think about how you could use it better.”
“That attic could be a fantastic sales feature – I have some ideas about making more of it.”
“There are some areas of your home which with a few tweaks, could make sure you get the highest price possible. We will work together on these areas and give you our expert advice.” (in other words, ‘if you instruct us’)
Price – this is where you can lose the instruction in an instant. Simply delivering one price, like a fait accompli, can be very dangerous. You could be wrong. Fact. And you could be wrong for her.
If you’ve listened really closely to the vendor in the first part of the valuation visit, you will have picked up lots of clues about price expectation, however oblique these clues may have been. Now is the time to capitalise on your knowledge and the trust you have built up.
Show her a list on Rightmove of all the properties on the market in her immediate area. This works best if you are sitting fairly near to her, and is easiest on an iPad or laptop with an internet connection.
Ask her about the other properties; where she thinks hers sits, and why. Refine this until you get a position between two properties, and the difference is the price she wants.
If this is hopelessly unachievable, and her expectations are way off, you’ll need to negotiate at this point using all your skills and charm. But in our view, most of the time this can be the best way to work out what price she has in mind, and why. You can then work from this to a price you both support.
Putting price at the centre of the feedback sandwich, means you can move onto safer ground afterwards.
Promotion – this can be a fun thing to talk about – how you are going to market her home in the most effective way possible. You can talk about photography, the words to use in the description and the type of brochure you will produce for her. Discussing the practicalities of marketing her house will move her mentally from an interviewer, to a vendor. “Do you have a spare set of keys we could use for viewings?”, “What times of day are the best to show your house?” and “Let’s work out the best angles to photograph the garden from” are all ways to get her thinking as if she has already instructed you.
The close section is not about pitching. Too many agents make this mistake and lose the instruction at this point. Keep the spotlight firmly on her, and simply test the water to see if she is ready to instruct you. If not, don’t push. You’re not selling double glazing, and understandably, not everyone is ready to commit at this point.
If you haven’t mentioned fee yet, now is the time to do it. Make sure you deliver it in a matter-of-fact way, making no apologies and without stuttering. If she gasps or argues, wait for her to speak – she will almost certainly tell you about the other quotes she has had, or explain her expectations.
If you want to negotiate on your fee, do it confidently. The important thing to ask yourself is, are we both smiling? If the deal only works for one of you, it may not stick, and if it does, it could be fraught with hidden problems. Your skill as a negotiator will be tested here, and if you’re still struggling, I have lots of ideas about how you could manage this section better, so drop me a line.
So instead of the diagram above, your visit blueprint looks more like this:
The weighting and focus is firmly on the listening section, with half of the time spent on this. It’s really really important that you do this part well, because it can be the determining factor of whether you win the instruction, or walk out empty handed.
Here are my suggested timings for a one hour valuation:
If your vendor is moving up the ladder, an hour should be enough. Downsizers may need more time, and investors a lot less. Use your judgement here, and give the vendor the time they need.
You may already be doing it like this – if so, well done! I’m sure your conversion rate is healthy and you’re happy with it.
If you’re currently doing the look round first, try my Blueprint for a while and tell me how you get on. A lovely agent recently told me that he’d been doing it ‘wrong’ for 25 years, and has just changed to this model. The results have blown him away and he’s now close to 100% conversion. Proof, if needed, that you can teach an old dog new tricks ;o)
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What to read next – The Single Most Important Question you can ask a Vendor
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