Do you love free stuff? Don’t fib now, you can’t tell me that you don’t want to pay nothing to get something. Free is a very powerful marketing tool that many industries use as their main tactic in customer acquisition.
Think about local insurance agents. They don’t advertise by saying, “Switch to my company because it’s better than your current company.” Rather, they tell you that they would love to give you a “free quote,” or a “free comparison.” They aren’t selling their insurance to you at all. They are giving you something with perceived value for free. (Now, having owned an insurance company in the past, I can tell you that getting people to switch companies based on anything other than price is a whole different ball game, but I digress…)
His study of 398 MIT students measured people’s reaction (and overreaction) to two different products: Hershey’s candies and Lindt truffles. Under normal circumstances, the Hershey’s products are already significantly cheaper than Lindt products — and the latter also have an air of exclusivity or cache, too. By all measures, the Lindt item has a higher value. Yet, when asked to choose between a free Hershey’s product or a dramatically discounted Lindt candy, the vast majority of students opted for the item that was free, even if it wasn’t objectively the best deal.
This shows us the true power of Free at work (or maybe that people just really like Hershey’s chocolate). Let’s use this to our advantage.
Giving Away The Farm
Now that we know the power of free, what can we do with it? We obviously can’t give our home selling services away for free. That would leave us with growling tummies and permanent scowls. Think about something that you already do as a free service to your potential sellers. When you go to do a listing presentation, what do you already have prepared for them? That’s right, a CMA.
Giving away your comparative market analysis information is a practice that we all already believe in. In fact, I’ll bet that you would love to do more of them for the simple fact that they work so well.
Now before you start screaming all over the place that you are offering Free Home Evaluations, let’s try to get a little more organized.
What are you trying to accomplish from this practice? What is the best way to tell sellers that you offer this service? How do the logistics of this process work?
First off, why are we giving away free CMA’s? Is it because we love doing CMA’s so much that our hearts will fill with everlasting childlike joy? Will someone give us an award for “most analysis completed?” Will we lose weight?
Sadly, none of that stuff is likely to happen. What most of us are aiming for is more seller business. (Remember, She with the most listings, wins.) Of course a home run in this ball game would be to give someone a free CMA and they decide right then and there to list there home with you. That’s the short game win, and I can guarantee you that it won’t happen every time.
If you play the long game as well, which you ABSOLUTELY SHOULD, then you need to guarantee yourself a single as well as a chance for the home run. The long game win with each and every free CMA you give is a trade for the email address and phone number of the hopeful seller. With this information you can add them into your drip email campaigns, or just drop a line every once and a while to make sure that when they do go to sell, that you’re the only person that they can think of to get the job done.
Win. Win. Win.
To do a CMA, you obviously need some info from the potential sellers. Things like square footage, number of bedrooms, age, etc… There are a couple ways that you can get this from them.
Create A Form
On your website, you should have a fillable form that the prospects can go to fill out. This will collect all the pertinents from them without any time investment from you, and will save you the time of a phone call. (This is another tip from my insurance days. A fact gathering phone call can easily turn into an hour or more)
You can create this form using Google Forms, Survey Monkey (Wufoo), or any other form building software that you are familiar with. I find when working with forms that it is useful to be able to compare your results with other results. This will help you build statistics that can assist your understanding of your client base.
If your people would like to give you the info over the phone, you should go to your website and fill out this from yourself (for them), that way you don’t forget any of the information that you need from them and that it’s all formatted in a way that you’re used to seeing.
Your form should include all of the fields that you need filled to create a solid CMA. If you like things simple, create your customer facing form in the same order as you enter info into the CMA machine.
Make sure that all your fields are easily understandable by people who may not be real estate savvy. Don’t use any professional lingo or jargon. Use real words that people get.
One more question to add to your form that will help you get a much better sense of who you’re talking to is this, “When are you planning on moving?” This will help you weed out who is serious right now, and who isn’t.
This option is much more personable than an online form. Schedule a time that you can go and view the prospect’s property. Obviously you are looking to build a relationship and dig deeper into the reasons for moving while you are there.
Use your phone or tablet as you walk through the home to fill out your own online form. This, again, is the best way for your to collect the information that you need. You may think of adding a check box somewhere in your form indicating that you did a home visit. This will allow further tracking.
So now that you have everything you need to give the prospect what they want, do you just call them up and give them a number? Obviously not. We need to have this ready to present to them in a pretty little package with a bow and everything. Ok, so maybe we don’t need a real bow, but having all of your stuff polished and ready for a sale is the way to go.
Create yourself a template in Microsoft Word or some other program with a bunch of “advertisey, but not cheesy” stuff ready for them to look at with their valuation. They need to see why you are better than other agents. Seriously, you would kill to get this same stuff in front of a listing presentation. Treat this the same.
Don’t be afraid to go a few steps deeper than what the prospect asked for either. Think about giving them not only the valuation of the home, but what they would pocket after your commission and fees. Can you get their payoff? Even better, add it it. One step further? Tell them how much home they could afford if they used the proceeds as a 20% down payment? Super ballsy? Send them some listings in their new price range. Let’s try to milk this cow for all it’s worth!
This document should be in PDF when you send it to them, and it should match your branding. In other words, make it look similar to your business cards, Listing Reports, and any other paraphernalia that you send out. Branding baby!
Before you respond to any inquiries about your Free Home Evaluations, you should search the address in the MLS to make sure the home isn’t listed with any other agent. There are folks out there who just want to check the work of their current agent.
If it is already listed, you could either call the other agent and let them know that their customer may not be totally happy, or you could just answer the seller with a “I can’t give you this information while you are under a contract with another agent”.
We all want to scream “If you’re not happy, I’ll sell your house better than they will!” but that’s trying to pry a client from a contract they are already in, which is illegal here, so just formulate your answer as best and professional as you can without any advertisement. You don’t want to be on the docket of your states real estate courts.
Don’t be mad if you see these homes on sale as a FSBO. You know as well as I do how well that works out. You’ll be the first agent they call once they get tired of waiting. Don’t pester them, just send them an email once every week or two asking them how it’s going. If you know the target date of when they want to sell, use it to your advantage when following up with them.
This is an underutilized tool. Free is powerful, and we should be using it to our advantage. Make sure you’re not striking out while swinging for the fences, get the contact info for everyone who asks about this. You’ll hit a home run soon enough with this method.
Do you use Free Home Evaluations? Does it work for you? What does your form look like?
Let us know in the comments!