At 200 square we do things quite differently and are not afraid to challenge sacred cows. One of the things we spent a lot of time thinking through when putting our solution together was how to handle Open Homes and property viewings. We were really struggling with it - after all the agent standing and staring at the wall at an empty Open Home is a real estate tradition! Of course our legal beagle came up with the solution - a security company.
And that's how we proceeded - there wasn't going to be a real estate agent present. We gave two options to our owners, hire the security company to open up the home for the buyer to view, or host the viewing themselves.
What we've found is that the vast majority of our owners have decided to host viewings themselves, and you know what? It works really, really well.
Of course the purpose of a viewing is to allow the potential purchaser to see the features of the property and evaluate it against their own personal criteria. We as sellers are obviously trying to get the buyer to feel emotionally connected, to feel at home, to want to live there. That can be really hard to achieve when the buyer is on edge, keeping their cards close to their chest, not wanting to disclose too much to the agent hovering by.
We tell our buyers - the viewing is hosted by the owner, you won't have an agent following you around, asking questions. We will follow up with you afterwards to see how it went and to get any questions you may have. Sometimes the buyer can be a bit suprised at first. But, once they contemplate it for a second, they are pretty happy - "its great to speak to the person who actually knows the place" is pretty much the common response. Unfiltered, unbiased information - now there's a thought!
It has not really be done that way in New Zealand before. Now, we're incredibly friendly people, I wonder why not? In the UK for example, it's a common place part of the sales process for the owners and the purchasers to meet prior to contracts being finalised.
We coach our owners to give the buyers space, greet them, make sure they're comfortable and let them look around. It's still their home and they are in control, but relax and let the buyer feel at home. After all that's want we want - for the buyer to make the property their new home. They don't need to try and become new-best friends.
Although it's funny sometimes how things work out. We had some out-of-town people looking at a home this last weekend, at a viewing hosted by the owners. Towards the end they all got on so well they sat down and had a cup-of-tea. Now do you think those buyers felt comfortable? Do you think they felt pressured? Were they keeping their guard up? You think that might be a relatively straight forward negotiation, with understanding and affinity on both sides?
Including the owner in the sales process, allowing the seller and the buyer to meet, the agent as the facilitator rather than the controller of the process - is this the way of the future? We think so.