Most real estate agents with any amount of experience know the benefits and drawbacks of working with first-time homebuyers. “Rookie” homebuyers experience a lot of fear as they move into what, for most of them, is a huge commitment and the first large “investment” of their lives. So, being a “first-timers” agent usually requires a lot more patience, education and encouragement than is needed when dealing with buyers who are a bit more seasoned. On the other hand, outside of having to “pass” a lender’s qualification process, first-time homebuyers don’t have some of the stickier strings attached, like having to sell a current residence in order to close on the purchase of a new one. And there’s always that unbeatable, one-of-a-kind good feeling an agent gets by having helped another family make their dreams of home ownership come true.
Today’s first-time homebuyer is a bit different than (and at a distinct advantage over) those of only a few years ago. For instance, first-timers are better informed than ever, due to the proliferation of online resources sponsored by savvy real estate advisors and financial planners. These newcomers to the home ownership arena are also becoming increasingly appreciative of the opportunities increasingly available to them as housing markets all over the country are suffering from having more homes for sale than buyers lined up to purchase, forcing sellers to drop asking prices and accept more buyer-friendly purchase agreements.
There are some great advantages in representing first-time homebuyers. In an article posted on Forbes.com “Housing Trends” section, writer Matt Woolsey notes that without these new buyers, housing markets everywhere will find it difficult to grow (07.23.07). Studies also show that homeowners tend to take a more vested interest in their communities and make greater contributions to local businesses and charitable organizations over time. By taking great care of first-time buyers, then, realtors are also assisting their own local communities and economies. And, just as most agents get a rush from helping families into their first homes, these families are unlikely to forget the valued advisor who walked them through their first home-buying experience and are more likely to: (1) use that same agent for their future housing needs; and (2) pass his/her name along to friends and relatives down the road.
So what kinds of service can an agent wanting to target first-time homebuyers be ready to offer? First and foremost, put yourself in the shoes of the buyer. Identify the problems he/she/they are facing and work to reveal the benefits they stand to gain (for more on this type of marketing, see Craig Forte’s newsletter article, entitled “How to Master the Single Greatest Skill for Real Estate Success”). You can also begin maintaining a running file of the kinds of questions your past and current clients are asking; and keep your answers updated and pertinent to the client(s) you’re facing.
Try looking through the information that is already available to potential buyers. The Internet is full of “buyer’s advice” columns, chock full of suggestions to buyers on what to look for while home shopping. So why not make yourself the trusted resource for your first-time clients and prospects by anticipating their needs and having the answers to their questions already prepared? For example, an article just recently appeared in the Forbes.com “Real Estate” section entitled “Top First-Time Home Buyer Tips” (Matt Woolsey, 06.26.2007). Here, prospective homebuyers can read about “doing the math” with regards to mortgage rates and local housing market performance; researching neighborhoods to find out how many houses are for sale and how long they’ve been on the market (and their sale price vs. asking price); looking into local schools’ test scores; finding out about any historical or homeowner’s association regulations, etc. Rather than assuming that a first-time homebuyer will come to the table with this knowledge already in their minds, offer this as part of your valuable service. Most of this information is easily available to real estate professionals. And, buyers who have already been “warned” against the sales-driven mentality of realtors will be impressed at your level of attention and the open channels of communication you so helpfully offer in their own interest.
Don’t let fear determine either your commitment to first-time homebuyers, or the homebuyers’ commitment to pursuing their dream of ownership. It remains important to ensure the clients you are working with and actively looking for are the types of clients with whom you wish to do business (for more on how to capture your “target” market, see this Agent Inner Circle Newsletter article). The more informed and helpful you are with a first-timer, the more appreciative they will be throughout the purchase process and more likely to look you up as they look at buying their second home and to refer their own friends and family to you in the months and years to come.