January 2015 | By Michelle Hofmann
The holiday season comes wrapped in the tenor of gratefulness. But even though the holidays are over, it’s in real estate practitioners’ best interest to show thanks throughout the year. REALTOR® Magazine recently explored the different ways sales professionals thank their clients.
Susan Guevara, who leads the RSJ Guevara Team with her husband, Rommie, at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services California Properties in Covina, Calif., has hosted about 40 “thank you” parties for buyers since 2003. She got the idea during a BHHS training session. She says the events are a major hit with clients and generate a steady stream of testimonials, leads, and referrals (which make up 85 percent of the couple’s business).
During the parties, guests can win household items (a coffee maker, for instance) by entering a raffle and completing a short housing survey with questions such as “Do you own a home?” and “Are you buying or selling?”
Susan says the parties provide three main points of contact: The invitations are the first touch point. “The second is the raffle and the survey at the party. And the third is the note of thanks after the party,” she adds.
Rommie says most clients prefer a regular party, but the Guevaras say themed parties (Chinese, Hawaiian, or Western themes, for example) are fun. Moreover, Rommie adds, the soirees (which cost $750 to $900 per party) generate business. In addition to accruing raving fans, the Guevaras met two new clients at a party they threw in October―and one was in escrow as of Dec. 23 and set to close before the New Year.
While most of their parties are for buyers, the Guevaras plan to host their first seller party on Jan. 10 to celebrate the completion of an emotional and prolonged sale that followed an illness in the family of one particular seller.
“They can’t buy just yet because they had to short-sell their home, so we are hosting a party in their rental home,” Rommie says. “They were stressed for two years. They got three notices from the bank. But it is off their back, and they can move on. So it’s a sigh of relief and a ‘giving thanks’ party.”
A New York State of Kind
Over on the East Coast, Robert Danton, Natalie J. Frazier, and Yulia Vargas all work for Fenwick Keats Real Estate in New York, but each has a different approach to thanking clients.
When one of his buyers brightenedat the mention of a listing’s wine cooler, Danton, a sales associate at the company’s Seventh Avenue office, dug a little deeper and discovered the couple loved wine. Not a connoisseur himself, Danton hired a sommelier, a waiter who helps customers match certain wines with their meal.
“The sommelier guided me in the purchase of some very special wines: two red and one white,” Danton says.
His clients appreciated the sentiment. “They were very excited. I received a phone call one Saturday evening saying they were enjoying the wine at that moment and had to give me a call,” he adds.
Frazier, a broker-associate at the downtown office, says buying a gift for a customer is like buying a present for a friend.
“Each client is unique and provides a different experience. When I thank a client, I really take into consideration what the whole process entailed,” she says.
With renters moving to the Big Apple from out of town, Frazier creates a welcome bag with a few home essentials (hand soap, paper towels, and disposable dinnerware) as well as a personalized list of local businesses tailored to their needs.
When one couple relocated from Ohio with their dog, Frazier’s customized list included top-rated dog-walking services in the area.
“People will find their own way, but it is great to have a place to start,” she says.
With buyers, Frazier favors gifts to help them embrace and explore their new neighborhood, usually two gift certificates to local restaurants or independently owned shops within walking distance from their home.
Go-to and traditional gifts are great, but stay open-minded, brokers say.
“I had one buyer whose closing date had been pushed back to the day before she had to be out of her old apartment. So my ‘thank you’ gift was having her apartment professionally cleaned by a local business so she could move right in,” Frazier says.
Vargas, another broker-associate for Fenwick Keats’ downtown office, sends clients an engraved photo frame with an image of the clients, which she finds through social media channels such as Facebook.
“You can even edit them into a picture of their new place. Either one will work. And the engraving on the frame will keep reminding them of you,” Vargas says. “It all helps to build strong relationships and generate repeat business.”
Moreover, she adds, many clients send gifts in return.
A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words
Jennifer Almblad, marketing director for Keller Williams Realty’s Kink Team in The Woodlands, Texas, says the firm’s “welcome to your new home” photo shoots are a big hit.
“We worked out a package with a photographer to go to the client’s new home and do a shoot there,” she explains. “The client can pick one photo on us. We present the gift certificate [for the photo shoot] in a nice frame, so they have a gift to open at closing instead of just an envelope.”
A Helping Hand
Kaye Thomas, a sales associate with Real Estate West in Manhattan Beach, Calif., knows there are lots of small things clients have to do after the sale. So Thomas gives them a closing card that includes an IOU for one hour with her handyman.
“My clients love having someone who will come to the house at their convenience and do the small things,” she says.
However you decide to show thanks to your clients — whether it’s pledging a percentage of net commission to the buyer’s charity of choice in their name or sending a simple handwritten note to the seller — make sure the action comes from the heart.
“Helping people buy, sell, and rent is a very personal experience,” Frazier says, “and the right gift lets them know that you were paying attention to more than just the deal.”
Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online, January 2015, with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright January 2015. All rights reserved. http://realtormag.realtor.org