This article is part one in a two-part series on going the extra mile to help clients. This article outlines how to find the right experts to build an amazing list of vendors. In part two, we focus on new financing options available.
- Vet industry partners by calling and having a conversation with them. Have a list of questions prepared.
- Research local contractors and professionals online. Read reviews and ask for recommendations from other real estate pros.
- Always offer clients a few trusted professionals to choose from.
When Taylor McFarlane showed up for a final walkthrough with her buyers, they noticed the sellers left behind rugs and a bunch of plywood, bricks, and paint in the barns. The sellers told McFarlane it all was a gift to the buyers.
“This wasn’t a gift. It’s called trash,” says McFarlane, associate broker with McFarlane Field Team at Portside Real Estate Group, Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
So, she called her favorite company that takes away junk. They showed up the next morning at 7 a.m. and had everything cleaned out by the time the closing happened at 10 a.m.
“Having solid relationships with these types of companies helps make you great at what you do,” she explains. “It goes so far beyond the closing.”
McFarlane likes making her clients feel special. It takes stress off your clients by having the best industry partners in your area, she says. It can make all the difference for them and you. It allows you to help them find the best carpenters for a remodel or just a good plumber who will show up when needed. Clients often need advice and help, especially if they are new to the area, she says.
Most clients like to feel seen and be remembered. While you’re facilitating a business transaction, the amount of time you spend together means the relationships become the priority, McFarlane says.
“With many of them, you create a community. It happens naturally,” she adds. And because of that, her business is run on 100% referrals.
Donna Smith, broker in charge at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, D. Dan Joyner, REALTORS® in Simpsonville, S.C., wants to be her clients’ agent for life. Competition remains tough in her area of the country, “so you have to set yourself apart and have the ability to give great service. That’s what we work hard at,” Smith says.
Service means many things, including getting them to the closing smoothly or helping them find the best handyperson to fix the problems on the inspection list.
Just like building trust with customers, brokers and agents need to build that trust with all the service people and professionals that make their clients’ lives better. For instance, she has worked with a specialty contractor for years who helps her clients with all forms of repairs.
“When I have an emergency and things have to get done, I call him. He gets to those people as fast as he can, even late at night,” she explains.
Smith started her career in real estate 40 years ago, but even then, having industry partners meant building a relationship of trust.
“If they don’t trust you, or vice versa, you can’t build the relationship you need to build,” she adds.
Smith and McFarlane’s clients request many types of professionals and information to improve their homes and make their lives better. So, their suggestions are to get a list of these types of professionals: real estate attorneys, heat and air conditioning experts, handyperson companies, lenders, insurance providers, roofers, painters, kitchen and bathroom remodelers, flooring contractors, flower and tree nurseries, plumbers, electricians, home stagers, furniture stores, and the best pizza places in town.
Here are some of their tips for finding trusted industry partners who will get the job done right:
Ask around: Converse with neighbors, family, friends, and former clients about who they use as their plumber, landscaper, window cleaner, etc., says McFarlane. Ask if they were responsible and if they would hire them again.
Speak with seasoned agents: Always ask the agents around you for their advice on who they would suggest in certain trades or businesses. “Talk with them about who they’ve used in the past,” Smith says. If they have good things to say about a vendor, and the cost is right, they may also be a reliable source for your clients.
Call industry partners directly: Have a conversation with these professionals. Be prepared with a list of questions, Smith adds. Look up their reviews, too.
Offer clients a variety of resources: Besides gathering home renovators and others who can help your clients with their houses, also collect a list of places to eat, hospitals, doctors, or pediatricians in the area, and three or four trusted mortgage companies, Smith adds.
It’s important to keep the list fluid and offer a few choices in each category or specialty.
“I will have a direct conversation with a [contractor] if I hear they did a crappy job for one of my clients,” Smith says. “Sometimes, they have a good explanation. Sometimes you just have to move on.”
But by updating your referral list for your clients and adding new, trusted professionals to it, you are helping to maintain your own reputation, too, Smith adds.