A gift at the closing table will help shape positive perceptions of you.
BY MICHAEL ANTONIAK
It’s always nice to receive an unexpected token of appreciation.
A closing gift can be the final pleasing note buyers remember about you, even if there was discord during the transaction.
Since these gifts are rarely anticipated, giving them is entirely a matter of personal choice. Some practitioners simply opt not to, maintaining that the quality of their service amply demonstrates their appreciation of the buyer.
Most do present a closing gift, however, regarding the practice as one more tool they can use to shore up the loyalty that breeds referrals. In fact, according to the REALTOR® Magazine 2001 Reader Profile Study, MRI Custom Division, 80 percent of respondents report giving some form of business gift.
The challenge is selecting a giftthat meets budget constraints and is neither inappropriately generous nor so frugal that itundermines the goodwill it’s intended to create.
Of those who give gifts, according to the survey, 44 percent say they spend between $25 and $49. Another 23 percent spend less than $25. Almost one-third spend $50 or more. Only 3 percent spend more than $200.
Say it with flowers
Flowers and plants are the most popular closing gifts, given by almost half of survey respondents. Also popular are gift baskets, given by 43 percent; personalized home accessories, 39 percent; alcoholic beverages, 32 percent; and foods or sweets, 26 percent.
The approaches real estate professionals take to giving are as varied as the gifts they choose. Some take the guesswork out of the process and present all buyers with the same item. Most, though, choose from several favorite items, selecting something special for each recipient.
Whatever the gift, the sentiment is the same: Thanks for your business and good luck in your new home. Done right, gift giving is an investment that will bring a smile of gratitude to homeowners’ faces, and reap years of rewards for you.
What makes the perfect closing gift? That depends on the recipient, and what you hope to convey with this expression
of thanks. Here are some opinions:
“If you give a closing gift, put some thought into selecting it,” maintains Steven Bednarowski of Coldwell Banker The Real Estate Group in Appleton, Wis. He gives couples moving into their second home flowers and a bottle of champagne; first-time buyers receive books or a door knocker; and fixer uppers get a gift certificate to Home Depot.
Janice West, a residential specialist with The Realty Team in Denton, Texas, favors distinctive gifts. She’s given cookies arranged in a special flower pot and hand-crafted wood photo albums. West considers it “a matter of professional courtesy and respect to show your appreciation at the end of what can be a frustrating and emotional experience for the buyer.”
In Lexington, Ky., Becky Mobley, a partner in Turf Town Properties, has tried giving a variety of closing gifts and settled on one: A Homeowner’s Records Portfolio from Planner Systems. The log allows recipients to record home repair and maintenance projects, including contractors and dates of work. “Everyone can use it,” she says. When a family is relocating, Mobley gives the children books from L. Lemon O’Pea Productions, which help the kids deal with moving and making new friends.
Gary Bockelmann, who works as a team with his wife Gwen at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Westminster, Md., considers closing gifts an important component of customer relations. So much so that all of theirbuyers receive something at closing, and—to maintain a presence in their buyers’ minds—a follow-up gift a week or two later. “After closing, we’vegiven everything from wall hangings to flower arrangements,” Bockelmann says. “If the buyer has a computer, we’llstop by with a copy of The Complete Home Journal software. The packaging features our name and contact information. My hope is thatthey’ll remember us whenever they use it.”
The best closing gift will speak well of you long after you’ve closed the sale, says Peter Walters of Anchored Realty Inc. in Shallotte, N.C. “Most gifts are quickly forgotten,” he observes. Walters selects gifts he believes will have a long-term benefit for buyers. He believes he’s found that gift in The 911 Light, an automated alert beacon for emergency response teams, from Cape Fear Systems. “It’s unique, and something homeowners can use for years,” he explains. “They will always remember who gave it to them.”