Most home staging courses tell you to focus all your attention on the real estate agent. It’s an obvious gateway to potential clients.
Staging Diva students learn that the real money is with home sellers.
That said, I don’t ignore them entirely. I wrote a series of articles about marketing to real estate agents at their open houses.
After all, you have a captive audience to introduce your services. When you handle it well, it can lead to home staging jobs.
Another reason to visit a real estate agent at their open house: You can evaluate whether they are agents you want to work with at all.
It’s important to work with the right real estate agent.
Just like any profession, there are good agents and bad agents. There have been many open houses where I’ve decided NOT to introduce myself as a home stager. Instead, I say I was just passing by and I’m curious about the house.
When you visit an open house pay attention to the real estate agent’s behavior and what they say.
Here are 5 things I watch out for:
1. Does the real estate agent greet people nicely and do they get them to sign in?
A professional real estate agent will care about the first impression he/she creates and ensure that any visitor feels welcome. After all, the whole reason they are giving up a couple of hours on a weekend to sit in this house is they hope to generate some business out of it!
If they aren’t greeting visitors warmly, then how caring are they going to be with actual clients? And, how caring would they be with you?
Visitors are all supposed to sign in. If they aren’t ensuring this happens then they are either too lazy, they don’t care, or they’re afraid of asserting themselves. None of these reasons bode well for a future business relationship.
2. Did the real estate agent prepare an attractive feature sheet on the property including proper photos?
Now if the house is a total pigpen, don’t expect to see lots of interior shots. However, if the house looks reasonable (even if it’s not staged) and there are no decent photos of it, you have to wonder how much care the agent takes to market the home effectively.
If they don’t care or don’t bother, you can’t reasonably expect them to go out of their way to recommend staging to their clients. Especially when they’ll worry about being asked to help pay for it.
3. Did the real estate agent turn on the lights for the open house?
It amazes me when I walk into a beautifully staged (or at least well-presented) home and the agent hasn’t even taken a few minutes to turn on the lights. They don’t care if visitors can see it properly.
Their lack of care annoys me even more when I think of the size of their commission in an expensive home.
Call me judgmental. Not taking the time to turn on the lights tells me the agent is lazy, unobservant, or apathetic.
It also tells me that they weren’t the driving force behind the staging, the client was.
This is not a real estate agent who will be a source of business for you, don’t waste your time.
4. Does the house look well presented, clean and organized except for the real estate agent’s coat, shoes and newspaper?
This shows a total lack of respect for the home seller. This real estate agent is unlikely to appreciate the attention you’ll pay to staging and will never be a source of referrals.
(Be glad this person is not your spouse!)
5. Does the agent hosting the open house criticize this particular listing, or give out information that puts the seller at a disadvantage?
This sounds unbelievable but I’ve personally experienced it many times. Here’s an example of an actual conversation I’ve had.
“Gee that seems like a low price for a house of this size in this neighborhood.” The listing agent (not knowing if I’m a potential buyer) replies, “That’s because the lot is small, there’s no parking and the view from the third bedroom is awful.”
As far as I’m concerned, this is your signal to say thanks and leave immediately!
What more do you need to know than this agent lacks integrity or is just plain dumb. In either case, this is not someone I want to work with in any capacity.
Here’s another example from a recent condo I went to see (in a market I was actually thinking of buying in):
“So why are they selling?” The young agent replies, “I really shouldn’t tell you but they’ve already bought a house because they have a baby on the way. So they need to sell really fast.”
Now, before you accuse me of real estate agent bashing, please know that I have total respect for the truly professional REALTORS®. Unfortunately, there are many agents who don’t act in their client’s best interest. They need to be called out for this kind of behavior.
As I’ve tried to demonstrate here, by visiting open houses, you can learn a lot about real estate agents in your area.
By observing how they handle an open house, you’ll know whether this is an agent you want to work with. Or recommend to your home staging clients. Then you can take the next step in introducing your services to them.
Please share your thoughts and comments below, so we can learn from your experiences and opinions too! Have you ever had an experience with a real estate agent and you knew you didn’t want to present yourself as a home stager because it was not someone you wanted to work with?