By Esther Muller

The Real Deal
May, 2004

A colleague of mine recently lost a $1 million listing because of a relationship, or rather, the lack of one.

Here’s the story. My colleague (who prefers to remain anonymous) knew the seller for years. She considered him a friend as well as a business associate.

She even sold an apartment to his mother. But over time, her contact with him became sporadic at best.

Several weeks ago, she learned his mother had passed away. She called to offer her condolences and he mentioned that her apartment was on the market. He invited her to pitch, which she did. She left the meeting confident she had the listing.


He called her the next day and said that another broker was getting the listing. She was hurt, upset and angry. She felt the negation of a positive, long-term personal and professional relationship. But she took a step back and realized that she – after all her years in the real estate business –
had made a mistake that many brokers make. She neglected a valuable relationship. As a result, her error allowed another agent to step into a vacuum that my friend helped create. That realization was reinforced when the seller said as much in her follow-up conversation with him.

It is my belief that an ongoing relationship between a broker and a client is one of the most important tools in generating listings. My son, who lives on the West Coast, has a real estate agent who is in regular contact with him, even though she sold him his home five years ago. She provides him with information on the community, particularly what’s happening in the local school system, and what’s happening with local real estate market trends, and housing prices. She says she’s always available and she means it. When he asked for her thoughts on renovating his home, she went to his house over a holiday weekend to offer her recommendations. She has become so integral to his family that she was “Topic A” during Passover dinner. At that meal was a family friend who is interested in selling her multimillion-dollar home. She’s now contacting the agent based on my son’s recommendation.

You can gently weave yourself into your clients’ lives without becoming a pest. Keep a database of important dates in your client’s life – birthdays, anniversaries, holidays. Send cards or handwritten notes to mark those occasions. Use e-mail to send articles of interest, your newsletter and market information. Call your clients every three or four months to see how they’re doing and to invite them out for a sociable breakfast or lunch.

Demonstrating the importance of the relationship to you – “your concerns
are my concerns” – can make a substantive impression on a potential client, especially one who is on the threshold of making a decision. The listings shortage has created a Catch-22 situation: people who want to sell but who are nervous that they will not be able to find a new home or be able to locate a property that they can afford. Some agents are addressing this hesitancy by providing their client with a two-pronged strategy that encompasses the sale of their property and the purchase of a new home. This “extra step” tactic, where you are investing your time and energy all for the client’s benefit, vividly demonstrates to your customer that you take his welfare as seriously as he does.

Remember, it’s easier and less expensive to generate listings from a client with whom you have an established relationship than it is to prospect for new clients. If you don’t believe me, ask my broker friend – she has a million reasons why you should.

Ms. Muller is the master teacher at The Real Estate Academy.