In RISMedia's latest webinar, moderator Verl Workman, CEO and founder of Workman Success Systems, sat down with a fleet of top industry professionals to chat about working with first-time homebuyers, from how to attract first-timers, to guiding them through the homebuying process and helping them overcome setbacks in a transaction.
The webinar, held Wednesday, February 20 and sponsored by American Home Shield, was titled "The New Normal for First-Timers: How to Confront and Overcome Today’s Buyer Challenges."
Participants included Terra Beaver with The Mike Coke Team at Terra Firma Realty, Inc. in Wisconsin; Brenda Jones, principal broker of the Brenda Jones Real Estate Group, based in Bennington County, Vt.; Cameron Drew, a sales partner at The Power of 2 Team in Maryland; Julie Munchel, a buyer’s specialist with the Lee Tessier Team at Tessier Real Estate, based in Bel Air, Md; Paul Johnsen, a sales partner with the Lee Tessier Team of Tessier Real Estate, and Bob Davoli, a regional sales director at American Home Shield, serving real estate professionals in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia.
Opening up the webinar, Workman asked the pivotal question: What are some of the differences between first time and repeat buyers?
The biggest difference between a first-time buyer and someone who has already bought a home, according to Terra Beaver, is that previous owners know what they want, and they're very specific in what they're looking for. "A first-time homebuyer is eager to buy that first house, they're looking online and reaching out, but when you actually meet them, their criteria is broad," Beaver said. "They're looking for guidance for us on what's important."
To a first-time buyer, Paul Johnsen added, owning a home means stability and control and a tactic for building long term wealth. As an agent, you're helping them grow in the long term. You need to understand what they need and show them how you can help them get it. What are first time buyers most afraid of? According to Johnsen, the answer is: Fear of making mistake.
With first-timers, Cameron Drew noted that you're more of a mentor through the process. "You want to explain things in a way they can understand and ensure they can trust you and build a comfortable environment."
Julie Munchel added that when working with first-timers, "I want them to understand the process, and I get enjoyment out of teaching them. I let them know that this is a serious thing we're doing, but let's have fun. Not that move-up buyers aren't excited, but they're a little more hesitant."
"A common thread with first-time buyers," said Brenda Jones, "is they all have misconceptions of the real estate market and how the process works."
This leads to the next question: How do we meet expectations of first-time homebuyers?
Education. The most crucial thing you can do when working with a first-timer is to educate them.
"Find out what they're looking for, find out what's important and then walk them through all the steps," noted Beaver.
Bob Davoli with American Home Shield explained how his company can rise to assist first-timers after the sale. "We offer buyers financial protection after closing, when they're vulnerable," he said. "We continue to look for ways to add value to our core services."
Communication. How you communicate with your buyers is key, and first-timers are no exception. "First-timers are less likely to pick up a phone call than to answer a text," said Johnsen. "You need to try to adjust to how they prefer to be communicated with." Ask your buyer how (and when) they like to be contacted, and follow suit accordingly.
How quickly you communicate is also crucial. "Immediately follow up, especially with first time home buyers," said Beaver. "They want instant results." Younger buyers may be more accustomed to receiving instantaneous help, so even if you can't answer write away, setting up an autoresponder letting them know you'll be in touch in a specific window of time is critical.
Marketing. How are agents and brokers reaching today's first time buyers? According to Beaver, the answer lies in social media. "I engage and attract on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook," she noted. But you can think outside the social media box, too.
Drew has found success hosting young professional networking events and other unique, in-person initiatives. "Camp out in a coffee shop and purchase coffees for folks coming in and ask them about their real estate needs," suggested Drew, who once got a lead from the coffee barista at a shop she was networking in.
Overcoming obstacles. What's standing in the way of today's first-time homeowners? The top answer likely will not surprise you: Debt.
"For first-time buyers under the age of 30, student loan debt throws their debt ratio off," explained Beaver. "I haven't found a way around it yet—they just have to keep paying off their debt until they can qualify for a loan."
In Jones' market, unemployment is also a hurdle for first-timers. "The availability of jobs in [Vermont] is not that great. We're still coming out of the recession, 2018 was our best year since 2008. Because of this, there's a lack of inventory." How does Jones combat this? "We're running ads that state we have a qualified buy looking for a property at the value of X."
A full recording of the webinar is available below:
To view more webinars from RISMedia, subscribe to our YouTube playlist.