Did you ever hear that 90% of communication is non-verbal?
Or that it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it?
The longer I work in real estate, the more I realize that communication is one of the most crucial factors in succeeding (or failing) to help a client.
Fortunately, me speak words far bester than mostly of agents.
In all seriousness, when I talk about communication being important, I’m not talking simply about being able to clearly express myself. Now, I know my clients appreciate it when I can break down a complex process like buying or selling a home into clear steps.
There is another aspect of communication that is also extremely important for a Realtor – the ability to read between the lines.
The Cambridge English dictionary defines this idiom as “to find meanings that are intended but that are not directly expressed in something said or written”.
Let me give you three examples where your Realtor needs to be able to “read between the lines” when they work for you.
- Helping figure out what you really want.
One reason I think that the role of Realtor will continue to exist (despite technology advances) is that we are needed to help our clients figure out what they really want in a home.
There are many attributes of a home and while some are decided for us (such as a budget based on mortgage approval), buyers have lots of choice in what is important to them.
In almost every situation, a buyer is looking for something different than their current home. The decision to move is most often based on a changed set of requirements in a home, or the ability to afford a long-desired type of home. Buyers want something different, something that suits their needs better. This can be location, size, finishes, layout, lot dimensions, proximity and hundreds of other attributes.
I start off every relationship with a buyer client by discussing what it is they want and need in the new home. There are often differences in what individuals within a family want and it is very common for the initial list of requirements to be adjusted considerably as the process continues.
When I work with my buyer clients, I read between the lines of what you really want in a home. If you tell me you really want an open concept kitchen and dining room, yet you ooh and ah over how cozy and intimate the Victorian homes with formal dining rooms are, I know that you may have been told open concept is the way to go, but your heart is saying otherwise.
You “have to have” a nice deck out back, but you don’t even open the patio door to go out and instead spend 10 minutes in the finished basement discussing where furniture could go? That outdoor living space may not actually be that important to you.
Your Realtor reads between the lines and helps you figure out what you actually want in a home instead of what you think you should want.
- Speaking fluent Realtorlish.
When I talk about Realtorlish, I’m not just talking about Realtor codewords like I described in an article a while back.
I’m talking about the more crucial ability to both understand and communicate to other Realtors when you are trying to buy or sell a home.
There are rules about what a Realtor can and cannot say when talking with another Realtor about a home. If I am listing your home for sale, my role is to sell your home. Anything you have told me is confidential unless we agree in writing that I can share it.
The MLS information listing document is not only where I gather all the information on your home to use in filling out the MLS listing online. It is also where you give me written permission to share this information.
Anything you tell me that we haven’t agreed I can share, can’t be shared.
Bad Realtors violate confidentiality. They tell me things about the property and their seller’s motivation that allow me to get the home for a better price for my clients.
Good Realtors protect confidentiality. They don’t say anything that they haven’t been permitted to share.
In between these two extremes, Realtors communicate in opaque, unclear ways. Sometimes that means understanding how to interpret what a bad listing agent said about price flexibility, sometimes it means teaching another agent what needs to happen if they have any chance of successfully buying your listing.
While a Realtor should not violate confidentiality, they should also not lie about a property or a situation. For example, if a Seller tells their Realtor to not disclose that her father passed away in the living room due to a heart attack, the Realtor cannot mention it.
If the buyer agent asks if, to the seller’s knowledge, has anyone died in the home, the listing agent cannot lie. They also cannot answer. All they can say is “That’s something you’ll need to determine to your satisfaction.” Which, reading between the lines, means yes, in all likelihood, someone did die in the home.
Your Realtor needs to know the questions to ask AND be able to respond to questions, in a way that protects your best interests.
- Read the numbers.
The final way in which your Realtor needs to be able to read between the lines is understanding what the numbers actually mean.
In the last few years, it has become increasingly common to list a property at below market value, hold off from accepting offers for a length of time, and then sell the home for a price higher than what they asked for it.
This is a source of frustration for many buyers, both new and old, who say to me “Jeff – why don’t they just say how much they want, so we can know if we can afford the damn place?” The answer is that sellers are doing this in reaction to being in a seller’s market. With little inventory available, buyers look at what comes on the market with great interest. A lower listing price means more people consider it and the more people who consider it, the higher the chance of multiple offers.
Given the current popularity of this approach, it is crucial for your Realtor to be able to read the numbers. To look at an asking price and to say with some degree of confidence, this is what this will likely sell for, so their clients on the buy side can know if it is possible or not.
It is equally crucial on the selling side. I regularly see Realtors who list at a price and hold back offers, thinking that simply by holding back offers to a particular date, they are guaranteed to get multiple offers and sell for higher than their list price. Buying agents interpret the list price to be “saying” something about how much the seller wants. If houses on a given street sell for 115% of asking price regularly, the buyer agent who researches that street tells his client, they want close to 115% of asking price. If the list price is already at a dollar value that other recent sales sold at, the buying agent interprets the holding back of offers to mean that the seller wants 115% of that already high price. Their clients decide to not bother as its out of their budget, less people view the home and fewer offers come in on offer day.
It is important that your Realtor can read the numbers so that when you are buying, you aren’t wasting time on properties you can’t afford, and that when you are selling, you are communicating effectively with the market about what you want for the property.
If you or someone you like needs a Realtor who can read between the lines, please get in touch with me. I’d love to be responsible for what comes next.
POSITIVE OUTDOOR SPACE
Outdoor spaces which are merely “left over” between buildings will, in general, not be used.
One of the unfortunate side effects of the prolonged seller’s market we have been seeing in most of the GTA is that home owners don’t feel the need to do much in the way of improvements on their house during their ownership.
While certain renovations (kitchens, bathrooms, floors, painting) are still taking place, there are other, less crucial improvements that seem to be ignored by owner after owner.
Outdoor spaces often fall into this category. Outdoor spaces are negative when it is shapeless, when it is really just space left over between buildings. The walkway between two homes, the space behind the garage, the bit around the corner of the garden shed – these are generally negative spaces. Positive outdoor spaces are distinct and have a definite shape, as definite as the shape of a room.
I think when our market eventually corrects and becomes more balanced, it will start to matter if these outdoor spaces have been neglected or nurtured. Start thinking about the outdoor spaces in your home that serve no purpose and have no appeal and think about ways in which you could alter them to be more appealing and useful.