Recently, I went through the process of finding an apartment for rent.
You would expect that living in an “advanced” country would facilitate a complete online experience almost till the very end. Things are all transparent, details are all available, people are straightforward, and negotiations are completely open.
Nothing can be farther from the truth. While I have gone through several cycles in the past, the most recent experience told me that housing agents actually control the market, notwithstanding all the transparency one gets on the property websites. Almost everything is just orchestrated, and prices are kept artificially high. Free market in theory, but controlled access, stratification, and manipulation might be better choice of phrases to describe the property market.
Since agents apparently control the housing market, and I live in a developed country, the tactics to entice the would-be buyer or renter are expectedly more advanced. Agents are obviously well-informed, but not well-trained to handle a variety of clients with a variety of expectations. For agents, the first question on their lips is “what is your budget”. If you do not give them a specific number, they either get confused or make some unwarranted assumptions. They never ask “what is your need”, which is the first step in marketing that we all learnt in our marketing classes. Second thing, the agents do not expect a broad knowledge of the property market from the buyers or renters. They are, in fact, very surprised if we show them that we are fully aware of the market dynamics and economic status of the country. This is simply because they do not want to drop the prices, for them all is hunky dory, irrespective of the status of the market. Third thing, they will market one specific unit in one specific property most of the time. If you ask them “are you covering the other properties around this one”, they will tend to give vague answers like the other properties are not doing well, they are very small, etc., etc., They just want to get rid of the one that they are currently aggressively pushing to you.
Some agents are super smart, they even position units with less square feet as something more valuable than the bigger units, and even ask for almost the same price. They provide some pretty good explanations for doing so, and average folks are more than susceptible to accept their points. Some other agents are rather pushy, and follow through with you after your first viewing very aggressively, sending text messages and giving “missed” calls. They don’t understand their annoyance factor, and more often than not, they put off their potential prospect. This happened to me just recently. Followups are very important in sales life, but sometimes giving a call at 10 PM on a Saturday evening is to be considered as crossing the line.
And, of course, there are agents who ask the right questions, who are patient enough to work through the client’s decision-making process (sometimes can be rather complicated), and provides some free consultation. Such agents also help to close the deal by representing some of the right feedback from the client to the landlord. Most times, the agents are on the right side of the landlord, as he or she is going to pay their commissions. Rarely would such agents go and push the landlord to accept a buyer or renter’s position. However, I witnessed such a situation playing out while I was making the decision over this current weekend.
In a nutshell, the psychological sales pressure applied by agents could sometimes turn counterproductive. Agents believe that such tactics are the right ones as they might have gotten good sales results in the past. But then, agents have to assess their prospect correctly. I think this is where there is an issue – wrong assessment on the intelligence of the buyer would undermine the deal. Plus, mishandling of questions to facilitate the decison-making process could backfire.
My experience ultimately ended positively with a closure by an agent who I believed did the right things to represent my reasonable positions with the landlord. I continue to analyze the psychology of sales agents, as I am a sales professional myself. I think the learning today was that it is critical to change the sales philosophy from high-pressure selling to an enlightened, consultative and softly communicative selling, at least with educated, experienced and intelligent buyers.
Have a good weekend,
31st January 2016