The not-so-secret secrets to long-term relationships in real estate

26 Apr 2019

The reputation of the EAC’s newest director, Elizabeth Sargood, accurately precedes her when it comes to the genuineness and warmth with which she conducts herself — both with clients and with those of us calling to see if she’ll write an article to share with EAC members!

Elizabeth is Principal of Eastern Sydney agency, Aspect Estate Agents, which specialises in property management.

With 20 years in real estate, Elizabeth has experience working with a range of clients and properties, and a business of her own to manage and grow.

She is acutely aware of how the relationships she and her team build with clients now, can impact brand, success and repeat business in the future.

Despite her action-packed schedule, as a director at EAC, Elizabeth is also dedicated to helping educate and inform member agents by sharing her own experiences.

This month, she took some time out to talk ‘relationships’ with us — how to build them genuinely, how to grow them and how to maintain them.

Building a solid relationship with a client — every client — is one of the most important things you can do in business, especially in real estate.

Regardless of whether you work in sales, in property management or if you’re the face of the business at the front desk, investing in people who trust you with their properties, ultimately means they will invest in you too.

As the industry changes and more cut-price models, do-it-yourself options and automated communication are introduced, and research continues to declare agents one of the least trusted professions, it is crucial all agents learn how to create real and reliable connections with landlords, tenants, sellers, buyers and everyone in between.

“When I started my own business, I wasn’t backed by a big agency,” says Elizabeth. “We didn’t have big budgets to get all over the internet and to market our services. The only way to get clients was to out-service those agencies who did have those benefits.”

Elizabeth built her business on a foundation of solid relationships. Working in property management, her opportunity to really create meaningful connections was extended by the length of the management.

“It’s long-term, not like sales. We have one, two, four years, so if we do the right thing throughout that relationship, I’d be surprised if clients or tenants will go elsewhere with future business.”

“I treat my clients the way I want to be treated — I make it my personal goal to know what people need and to get it to them as soon as possible.”

While Elizabeth acknowledges sales is different — sales people don’t benefit from the same length of time to connect with buyers and sellers — she believes they can draw on the same skills and approaches to create meaningful relationships that help ensure clients return again and again.

“It’s important sales people don’t get caught up in the transaction. If they can empathise with people, take a softer approach to communication and take the time to understand where the client is coming from, people will be endeared to them.”

Three tips for building relationships that last

Based on her own experience and what she has seen over two decades in real estate, in addition to treating others as you would like to be treated, Elizabeth has three key tips for establishing and maintaining relationships that lead to ongoing business:

  1. Set expectations.

“I set expectations with clients right from the start — people expect way more than is possible and should reasonably be delivered by an agent, if you don’t set expectations. It’s important to go above and beyond, but continuously working outside of what you should be doing takes focus away from your real service.”

  1. Respect and support your staff so other people do too.

“We let clients know what we will accept and what we won’t, and part of that is our people need some balance too. We’re closed on Sunday and we all now have work phones separate from our personal phones. All phones go on ‘do not disturb’ at 5.30pm as company policy. Of course clients can still reach us if there’s an emergency, they just know not to call if that’s not the case — that line isn’t blurred very often, and these standards create mutual respect.”

  1. Bring positivity.

“We are dealing with people in their homes, people who can be emotional. My approach with my team is always react positively, when you can. If you can’t, hand the client over to me so I can manage the relationship. Importantly, never forget tenants can become landlords.”

Bonus tip: Relationships within agencies are also important

As the market changes, sales people and directors are starting to see more value in the rent roll and the stable revenue stream it can provide. Sales people are relying more on property managers for referrals to get listings.

“Internal office relationships are becoming more important than ever before, but how different departments treat each other comes from the top. If leaders don’t seem to value property management as much as they value sales; if there is a very apparent pecking order, they are potentially setting the culture for the rest of the office.”

What is clear from Elizabeth’s advice, is building strong and long-term relationships is not just about the client, it’s also about the agent. Over-servicing is a big part of enhancing that relationship, but creating that air of mutual respect, showing as an agent, you respect yourself and your colleagues, also goes a long way to humanising you, which is the foundation for a genuine and honest connection.

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