How to Support your Clients without Bugging Their Builder

Two women discussing the home buying process.
Learn when it’s appropriate to support your clients without bugging their builder.

Realtors without a lot of experience selling new construction homes may be uncertain about how involved they should be in the transaction.

The role of a buyers’ agent varies according to the needs of the buyers and the relationship between the Realtor, the builder and the builder’s sales professionals.

“Most real estate agents primarily sell existing homes and don’t necessarily know a lot about the process of building a new home,” says Cindy Jez, vice president of New Homes for Long & Foster Real Estate in Richmond, Va. “Sometimes buyer’s agents feel the need to prove their value to their customer and they insert themselves into a situation without a lot of knowledge. It’s really important for Realtors to learn about new homes and how they are built before they start selling them.”

Kim Ryan-Smith, a regional sales manager with Toll Brothers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, says doing business with agents with a Certified New Home Sales Professional (CSP) or an Advanced CSP designation is easier, since those agents are better versed on things like new construction plat maps, easements and the process of buying and building a new home.

“A good Realtor should be a house expert and know about things like construction materials and lighting packages, so they can be helpful to their clients,” says Raylene Lewis, a Realtor with Century 21 Beal, Inc. in College Station, Texas.

Whether or not you have a certification, it’s important to build relationships with builders if you plan to sell newly built homes.

Establish Cordial Relations From the Start

Jez says that while buyer agency is a positive development for buyers, who now clearly understand that their agent is looking out for their interests, the downside of agency is that is has created an adversarial situation between builders’ sales representatives and buyers’ agents.

“There’s a sense of ‘I work for them’ and ‘you work for the other side,’ ” says Jez. “It’s helpful if the builders’ representatives and the buyers’ agent are both welcoming and informative and understand that they both have roles to play as a point of contact to make the transaction easier for everyone.”

Ryan-Smith says the sales staff in new home communities appreciate when an agent previews a community, so they have an opportunity to showcase their homes and understand a client’s needs even before they meet the buyer.

Plan to Communicate

Lewis recommends that Realtors ask builders right away about the best way to communicate on behalf of their client.

“Ask them if they have someone specific that you should talk to while the home is being built and if your clients have a question or want to make changes,” says Lewis. “Remember that your client isn’t their only client, so the last thing you want to do is confuse or upset the builder. Find out the best way to always be an asset to your client and to the builder, because that builder may call on you in the future to list homes for sale or help their buyers sell a property.”

Lewis says that builders have procedures in place that Realtors should follow. “It’s important to be non-confrontational and to learn who handles different parts of the building process and what the timeline is,” says Lewis. “If you call a builder all the time, they’ll just stop responding.”

Realtors should communicate carefully with their buyers, too, to make sure they understand the difference between buying a resale and a newly built home.

“Buying a new home is more of a business transaction because the builder makes decisions based on business logic rather than emotionally the way a homeowner does,” says Jez. “Sometimes a builder will verbally communicate with the buyer, but the Realtor can make sure everything gets communicated in writing to protect everyone’s interests.”

Jez says even a text message or email is better than a phone call or in person conversation because those messages can be retrieved if there’s a misunderstanding.

Ryan-Smith agrees that any important messages should be communicated via email so there is a written record and the appropriate people can be copied.

Contracts, Choices and Construction

A Realtor can be helpful during several stages of buying a new home, including the signing of the initial contract, choosing options and during construction.

Lewis says Realtors can be an advocate for their client while staying diplomatic. They can help them evaluate different lots and models before they sign a contract. Realtors can help their clients understand that the base price typically is not negotiable on a newly built home, but some items such as options, upgrades and closing cost assistance can be negotiated.

Ryan-Smith says she appreciates agents who understand that “a builder would not entertain striking through verbiage on their agreement of sale and therefore the agent wouldn’t set up their client for disappointment.”

She says agents should guide clients who ask for help when choosing options, but they should be cognizant of their client’s tastes and desires and honor them.

“If a client doesn’t ask you for help, it’s best to let them work directly with the design studio professionals,” says Lewis. “But a Realtor can help clients stay within their budget and end up with the home they want by checking over the decisions they’ve made.”

Lewis says Realtors should educate their clients to make sure they understand that once they’ve signed off on their choices, they’re final. “It’s vital to understand that requests for late changes can delay a home and disrupts the mortgage process,” says Ryan-Smith.

During construction, it’s best for agents and their clients to visit the site only when permitted by the builder. Sometimes clients and agents can attend inspections, but agents should always ask if they can be there during any inspection and during the final walk-through.

“It’s not really necessary to be there during earlier inspections by county or local officials, but at the final walk-through, an agent can be helpful in noticing details,” says Jez. “It’s also a great opportunity to learn more about new homes during that walk-through.”

Frank communication from the beginning can make a transaction smooth for everyone involved, says Jez. “The best thing a Realtor can do is to have a positive attitude about working with builders,” she says.

About the author 

Michele Lerner

Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades. She writes for regional, national and international publications in print and online for a variety of audiences including consumers, real estate investors, business owners and real estate professionals. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Urban Land magazine, NAREIT’s REIT magazine, National Real Estate Investor Magazine and online at Bankrate.com, HSH.com, The Motley Fool, DailyFinance.com, Insurance.com, Fox Business, MSN, Yahoo, Investopedia.com, MoneyCrashers.com, GetRichSlowly.com and in numerous state and local realtor association publications.

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