Should you be first through the door?
When you go out to a valuation, would you choose to be the first agent to go in? Or the last? Or perhaps the one in the middle?
I’ve heard arguments for every which way, with no real conclusion. Having researched this issue, talked to loads of agents and put my curious mind to work, I have some thoughts to share with you nice readers.
Let’s look first at – appropriately – being first. You do get ‘first mover advantage’, but you also set a benchmark, and if that’s too low for the client, you will appear the poorer choice against your successor.
Going in last means that you can shine, knowing that yours is the visit that will be remembered most. But what if the client has already made up their mind before you get there? ‘Confirmation bias’ means that she will often use any little tiny fault she finds in your appearance or presentation to confirm her decision that you are not the right agent for her.
What about the middle? Surely that’s the best of both worlds? Yes, but it can also be the worst. You don’t get first mover advantage, and you haven’t got the benefit of being the most memorable. You’re just….middle.
So what’s the right answer?
Well, first we have to consider who the client is. Because different people choose in different ways. Let’s examine some possible scenarios, assuming that the commission fee quoted and valuation given are identical.
A young lady, selling her first property: Tom comes round, and she really likes him. They get on well, have plenty of rapport, and when he leaves, she thinks ‘yes – this is the right agent for me, but I’d better see another just in case’. So she sees Dick. He walks mud into her hallway, and the visit goes downhill from there. As soon as she saw the mud, she couldn’t wait to get him out of her house fast enough. She’s dying to call Tom and instruct him. As soon as Dick leaves, she calls Tom, and tells him the good news. Then she calls Harry and cancels him.
Even if Dick hadn’t messed it up, he would have had to be so much better than Tom, it would have been nearly impossible. She had pretty much made up her mind whilst he was still in her property, and relieved that she had found the perfect agent on the first visit, she didn’t want to unpick that decision and effectively change her mind.
Same young lady, and this time it’s Tom who trails mud through her hall. She’s exasperated, but he apologises and she gives him the benefit of the doubt. Tom seems a little disinterested in the house, and in her plans, so the visit is over pretty quickly. Vowing to keep an open mind, she welcomes Dick into her home and is delighted to see him take his shoes off. The visit goes well, and she particularly likes the way he compliments her style and choice of colours. As he leaves, she’s thinking that he could be the right agent for her.
Harry’s visit is next and he’s also very nice. He doesn’t take his shoes off but it seems they have mutual friends, who she decides to talk to before making up her mind.
Next day, she calls her friends and receives a hearty recommendation. She immediately calls Harry, confident in her choice.
In our last scenario, all of our eager chaps behave themselves, none walk mud onto her carpet, and she seems to like all three. In true Blind Date fashion, she needs some time to think about her decision.
She sits down with a piece of paper and draws a table, with all three agents down the left, and three columns to the right. In here, she writes valuation, fee and a mark out of 10 to indicate how they performed overall. If the fee and valuation are all the same, then it’s going to come down to the mark at the end, right? Yes, but the mark she gives will be determined by her initial impressions at the time, and my feeling is that she will award higher to the first, and lower to the last.
Think of it like dating. The first blind date you go on, you may not find the love of your life, but you will make the effort to get on with them, and at least try to enjoy the experience. As time goes on, you may have less patience with each date, get more picky and generally stop wasting your time. Because you get better at knowing what it is that you’re looking for.
This is not an exact science, which is a pity really. It would be great to know that you have increased your chance of winning the instruction, just by getting out there first. There are many other variables, most of which you have no control over. For example, if your vendor is only interested in fee and valuation, the order may not matter one bit. If the valuation is the most important element to that homeowner, they will pick up on exactly how you deliver that valuation, ie your perceived confidence in your market appraisal. Or you could be walking into a trap, as with one of my clients when she asked the agent to tell her about another property sale in the village he had listed. He began his comment with “I shouldn’t be telling you this but….” and right there, destroyed his own chances of the instruction. Turns out that the other client was this lady’s best friend, and they had already discussed his tendency to be indiscreet, so she tested it, and he failed.
I’d tend to go for first. You’ll need to do a sterling job, and don’t go for the ‘cul de sac’ valuation (see my Valuation Blueprint for details). Make sure you build rapport, by doing plenty of listening first, and pick up on any clues throughout the appointment, so that when you get to the ‘inform’ stage at the end, you’ll be able to tap into exactly what it is that she’s looking for in an agent, and she’ll feel heard.
I’d love to know what your thoughts are, and experiences on this topic? Let me know in the comments below.
What to read next: The Perfect Valuation Visit – Sam’s Blueprint
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