First-year mortgage originators tend to spend their weekends at open houses. It’s a great way to meet real estate agents and start generating some leads. So, what’s the problem with this method?
For one, it’s not scalable. You can only go to one open house at a time. Second, weekends should be a time to recharge your batteries and spend time with people you love. If you’re working seven days a week, you just aren’t as productive.
On top of all that, probably eight times out of 10, the agent at the open house is a newbie sitting in for a high producer who — you guessed it — doesn’t want to do open houses on the weekend either. These agents don’t have any business to send you because they’re so new to the game. So, how can you scale up these activities and make them a better use of your time?
Let’s say that Realtor Sue is starting to refer deals to you. She calls you up and wants you to do an open house this weekend. How do you say no? Here’s how.
Make a simple sign-up sheet — just a piece of paper with columns for names, email addresses and cell phone numbers. Add a clipboard, a pen and a bowl of candy. Then contact some agents and ask them to put the sign-up sheet on a table by the front door. Also ask them to make sure everyone signs in.
How do you find these Realtors when you’re new to the business? Look for ads of upcoming open houses. Then pick up the phone and say, “Hey, Realtor Steve. I’m over at ABC Mortgage. I see you’re holding an open house this weekend at 123 Main Street. Would you like a way to get people’s contact information on a sign-up sheet? And would you like some free help converting them into homebuyers?”
It’s kind of a no-brainer for the Realtor (although some do say no, which is totally cool). First, give them a copy of the sign-in sheet, so they have a record of everybody who came and they can follow up with them. You’re also going to follow up on their behalf. And you’re going to give a $25 gift card to one lucky winner on the sheet. (As long as the winner is truly being chosen at random, you should be compliant, but always run everything past your compliance department first.) If you have 25 sign-ins, literally put 25 numbered slips of paper in a hat and pick one out.
Here’s a little trick: People tend to follow what others are doing. So, send the sheet to the Realtor with two names already at the top, like your brother and your neighbor. When people walk in and see that others have already signed in, they’re more likely to do it, too.
So, instead of holding one open house and being there all afternoon, you have a sheet at eight different open houses all at the same time. And you’re at home or at the park enjoying time with your family. Ask the agents to text or email you a photo of the sign-in sheets (with names, email addresses and cell phone numbers) after the events are done.
On Monday morning, you already have a list of people to call. Don’t even mention the gift card (unless you’re talking to the winner, of course). Simply start at the top — skipping your brother and neighbor, obviously — and make one call after another. “Hey, Bob. I work with Realtor Sue. She told me you stopped by one of our open houses. Are you looking for a new home?”
Don’t ask if they liked the house or not. If they don’t like the house, then they don’t like you, because they will associate you with the house. You’ll also find that maybe two out of every 10 people aren’t in the market for a new house. They’re just nosy neighbors looking to see what the house is selling for. Nothing wrong with that. You won’t know unless you call.
You’ll also find a lot of people answering your question, “are you looking for a new home?” with “not for another two months.” To work around this, ask if they’re looking to buy in the next 12 months. So, out of every 10 people on the list, you have two nosy neighbors and one person just looking for free cookies. But seven out of 10 isn’t a bad ratio.
For the people who say they’re looking to buy in a few months, say to them: “Great. Who did you get preapproved with?” If you just ask if they’re preapproved, some will lie. It’s much harder to lie if you ask which originator they’re working with. So, they’ll just tell you the truth — that they aren’t yet preapproved.
Once they tell you they aren’t preapproved, tell them: “Great. I can help you with that now.” Don’t ask, “Is that OK?” Just go right into it. Ask questions like, “Are you looking to buy this house by yourself or with someone else? Do you live nearby? What’s the address? Where do you work and how long have you been there?”
Then say, “Hey, we’re almost done with the preapproval process.” (Chances are, they didn’t even realize that you were doing a preapproval.) “I just need a couple more things. If you don’t mind me asking, what was your income last year?” Just get the final necessary pieces of information and you’re good to go.
Realtors will like this because you’re providing them with preapproved clients. And you’ll like getting a list of potential clients. Make sure to give out the gift card. Don’t ever say, “Hey, we’re giving something away,” and then fail to follow through.
Agents will love that you are following up on their leads and helping them drum up more business. Plan on calling the preapproved buyers to ask them how the house hunting is going. Then call the agent and update them.
“Hey, Steve. Just wanted to let you know I talked to Mr. and Mrs. Jones from the open house. They said they’re taking this weekend off from looking at houses, but they still sound excited, and I’ll follow up with them again next Thursday. By the way, who else are you working with this weekend, Steve? Who can I preapprove to make sure it’s a good use of your time?”
You’ll end up buying a lot of Home Depot gift cards (or another merchant of your choice), but it will be money well spent because you’ll be writing small checks and cashing big ones. You’ll close more deals, you won’t work weekends and you’ll be making your Realtor partners happy. Just remember to keep your word. And follow up — always, always, always follow up. ●