By Jeffrey Asselstine, NelsonPark Property LLC
I recently had a discussion with a good friend about what I believe all clients should know before they start looking for a property. When I phrased my comment in that way he responded with, “but isn’t it your job to educate the customer about what they need to know?” It was the perfect response to my earlier comment. So, I clarified my view as follows – these are the things as a tenant that you want to find the answer to, and a good agent will guide you through a series of questions to help you find the answers that you need to know.
I learned early in my professional career that in order to provide excellent customer service you need to be a trusted advisor for a client, and not an order taker. Similar to going to a restaurant, an order taker just receives the order from you, and if you are lucky they repeat it back; you’re even luckier if you get what you actually ordered. Some better individuals would try to upsell you on certain menu options, but often with no idea of how it fits in, just up selling because they have been told to do so.
A trusted advisor though, will present options to you that you have perhaps not considered, and will be there to answer your questions throughout and even provide recommendations to make the experience far more valuable. In real estate, this is what a good agent should be, a trusted advisor. The agent should start with a few key questions, but then ask more probing questions to really understand your needs, to allow you to be able to better choose your future home.
What are those questions that you need to know the answer to, and why are they important? Before I list them, I should add that I don’t think that any of these questions are necessarily more important than the other. It is really down to each individual client’s requirements. In other words, although everyone says that price is the most important, very frequently it is not. If it is the right price, but the wrong size and wrong area, the right price will not be enough. A trusted advisor agent will ask the right questions to be able to help you, and also prioritise which of these key questions are the most important to you as a client.
Timing – Do you need to move in today, next week, next month or in 6 months? Whilst it may be obvious why this is important, we find that a lot of tenants do not necessarily realise that what they may be looking at for rent today, may not be available in 1 weeks’ time. Having a good understanding of the time scale will help the agent show you properties where the landlord may have a greater probability of allowing you to book the unit long before the actual move in date.
Budget – Again, it may sound very self-evident why this is important, but the “budget” is made up of a lot of things that a tenant may not think of immediately when calculating it. The headline rent is just that, the rent, but there are a lot of other things to consider and a good agent will be able to explain this to you. Other things to consider in addition to the rent amount:
Is there a free month available at the beginning or end of the tenancy, or “smoothed’ into the payment plan?
Are utilities paid for by the tenant or the landlord?
Is the security cheque cashed or not? It is normally one month’s rent so the potential cashing of this cheque can be material to a tenant.
Bedrooms – Important for the client, and therefore the agent to know how many bedrooms are wanted? Also, there should be a good understanding of who will occupy these bedrooms? Is it a guest bedroom, will it be used as a home office, is it just for storage? The answer to these questions will drive the choice as to which property is more appropriate.
Location – the old adage in real estate is location, location, location, when it comes to what property to buy. Well, the same holds for rental clients. Although Doha is growing rapidly, compared to a lot of cities that people have come from, it is not that large. Combined with the constant improvements in the road network, it has made what was once a far away location, now only a 10-minute drive. I always like to suggest to clients to take out a map, mark where the location for work is for the tenant(s), mark where the children will go to school (if this needs to be considered) then from those two points, take a view of which area is appropriate. Close to the school? Close to the office? In the middle?
I hope you find these questions useful. The better agents will always take the time to talk these things through with you to really understand your needs. Help them to help you too, provide as much detail as you can. It’s a bit like going to the doctor and not telling them where it hurts; they can only do so much without the full information.
This article was first published in Trends Vol. 2