Selling Land

The Unresponsive Agent

The Unresponsive Agenet

One of the recurring themes I hear from potential customers thinking about buying rural property is that they contacted 10 agents and only a handful responded. Some of the reason for this occurrence is the barrage of “inquiries” that agents get from people that think they might be interested in a property. Many agents have adopted the “buyer will have to hunt me down” method of qualifying their customers. This is sort of a default switch with agents, as it requires little action on their part to simply pick and choose who they respond to. I must confess that I have been that agent as well. However, I have found taking one proactive step will keep me from being the subject of conversation with “the agent that called them back.” This secret is really no secret, and the magic trick is really not magic. It requires some effort on the part of the agent. It requires an understanding of the product the agent is marketing, and an understanding of people’s needs, wants, and desires. It requires a customer that is willing to communicate with the agent, and not stonewall the enemy…which seems to be many people’s idea of pre-negotiations.

That’s the folks the agent wants to talk to. That’s the people that an agent can help. Most people reach this stage at some point in their buying cycle. Our task is to coax out the ones that are ready, willing, and able to buy. After all, that’s the people that sign our paychecks in today’s market. Ready, willing, and able buyers. Indeed all the listing agreements I have ever seen stated that we earned our commission when we produced a ready, willing, and able buyer for the seller.

Customers listen up! Agents WANT to talk with ready, willing, and able buyers. They WANT to help you. They WANT to communicate with customers that really communicate with them. Agents listen up! You are missing out on business because your method of sorting out customers lacks any method at all. You have to QUALIFY your customers. That sounds like a dirty sales word to some people, but when done effectively, it will lend professionalism to your service.

Customers… Use the list of questions below to help you understand what an agent needs to know in order to effectively respond to you. Chances are you are not going to work with all 10 agents you contacted. Chances are that if you select carefully, and provide one agent with this information, you can have a very happy and successful relationship with an agent that understands what you are looking for. The job of marketing real estate is how we make a living. It is how we feed our families. Our time is valuable. If you desire a serious response from an agent, one that costs the agent his time and knowledge, then you need to communicate your sincerity to the agent by giving them the information they need.

Agents… Use the list of questions below to help you draw out your customer’s needs, wants, and desires as it pertains to available land for sale. Use it to guide them into a purchase that is realistic for them. Use it to QUALIFY your potential customers so that you can spend your time working with ready, willing, and able buyers. Use it to “weed-out” the tire-kickers and time wasters (Yes, I just called some potential customers time wasters). Use it so that you don’t succumb to customer apathy. Be proactive. Be professional.

Questions Every Customer Should Answer When Buying Rural Property

  1. Are you currently working with any other agents? If so, do you have an agreement with them to represent you?
  2. What part of the world are you open to buying in? If you need to be close to some place or something, let me know that.
  3. What is the minimum amount of acreage you would be satisfied with?
  4. How will you be using the property? Residence, Investment, Recreational, Farming, Hunting…etc. Please elaborate.
  5. If you are looking for a property with an existing home, tell me what type of house will fit your needs.  Bedrooms, Bathrooms, Style, Size…etc. Please elaborate.
  6. What special features are you looking for?
  7. Are you looking for Timberland, Pastureland, Farmland, or some variation/combination?
  8. Does the property have to be on a paved road or do you have any other “must have’s” or “must be’s”?
  9. Have you been pre-qualified with a lender for a land/farm purchase or will you be paying cash? (Note that being prequalified for a standard mortgage is much different than being prequalified for a land or farm purchase. Down payment requirements are higher in most cases.)
  10. What is your budget for this purchase?
  11. How soon are you willing to make a purchase commitment?
  12. Tell me anything else you think I should know about your perfect property, those things that are important to you…

So there you have it. Obviously this list will need some customization for your particular market and way of doing business, but the point is the same. Communication and a proactive process of QUALIFYING.

Customers… If you want a response, QUALIFY yourself by providing the agent with this information.

Agents… If you want to avoid customer apathy and spend your time with ready, willing, and able buyers, then get this information prior to driving all over the planet with tire-kickers and time wasters on $3.50 gasoline.

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About the author

Robert King

Robert is a Land Agent with Southeastern Land Group. He specializes in helping buyers and sellers of farms, poultry operations, and timberland throughout Alabama and Georgia. Robert is a regular contributor on The Land Show radio program and the Southeastern Land Group Blog.


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  • Robert,

    Excellent! Best line of article…

    “Customers… If you want a response, QUALIFY yourself by providing the agent with this information.”

  • To “qualify” yourself as buyer , the agent has to return the initial contact call ~ that is pretty simple for just about all licensed agents.

    I have dealt with some that want to sell a million dollar parcel with 5 pix and two short paragraphs of description. Give me a break !!

    And knock off the arrogance ~ you are not fooling anybody ! We are laughing at you……

    • Thank you Tommy…if Agents don’t want to be bothered. Put more information on your listing, pictures and most of all the price. It would eliminate the ‘TIRE KICKERS’ but the serious buyers will call if it is what they are looking for. JUST SAYING!

  • Good thoughts. In this age of easy email inquiries, we get a lot of tire-kickers…as you all do. But I have learned that those first impressions a buyer gives can be misleading. I am currently thinking of several buyers I closed deals with that, at first, I had classified as tire-kickers. The old “can’t read a book by it’s cover” fits here, too!

  • I thought about not responding because i may tick someone off. That wouldn’t be a 1st. “Tomy” has a point . This article is titled the Unresponsive Agent but the context strayed from that – almost defending the agent who doesn’t respond. I’ll tell you the best friend i have is the unresponsive agent because he’s my competitor. The number of times i hear ” i can’t believe you got back to me so fast ” or “you’re the only one who got back to me” is uncountable. It happens literally everyday. Qualifying a prospect is sales 101 but no one gets to qualify anyone if you don’t 1st make a friend , earn some trust and respect. A prospect owes us nothing the 1st time they contact us. WE owe them right off the bat and if we don’t respond we lose, period. A couple nites ago i was laying in bed watching tv and replying to emails until 11:45 pm. This is common and it sets me apart from everyone i compete with. I actually have a “competitor” who didn’t allow his agents to email until just a few months ago. Can you imagine that ? In an economy like this we should be grateful when anyone asks for more information and we should be right there ready to help – not tomorrow , right now.

    • Right on, Mick. As a land investor, I want to deal with a broker who responds right away. I don’t want excuses about how busy he/she has been, or didn’t have cell phone service, etc. Action and results are what matter. The agents that get back to me promptly at the beginning, are the ones who will be most helpful to me throughout the bid/offer and closing phases. There is no excuse for not getting back to an email or phone call within 24 hours and I don’t care what day of the week or holiday it is. Be dedicated and have a client-oriented mindset.

      • Alex – You are the type I avoid like the plague. You are an arrogant, self-centered a$$ and think you are the only person in the world.
        Please – If you are thinking about buying in Arkansas, there are 8,000 agents – call one of them – not me!

        • Duly noted. There’s no point in arguing about it. It’s a client service business. Clients who need or want a higher level of service will pay someone who will provide it. That’s what I do. There’s plenty of lousy brokers out there, but I probably won’t patronize them.

  • I completely agree Pat. Anything we use to narrow down our focus will inevitably miss some deals. To me, it’s just an opportunity cost. I too have closed deals with people I initially qualified as a tire-kicker. I guess what I am trying to say is that when faced with a choice of who to spend my time with…and we all have to make those choices…I’m going to choose someone that I have qualified well. Thanks for your comments.

  • Mick

    Thanks for your comments. I completely agree with you on the effectiveness of quick followup. You certainly build credibility with the customer by being the guy that did get back in touch. However, it is my personal choice that I am not ALWAYS available. Also, I spend a great deal of time in the field where cell service is VERY limited…so I cannot be available personally all the time. I’m sure I’m not the only rural land broker with this quandary. I choose to market my sellers listings very broadly and then selectively show the properties. Most of my higher-end sellers certainly appreciate that strategy. Plus, as much as I love my job, there are several things that come before it on my priority list. My God, my wife, and my family certainly outrank my job…and certainly require time. Thanks again. We need readership willing to contribute as you have.

  • I agree with Tomy. Let’s be honest, the market is not so hot that buyers are falling over each other to acquire properties. Agents need to treat buyers like their customers, not as some opposing party who needs to earn the respect and attention of an agent. Many of the land agents I have dealt with are genuinely poor communicators and unprofessional.

  • Well Said Robert. Buyers must also realize that they need to stick with one agent unless the one they chose is just not getting the job done. The whole process would be easier if the buyer would communicate all possible properties of interest to ONE broker not everyone in the state.

  • The ‘ELITES OF REAL ESTATE ARE LOOKING LIKE FOOLS’….in the eyes of their bread and butter.
    Folks, as a buyer in the market of a new home, I have run across this situation many times. We are looking in another county. You can call 3 or 4 agents and maybe 1 will return your call within that day. I actually called another agent for a county and asked to get the information, because the listing agent had not called back. He had to wait a full day before the listing agent called him back. We have referred him several times. I did hear that agents are checking on callers by checking out their current home situations which is easly found by their phone number and names. BEWARE….buyers and sellers are watching you!

  • Thanks Tate. I’ve got all that I can handle, and still list good properties too.

    “Customers listen up! Agents WANT to talk with ready, willing, and able buyers. They WANT to help you. They WANT to communicate with customers that really communicate with them.”

  • Alex,

    I agree, buyers are in the driver’s seat right now. However, not all buyers know how to drive, where to drive, when to drive, or if they can afford to drive. As an agent, we need to help them through this process. Knowing where they are in that process is key. Qualifying them is key to knowing where they are in the process. You are qualifying the agent by choosing to work with the one that meets your specifications. I don’t care to work with all buyers. I want to work with the ones that I can help…

    The point of my writing the article was to address the problem of agents not getting back in touch. This is a solution that works. Surely not the only one, but a workable solution.

  • I know who I don’t want listing my property.The one you don’t call back ASAP might be the just the buyer for my property!!

    • Good point. As a buyer, it’s frustrating when the listing agents are hard to get a hold of. I think they are doing a disservice to their clients. There’s this one piece of land that’s been on the market for 3 months now, and the listing agent needs multiple calls to get even one response. And it’s not like I’ve going to chase him down since I also got to play the game and not appear desperate. I’m close to putting down an offer, but I could have put one down weeks ago if he was more responsive.

  • Folks reading this article don’t get the benefit of seeing Robert’s service to his clients. I met about 20 folks this weekend from his part of Alabama that love him and his service.

    Robert is responsive to buyers who make inquiry about his properties. And any seller would be hard-pressed to find an agent anywhere in the country who has a more thorough marketing plan than he does. Just this weekend he showed me his 34-point new listing checklist for making sure his new properties are marketed everywhere to all prospective buyers.

    Read the whole article before passing judgement.

  • Customers have a general dislike for thinking they are being “qualified”. I understand that. That does not change the fact that it’s necessary in our business. I also have a file in my contact for “hot” prospects. You better believe those get more attention from me. They are qualified.

  • Robert , you are absolutely right about prospects not wanting to be qualified. I believe this is the easiest/quickest way to weed out the ready from the not so ready. I’ve always believed the guy who’s ready expects the questions and is comfortable answering them. The guy who’s offended isn’t putting $$ in your pocket anytime soon.

  • I put in several searches for acreage with owner financing in many different states. I am not sure at this point which one did this, but I inquired about the property. To do this, I had to give my information and what I got back as information on the property was a big bold capital letter heading saying ‘NO OWNER FINANCE ON THIS PROPERTY’. Seems to me all this agent was interested in was my information to harass me for other property. You want to sell property? List it correctly. Don’t list it like it’s bait to get buyers that aren’t the buyers you are looking for to begin with. You put a lot of emphasis on the buyer, but face it, it’s YOUR JOB to list property correctly, and as one other said, list more information to begin with… Why must these agents waste the buyers time?

  • Mona,

    How right you are. I’ve seen alot of bait and switch in my years doing this. I’ve made some mistakes, but what you describe does not sound like a mistake. Some are only interested in gaining contact info. That’s not going to get you on the buyer’s A list.

  • Robert, seems like your article has created a little stir! 🙂 Your overall point (not the cherry-picked half phrases) was well taken by those of us who answer 50+ calls and emails each day. It’s a balancing act and it requires a lot of judgment calls…as well as a lot of hustling to take care of our clients and potential clients. Driving 4 hours 1 way to show a tough 700 acre tract with few (or no) interior roads to someone who just “enjoys the outdors and may want to own a piece of land someday” would soften some of your critics. But we’ve all done it…at least those of us making a living in this business have. Heck, if it was easy and clear-cut then even residential agents could do it! 🙂 There…I’ll draw some of the fire from you! Ha! Keep DM staright!

  • It’s about time! I’ve been holding back and finally Pat Porter drew the picture for us. Thanks Pat! I was beginning to wonder if some actually read the article in its entirety. If so, did they comprehend it?

    I’ll say this to Robert’s critics… Robert’s record speaks for itself. Those of you who have worked with him know first hand. I doubt Robert would hang his name on a controversial article if he didn’t truly believe in improving the process for land buyers and agents. You find me one who will and I’ll find you a million who won’t.

    Good agents are in high demand and the 80/20 rule applies here too. You can’t sell every tract to every buyer and at some point, you have to manage your time to produce the highest yield – and enjoy life too! Agents need to invest more time in marketing their listings on the front end of the sales process. Provide every piece of factual info, photos and maps you can. This is a major part of the pre-sales qualifying process for you AND the buyer. I don’t want to talk to a buyer who isn’t interested just as much as a buyer doesn’t want to waste their time inquiring. I loved telling prospects on the first call that other than putting your feet on the dirt, you have everything in front of you.

    Buyers need to be smart too. A well crafted voice mail that shows you’ve done your homework and are serious goes a long way. Simply saying, “yea, call me back on that listing you got” speaks volumes to the agent. Just remember, it goes both ways…

  • Thanks Ryan and Pat. Here’s a great article that really gets at what this issue is. I didn’t write it!


  • I sell rural property and get lots of inquiries from out of staters and I’ve just about given up on them. Here’s what I ask them:
    1) WHY do you want to buy in this county? If the answer is anything other than a JOB, they can call someone else. Moving to be close to grandchildren is BS. No body moves for that reason.
    2) I have enough listings, I have quit showing other agents’ listings. If it is a high dollar listing I might show it WITH a buyers agency agreement before I reveal the addresss. Been screwed over too many times.
    And, Robert, I ask the same questions as you suggest.
    If one is dealing with rural properties, they had better get answers to all these questions before they even think about searching for properties or getting the client in their vehicle.

  • Very good article. I wish more buyers would read it.
    I have buyers who want me to run them all over 4-5 counties and show them $10,000 – $20,000 property. I tell them I cannot afford to and provide all the information the civilized world knows about it and EXACT directions and maps.
    Hey so-called buyers, listen up: Many agents are in the biz to make a living. When we run all around 4-5 counties showing you $10,000-$20,000 property and spend hours or days, we might make minimum wage but probably not. And I have quit doing it. I mark my listings extremely well with survey ribbons. There is no doubt what is there. Go look at it, then call me or another agent and make an offer.
    A $20,000 purchase may be lots of money to you, but the commission we make on that size sale will barely buy cat food. Do not expect too much from an agent on that price property, just honesty and full disclosure. I, for one, am not going to go too much out of my way nor spend a whole lot of time on it.
    ONE super important point – Buyer’s: don’t play a cat and mouse game – Hell, tell the agent how much you plan on spending right up front and the “Depends on what it is” statement puts you in my “don’t fool with this clown” file real quick. Every listing I put on the internet says this: “”We have to talk about the money sooner or later – Let’s do it SOONER. You may try Conventional financing with an in-house loan or the owner. Banks typically require 20% down on a conventional loan. Have you talked with your bank about a conventional loan? Do you have 10-20% down payment?”

Pulse Question

If you were buying land, how likely would you be to choose owner financing if it was offered?


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