Always Buyers is a new web service that lets agents broadcast buyer needs on a map of the desired region, in the same way buyers look for homes.
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Sometimes waiting on the multiple listing service isn’t enough for your buyer. Not only is it a pretty passive way to earn a commission, but in highly active markets, many homes have offers waiting before they get published. Buyer agents need to be on their toes.
Clicking on an icon reveals the agent’s name and contact information, license number and the most fundamental needs of the buyer, such as location, size, and if they’re prequalified. Listing agents can then share directly any matching properties they might have or soon have on the market.
Agents have access to a back-end interface that provides a list of active buyers with their information, location and home needs, and a form for updating brokerage data and an agent headshot.
There’s no shortage of email chains going around markets out there broadcasting buyers’ needs. It’s been a tactic in play since the invention of the “Reply All” command. Yet, it’s tedious and antiquated, and often devolves into a morass of unrelated discussions and outdated email addresses.
Always Buyers can’t guarantee that its agents’ buyers will have a leg up on the rest of the market, but it does give them a nice bit of additional exposure.
In that vein, Always Buyers also provides a free tool for creating “buyer letters,” or personal pleas on why their buyer is the best match for the property.
Always Buyers offers completed letter templates to send to buyers for editing and picture uploading. Or, they can choose to let it go as the agent wrote it.
This is where things can get dodgy.
Pictures of your buyers are not required by Always Buyers, but based on what I read and saw in a video demo, it’s encouraged. And since it’s up to the buyer, it’s very likely to happen, because it’s not their job to know about Fair Housing.
In the demo, the narrator states that “picture-based cover letters” can be used to “help your buyers get an edge on the bidding wars.”
Sharing pictures of buyers in an attempt to win favor with sellers is a very thin, often net-less tightrope walk for agents to wander out across.
At the Realtors Conference and Expo in November, Barbara Betts, broker-owner of the Betts Realty Group and a director of the National Association of Realtors, the California Association of Realtors and the Pacific West Association of Realtors, said that buyer letters can lead to serious ethics issues.
“We need to consider raising fair housing concerns with our buyers. Don’t read or accept these letters that are drafted by a buyer. Certainly do not give any support or suggestions,” Betts said. “As listing agents, we definitely need to discuss the potential liability at the listing interview and not deliver or accept these for the seller.”
Betts cited several seemingly “harmless” examples. For instance, a seller may want to sell their home to a family because the neighborhood is full of kids and therefore gives preference to a buyer that’s a family rather than a couple or a single person — that’s a violation of fair housing, she said.
In an email, Always Buyers co-founder and operations manager, Evan Haug, said that his company “strongly condemns discrimination of any kind,” and that he is very aware of the risk involved with buyer letters.
“NAR provides best practice ‘safe harbor’ guidelines when negotiating with buyers using cover letters,” he said. “One of these recommendations is to have listing agents advise their seller clients that the decision to accept/reject an offer should be based only on objective criteria, and cannot be based on or influenced by any protected characteristics of a buyer. Ultimately, the listing agent needs to be vigilant of any bias of their seller client.”
He reiterated that the letter is only optional, and not core to the software’s functionality.
Always Buyers can also help listing agents understand what kind of demand is a particular region, helping with pricing strategy.
So far active only in Southern California, Always Buyers has plans to move forward into new markets around the country.
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Craig C. Rowe started in commercial real estate at the dawn of the dot-com boom, helping an array of commercial real estate companies fortify their online presence and analyze internal software decisions. He now helps agents with technology decisions and marketing through reviewing software and tech for Inman.