How do you know if you’re being played by a client or really negotiating for business?

I was in the car with my husband on Thursday getting away to an early start to the Easter Break, we were on a road trip up to the Murray which is a 3 hour drive, the good thing about this is that we actually get to talk and discuss what’s been happening at work – this may sound vey unexciting but this is rare quiet time in our busy life’s, and the drive proves to be a great opportunity to think, talk and discuss.

It had been a particularly exciting end to the week for me and the property management team for a number of reasons.  First of all, March had proven to be our best month since opening our doors, we had achieved some benchmarks and targets that had long been eluding us, in addition to this we were called into 3 separate listing opportunities outside of those of those generated by our buyer’s advocacy department.  You see being a small boutique operation we have grown predominantly by the sourcing of properties for our investor clients, in addition to internal referrals from our current client base, referrals are always great listing opportunities as you have a strong chance of securing a client when they are a direct referral, however the chance to chase new business against your competitors always bring back that strong desire to win, win, win and in addition to this you can work on your skills and size up your competition.

Anyway I was called into a listing in Prahran by a chap who was a previous tenant of mine, I was really chuffed that someone whom had been one of my tenants thought that during that time they rented a property though our company that I had handled things well enough to then consider me to manage their property.   At the appointment I took our senior property manager along and during our presentation the client was kind enough to advise us that he had in fact called in another agent whom was also referred directly to his partner so we were basically stating from the same base.   Cutting a long story short, after the appraisal we put together our best offer knowing full well that we were up against it.   But we also prepared a really hot presentation in power point showing how we would showcase his property to the relocation agents and potential candidates and in the end we were told that whilst we were still more expensive than the competition, they were so impressed with what we had sent through that they had decided to give use crack.   Now it may have been because we had competition that we were so keen to gain the business but I think my ego would have had a serious bruise if we didn’t get it on the basis that we were directly called in from a previous experience, either way we were absolutely thrilled to gain their business..

So now we are back to the car trip with my husband.   I tell him that this client advised us after the appointment that we were neck and neck with another agent and he would now be deciding on fees, to which my husband starts giggling  and says “that’s cleaver, that’s what I would do”   Talk about bringing someone down!   I was appalled by what he said – first of all I tend to believe people – does that make me gullible, probably, but I’m not an idiot and I also think I can judge if someone is of good character and I believe this client to be so.   My husband quickly got onto the defense and stated that “it’s not suggesting that you didn’t gain the client by being the best agent, but there is a good chance you weren’t up against anyone at all” I understand where he is coming from however I have to state that I fully believe there was another agent in the fighting ring however this discussion did get me thinking about how often we do actually get played!  I realise that real estate has a history of being an arena in which negotiation takes full force but why does it?   I see property management being a professional and essential service so why do people think they can always negotiate on our fees? Would you ask your barista to charge you less  for a coffee?  Would you ask your accountant to reduce his rates?  Whilst I realize that everyone wants to get the best deal but i can tell you that property management industry fees have not increased in the 15 years i have been in the business, everything else, every other industry has gone up but people keep negotiating us down.   If i think about what thwe average proeprty manager does for their clients that are seen or heard about then there is a good argument to put them on the increase – a proeprty manager worth his/her weight would handle a number of issues and resolve them with the landlord being none the wiser – because its our  job to make things easy for the landlord, perhaps if we tell them all the proeprty complaints, refer all the maintenance, discuss the lengthly lease and rent negotiations then they would see our value rather than see us as just rent collectors? – nah – they would just sack us as it would indicate to them that we are crap at our job!   But more to the point, my question is, are we being played?   I suppose the only way to know is by holding your ground during a negotiation process, but when we all want to grow and prosper  this isnt always a choice!