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How John Eccles Is Landing Vacant Deals Amid COVID-19

Aug 3, 2020 12:20:14 PM

John Eccles, an agent with Keller Williams in Maine, has been in real estate full time for about a year and a half. 

While he’s new to the business, he has been working in sales since he graduated high school. 

“I always was interested in real estate and wanting to get into it, but just never was told the right information. So when somebody shared the right information and kind of pointed me in the direction, I took it and ran with it, and the rest is history, they say.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, John has found success listing vacant homes. 

“Right now with what's going on with COVID, the way we're able to show those homes are a lot easier. So I find that they're moving a lot quicker because people can get in and get to the bones of the house or the property and really kind of dive into it quicker. And you know, some of the safety protocols are a little bit different with a vacant home than with somebody living there. 

“So they tend to get more eyes on them and tend to go quicker because they don't have to wait for showings”

John was also showing another home where the owners went away for the entire weekend. While they were gone, 33 people went through their house, and they got 14 offers. 

”So, you know, they, they weren't complaining either,” John says. 

John has been putting extra effort into landing vacant homes because they’re so easy to show and sell right now. 

“In Maine anyways, there's such a lack of inventory that houses are selling really quickly. Like the example I just gave you, it's, I mean, that's almost common practice right now, which you know, we're all grateful for, but if you've got a buyer you're working with, it makes it tough because you're competing and you've got to strategize for different offers to get yours to the table. So if you can get the listings on the vacant properties, you're kind of getting a leg up if you would.”

Most of the vacant homes John is prospecting have previously expired. 

“One was, you know, somebody had referred me to it. So I had a warm lead if you would. So it made it a little bit easier, but those are the ways I've been, I've been targeting those.

“So what I've been doing is just, I got a template of an email that I'm putting together. Once I get their address and I get their phone numbers — and they're not always answering the phone because certain situations — however, I find that if I can get the right address, I'm often getting some kind of response back. So it's a little easier, maybe less intimidating for them. So it's something that I'm finding they're responding a little bit better to.”

“I love door-knocking, however, right now with what's going on, it's not very accepted. So it's changed the way I've had to go out market.

John has found that a lot of expired homeowners are receptive to his less direct approach. 

“Some people are grateful because they didn't know where to turn. Some of them are in a bad situation, so they're just, again, they don't know where to look for the help, unfortunately. And they're typically out of state is what I'm finding. Cause they've picked up and left and what have you. So that's mostly the response that I've been getting for the most part.”

“I think some part of it is they want to, just to be out of sight, out of mind, and they just know they walked away for whatever particular reason and now they're just trying to get their life back together. So I'm just coming from contribution and trying to offer a solution to help them get what they need. 

One of the keys to John’s approach is appropriately researching the home before he speaks with the homeowners and keeping perspective about what it means to them. 

“At the end of the day, that's their baby — they bought that house. That's that's their child, if you would. Right? So they're pretty sensitive about it,” John says. “I take a different approach to it and I kind of look at it that way when I go and talk to people. So it's a little bit of a different conversation that I have with them.”

He helps his homeowners look at their homes from an objective perspective. 

“It's not your memories that we're selling right now. Correct? And that's a big part of it, trying to … talk to them about, ‘Hey, you know, your memories were your memories,’ and they try to think back on what they paid for it and it's gotta be worth more now cause they did whatever. But you know, sometimes the property isn't in a similar condition than when they bought it, you know, with a lot of these vacant properties. They're in rough shape. So they're not going to command top dollar without a lot of work being put into them, and they're not in a position to put a lot of work into them. So you gotta kind of coach them around that. And once they get it, though, they seem to get it and understand.” 

One of the first questions John asks is how much the homeowners still owe on the home. If they still have a lot to pay off, he doesn’t approach the subject of renovating the house before sale. 

“If I discover that they owe a lot, then I'm not even going to have the conversation about fixing it up because it's gonna scare them and make them want to run even more. So we talk about how we can recoup some of that possibly at closing, too, and how we'll market the house and the condition it's in. 

John often recommends doing a pre-inspection if the property is in decent enough condition to help speed up the process and make the property more appealing to buyers. 

“I've got a great inspector, and sometimes he gets paid at closing and he's fine with that.”

John has also managed to snag some listings through social media. 

“Some of what I do in my social media marketing is stuff like that. I was really surprised. I was helping a couple look for a lakefront home, and I took this beautiful picture. It was just a beautiful picture of the lake and in the setting and it was sandy. And I posted that on social media, but we also saw a home and it was just a trainwreck. Like you couldn't even walk in, there was so much stuff piled, and they'd seen homes like that before, and they weren't afraid to go in them, but this one, they didn't even go in, you know, and I'm like, ‘Why?’ And they're like, ‘We couldn't even find a path to go in. And I'm just like, ‘OK.’ So I took a picture of that cause I was like, ‘Oh, that's interesting.’

“And I was like, let me post that on social media. And I got more comments in that post, on the ugly one, than I did on anything else. And I actually picked up a few investors because of it. I got a couple of flippers and whatnot. They're like, ‘Hey, we liked that. Where is it?’ And one of them was a past client from another sales position I was in before getting into real estate and they're like, ‘Hey, you did such a great job for us. We know you're a hard worker. Let's team up on this one there. We're looking for this, help us out and we'll let you sell the house. So that one's actually worked better than the beautiful house.”

“Even some of the people that were commenting on it were interested in buying it cause they could get it in their mind at a discount, which it was, right? And then they could put the sweat equity into it cause they weren't afraid of sweat equity. And you know, a lot of people in Maine are pretty hard workers and they didn't mind that extra hard work to get the end result of being on a beautiful place on the water for their family to enjoy for future generations. So yeah, it was just, I got a giggle out of it cause I was like, I was hesitant about posting it and I did, and I was just like blown away. Like instantly it just started blowing up with all these comments on it.”

For John, the true satisfaction of selling during this time is about helping people and reconnecting with people he’s worked with in the past.  

“It's not about the money — it's about helping people, you know? And I'm helping people, like right now, I'm helping an old customer that they owned a donut shop. I used to be in food sales, and I sell them all the food and their donut shop is closed right now since the 17th of March. They closed the doors and haven't even walked into the place. And they're like, we've been, we've been doing this a little bit on the side for the past couple of years and now we're doing it like full time. Cause we can't go back to the donut shop and I'm just like, ‘Wow, I'm grateful we connected. Cause we got a lot of resources together that we were teaming up and getting some things done.”

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