Spotting Phoney Commercial Real Estate Enquiries

In commercial real estate agency you will get enquiries for properties coming to you each and every day.  Some of those enquiries will be genuine whilst others will be phoney.  With practice you can pick the phoney ones quite easily.

The golden rule in taking telephone enquiries for your listings is that you do not give out information without the full details of the person who has contacted you.  You should also limit the information that you give over the telephone, so that you can encourage a meeting and fuller property detail later.

Some of the people in our industry are not particularly ethical or honest.  Anything you say can be used later to some advantage; limit what you say on the telephone.  Meet the people first.

So why would someone make a phoney property enquiry?  Here are some of the common reasons:

  • The most common problem is with other agents checking out the listing and the property details.
  • Adjoining owners wanting to know more about the property just to compare it to their property.
  • Other property owners wanting to get details so they can put their property on the market at more favourable terms and conditions.
  • Business owners or tenants wanting property details so they can negotiate with the property owner direct at a better deal.

From this short list it is easy to see why exclusive listings in our industry are so important.  With exclusive listings you can control the enquiry, the client, the property, and the negotiation.  If by contrast you have an open listing, most control is gone.  With an open listing you are relying on the ethics and honesty of the client; you are also relying on the strength of you agency agreement.  If your agency agreement has ‘holes in it’, expect the client to find them and perhaps avoid paying commission.

So what do you do when someone makes a telephone enquiry about a listing?  In simple terms you ask questions and note the answers.  You never know when those answers will be required to take matters further.  Here are some ideas to use in taking enquiries:

  1. If the person has a number displayed on your telephone as they speak to you, write the number down.
  2. Get a name and a telephone number from the person at the start of the conversation.
  3. Ask them how they found out about you and the property.
  4. Find out what they are looking for and if they are coming to you from another local property.
  5. Within reason, limit what you tell them about the property, so you can encourage a meeting on site or in your office.
  6. If the property and its detail are sensitive, tell the person that you will require a confidentiality agreement to be signed before much more detail is given.
  7. Get an email address so you can send them a brochure.
  8. Ask the person if they will allow you to keep their details in the database for ongoing contact.
  9. Get a meeting established.

Keep control of the conversation and your listing.  If the other person is not free and open with you, limit what you say and provide across the telephone.  Keep records of all telephone enquiries and use them in conversation with the client as a market update and part of marketing feedback.