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Sky-High Service
(Hint: It's the Little Things That Make a BIG Difference)

Service. It’s a buzzword that doesn’t mean a whole lot these days. But, these sales associates take it one step further and prove that they’re willing to go above and beyond to make the sale.

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When it comes to providing customer service, many sales associates know that going beyond the expected will earn loyalty and referrals. As the real estate market changes, sales associates and brokers recognize that developing a high level of individualized, unusual services will help them build their business. Here are 10 examples of stellar service:

Free Falling
Talk about building trust. While making sure clients and customers are safe is commendable, Greg DePalma, a sales associate with Century 21 Gavish Realty in Brooksville, also likes to add some excitement to their lives. A certified skydiving instructor, DePalma offers to take any of his buyers on a skydiving trip to give them an aerial view of the home they’ve purchased, entirely at his expense. Of course, no one is forced to accept this hair-raising closing gift, but so far half a dozen buyers have taken him up on the offer.

One Fish...Two Fish
Mary and Robert GaNun, sales associates with RE/MAX Properties in Englewood, made a lasting impression on both parties in a recent transaction when they performed a fish rescue.

“Buyers were purchasing an abandoned, hurricane-damaged home that had a huge goldfish pond in the front yard,” says Mary GaNun. “Neither the sellers nor the buyers wanted the fish, but no one wanted to just flush them either. One Saturday afternoon, we took our daughter and spent two hours rescuing all 25 goldfish, which we gave to a friend with a large pond.”

In addition, the GaNuns helped a buyer from Maryland, who was just getting ready to move to Florida as Hurricane Wilma was on the way, by installing the storm shutters on her new, vacant home in dark, driving rain and making certain that her well system was secured.

After the hurricanes and brush fires of the 2005 season, the GaNuns visited each of their sellers’ homes to be sure that the owners and their property were safe.

Little Extras
Making a big first impression on potential clients is the goal of Mark Edson, a sales associate with Stirling/Sotheby’s International Realty in Orlando. He gives gifts at the listing appointment rather than at closing. Edson arrives at listing appointments with moving boxes to demonstrate how much customer service the prospects will receive if they list with him, and he also has a mobile car detailer come along to detail the prospective seller’s car during the listing presentation.

Home Health Care
Gloria Kirk, a sales associate with Hoyt C. Murphy Inc. Realtors® in Fort Pierce, helped one of her sellers when he was in the hospital with a broken hip. Kirk cleaned up the seller’s lot, then helped him print fliers and distribute them in order to sell the junk cars on the lot. While this property has yet to sell, Kirk is building her reputation with other prospects while helping her client.

Another time she went above and beyond to help a family who just came from Okeechobee City after the last hurricane last year. “They lost their home and got a small trailer from FEMA to house their nine children, ages 2 to 18 plus the mother and father,” says Kirk. “I helped support them by giving them food and asked some friends for help.” Kirk is currently helping them find an affordable home. “My most rewarding experience is that any time I go home, I can say to myself that I made a difference in the life of any person, this day!”

Clean Sweep
Going beyond cleaning into decorating, Syble Fitzgibbon, a sales associate with Keller Williams Realty in Tampa and a former interior decorator, provides free home-staging services for her sellers. Fitzgibbon’s buyers are treated to free labor for a custom window treatment, wood or ceramic tile flooring installation, faux painting or wallpaper removal after the closing.

It’s the Little Things
Debbie Plish, with Future Home Realty in New Port Richey, takes pride in personalizing her closing gifts by paying careful attention to what her buyers admire.

“I recently worked with a young couple who were struggling to buy their first home,” says Plish. “I noticed how much they loved those backyard swing seats that come with a canopy. I bought them one as their closing gift, and they were thrilled.”

Plish buys plants for her sellers’ open houses and places plants at buyers’ new homes on closing day. And she has personalized return address labels printed, ready for delivery at closing. Plish believes the small touches, such as giving gift certificates for ice cream to sellers’ children as they leave home before an open house, can linger as the most meaningful to clients and customers.

High-Tech Touches
Brett Slattery, a sales associate with Keller Williams Realty in Englewood, builds dramatic Web sites for each of his listings, including vacant lots, often using streaming video to showcase wildlife and water views.

“I draw on my 20 years as a computer scientist and software developer to create a virtual tour for every listing, with high-definition photos and often with streaming video so that potential buyers can experience the property from anywhere in the world,” says Slattery.

Animal Control
Tracy Fortman, a sales associate with National Realty in Suntree, will do anything to help a seller—and we mean everything. One client had a large, aggressive dog that he insisted be at the home when it was shown. “He also has three cats, which he kept closed up in three separate rooms, each with its own litter box, food and water,” says Fortman. “Whenever I showed the house [sometimes three times a day!], I had to move all the litter boxes, food containers and water dishes into the garage and straighten up the home,” she says.

But, it didn’t end there. When the customers would show up, Fortman would take the dog for a walk. “Sometimes they were walking through the house for 30 minutes and I just kept walking the dog around and around the block!”

After the showing, she would replace everything.
 
Being There
Cecil Powell, a sales associate with American Gold Realty Inc. in Marianna and a former engineer, advises clients about land surveys, wetlands and soil types. Powell and his partner and wife, president and broker Sandy Powell, provide a high level of personal service for their clients and customers by attending every closing and staying informed about financing programs. Recently, they personally paid for a second appraisal for a young couple who were having trouble buying their first home.


Michele Lerner is a Washington, D.C.–based freelance writer.