Once your buyers have closed on their house, the question is to gift or not to gift — and if so, what to give? Plenty of real estate agents feel that a closing gift is not necessary because their gift is providing their best and most professional service (after all, we don’t expect gifts from our lawyers or accountants at the end of a case or tax season). However, from a marketing standpoint, presenting some sort of closing gift provides a golden opportunity to cement your reputation with your buyers and solicit valuable referrals. When deciding on a closing gift, keep the following points in mind.
- Your state may have specific regulations around business gifting, so research the legal particulars before you plan your gifts. Along the same lines, the IRS allows you to deduct a portion of your business gift-giving, but make sure your deductions stay within the legal limits; IRS Publication 463 lists the guidelines.
- In a country as large and multicultural as the U.S., real estate agents can work with a dizzying variety of international clients. If you have any reason to think your new homeowners are part of a different culture than yours, the biggest favor you can do both them and yourself is to spend some time researching their cultural norms around gift-giving and receiving (which may not be “common sense”). For instance, it would be a considerable faux pas to present a Hindu client with a leather gift or to give a Japanese client a gift set that includes an even number of items, such as four wine glasses.
The Personal Touch
When one moves to a new home, no matter how perfect or exciting, it’s common to feel temporarily uprooted. The goals of any closing gift should be to help your clients remember you well and to help them get settled in their new house or neighborhood. In the process of helping your clients find and acquire their perfect home (with all the meanings the word “home” implies), you’ve likely spent a lot of time with them and gotten to know their tastes and interests. Use that knowledge to select something they will find meaningful and memorable — a bottle from the local winery for wine enthusiasts, for instance, or a set of gardening tools from the local nursery for those with a green thumb.
The Practical Approach
If you don’t feel you can give a great personal gift, at least help your buyers get to know their new neighborhood with a gift that is memorable, practical, and relevant.
- Consider a gift card to the nearest home-improvement or big-box store where they can purchase linens, waste baskets, cleaning supplies, pet food, or any of the myriad little things a new homeowner finds themselves without. Include the store’s address on the card.
- While some buyers may be excited about cooking that first dinner in their new home, there’s always one night when cooking just seems too onerous. Provide a single gift card that is good at multiple dinner locations nearby; that way they can make their own selections around any food preferences or allergies.
- Just before move-in day, engage a detail-oriented cleaning service to make sure the house is in fresh-smelling and pristine condition. Make sure they handle everything from cleaning carpets and windows to the little things like wiping out all drawers, cleaning out the oven and other appliances, and supplying toilet paper on the rolls in every bathroom.
- Along the same lines, provide a gift certificate for local yard or pool maintenance services that you can personally recommend.
Don’t feel that you have to bring the gift to closing. Instead, give your clients up to a few weeks to settle in, and then call to find out a good time to bring their gift by their new home. This will allow you to renew the relationship in a personable manner and to throw in a conversational aside like “If you know anyone else I can help, please let me know.”
While it’s important to remember the gift is about them, not you, it’s also true that your clients know you’re running a business. If you’ve done an excellent and professional job for them, have built good rapport, and have reason to expect their referrals, it wouldn’t hurt to include a couple branded promotional items in your gift. Just make sure these items are relevant to your buyers and likely to be used by them or quickly passed along to people they know. With so many options, you can personalize any number of high-quality giveaways, so remember to add a few closing gift additions to your promotional stash.