Revisiting the Closing Gift Debate
To give, or not to give? That is the question that’s been debated in real estate circles since the first agent handed her client a refrigerator magnet at closing.
The concept of closing gifts is unique to the real estate industry – no other service providers feel the need to do it and, since many agents are – to put it politely – “thrifty,” there are strong arguments on both sides of the issue.
We covered the arguments against closing gifts last year, so in the spirit of fairness we give you the flip side. As a bonus, we’ve rounded up some brilliant ideas for 21st Century closing gifts.
If you’re going to give – timing is everything
Too many agents either don’t get the purpose behind closing gifts or they choose to ignore it. Yes, gifts show appreciation, and sure, because so many agents do it, gifting a client may feel like the “right thing to do.” But, let’s get serious here: there’s incentive in it for agents, too
Gifting clients isn’t a purely altruistic endeavor.
Admit it, you’re hoping to remain top-of-mind with that client. You are dreaming of future referrals. And, there’s nothing wrong with that.
It’s not only the type of gift you purchase that deserves careful consideration, but the timing of when it’s given as well.
Shortly after closing you are top-of-mind with the client. Your name will come up in conversations with anyone who asks about your clients’ experience buying or selling their homes. If you’ve provided sterling customer service, expect your clients to rave about you. If you haven’t, no closing gift short of a Lamborghini will change that client’s opinion of you.
How long you remain memorable is also a topic for debate, but you may want to consider waiting a good chunk of time before offering a closing gift. In fact, let’s dump the word “closing” and change the whole paradigm.
Consider waiting six months to a year to offer the gift. It will hit their doorstep right around the time you are fading from memory and place you right back. Call it an “anniversary gift,” and include a note with it that wishes them a happy anniversary on the sale or purchase of the home.
“I saw this while out shopping and it made me think of you – I just had to buy it. Enjoy!” Then, express your gratitude that they placed their trust in you and that if they know anyone who is thinking of buying or selling, you hope they’ll pass along your name.
You just bought yourself another couple months’ in that client’s memory.
From cutting boards to knives to gift cards, the list of possible closing gifts is endless. The last poll that we could find, commissioned by Realtor.org, comes from more than a decade ago, but we don’t imagine much has changed.
Warning: searching the internet for “closing gifts” opens up a rabbit hole from whence you may never emerge.
Closing gift recipients said that their favorite gifts were flowers and plants. Then came gift baskets, personalized home accessories, alcoholic beverages and food.
Now, before you run out and buy a bunch of potted plants, understand that these statistics also reflect the closing gifts most commonly given by agents. If agents’ lists were a bit more creative, recipients’ lists would no doubt reflect that.
If you plan to go with the common, keep your client in mind when purchasing the gift. If they have small children or pets, for instance, choose a plant that isn’t toxic.
You’ll find a list of poisonous plants, both indoor and outdoor, at poison.org. Jayme Kinsey at dengarden.com offers a list of non-toxic choices for kids, dogs and cats. Finally, the ASPCA lists plants that are toxic to pets and livestock.
Take the same allergy and toxicity considerations as plants when choosing food and beverage closing gifts.
Do you know if your client has food allergies or other dietary restrictions? A box of chocolates will be appreciated by the Forest Gumps among us but to diabetics and dieters it’s not going to leave the best impression.
The same holds true for alcohol. If you don’t know whether or not your client is carrying a sobriety coin in his pocket, forego that bottle of premium vodka or vintage wine.
Then, there’s the sub-meme in closing gift debates about the branded closing gift. You know – the cutting board emblazoned with the agent’s logo or the bottles of seasonings with the agent’s photo, front and center on the label.
No, you’re not subject to the IRS gift restrictions when the item you give is branded (it becomes a marketing tool), but you’ve also just defeated that altruistic vibe you are trying to create. It’s no longer a gift, but a tacky marketing tchotchke.
And what do most people do with those? Yup, it’ll end up in the attic if not thrown in the trash. Your best hope is that it will show up in a thrift store where someone, anyone, will actually see it.
Brilliant closing gift ideas
No, these aren’t necessarily new ideas on what gifts to buy your clients at closing. They aren’t even original. We rounded these up from the internet – from creative agents who have spent time thinking about how to stay top-of-mind.
Homeowner Journal – Rachael Hite at Inman does an admirable job of describing the “Black and Decker Home Planner and Logbook” and why it makes a very cool closing gift. We agree. There’s even a spot for agents who insist on branding everything to do so.
Monthly Subscriptions – It’s the gift that keeps on giving, month after month. And, it’s not just magazine subscriptions that agents are gifting. We’ve seen everything from monthly maid, gardening or pool service to subscription surprise boxes for the yoga devotee, fitness freak and even dog owner. While they can be pricey, meal subscriptions are popular and a blessing to your client who is too busy to cook.
Cleaning/organizing services – Starting off in a new home that’s already organized goes a long way in helping to keep it that way. An agent response to the aforementioned Inman article mentioned providing their client with three or so hours with a professional house cleaner or organizer and we thought it was an awesome idea.
Emergency kit – While a home emergency kit might be a no-brainer, how about one for the car for your commuter clients? One for the pets of a dog-loving homeowner? Sure, you can buy these premade, but they’re also a fun DIY project. Get ideas and tips on what to add to the home emergency kit from ready.gov or the American Red Cross. Commuter kit ideas are available from Multnomah County and the Humane Society has tips on what to add to a pet emergency kit.
Gift cards — Why all the hate on gift cards? When I purchased a home last year my agent gave me a much-appreciated $250 Home Depot gift card. I had it spent in no time on things I thought I’d have to put off buying. If you’re stuck for closing gift ideas, forego the flowers and candy and buy an Ikea, big box department store or a home decorating store gift card. New homeowners always have a wish list of things they want to buy for the home.
Season pass – A season pass to a popular local venue was a suggestion we really liked, especially if your client is new in town. The local water park, movie theater, children’s museum or ski lift are some ideas we recommend.
For the techie client – Amazon Echo or Google Home seem custom made as a housewarming or closing gift. A Nest Learning Thermostat will help keep your clients’ utility bills down. One of the coolest ideas (but pricey)? Instead of handing the client the keys to their new home at or after closing, hand them the August Smart Lock, which uses their smartphone to control the front door.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it time and time again – always keep each individual client in mind when gifting and consider dietary restrictions, preferences, children, and pets. Your gift should be thoughtful and personal.
What’s your take on closing gifts – to give or not to give? And, we’d love to hear some additional ideas on the perfect gift to give clients at closing.