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Helping REALTORS® Help Homeowners

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By Maria Patterson

Buying and selling a home these days is more complicated than ever. From pricing it right to securing a mortgage, the challenges confronting real estate consumers in today’s market can understandably be overwhelming. That’s exactly why the Lowe’s Program for REALTORS® is so spot-on for the current housing climate—not only does it serve as a critical client engagement tool for REALTORS®, it provides tangible value and assistance in the form of cost savings for homebuyers and sellers…something that’s appreciated in today’s economic environment more than ever before.

Coming Together for Today’s Real Estate Professionals…and Their Consumers

Several years ago, Lowe’s realized it could bring a unique service and benefit to the REALTOR® community. With the firm’s treasure-trove of home-improvement expertise, Lowe’s could offer REALTORS® a unique way to bring service and value to their home-buying and -selling clients, and thereby, an invaluable way to connect and keep in touch with clients.

Partnering with the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), Lowe’s became a part of the acclaimed REALTOR Benefits® Program and created the Lowe’s Program for REALTORS®, a turnkey system for reaching out to and staying in touch with clients over the many years of the home-buying and -selling cycle.

Although it is replete with a wide array of technology-based online and print resources for connecting and staying in touch with clients (see sidebar), the Lowe’s Program for REALTORS® remains a free service for participating NAR members. According to Lowe’s, the number of consumers the program reached through direct mail and email cards in fiscal 2011 was over 1.4 million.

What’s more, the program not only provides a level of value to REALTORS® but allows REALTORS® to pass along this value to their consumers in the form of significant discounts at Lowe’s home improvement stores across the country. With the Lowe’s discount coupons, for example, REALTORS® can offer clients tangible savings on getting the home they are selling into prime showing condition, or making important improvements to the home they just purchased.

Karen Jones, a REALTOR® with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Tech Valley, servicing the Albany, New York, area, has utilized the Lowe’s program since 2008. “I think it’s great to send a personalized, hard-copy postcard in the mail that has your contact information and then follow up with a personalized email with your picture—it’s a constant reminder to clients,” says Jones.

In today’s market more than ever, anything that gets your name in front of homebuyers and sellers in a meaningful way is critical, says Jones. “Once the transaction is over, it’s easy to be put by the wayside,” she explains. “You have to constantly keep your name in front of clients. The Lowe’s program allows me to do this…and give customers something in return in the way of discounts at Lowe’s—the 10 percent-off coupon gets a lot of attention. This is a no-cost way for me to keep my name in front of my clients. And there’s no reason not to do it because it’s so easy—it runs on autopilot.”

“The Lowe’s program offers RE/MAX agents tremendous opportunities to build their business, as well as provide more value to their clients,” agrees Mike Reagan, senior vice president, Business Alliances for RE/MAX, LLC. “Giving a homebuyer or seller a discount coupon or gift card from Lowe’s is a great way to say, ‘Thank you for your business.’ RE/MAX Associates who take advantage of these resources will definitely stand out from the competition.”

Helping Homeowners at Home

Whether it’s getting a home in shape to sell faster or making necessary improvements to a distressed property, the Lowe’s discount coupons represent one of the most valuable elements of the Lowe’s Program for REALTORS®.

As Jones explains, coupons from Lowe’s offer homebuyers and sellers a generous 10 percent off on a one-time purchase up to $10,000. This enables clients to put the coupon toward big-ticket purchases, such as kitchen cabinets or wall-to-wall carpeting.

“As soon as someone buys a home, they automatically get sent the promotional piece with the 10 percent-off coupon,” Jones explains. “For sellers, I manually present them with the coupon. In this competitive market, it’s so important to do updates to the home to help it sell faster. Buyers will often opt for a home that needs little or no work. I recently listed a house where the sellers used the Lowe’s discount to replace the carpet. This saved them money and helped sell their home within days.”

That home belonged to Chip and Josephine Ashworth, who needed to move due to allergies Josephine had developed within recent years. Not wanting to move far from family, the Ashworth’s found a newly constructed home just seven miles away. Jones advised them what would need to be done in order to move their previous home off the market quickly.

“She recommended that we get rid of all the wallpaper and replace a lot of the older carpeting that seemed out of date,” explains Chip Ashworth. “We also replaced a toilet in one bathroom, along with the lighting and the medicine cabinet.”

Needless to say, the Ashworths were “very pleased” to receive the 10 percent-off Lowe’s coupon from Jones. “Working with Lowe’s went very smoothly and the work was all completed in a very timely fashion,” says Ashworth. “The updates certainly enhanced the appeal of the house.”

In fact, adds Ashworth, between the enhancements and Jones’ savvy advice regarding the listing price, the home sold within four days.

Doris Asbell, a REALTOR® with The AgentOwned Realty Co. Premiere Group in Summerville, S.C., is also a big believer in the Lowe’s discount coupons. Asbell became part of the Lowe’s Program for REALTORS® shortly after launching her real estate career about five years ago.

“I was fascinated with the possibilities as far as clients were concerned,” says Asbell. “Everyone wants to do something different, whether it’s to their new home when they move in or to spruce up the home when they’re selling. The Lowe’s discount is a big plus, allowing them to do projects they might not otherwise have had the option to do.”

According to one of Asbell’s recent home-buying clients, Timothy Shellman, Asbell informed him and his wife about the Lowe’s coupon from the onset of the transaction.

“Once we got settled into the house, we knew there would be a lot of projects we’d want to get started on,” says Shellman. “There was nothing that needed to be fixed immediately; we just wanted to make the house our own.”

As a school teacher, Shellman was also on a bit of a deadline; he wanted to complete the projects during the summer before the start of the school year. After repainting the entire house, he replaced the kitchen appliances and turned an outdoor platform that used to house a hot tub into a tiki bar, a project he found on the Lowe’s website. He then turned a bonus room into a game room.

Needless to say, the 10 percent discount was big for Shellman. “We bought everything at Lowe’s,” he explains. “I had the whole month of July to dedicate to getting the house the way I wanted it. My wife was pregnant at the time, so I didn’t want her to do any work. I wanted the house to have a good appearance so that when people walked in they knew it was our home. This was the perfect time for us to buy a home. We got the house for a steal and have added so much value into it with these improvements.”

Connecting with Shellman in this way is exactly what Asbell hopes to do with all of her clients.

For another of Asbell’s clients, Sam Hudgins, the Lowe’s coupon not only provided immediate savings in his new home, but an ongoing cost-cutting benefit. According to Hudgins, “The home had damage to the French doors upon purchase. I chose to replace the rotting doors and properly re-flash the drainage system underneath the door to prevent future damage. Lowe’s has all the high-efficiency doors and windows at a fair price. I knew full well that the efficiency would lower my utility bills. I also chose to replace the outer foundation seal with the Lowe’s anti-rot and termite resistant blue wood. My home was a serious investment for me and choosing the best products for this large investment was not only logical, but a cost-effective way to ensure that I added value and longevity to my home.”

“The Lowe’s program gives me an additional opportunity to indicate concern for my clients,” says Asbell. “As REALTORS®, it’s our responsibility to help our clients and do the best we can for them—Lowe’s helps me do that with the discount coupons.”

Reputation and Convenience

An important part of what makes the Lowe’s Program for REALTORS® so successful is the unparalleled brand power of Lowe’s and the retailer’s presence in every market across the country.

“It doesn’t really matter where your client is—there’s a Lowe’s somewhere. Convenience needs to be the name of the game—both for REALTORS® and their clients,” says Jones.

Asbell agrees. “Lowe’s is an immediately recognizable name,” she explains. “We have two Lowe’s stores within five miles. This program definitely helps me stand apart from the competition. It’s one more thing I can put in a consumer’s hands to help them. And I’m not just helping them buy or sell a house—I’m becoming a larger part of the community.”

According to Jones, being part of the Lowe’s Program for REALTORS® provides her with an important competitive advantage. “If you do everything the same as every other agent, then you’re just mailed in as a commodity. Providing coupons for your clients to use at Lowe’s helps build your personal brand and name recognition.”

Real Value – For REALTORS® and Real Estate Consumers

From savings at Lowe’s stores to home improvement and real estate market information, the Lowe’s Program for REALTORS®, a valuable benefit offered through NAR’s REALTOR Benefits® Program, allows real estate agents to offer clients tangible value throughout the process of selling, buying and owning a home. In addition to the significant savings from Lowe’s 10 percent-off coupons, the program offers NAR members and their clients the following benefits:

Free customized direct mail and email for homeowners: REALTORS® can choose from multiple photos, messaging and languages to create a truly customizable direct mail piece for their clients, whether they be homebuyers, sellers or homeowners. The direct mail arrives within 5-7 business days, complete with a 10 percent-off coupon from Lowe’s.

Homeownership information is also disseminated online through the program’s agent-branded consumer email newsletter.

REALTOR® discount on gift cards: As participants in the program, REALTORS® receive a 5 percent discount on the purchase of Lowe’s gift cards online at www.LowesRealtorBenefits.com. Many REALTORS® use the Lowe’s gift cards as memorable closing gifts, sent to clients with a personalized letter congratulating them on their new—or newly sold—home.

A co-branded, information-rich newsletter: In today’s world of information onslaught, REALTORS® can serve as an important resource of relevant information with the help of the Lowe’s Program for REALTORS®. Through the program, a monthly business-to-consumer e-newsletter, Inside Out, is automatically sent to the REALTOR’S® entire client base. Powerful co-branding positions the agent as partnering with Lowe’s to bring consumers the information they need to know about buying, owning and selling a home. REALTORS® can mass order the Inside Out newsletter and mass upload recipients directly from a .csv file.

Personalized digital coupons: REALTORS® in the program can also build upon their relationships by sending clients money-saving coupons for use at Lowe’s. Sent within a well-designed html email, coupons allow clients to save 10 percent on their next purchase at Lowe’s (up to $10,000). These digital coupons are personalized with the agent’s headshot and logo to reinforce branding.

HGTV videos and educational materials: Lowe’s serves as a robust information resource for REALTORS® as well. Whether it’s through free access to HGTV videos or information to help educate clients on the latest products and projects for their homes, Lowe’s invites REALTORS® to partake in its vast home improvement resources and, in turn, translate invaluable ideas and strategies to their clients.

10 percent-off coupon for foreclosure properties: Lowe’s also addresses the particular needs of today’s challenging marketplace. Realizing that many REALTORS® across the nation are dealing with distressed property sales, Lowe’s offers program members 10 percent-off coupons for renovating foreclosed properties in an effort to move them more quickly off the market.

For more information, visit www.lowesrealtorbenefits.com.

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