Marketing your home
The two primary factors that determine how fast your home will sell are exposure and price. Exposure that counts most is MLS, which reaches buyers who are the most willing, ready, and able to buy.
The best possible exposure is the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and websites that display MLS listings. The 3 largest national websites that display MLS listings are Realtor.com, Zillow, and Trulia. The MLS and public MLS websites ARE the real estate market. FSBO websites, online ads and FSBO yard signs tend to attract investors looking for bargains, agents soliciting listings, and unqualified buyers looking for owner financing.
No listing agent “sells” a home, or has interested buyers eagerly waiting for you to list your home with them. The truth is that buyers and buyer’s agents simply search for properties online and in the MLS, and they don’t care who the listing agent is. If a property matches their criteria, they might go see it.
There is no secret magical marketing formula that only certain super-real estate agents possess. However, it is common for real estate agents to make sales pitches about what great marketers they are, and provide a list of things they will do to “sell” your home. Chances are these things are designed to promote their business, not your home.
After listing your home in MLS, the most valuable marketing a real estate agent can do for you is to answer the phone positively and respond quickly to buyer inquiries. Have you ever called a real estate agent and gotten a convoluted “phone jail” answering system, or one of those “please announce your name” voicemails (as though they were so important)? How many buyers do you think would put up with that? Some agents are just plain lousy at returning phone calls.
MLS & Public Websites that display MLS Listings
The majority of buyers still use real estate agents when buying a home, and 99.99% of all real estate agents use the MLS. What is changing is that over 87% of all buyers today are using public MLS websites in their search process. Most buyers today search online and provide a list of properties for their agent to schedule showings. Others call listing agents for more information and showings. The bottom line is that the MLS is the real estate market, and listing in MLS is essential for selling a property for the best price in the shortest timeframe.
Providing quality photos is the most important feature of your MLS listing. (See Photo Guide) Buyers browse hundreds of listings and pay the most attention to those with multiple photos that accurately depict the home. Most local and national MLS websites display the photos that are on the local MLS.
A simple sign on the front lawn is a cheap and occasionally an effective advertising tool. A professional real estate company sign is ideal, and For-Sale-By-Owner signs should be avoided. See Sign Advice.
After you are listed with us, you will get a copy of the MLS printout emailed to you. This can also serve as a flyer. If you create your own flyer, be sure to add your name and phone number, but avoid any statements like “for sale by owner” or “call owner at . . .” It’s best to state simply “For more information and showings, call John Smith at 214-555-1234”. Flyers don’t need to be fancy. A simple black & white letter-sized photocopy with a photo of the front of the home, main features, and description will do. We supply a quality flyer box with a lid that will hold about 100 flyers, and attaches to the side of your yard sign.
“Marketing” that doesn’t help sell your property
Most sellers have a misconception about the value of holding an open house. The truth is that it is a marketing tool for agents to gain prospects, not a tool to actually sell the home. Any serious prospect for your home would have seen it online anyway, so the open house will make no difference. The people most likely to go to an open house are the neighbors who are thinking about listing their house, and buyers who are just starting to look and aren’t tied to an agent yet. These are prospects the agent holding an open house is hoping to meet. Holding an open house is also a great way for the 6% real estate agents to give their clients the impression they are actually doing something.
Some sellers want to be more pro-active and do everything possible to help sell their house, and believe holding open house frequently will bring more buyers in. The truth is that it doesn’t, and it’s typically a sign that the house is overpriced.
Holding an open house can’t hurt, and it doesn’t require any special knowledge. So if you think you should do it, go ahead and knock yourself out. Holding an open house can be a nice social event to meet your neighbors, and satisfies their curiosity. Beyond that, it’s a waste of time.
Newspaper ads (online classifieds; nobody reads the actual paper ones any more)
The majority of homes sold with newspaper ads are by professional investors. Newspaper classified ad columns tend to be filled with investor ads with headings like “$0 down”, “Owner financing”, “Lease Option”, “Bad credit ok”, “$3000 down, $900/mo.”, etc. Investors typically inflate the home prices and give the buyer/tenant (who can’t qualify for a loan) a lease option. Credit challenged buyers gravitate towards newspapers because they can’t qualify for a typical loan that would be required for MLS listed homes. Other time wasters that will respond to newspaper ads are investors looking for bargains, and real estate agents prospecting for listings.
Free Real Estate Magazines
Commonly found on racks in supermarkets and convenience stores, these publications exist to either promote a real estate company or sell advertising. They contain no useful information for buyers, and due to the time lag between printing to actually being picked up and read (minimum 2 weeks), the listings are already out of date before they are ever seen.
For-Sale-By-Owner websites get an insignificant amount of traffic from buyers. Buyers who do take a look get discouraged quickly by the limited selection and from the lack of a response from sellers when they try to make contact. Many of the ads are outdated and the homes are off the market, so sellers often don’t respond.
A very unproductive method some agents like to tell their clients about (as though it had value) is mass emails to agents informing them of a house for sale. Agents have access to MLS, and don’t need to be spammed with such information – it’s just an annoyance. The first thing the typical agent does when checking emails is delete the “House for sale” spam emails from other agents. Many agents mark the sender as a spammer in their email program, causing any legitimate future emails (including offers) from the spamming agent to go directly into the trash.
There are various things real estate agents will tell potential listing clients to sell them on a listing. Some of these things sound good, but accomplish nothing more than promote the real estate company. Example: “We’ll send out 300 mail pieces to all the homes in your neighborhood!” This is a way for the real estate company to advertise their company and generate listings. Neighbors are more likely to become sellers than buyers, and if a neighbor were interested in buying your home, the yard sign would be enough to let them know about it.
A Virtual Tour is available at a slight additional charge and is linked to your MLS listing. If your home is less than 4,000 square feet, the still photos are sufficient and you don’t need a Virtual Tour.
Value of Obtaining Showing Agent Feedback
In DFW, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Central Texas and McAllen, feedback can easily be obtained with the automated email system set up through Centralized Showing Service (CSS). As sellers soon realize, the value of information gained from the feedback responses is limited. The most meaningful feedback is how many showings and offers you are getting.
In non-CSS areas, calling to obtain feedback from agents who have shown a home is another thing that many listing agents do that doesn’t make any difference. Sellers whose homes are overpriced are the most likely to obsess over getting feedback. They are typically looking for answers about why their home isn’t selling (other than price).
Why 6% listing agents like to call showing agents for feedback:
- Listing agent hopes their client will get the impression something is being done to help justify their 6% commission.
- Agent just does it because early in their career they were taught that’s what listing agents are supposed to do.
- Gives lonely agents someone to talk to.
- Gives bored agents something to do.
What sellers are hoping a call for feedback will accomplish, but never actually happens:
- Gives an opportunity to point out things the showing agent and buyer have missed, which causes the buyers to suddenly become interested.
- Some misunderstanding gets cleared up, and buyer makes an offer.
Deciding factors don’t get “missed” by buyers. If they do get missed, it’s because those buyers weren’t that interested anyway. If the listing and description are done properly, nothing that makes a difference will get missed.
The actual result of sellers calling buyers’ agents for feedback:
- Occasionally satisfies the curiosity of the seller.
- Most often just confuses the seller and yields no new information.
- Agent doesn’t remember the property, so just says something nice.
- Agent does PR and is complimentary about the property and avoids mentioning the negatives.
- Agent gets annoyed and calls us to find out why the seller is calling for feedback.
- Agent happens to be one of those agents who doesn’t want to deal directly with sellers, and avoids showing the property in the future.
Why buyer’s agents will tell sellers their house is beautiful and priced well, even if it isn’t:
The logic is that any seller may be in the market for a new agent at some point. If the seller believes the home is priced right, then it must be their agent’s fault that the property isn’t selling. If that’s true, then the simple solution would be to get a new agent, like one who apparently shares the seller’s views about the quality and price of the home.
Unfortunately, if it’s the same property in the same MLS at the same price, the property doesn’t sell with the new agent either. The new agent plans to talk the seller into reducing the price after it’s listed.
Feedback doesn’t help sell an overpriced property
In our Pricing Guide, we discuss the realities of pricing your home. Very simply, if your home isn’t selling, it’s not priced correctly. Often times, sellers seek an agent’s confirmation that their home is priced appropriately. No matter what an agent might tell you, if you’re not getting showings and offers, the home is overpriced. No amount of buyer agent feedback will change this fact.