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Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Advice on Selling your home?

J. Andrew English J. Andrew English
Monday, November 5th, 2018

It never fails. Each week we receive multiple emails commending our flat fee service and thanking us for the quick sale of the clients home. At the same time, there is always someone on the opposite end of the spectrum. They want to know why they aren’t getting phone calls, showings, etc…  The truth is that we use the same platform and techniques for each property. We constantly are marking properties under contract and/or sold each week. So why do so many properties sell through our system and some do not?

The property itself is the # 1 factor. Certain markets are hotter than others. However, let’s dive deeper into this and look at a few mistakes that a seller wants to avoid.

  1. Overpricing the property from the start. Understandably, a seller might overprice the property at the start with the idea that they can always come down on price later. The problem with this is that historically, you will get the highest price and best terms for your property within the first 3 weeks of listing. By overpricing your property, you are potentially losing out on your best possible foot traffic.
  2. Offering a lower buyer agent commission at the start of the listing with the intent of changing it later if needed. The problem with this is simple. To see the MLS stated commission, a buyer’s agent has to physically go into your listing and view the details. Once they have done this, there is no guarantee they will go back into your listing in the future to see if the commission was changed.
  3. Photos – I have seen it all when it comes to photos. I have seen a seller change photos weekly to a seller uploading over 100 photos, etc… When it comes to photos, nothing shocks me. A few notes to consider. Buyer’s often look for a reason to say “no”. As a seller, you want to have a solid # of high quality attractive photos, however, too many photos can work against you. In addition, you don’t want to constantly change your photos. There are many reasons why but one reason is that you wind up confusing 3rd party sites like Zillow. This can lead to duplicates, missing photos, etc.. on 3rd party platforms. Photo size is also important. You really want bright, clear photos. Submitting photos that are too small can appear grainy and distorted. Lastly, keep pets and people out of photos.
  4. Not being available to show. Lockboxes are your friend. The easier you make a property to show, the more likely it will be shown. I can’t tell you how many times a seller has told me that they “are always home”… and don’t need a lockbox. It is absolutely ok to not use a lockbox. You should only use a lockbox when you are comfortable with using a lockbox. However, there is a lot of evidence to support the idea that houses with lockboxes get shown more often than those without.
  5. Too many phone #’s in a listing. Don’t confuse buyer agents. Use your best phone # in the listing to contact you and leave it at that. I have seen listings with 4 different phone #’s listed and it caused extreme frustration for a buyer’s agent.
  6. Remarks – Your remarks should describe the highlights of the property and provide your best marketing pitch. You really really really don’t want to write a 3 page essay. Why? Because buyer’s simply won’t read it. Make your remarks short and sweet but impactful.

We will add to this list in the future to try and help any way that we can. In addition, I will examine a few properties that sold within a few weeks of publication and provide specific examples of what the seller did right in that instance and what factors contributed to the sale.

Adding directions and Remarks to your MLS listing

J. Andrew English J. Andrew English
Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

These are two common things that sellers leave off of their MLS listing documents that they return to our office.

What are remarks? The remarks field is where a seller can write their best marketing pitch. It’s a blank canvas where the owner can explain what upgrades, views, etc… separate their property from the competition. The remarks are limited by each MLS to a certain character count. This means that once we hit that character count, the MLS cuts off the remarks. Thus, you want to ensure you keep your remarks below the maximum character count allowed by the MLS. Typically, your MLS profile sheet will state what the max character count is for your MLS. If you don’t see this, shoot us an email or give us a call and we can tell you the information.

What does not go in the public remarks – Anything that doesn’t describe the property for sale. For example, phone #’s, URL’s, etc… do not go in the public remarks.

Directions – Why do I need these? Doesn’t everyone use their phone to find directions? The issue here is appearance. The goal of our listing program is to make your listing look just like any other listing in the MLS database. A typical 6% Realtor is going to include directions in their listing. Leaving directions blank makes the listing look different from the others.

Pick any major cross streets near the property and simply take the driver from those cross streets to the listed property. Try to draft your directions in a manner that allows the prospective buyer to see the most attractive part of your neighborhood. For example, if you live in a guard gated community, however, there is also a side entrance via a gate code… Send the buyer through the guard gate by posting directions to the property that require entrance through the guard.

Zillow Rumors and Thoughts

J. Andrew English J. Andrew English
Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Zillow has struggled over the years with the ability to post accurate data. In addition, Zillow has also struggled with getting updated data well after sites like Realtor.com… For example, Zillow is the last to post new listings, new price updates, etc… when compared to sites like Redfin or Realtor.com.

First question… Why? Zillow doesn’t have agreements with every MLS in the United States to pull data directly from the MLS feed. Realtor.com does… This results in Realtor.com being first to post updated data. In markets where Zillow doesn’t get the information automatically, they rely upon the agents to update the Zillow site. Agents always update the MLS before they update Zillow and many simply don’t update Zillow. The reason? Real Estate still starts and finishes with the MLS for 99% of all Realtors(R).

Second Question – Why does Zillow struggle to get accurate data in markets where they DO have agreements with the MLS? The answer here is a bit more complicated. Even if your MLS syndicates data to Zillow, an agent has to authorize and “opt in” to the Zillow sharing feed. Some agents choose not to do this and other agents just simply don’t know how to go about it.

So how is Zillow going to fix this problem? They really can’t do anything that is 100% guaranteed to fix the problem but they are certainly trying. After a few weeks of rumors, Zillow finally announced they will no longer allow an agent to post a single listing directly onto the Zillow website. (as of May 1st) All listings from agents posted on Zillow must come from the MLS. The thinking behind this is that if you force agents to submit data to Zillow through the MLS, the information will be much more timely and accurate. The negative… if you force agents to opt into the Zillow syndication feed from the MLS, will this cause friction b/w agents and Zillow?

What’s next for Zillow? Zillow has a serious problem with FSBO’s and they are searching for answers on how to fix this. The rumor floating around right now is that Zillow is going to simply ban FSBO’s from posting directly to the Zillow site. The reason is that FSBO’s are much more likely to post a listing for sale and then simply forget about it.. This results in all sorts of anger directed at Zillow. Look at it this way, you just bought a FSBO home and moved in… you notice people driving by your home, looking through your windows, and possibly even knocking on your door. You discover Zillow still shows the home you just bought active for sale b/c the previous owner never updated the Zillow website, you’re going to be very upset.

Could Zillow really ban FSBO’s? I find it very unlikely but understand the reason Zillow is considering this action. Not only would it clean up the data, it would possibly build a better relationship with Realtors b/c it gives Realtors one more advantage to convince a FSBO to list with that agent…. Meaning, if you want to post your home on Zillow, you have to employ the services of an agent. Again, I’d be surprised if this really develops but the rumor is definitely floating out there.

For what it’s worth, Zillow is publicly denying that their is any truth to the rumor of no longer accepting FSBO listings as of this morning. That said, FSBO’s are finding it harder than ever to post a listing on the Zillow site. For the last week, Zillow has been giving server errors to countless homeowners’ trying to post their listing. In addition, those that do get it listed are having to wait days for Zillow to approve the listing and post it live. Zillow’s response? They review every listing for legitimacy before allowing it to go live on the Zillow website. Zillow’s claims they are simply slammed with listings to review and this is causing the delay.

Ins and Outs of Photos

J. Andrew English J. Andrew English
Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

Photos are one of the most important aspects to attracting potential buyer’s online. A quick list of do’s and don’ts below.

  1. Submit your photos prior to sending in your listing paperwork. You can do this online via our prelisting manager portal or email the photos to us at info@congressrealty.com
  2. We can always reduce photo sizes but we can’t increase the photo size. Thus, when in doubt, email us the larger photos and we can reduce them to fit the MLS standards for you.
  3. Front elevation photos matter. Take a photo that is bright and inviting and free of objects such as power lines or trash cans.
  4. Try not to take vertical shots. Quite often, MLS’s will rotate these sideways.
  5. Most all MLS’s will not allow writing or text on the photos.
  6. We can easily accommodate a request to put photos in a specific order. The easiest way to go about this is to label your photos 1.jpg, 2.jpg, etc…
  7. If your photos are too large for you to email, use hosting sites like Dropbox. However, if you password protect your dropbox file, please remember to give us access.
  8. Many sellers take the approach of ordering the photos in a way that resembles the potential buyer walking through the house. We recommend putting your best and most attractive photos first.  The reason? Not all buyer’s are going to flip through 50 photos to get to your beautiful Las Vegas Strip View… Lead with your best features.
  9. The # 1 problem I see with photos that we receive is interior photos are too dark. There is nothing less attractive when it comes to photos than dark interior shots. Really focus on getting windows open, lights on, timing the photos with the proper sunlight, etc… to amplify the brightness of the home.
  10. If you hire a professional photographer, consider having your photos taken around twilight time. (unless your home is naturally dark inside)

Photos -Rules to Follow

J. Andrew English J. Andrew English
Friday, September 9th, 2016

The biggest thing to remember is the photos need to be your property/work. This means that you either need to have taken the photos yourself or you need permission from the party who took the photos to use the photos. The mistake sellers make is that they will take the photos from when they bought the house and submit them as their own work. Eventually, the original agent who took the photos gets upset, files a complaint, with the MLS, etc… and we then have to take them down. Thus, it’s always best if you only submit your own photos or photos that you have permission to use.

 

How does this pertain to Virtual Tours or hiring a photographer? Anytime you pay someone for pictures, 99.9% of the time they are going to give you permission to use these photos and post these photos to help aid you in the sale of your property. If you ever have any doubt, just ask the party you paid for the photos. Any virtual tour ordered through Congress Realty directly will always give you the right to use these photos for marketing purposes of your home.

 

Other tips – If you have trouble getting your photos to web sized images, email the larger photos to info@congressrealty.com and we will take care of this for you. We can always shrink photos. However, we can’t increase the size. As a result, when in doubt, email us the larger photos and let us handle the sizing for you.

Photos should always be submitted in jpeg format.

Our Photo tool and how/when to use it

J. Andrew English J. Andrew English
Monday, January 6th, 2014

http://www.congressrealty.com/Flat-Fee-MLS-Listings/PreListing/default.aspx

The link above will take you to our photo tool. This link should be used to upload your MLS photos prior to listing activation. It is imperative that you upload your photos to this link BEFORE your listing is activated.

The way the site works is fairly simple. You can upload 10 photos at a time. The system keeps track of your photos based upon your name and address. Lets say that you have 25 photos to upload. Add 10 under your address and name…hit submit. Then go back and do it again under the same name/address and so forth… Hit submit and you are done.

What if I want to add my photos after the listing is active? We STRONGLY recommend against this. It is in your best interest to follow the instructions above. However, the alternative is to use our private customer area to add photos after the the listing is active.

Do I have to send my paperwork in before adding my photos to the Congress Realty photo tool? No, you can add your photos BEFORE you ever send us anything. Our system tracks everything by name and address and will store your photos in our system essentially forever.

How highly-targeted websites attract online homebuyers

J. Andrew English J. Andrew English
Friday, December 21st, 2012

While national websites like Trulia and Realtor.com have a lot of traffic, don’t forget about the exposure your listing will receive on local IDX-enabled websites.  A Realtor’s own website specializing in Paradise Valley, Arizona, will have a small fraction of the national traffic of the national websites, but his traffic will be highly-targeted to the area and price range that he is actively working.  Someone might initially browse listings on a national website, then move onto a site that is area-specific.  They might want specific information about neighborhoods, property values, trends, etc. that is not necessarily reflected in national data or generic search queries.  Using the Paradise Valley website as an example, an online homebuyer can click on a search for the Montelucia Residences, and not only see all the active listings but get a brief write-up about the number of homes, the fact that they are adjacent to a luxury hotel, and the grocery store that residents would most likely shop at.

Staging

J. Andrew English J. Andrew English
Thursday, November 29th, 2012

The first misconception surrounding staging is the cost associated with staging. Quality staging with quality furniture and art is expensive. High end staging for a 2500 sq ft home can easily run $3,000 to $5,000. Bottom line – Staging can get expensive.

Is it really worth while? There really isn’t a magic answer to this question. I have worked with sellers that swear by staging and I have worked with sellers that find it to be a complete waste of money. First and foremost, I would only professionally stage a vacant home. Secondly, if I was going to stage a home, I would only do so with a respected high end staging company. This is one area of Real Estate that I would not shop solely based upon price. Cheap furniture and shoddy art work is not what you want in this scenario. If you are going to do it…spend the money to do it right. Thirdly, understand the product you are selling. A highly desirable remodeled home with high end finishes may benefit from professional staging. On the other hand, do not stage your fixer upper/rental property. Think of staging as a luxury service that should help magnify and highlight the upgrades you have made to your home. Quality staging should bring out the best of your home and should be used by homeowners  who are trying to obtain top dollar for a quality product.

 

Realtor.com

J. Andrew English J. Andrew English
Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

You probably have noticed that Realtor.com has released a new format to the public. According to Realtor.com, they have been beta testing for nearly 9 months. As with any change, not everyone is going to be receptive to the new layout. One of the recent changes that I like is the addition of additional photos. Realtor.com now has slots for 36 photos. From what I can tell, that really appears to be the only change when it comes to Realtor.com enhancements. The rest of the features and character counts remain the same.  The goal of the change is to give the site a more localized feel. For example, when you visit the site, Realtor.com will bring back local listings and local market statistics based upon your browsing location. Does this really benefit the consumer….Probably not. One could argue the site itself is now more user friendly, however, I can’t figure out why Realtor.com continues to hide the different subtype options. Currently, you have to click away from the homepage to add rentals or multi family properties to the default search. If Realtor.com is not going to include these in the default search, put the option to add these to your search on the home page right below the search box.  Just my opinion.

 

Contingent Offers

J. Andrew English J. Andrew English
Thursday, November 15th, 2012

What is a contingent offer? A contingent offer is an offer that contains some sort of contingency during the escrow period. This contingency needs to be released in order for the home to close escrow. Common examples can include, appraisals, lender approval, inspections, etc… These are all examples of very common contingencies that you see on an every day basis.

Typically, questions arise when an offer is contingent upon the sale of the buyer’s property. For the sake of this entry, I want to focus on this specific contingency. First – what does this mean exactly? The buyer is attempting to purchase your home, however, they must first complete the sale of their property in order to purchase your home.

As a seller, what do I need to know?

1) You have little to zero control over your buyer’s transaction. If the buyer’s buyer defaults, your sale is gone.  You are reliant upon something/somebody whom you have zero control over. (and many times zero interaction with)

2) Your property will be marked as contingent in the MLS. The problem here is that many brokers will only show active properties to their prospective clients. Thus, even if you are accepting back up offers, your showings will decrease greatly by having a contingent status listed.

3) You always want to have an “out” clause or a time table listed in your contingent offer for exiting the offer. For example, if you accept a contingent offer, give your buyer 30 or 60 days to close on your home from the time you accept the offer. Never leave this open ended. If the buyer can not close during this time frame, give yourself the option to cancel the contract at no penalty to yourself.

4) Understand that accepting a contingent offer where your buyer’s home is not under contract is extremely risky. If the buyer’s property is under contract, ask to review their contract prior to agreeing to anything. Review their buyer’s pre-approval, etc… Judge the strength of their offer.

5) If you do accept a contingent offer, follow up constantly with your buyer. Put pressure on your buyer to stay on top of their buyer at all times.

 

When should I consider a contingent offer?

As a seller, if I accept a contingent offer, I had better be getting something in return for the risk I am taking for pulling my property out of active status. Typically, this means I am pursuing the price and terms that make it worth the risk to me. Secondly, I personally would not accept a contingent offer from a buyer who’s property is not already in escrow unless the potential reward is enormous. (and I don’t mind the risk)