“CASTING A WIDER NET”
HOW BUYERS TODAY FIND A HOME – From research, we know there are four ways buyers find homes:
● OLD-SCHOOL – Less than 10% of buyers look outside the Internet. Some still drive through a neighborhood looking for signs OR depend upon friends and family for a reference. This percentage drops each year but if a home is to succeed in changing hands, everything must be addressed.
● GOOGLE – Of those familiar with the Internet, 25% simply search “Hood Canal waterfront” in Google. To accommodate these buyers, each listing should have its own search-optimized webpage.
● REAL ESTATE SEARCH ENGINE – 50% of Internet buyers choose a non-affiliated real estate search engine like Zillow, Trulia or hundreds of other similar sites. They fill out the site’s search form with what they want and hit the button. It’s a much targeted search that requires every listing be in every engine.
● BROKERAGE SEARCH – The remaining 15% of buyers choose a regional brokerage house like Windermere.com. These real estate search engines are similar to Zillow and Trulia with a more regional focus, have more listing details and support their brokers better.
CASTING A WIDER NET – A GENERAL OVERVIEW
I support digital marketing as the media of choice to sell real estate. I’ve found the Internet especially effective within the secondary market (vacation homes) where buyers are seldom local. With fewer buyers coming into the area, my approach is to case a wider net. I then mix technology with some old-school common sense and you have my “10 Steps to Market Real Estate”.
STEP 1 – PROPERTY PREPARATION
Before you sell your car, you wash it, vacuum the inside, and perhaps do some minor repairs – all this so it looks its best. The same is true when you sell a house.
External cleaning, pressure washing, gardening are all recommended. Internal home cleaning and “staging” is also recommended. My wife, Bobbie, is an accredited Home Stager (South Sound Staging) and is available to help. Once it is ready for public viewing, we begin the marketing.
I like my listings to have a complete preliminary house inspection. Having an inspection certificate on the dining room table goes a long way to reassuring buyers and brokers of a home’s soundness. It also gives sellers the chance to address issues before they become issues.
STEP 2 – THE MULTIPLE LISTING SERVICE
The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is jointly owned by the brokerage houses in the area and is still effective as a central repository for real estate information. But there is more to the MLS than just entering the information that makes it work in this digital environment.
When entering attractive and accurate data, a Realtor must keep the Internet in mind. A deliberate, detailed, search-minded attitude is necessary with the MLS and contain search terms that buyers will use to find the property.
Pricing targets are also important. Property searches are done in 25K blocks and prices should be set with this in mind. A price search of $300,000 will miss the home listed at $305,000.
When the Internet is as close as a buyer may get to a property, photographs of a home are important. In the MLS, a Realtor is limited to 15 pictures that accompany a listing. I would suggest more pictures are better than less, video is better than still photos and recommend a website be available to show as many photographs and/or video of a listing as possible.
STEP 3 – STREET AND WATER SIGNAGE
Within 24 hours of listing a home, a FOR SALE sign is put on the street and a lockbox secured near the front door. For waterfront properties, put a sign visible from the water. You never know where a buyer might be when they first see your home.
As part of signage, professional brochures with a “QR code” to make your sign into an electronic brochure for smart phones is good.
|A two dimensional barcode like this is created specifically for a listing and is applied to “Home for Sale” signs, brochures, single-property websites and alike.This enables a potential buyer with a smart phone to instantly access property information on the Internet.The screen of their cell phone displays pictures, stats and other information a brochure alone could never supply.
It is simple-to-use technology for a sophisticated buyer, having more complete information and pictures from their smart phone.
To give the smart phone user the fullest experience when they scan a two dimensional barcode, I maintain a modern interactive website. From this website, we host all single-property websites so buyers can see your listings with no picture restrictions, no home feature description limits, nothing that keeps me from telling the whole story.
STEP 4 – BROKERAGE SEARCH
Within 20 minutes of entering an MLS listing, homes I list appear on the website of the largest regional brokerage house in the northwest – Windermere.com. The size, influence, Internet traffic and financial investment of the Windermere search database is linked directly into the MLS. For the thousands of web shoppers who use www.Windermere.com, listing from Windermere brokers are immediately available. No other brokerage site in the country can offer more.
STEP 5 – SINGLE-PROPERTY WEBSITE
To best way to address the Google search is to create a website exclusive for each listing. If there is no webpage, there is nothing for Google to find.
This is part of any Internet-based strategy that gets better results by increasing a home’s internet exposure. The single-property websites I post to the Internet have all the detail about a listing. With 18 years of search engine optimization experience, this is the best chance of having your home appear to a Google searcher and in a way we control. Unfortunately, presence on the Internet cannot be arranged upon demand. It takes time to get a website established but in this market, it pays in the long run to get it up on the Net sooner.
STEP 6 – THIRD-PARTY REAL ESTATE SEARCH ENGINES
To address real estate search engines, the more the better. The short list is:
- Zillow.com (largest site in the world and based in Seattle)
- Frontdoor.com (national website of HGTV)
- Trulia.com (second largest national search site based in San Francisco)
- Yahoo.real estate.com (soon to be completely united to Trulia.com)
- RealTown.com (national real estate search site based in San Diego)
- Relo Home Search (national relocation service based in Chicago)
- Craigs List (largest national self-retail website)
This step simply takes time and money but getting a listing on more search engines within 48 hours is the goal. Realtors subscribe to many of these engines to take full advantage of each engine’s opportunity.
I like to use retail sites like CraigsList, not because I expect to find buyers but because they increase the visibility of the websites. The more links generated to the property’s website, the better Google, Bing, and Yahoo display search results. Since these retail sites are so busy, they are a good way to increase the traffic to any website.
Another way to increase web traffic is with social networks like Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter. They have an incredible amount of Internet traffic and generate a lot of links to a single-property website.
Google’s search results also favor those websites registered with “Google Places.” The registration process provides a map for real estate search engines to display of the property’s location – a real handy way for buyers to see the neighborhood in which you live.
STEP 7 – EMAIL NOTICES & OPEN HOUSE
Usually within the first week, Mason County Brokers are told about your listing by email and invited to tour your home. Broker’s Open Houses are something of a hold out from the old days but seeing three or four new listings a week keeps us in touch with the market.
A Brokers Open is a chance to point out to colleagues the advantages of a home, what changes have been made to update it and help brokers find appropriate buyers. I have found Realtors listen more intently if they are fed a good lunch!
STEP 8 – E-FLYERS
For most sellers, they will mention in passing they are selling a home. The person they are talking to will generally ask, “Oh yes, where is the home” or something like that. Rather than just saying it’s over there, giving them something professionally prepared is better.
Even experienced real estate brokers are surprised when they learn how many properties are sold to friends of owner, colleagues or friends of colleagues. For those home sellers who want to be involved in the sale of their own home, I provide e-flyers.
The property’s description, photos, maps, etc. on a digital flyer a homeowner can e-mail to a friend or acquaintance is a nice touch. A homeowner should decide when it is appropriate and when it is not to send an advertisement, but when it is appropriate, it should be professionally made.
STEP 9 – KEEPING SELLERS INFORMED – ASSET PAGE
I personally want sellers involved in the sale of their property. Sellers make every decision and a better informed seller makes better decisions.
Many Realtors create diaries to track their own activities on behalf of their clients. I choose to publish my diary online so whenever a home seller is interested in our progress, it is available here. I call this diary an ASSET PAGE. It is available for each listing, shared electronically to track the progress of the sale of every home.
If a seller really wants to know what is happening in their market, I generate a “Broker Alert email”. It automatically will notify my sellers of any new listing, price changes or sold properties in their neighborhood, the same notification as Realtors receive. This step, perhaps more than most, illustrates best how technology can include the seller in the process of selling their home.
On the other hand, what’s really different is you have options. Unlike before the Internet, you now have the choice how involved you want to be. If you don’t have an email address or don’t want to be that involved, I’m comfortable either way.
STEP 10: LISTING MAINTAINANCE
Internet-based real estate is not a static event but a process. Regular home maintenance is required to keep a property looking its best and a fresh supply of brochures should always be available – some things don’t change. The Internet on the other hand has its own requirements.
The property website must be submitted to worldwide search engines, directories, and other indexing sites every couple of weeks to create a web presence. I like computer software that automatically resubmits your data on a schedule. It is part of the process of making a listing appear to the Internet as active.
Other web maintenance cannot be automated. Craigslist for example must be manually “renewed” every week to keep a listing on the first page of the real estate listings.
• ADD YOUR OWN STEP 11 – BE BOLD – INOVATE -EVOLVE
If you have an idea how to add or modify my “10 STEPS TO MARKET REAL ESTATE”, I’m happy to hear about it. For example, if you know Google’s well-guarded secret search algorithm, I’ll buy you lunch. The single lesson I learned from 25 years in the computer industry is no matter how much you know, someone can teach about something new in technology.
Realtors today require more knowledge, more financial investment and more dedication of time to technology. It’s just the way that it is. The Internet has changed many, many businesses and many, many business plans. In my view, technology is not an option – it’s the way it’s done.
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