Open House Marketing:
Here is where the agent can differentiate themselves in the market. Any agent can place a sign in the yard and put your home on the MLS but getting top dollar (or the concessions you are looking for) means doing more. There is no single piece of marketing that sells a house, but one thing seems logical, the more qualified eyeballs that see your house, the better. Every house is unique, and some marketing may fit better with the intended buyer’s audience. When you sit down with your agent, carefully go over their marketing plan for your house. Let us review some common marketing ideas and how they are used by Tallahassee Real Estate agents.
1. The Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
Even if you are selling your home yourself, getting on the MLS is the best way to ensure your house is syndicated to as many websites as possible. This is a necessary but not sufficient way to sell your home. When you enter the beauty pageant to sell your home, there is more than one judge. You have to sell it to the buyers, the buyers’ agent, the lender, and then the appraiser. Think of the pictures for the MLS like a model’s picture portfolio, all the shots that are flattering and show her (him?) in the best light while still getting all angles. Just like models have different costumes, consider having photos taken at different times of the year to truly showcase your home. Here are some ways to make your listing stand out from the crowd:
- Write a compelling description that helps the buyer fall in love with your home. The more emotional pull they feel, the better for you during negotiations. This is one of the reasons we have you write a love letter saying goodbye to your home. It gives us great ideas for the description and how to appeal to the ideal buyer.
- The photography must be exceptional. The photographer is a light specialist, not a miracle worker. When they come, make sure the house is immaculate and the windows are clean. Not enough space or too many boxes? Have your agent help you move boxes back and forth to stay out of the pictures. There is no such thing as too clean.
- Add a video walk through or a 3D tour. It costs a little extra, but buyers today love watching videos of the home and neighborhood. If you have a large lot, consider drone footage as well.
2. Home book.
Contained in a notebook left at the house in a prominent location, we store all the documents that buyers tend to review before they make an offer. This is something to discuss with your agent at the time of listing or deciding on marketing. Some public records available on your house will show how much you paid for it and when you bought it. While this information is publicly available, and usually reviewed by any selling agent, it may not make sense to draw attention to it in some circumstances. This notebook will include glamor shots of your house and the following:
- The MLS sheet with the public details.
- Property Information Sheet from Leon County
- Seller’s property disclosures.
- Survey (if available)
- Love letter from you to your house.
- Key information – trash day, contractors, pest control information, etc.
- Neighborhood report (from Realtor)
- Any other information that may appeal to buyers.
3. Listing showcase website.
It is hard to imagine life before the internet today. Every good Realtor has a website and for good reason since more than 94% of buyers start their search on the internet. If the agent you hire has not invested in their own website and is relying on their brokers packaged website, they are missing opportunities to make your house stand out. Telling your story, can help you connect with the buyers before they even write an offer. In addition to a love letter included in your home book (see above), we can dedicate a website to your home, and tell your story, your way. It takes some assistance from you, and a little more prep time for our web developer to personalize your home’s website, but we believe the outcome is worth our investment.
4. Broker parade.
This is where the listing agent invites agents to preview your home for their buyers. This is especially helpful if you have been on the market for a week or two and are not getting any showings or offers that are acceptable. Having other professional eyes can help do one of two things: 1. Spread the news that your house is a hidden gem that should be under contract right away with one of their buyers, or 2. Point out those issues that may be bothering buyers and keeping them from writing an offer. If there is an issue, price accordingly as there is nothing in Real Estate that price does not fix.
5. Professional signs
This should be a given, when you list your house, you are going to have a sign in your yard. There are new agents that cannot afford the price tag that comes with professional signs though.
6. Blue tooth activated lock box.
This box can only be opened by Realtors who pay their dues in a timely manner. This tracks who accessed the keys and how long they are in the house. It also sends an email to the listing agent when the box is closed, which is usually when agents are leaving the house.
7. Showing follow-up for feedback.
Some agents are better at giving feedback than others. Some agents provide it as they are leaving the house and some need to be tracked down and socially shamed into giving their buyer’s feedback. There are a handful of agents who’s feedback I do not forward to the seller automatically since they can be unreasonably harsh in their criticisms. Feedback is important because it will tell you how buyers are seeing your home. It gives you an opportunity to address any issues with either a price correction or a repair/remodel.
8. Agent incentives.
Research says this can help sell the home more quickly, but not necessarily for more money. When showing homes, we cannot say that we have ever pressured buyers to choose the one with the bonus commission.
9. Targeted digital marketing.
Something that new agents may not have heard of or mastered at the beginning of their careers. Google, Facebook, and Zillow allow you to choose the prospective buyer with targeted ads. Have you ever played a game on your phone and have an ad pop up for something you had searched for earlier in the day or week? Yep, someone sold your information to a marketer. We can do the same for you.
10. Staging done right.
Studies have shown staged homes sell faster and for more money. Empty homes are preferable because of ease of showing, but they lack the ability to help buyers see themselves in the space. Have the furniture arranged in a way that invites people to sit and face each other and leaves approximately 2/3 of the walking space free to navigate. Set the table with your most beautiful tableware, including place mats. Stock the wood burning fireplaces with logs. Hang generically beautiful pictures or paintings in place of the family portraits.
There are some areas where the population does not read their news on their phone and instead still pick up the newspaper from their doorstep or mailbox every morning. Areas with a majority of a baby boomer population would likely qualify. If that is your target audience to sell your home to, then a newspaper ad might help. In most circumstances now, this is not an effective use of time and marketing.
12. Virtual tours.
As mentioned above, virtual tours are becoming more common and a more frequently requested item for buyers, especially ones relocating to a new area. This rise started long before the pandemic, but social distancing has made it more common.
13. MLS syndication.
There is a check-box on the listing agreement that says that you agree to having your home published on the internet through virtual online workspaces. If you do not agree, the only place your listing will show up is on the MLS accessible only to agents and on your agent’s website. If you are a very private person, or want to make sure only qualified buyers see your home online, check this box that you do not want your house to be posted on the Zillows and Trulias of the world.
14. Flyers to neighbors.
It may be a fluke, but more than once, we have sold the house to a neighbor’s friend or family member. Your biggest cheerleaders for a high price point will be your neighbors and the chances are high they love your neighborhood and have friends or family members that also love the neighborhood. Upon a seller’s request, we will hold a Neighbor Sneak Peak before putting the house on the MLS. This is basically an open house that only your neighbors are invited to and it helps generate some buzz.
15. Financing flyers for buyers.
Agents should not be showing your house to buyers who are not qualified, but sometimes, having a flyer showing alternative down payments and the monthly costs can help convince a buyer that they can be financially comfortable living in your home.
16. Open House.
The average home does not sell because of an open house. Statistically, less than 1% of buyers come through a home while it is being hosted by the listing agent. Most motivated buyers schedule a time to come through with their agent when they can occupy the home by themselves. We have sold half a dozen homes during open houses – beating the odds. It may be a sign that buyers are so desperate they feel going directly to the listing agent will give them an advantage or it could be because we do host them differently than the average agent (see Flyers to neighbors above). In general, open houses are more likely to give your agent an opportunity to find more buyers to work with than to bring you an offer on your house. During the interview, ask your agent about open houses and how they work them.
17. Direct mailers to surrounding neighborhoods.
This type of marketing is dying a slow death just like the newspapers. More than 99% of these postcards or mailers end up in the trash.
18. Tallahassee Board of Realtor network marketing.
Every Tuesday, before the pandemic, Realtors would gather at the TBR office for a networking and marketing event. We are still on hold for these meetings for now, but in its place is our TBR agents only Facebook page. We post ‘coming soon’ and ‘looking for’ requests daily on this page and we have access to every TBR member’s email address to send marketing material about your home for their review for their buyers.
19. Emails to database.
In addition to emailing your marketing material to every agent in the Tallahassee Board of Realtors, most established agents have a list of people they have worked with in the past, or plan to work with in the future that have agreed to be marketed to and these databases have as broad a reach as any newspaper with a fraction of the cost. Ask your agent how many customers they have in their marketing database.
What You Can do to Help Your Agent Market Your House.
Sometimes sellers can sabotage themselves and not even realize it. Here are some things you can do to help your agent get you the most money you can from your house.
1. De-clutter and clean.
Put everything away. Leave empty space on every shelf and counter-top. Pack away ANYTHING of value. Pack away family photos, trophies, souvenirs, and anything that tells your story. If your furniture is big or takes up more than 2/3 of the floor space, rearrange it or store some of it. This will help the buyer see their furniture there. Make the house as generically beautiful as possible. If you are wondering what we mean, check out before and after images on Pinterest.
2. Share the marketing of your house on your social media.
When we list a home, we send out professional flyers designed to share on social media – mostly Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. You can expand the reach of the marketing by sharing these posts and asking your friends to share them too.
3. Keep your house immaculate until after the APPRAISAL (after inspections).
It is a pain to live this way, but just because you have accepted a buyer’s offer does not mean that you are definitely going to the closing table. Many home offers fall through and usually because of inspections. After the inspections (or sometime during if the time-line is tight) there will be another showing request – this time from the appraiser. (They also have access to Showing Time.) Going back to the beauty pageant analogy, this is the last judge you must win over for the sale. This is especially true if you are the highest sale, or the highest sale by price per square foot in the area.
4. Keep and hand over all receipts for work done on the house.
It is also important to hire licensed contractors. Keep all proposals and paid receipts to be provided to the buyer at the closing table. These receipts can also help justify a higher price than your neighbor’s house. It can also keep you out of court if the repair fails.
Showings: What You Need to Know to Prepare.
Below is a list of things to check before the showing. Remember the goal is the create the best first impression and helped the buyers to see themselves living in your house. Just some notes about Tallahassee:
- Realtors use a special application for scheduling showings online, called Showing Time. The base program is free for all agents and sellers. The app allows agents the ability to set up emails or text messages to go to the sellers as well as the agent as soon as a showing is requested. The request can be approved, denied, or an alternate time proposed by the agent, but sellers can only allow or deny the request.
- There are automated requests for feedback from Showing Time, that go to the showing agent until they post a response. Your listing agent can have those comments pushed to your app or email.
- This app also allows agents to restrict WHEN showings can be requested. Some sellers want at least 2 hours of lead time and the app can automate that for ease. If you know you will have family in town one weekend, the app can keep agents from requesting showings for that weekend.
- Have a plan for your pets. Most of my cats (I have three) will scatter anytime they hear an unfamiliar voice and I do not worry about them trying to sneak out. HOWEVER, don’t we all have that one??? My tortoise shell cat will race the door and has been known to knock unsuspecting toddlers off their feet. Have a plan so we can make sure your fur-bearing family members are also safe during showings.
- Try very hard to accommodate every showing. We have worked with buyers before that needed to move, but only had a few hours every week to devote to seeing homes. Sometimes buyers fly in from another state and only have a day or two to see all of Tallahassee. Sometimes buyers are driving through the neighborhood and see the sign on their way to someplace else and for whatever reason, they do not have a lot of time. Forgive them, and try to make it happen.
- This no way to ensure your valuables are protected during showings. Consider taking them with you, hiding them in safe, or locking them in a desk drawer.
- Keep kids and family members informed of showings. We had one house listed in the Killearn Lakes area and the teenage son was not thrilled with parents moving during his junior year of high school. Every time there was a showing, he would be sure to leave his undies (sometimes other things) in the middle of his bedroom floor. The first time we received the feedback, we admit we just laughed it off - teenagers. The second time was not as funny and the third time, we tattled. Mom started checking and put an end to it after that.
- If you have animals or other circumstances that need special accommodation, we have some options. The best way to ensure showing agents comply is to post large signs in the house reminding the agent. There is a place on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for confidential messages from agent to agent, and these notes can be added there, but it seems that agents are human and do not always remember or read the comments. Placing signs on a door that has your large dogs crated behind will let everyone know to pay attention. In a case of aggressive or protective dogs, it might be better to take them with you or arrange for someone to watch them for you like a neighbor or friend.
- Smells. This is a tricky one. You cannot always smell your own home. We become ‘nose blind’ to the accumulations of smells in our house. Growing up, my dad smoked a cigar occasionally. It was not in the house, of course, but the covered area he relaxed in to smoke outside was beyond the kitchen window. During the summer, we could smell where dad was as soon as we came in the house. Mom had grown used to the smell and did not always notice it. If you have pets and the buyers are not around animals, they will smell them in the carpets. Even if you smoke outside, you will bring the smell of smoke into your house on your clothes and it will collect in the upholstery of your furniture.
* HOWEVER, do not overuse air fresheners. Buyers can be scared away wondering what the scent is covering up.
* Keep the dogs bathed at least once a week.
* Keep cat litter cleaned out with plenty of fresh litter.
* Hide animal bowls. Nothing smells worse than canned cat food. How do they even eat that stuff?
* Empty the trash.
* Not a bad idea to bake bread or cookies after you cook ‘loud’ foods like salmon or curry dishes.
After you have showings, the offers will come. Keep reading for how to negotiate offers and inspections. If you are thinking about selling, we would love to talk with you. Please Contact Us today!