Marketing Today's Home
Marketing your home today is completely different than it was just 10 years ago. To reach todays buyers you need to market your home on the internet. It is critical that buyers can find your home and that it is presented in its best light. Engaging virtual tours and lots of high resolution pictures are a must.
Let's say that a buyer has found your home on line and has interest in it. They find 20 low resolution pictures and a short description of your home. It takes them just a few minutes to read the description and look at all the pictures.
They also find another home that interests them. It has 43 high resolution pictures and a virtual tour that makes them feel as if they have been inside the house. They may spend 20 minutes or more looking at this house and later come back and look at it again. It is very easy for buyers to obsess about a house that they are interested in. You want to give them every opportunity to obsess about your house.
Before we go forward, we need to take a few steps back.
When a real estate agent takes a listing, they take some pictures, post a sign in the front yard with some flyers and get the listing on the MLS; multiple listing service.
In the Spokane MLS, a real estate agent can put up to 20 pictures. They can be as large as 1280 x 960 pixels and no bigger than 125K in size; this means that they need to by compressed quite a bit. You can also have a description of up to 255 characters and a link to a virtual tour. Buyers do not have access to the MLS but the pictures and information are syndicated to other sites that will be seen by buyers.
The vast majority of the on line home search traffic is represented by Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com. All of these sites accept more pictures, much larger pictures and pictures of much higher resolution than the Spokane MLS.
Because it isn't a good idea to have duplicate listings on the same search site, I enter the listing into the MLS, wait until the next day after it has been syndicated, claim the listing and update it. The first thing that I do is take all the MLS pictures off and replace them with large high resolution pictures.
These pictures need to be taken with a "real" camera. That means a digital SLR with changeable lenses and a wide angle lens with a minimum 90 degree horizontal angle of view. I like to have my phone with me just in case someone wants to call me but certainly not to take pictures.
Realtor.com gets 35 pictures and the other sites get more, normally about 50. Some of the sites actually give a search option of sort by number of pictures. With this selected, the listings with the greatest number of pictures will float to the top.
The MLS's 255 character description works fine for other Realtors. We tend to abbreviate and leave out words a lot. This is the same description that is automatically populated to those home search sites. The home search sites will accept a description that is more than 10 times as long as what the MLS will take.
Often times buyers will use search terms to find something they are specifically looking for. If it isn't spelled out in the description, it will not come up on the key word search. I can easily find fenced back yard, city view or wood burning fireplace when making an MLS search because of the standard data checklist we all fill out. It is also very important to make sure that these terms are in the description on the search sites that the buyers will be looking at.
I build a virtual tour using spherical panoramas that give the home buyer an experience similar to that of actually being in the home. I put links to these tours on Zillow Trulia and Realtor.com in addition to the MLS. This is important for a few reasons. It gives a buyer that much more time and interaction with your home to obsess about it. It is also a great way for out of town buyers to look at the home.
Many agents in town use Tour Factory virtual tours. These tours are no more than elaborate slide shows with music and agent branding. I use Tour Factory tours also. They syndicate to a lot of the smaller real estate sites around the country that I can't reach with my tours.
I also make a listing website with the home address as part of the actual URL; web address. If a buyer runs a search on the address, this site will come up to the top of the organic search results. Search terms found throughout the page will also bring favorable search results.
This site can be brought up on mobile devices from a text or QR code that will be on the street sign. This way buyers driving around looking in specific neighborhoods can access pictures and information on their phone while sitting in their car in front of the house.
I have also had quite a bit of success blogging about listings. I can write a blog about a neighborhood or a unique feature of a listings. The blog will optimize in the search results very quickly.
When a buyer clicks on the search results and goes to the blog post, they will find a blog about the subject that they were interested in and on the blog will be a picture of the listing with a link to the listing's own website.
Blogs are unique in that they are very time sensitive. They will rank very quickly for a long tail search query. They are kind of a flash in the pan though. A month later you won't be able to find the blog post using a search engine.
Is your house on Craigslist? If buyers are there, your house needs to be there. I can load 25, 600 x 450 pixel pictures and a description on Craigslist and refresh it every 48 hours.
The sheer number of entries makes the listing disappear way down on the search results very quickly. This is why it is important to have a comprehensive spelled out description. If a buyer is looking for something specific, it will come up.
I have found more success using Craigslist to market rural property than in town.
Printed media is outdated and not very affective. Today’s homebuyers don't look in the newspaper to look for a home. I will market an open house in the newspaper but the results aren't good. I can put the same open house in spokaneopen.com with a lot more favorable results.
The Real Estate Book and The Home Buyer's Guide are beautiful full color publications are great for generating brand recognition for real estate agents but just not very effective at marketing homes.
The only exception that I have found to this rule of printed media is when I have listed rural property. I have bought print advertisements in the local small town publication. This will sometimes get my phone to ring.
written by:Todd Hays