is the creation of the new or the re-arranging of the old in a new way."
-Mike Vance, Dean, Disney University
a home (or anything else for that matter), the marketing effort must
be coordinated on all fronts. It also must be superior to the competition.
This is especially true in a buyers' market where the homes sitting
on the market seemingly outnumber the potential home buyers. In such
an environment, you must lift your home out from this crowd and highlight
it in the best way possible. You must out-think the competition.
market is off by 50 per cent. So what. It's still four times larger
than it was in 1982. The key is to get your property placed into the
50 per cent which sells now.
marketing efforts begin life as a sound, basic plan and then evolves
to fit the particular property and situation. Cut from whole cloth and
then tailor-made, such a plan will incorporate innovative new ideas
and "rearrange" old ones.
are a few of these ideas:
Select a Quality Realtor: Based on my travels around the world and as president
of both Royal LePage and NRS National real estate companies, I believe
British Columbia and Alberta are home to some of the most qualified,
professional realtors in North America today. But there are also some
who are little more than "order takers" who literally can't properly
write out a contract, much less have the hard-won knowledge needed
to position your home in the most appropriate and effective way for
your particular market. So how do you find such an experienced, market
Ask around. Check with friends or trusted associates and get some
names. Experienced names. When selling in today's market, you
need to be in the hands of a practicing "doctor" and not someone
eager to practice on you.
Focus on the three best referrals, ask each of these realtors
to come out, have them put together a marketing evaluation and
then give you his/her specific action plan as to what he/she will
do to sell your home. Make sure it's in writing. (If the realtor
is "too busy" to physically come and view your home...well, you've
just eliminated one name from your list.) Remember: realtors come
in a couple of basic flavors. While there are always exceptions,
in general a "low-key" yet thorough realtor is best when it comes
to helping you buy a home; his or her pragmatic knowledge will
help keep your feet firmly on the ground. When selling a home
however, look for a high-energy, dynamic realtor whose enthusiasm
might be "infectious" enough to enthuse a potential buyer.
The market evaluation should compare your home with at least three
currently active competitive listings, three recent competitive
sales and three competitive and now inactive listings which didn't
sell. Drive over and check out these benchmark properties yourself
to ensure the realtor has put your home in the right "ballpark".
If you disagree, find out the reasoning as to why the realtor
has so placed your home. The reasons could be good ones indeed.
(Or vice versa.)
Once you've vetted all three choices, go with the realtor whose
combination of experience, proven performance and action-plan
for your home is the most impressive. But be careful not to confuse
impressive with unattainable.
Ensure your home is listed on the Multiple Listing Service. The
more exposure, the better.
your home with the chosen realtor for 60 days. If the realtor
suggests you list with him or her for a longer period, tell him
or her you will renew if, in your opinion, all the realtor's written
promises have meanwhile been adhered to and met all the previously
agreed upon elements of the action plan. If not, tough luck. Find
Underline to the realtor that you wish to be kept informed of
the sales progress at least once a week during the entire listing
period. Every time the home is shown to prospective buyers, ensure
the realtor informs you in advance and also gives you a feedback
as to the viewer's reaction to the home. On the other hand, don't
overdo it. Be courteous and be careful not to nag the realtor.
When dealing with a professional, be professional.
If the realtor has failed to keep his or her promises during the
listing period, cancel the listing.
Price Your Home Right: Yes, we all need and want the best price, as in the
highest price, for our abode. But be realistic. It might do wonders
for the ego and daydreams, but a high price tag does little if it
doesn't come accompanied with a sale. If anything, it has kept your
home effectively out of the market. Once you and your realtor have
agreed upon an asking price based upon the aforementioned market evaluation,
bring in a reality check. Stand in front of your home and ask yourself:
"If I were a buyer, would I pay that price for this place?" Again,
don't try and fool yourself. (Fantasy is wonderful, but it won't work
with others.) Based on your understanding of the competition, is the
pricing realistic? This is particularly important in a market where
prices are falling. If you must sell, price yourself at the bottom
of the scale. Remember: If you are selling and buying at the same
time as in trading up, the buyer's market which demands you sell 10
per cent less also allows you to turn around and buy for 10 per cent
less. If you sell your $200,000 home for $180,000 for a $20,000 "loss",
you just as likely to buy the $300,000 home for $270,000 for a $30,000
reduction. You're actually better off by $10,000.
to the competition, have your realtor show you through the three aforementioned
rival listings and other near-comparables priced both above and below
your own home. In one evening, you can view five homes to get a better
idea of exactly what you and your realtor are up against. Forewarned
is forearmed. If your home is priced right, it will sell. But don't
fall into the trap of "following the market down" by pricing your
home above the realistic ceiling and then be forced to keep adjusting
downward as the market sinks.
Create a "Benefit and Feature" Sheet For Your Home: Reach back in time and
remember why you bought the home in the first place. What caught your
eye, what appealed to you? Write these reasons down; more often than
not, new buyers will also be attracted to these same features. List
every good point, every benefit, your property and your neighborhood
enjoys. Don't be afraid of putting everything down, even if it stretches
out to two or three pages. Today, people want information. Lots of
it. Think about the basics and spell them out. A good agent will know
the answers already, but nonetheless, these basic features should
be highlighted in your feature sheet. Put down ALL the good points,
such as: quiet street; a safe and clean neighborhood; well-maintained
sidewalks; close to public transportation; close to recreational amenities
(list them); close to schools (list them: private, parochial, what
levels etc.). Spell out all the conveniences which make your location
different. Don't assume a potential buyer is telepathic. Spell it
out. Even such things as proximity to hospitals, police station and
the firehall are important to people and just might make the difference
to tip the scales in favor of your home. Check the zoning. (Your realtor
will and should have done this anyway, but it doesn't hurt to be certain.)
Has the zoning been changed or will it be changed in the near future?
Sometimes a zoning switch-over to "the highest and best use" will
and can markedly affect the asking price and lot value. (For example,
single-family to high-rise multiple.)
Create a "Pick-Up" Box: Augment the realtor's "For Sale" sign with a open-topped
container filled with the above mentioned feature sheets. If a potential
buyer happens to walk or drive by, this information could spur him/her
into picking up the phone.
Place Your Home on the MLS: If a home is to sell, it must have maximum exposure.
The Multiple Listing Service will give it that exposure. As well,
ensure your home is put on the Agents Open or MLS Agents Tour so as
to educate other realtors as to the home's potential. But two months
is all you need to get on.
Circulate the Information: The special feature sheet should be circulated both
at your "open houses" and also to all the "competing" real-estate
offices in your area. Ninety per cent of all sales are done on a co-operative
basis; the property isn't sold by your listing salesperson but instead
has been "shopped" by the listing realtor to another realtor's client.
Which means your salesperson should be well-connected in your local
area and should cooperate well with other salespeople of different
Buy Some Extra Enthusiasm: Human beings almost always act in their own
self-interest first. Take advantage of this to promote some extra
interest in your own property. Offer something special to encourage
realtors to bring in those offers. Depending upon how hard it is to
sell your home (higher price, tough area, unique features that appeal
to few, future potential versus today's reality), offer extra commission
to the realtor who brings in the sale...but only if he or she brings
it in at the full asking price. As most offers are invariably lower,
it's unlikely you'll actually end up paying the extra commission,
but it does work as an incentive.
Too Much of a Good Thing? If you own and are trying to sell many units
in a single building, put only one or two of the units on the MLS
at the regular commission. Lists the others as exclusive and offer
the difference in commission to the selling agent only. Again, appeal
to the self-interest, the "what's in it for me?".
Consider a cost-effective advertising campaign and review such a plan
with your realtor. How big an advertisement? Placed where? How often?
Review the ad itself with the realtor and test-market it past a few
unbiased friends, associates and so forth. Keep your ego out of it.
Let Nothing Escape the Net: Insist that the realtor presents to you all
and any offers that come in, no matter how low or seemingly impossible.
If someone is willing to write an offer, be considerate enough to
see it. Besides, it gives you a better idea of just how the market
is reacting to your property.
First Impressions Do Count: Fix up your home but do it with "resale" in mind:
take care of the eye-catching areas and don't waste the effort (and
money) on the rest. The first thing a potential buyers sees is the
front porch or entrance. Fix that wobbly front step or squeaky door.
Repaint the front door, bathrooms and kitchen. Use off-white or general
neutral colors only. If the rug is frayed or stained, consider removing
them and going with hardwood floors (assuming you've got them and
they're in reasonable shape). Again, don't spend a fortune on the
remodeling; you won't get your money back. Again, sell the "idea"
of the place's renovation potential but don't waste the effort to
carry it through and do the actual doing. Let the new owners do it.
But with that said, there are certain largish renovations which may
add more cost-effective resale value than others. For instance, a
tiled backsplash and new cupboard doors in the kitchen. A spiced-up
bathroom is another possibility. Studies show that kitchens and bathrooms
garner the most attention from would-be buyers. A heat-efficient gas
fireplace is another possibility, assuming it can be installed without
major structural changes to the house. Forget rec rooms and/or swimming
pools. Aside from the cost considerations, most rec rooms have little
appeal (read: low ceilings and little light) while swimming pools
are costly to maintain and are worrisome to families with small children.
Rather than a swimming pool, put the energy into improving the yard
or garden area. It's amazing what a bit of weeding and a few shrubs
A Clean, Bright Place is a Happy Face: Clean up the basement areas. Ditto for
the stairwells and closets. If you've got too much junk and other
indispensable basement stuff piled up, have it stored off-site during
the selling period. (Depending upon the amount of stuff being cached,
the average storage place costs about $80 dollars per month and can
make several thousand dollars difference in your favor on the offer.)
Turn up the lights, clean the windows and open the blinds; few people
like to live in a dark cave. Especially a cluttered cave. Tidy up
the place and clean it until it gleams
12a. If you have an expensive home and want to bring on special sales
action (and are willing to pay for it), consider
* A Voice Ad on a 1-800 Number for the Public: Put together by
either yourself or your realtor, it lets the public hear about
your home's unique features in a non-threatening environment.
Tie the aforementioned print ad into the 1-800 number. If the
listener wants more information, the 1-800 number should also
provide the listing agent's or office's telephone number. Or rather
than having a machine field the initial queries, hire someone
to do exactly that. It makes it all much more human and approachable.
** A 1-800 Number/Answering Machine for the Professionals: Periodically
upgraded, it allows competing sales agents to call in for details
on the special benefit, commission-bonus arrangement on the home.
Make it time-sensitive to spur that needed action as in making
the bonus offer good only if they sell it that month.
*** A simple new telephone number with a simple answering machine.
Put the telephone number in all your ads, on your sign. The answering-machine
ad let's you list all of the features of your home before stating
the price. In turn, offer people who leave their name and number
a reason to do so. You'll mail them interior shots of your place
or arrange a private showing or something similar. It helps to
state the date of the next open house to encourage the shy types
to drop by. Again, you're trying to build traffic and interest.
The total cost to you is really next to nothing: a telephone line
and an answering machine.
Spread the Word: Hand out the feature sheet and unique offer/special commission
information to everyone you know, including your secretaries, part-time
staff and whomever. You never know who the information will get passed
on to next.
Persistence Versus the Big Pay Off: Rather than blowing off money for large weekend
ads in a single newspaper, run a smaller two-line daily ad in all
relevant newspapers. Don't forget the community papers. Quite often,
local papers offer a special "province-wide" deal for very little
extra cost if you place an ad in 50 (or whatever) co-operating newspapers.
This is very effective for out-of-town properties. Be on the look
out for new "vehicles" and different ways to advertise your home.
For the out-of-town possibilities, try Cottage Magazine, B.C. Outdoors
or other cost-effective special interest publications.
When Running Larger Ads... If the ads aren't generating any calls, check
the headline. If the headline cannot clearly and concisely state the
benefits of the home, that ad won't garner any calls. People want
to read about what's important to them; ensure the headline fulfills
that need exactly. Avoid single-line headlines. Instead, use two-line
or three-line headlines or variations of them repeated a couple of
times. When done properly, repetition works. Remember too, positive
headlines outpull negative ones. The body copy or message must reinforce
and expand upon the headline. Again, put yourself in the mind of the
buyer and appeal to the intrinsic self-interest.
Don't be Afraid to be Different: Agents regularly send out "I Just Listed"
flyers to other homes in the neighborhood in the hope of engendering
new business. Fine, but check out the flyer and make sure he or she
lists the special features and special incentives of your home and
not just the standard ubiquitous "vanilla-flavored" preprinted card.
Add your special offer to it...if there is one. For example "we will
include the stove, fridge and riding lawnmower". Be different. Again,
you never know who ends up reading this detailed information. And
again, nothing succeeds like success.
Test and Re-test Everything: If your home isn't garnering any showings,
offers or action, either your advertising, pricing or realtor has
something wrong with it or him/her. Reconsider the problem, fix it
and then stay on top of it at all time.
Take a Real Interest in the Buyer: Cheer
them up by offering a "buy down" on the mortgage. (For example, the
actual cost to you to buy down a $100,000 mortgage by two per cent
is less than $2,000.) Don't worry about the cost. Instead, work it
into the asking price. This allows your realtor to brandish a strong
headline trumpeting the abode's special (assumable on approved credit)
low mortgage interest rate while costing you nothing extra..
Take a Real Piece Out of the Paper: Offer to pay the legal costs of the
sales transaction and (in British Columbia) the one-per cent Property
Transfer Tax (PTT). Again, this allows your realtor to promote the
deal as something special. Again, consider building the cost into
your asking price.
Be with it. Use craigslist.com ... or insist that your realtor uses craigslist.com to market your property. It is the most used bulletin board in the world. Two of our Action Group members used craigslist.com to market four condos they owned in Calgary and had not sold in two months. Craigslist.com found buyers in 48 hours. Also be on any local Internet board available. Most are free. People today surf! It also might attract that foreign buyer.
You'd Think They'd Do It Anyway ... But Make Sure They Really Will: If you
work for a large multi-branched company (and you have the pull), have
the feature sheet distributed to every twig in the network. If your
realtor works for a similarly large concern, ditto. If your spouse,
friends, or other helpful types are similarly employed, ditto again.
Is There a Doctor For the House? If your place is relatively old and
comes with older appliances, consider offering a fixed-term home warranty
program. It's inexpensive to set up and puts the buyer's mind at ease.
Foreign Buyers Need Special Information: If your property appeals to overseas
buyers, ensure your agent understands how to deal with questions of
feng-shui. (Literally "wind and water", it's the Asian philosophy
in which a building's exterior and interior elements, site placement
and orientation, landscaping and so forth can and will deeply affect
the building's "luck".) The agent should be able to identify - and
take advantage of - benefits readily apparent to a feng-shui aware
buyer. Benefits, such as the number "8" in a street address, a high
vista and an interior which doesn't have a clear line of sight from
front door to back. (Any good luck or fortune will flow right out
the door.) Conversely, the agent should be aware of any potential
problems. For instance, the number "4" is to be avoided (it sounds
disturbingly like the word "death") and a home placed on the top of
a T-junction is to be shunned. (Any bad luck in the neighborhood will
come howling right up the street and into the house.) Don't smile.
After all, here in North America there's many a condo tower marketed
and somehow built without having the 'benefit' of a 13th floor. Further
to foreign buyers, remember to use your corporate contacts as per
Tip Number 21.
Declutter and then declutter again. Depersonalize and neutralize. The first items that should go in those packing boxes: family photos, collections and just about anything else that says "you." Show the home from its best possible side. Have people see how they would feel if they owned the home. Developers have show suites and show homes for a reason.
Sell the sizzle. Rather than building a suite in the basement, paint the (clean) basement floor and paint the lines of where a bath, an extra bedroom could potentially go. Let the buyer's imagination do the rest. Add lights along the walkway, put big brass house numbers up and a brass mail box on your door. Kick up the curb appeal. Garden gnomes are a no-no. Front landscaping is what the buyer sees first.
Stage your home! Have a professional come in and help. Stand in the doorway to find each room's focal point, and use furniture placement to highlight that. The back of your sofa shouldn't block the view of the fireplace, for example. Remove any extraneous pieces of furniture. "Re-position" them into another room ... or into storage altogether. A wingback chair that's crowding the family room might help create a nice reading nook in the master bedroom.
are a number of reasons why homes don't sell: overpriced, poor location,
poor condition, intense competition as many similar homes similarly
priced are all fighting for attention. Homes that do sell are those
that are tended diligently by the professional realtor, are priced right
(as in just below the competition) and have something unique about them
that attracts the buyer's attention in the first place.
remember: This is YOUR house we're discussing.
the right to demand an attentive, professional, upbeat realtor, a person
who creates a solid, comprehensive action plan (in writing) and does
so in a measurable way (number of showings, numbers of interested buyers,
etc.). A good realtor keeps you informed all the way. A poor realtor
won't. Be a leader. Spell out your expectations to yourself and your
realtor. But be realistic. Look around you and ask for the best possible
result...but don't demand the impossible. Remember; your realtor and
his company will earn about $13,500 in commissions on the average ($800,000)
single-family sale in Greater Vancouver. A quality realtor will earn
his/her commission in a professional way and for serviced rendered.
As a vendor, you have every right to expect this quality service. You
also have the right to expect that this professional will sell your
home as quickly as possible, for the best price in the given market
and with the minimum amount of inconvenience.
Insist that your realtor be equally as focused. There is no such thing
as accidental success. It's always earned and always comes with a price.
have to be very careful if you don't know where you are going because
you might get there." - Yogi Berra