Listing Tips to Attract Buyers

Published by Jim Droz

Think about one of your favorite books. What do you like about it? Chances are it’s descriptions that paint a mental picture or put you inside a character’s mind.

We live in a visual world but the written word still has power. How you and your client list a home is a good example. Showing photos or posting a video are good ideas, but how you describe a room, special feature or the neighborhood can go a long way toward piquing a buyer’s interest. A sharp turn of a phrase might get a prospect in the door, whereas a dull description could keep them from even stopping by.

While a house listing isn’t a novel (and keeping things tight is important), you’re still trying to catch the eye of a specific audience. Here are some ways to get that done:

What’s behind the curtain? A buyer can get the number of bedrooms and bathrooms by clicking on the site’s data field. Boring! Important details such as an expansive closet or great views from several windows will entice buyers to want to see more.

Get real. Saying a “remodeled kitchen” or “refurbished living room” might be accurate, but what type of work was done and how does it enhance the living experience? Mention the pull-out shelves or walk-in pantry that will make their life easier. Also, mention upgrades such as new shingles on the roof, a finished basement that is great for entertaining and family fun and dual sinks in the master bedroom.

Don’t go overboard. Being too flowery and overly descriptive will only make readers shake their heads because it sounds like a sales pitch. Using adjectives sparingly is a good way to go, especially if they’re effective ones. Rather than “beautiful” try “gorgeous” or “lovely,” and rather than saying a room is “spacious” try “open floor plan” because it sounds airy and leaves things up to the imagination. And be realistic. Don’t use phrases such as “top of the line” or “you’ll love it!” Everyone has their own tastes.

Get it right. Texting and personal e-mails can create bad habits regarding spelling and grammar, but it’s imperative that your listing be clean in that regard. And be careful with abbreviations or, better yet, don’t use them because they might mean different things to different people or age groups. Awkward!

Create excitement. The price is obviously the most important part of the equation and if someone can’t afford a $350,000 house, nothing you write can change that. But using “priced to sell” can be a call to action for buyers, even if the home is priced on par with others in the area.

Make it memorable. A home is a place full of memories, so let prospective buyers know what types of experiences they can expect. Write that the deck is “great for relaxing with a glass of wine and a good book” or that the kitchen and attached dining room is a great area to “entertain friends or have family gatherings.” Also, if your neighborhood is near a park or hiking trails, tell them about it because it could enhance the living experience.

Be careful. As stated above, going overboard can be a bad thing. So can certain words such as “quaint” or “cozy” because they might imply a lack of space. Let the square footage speak for itself. Likewise, don’t use words such as “as is” or “fixer-upper” because it will be seen as a house needing a lot of work.

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Posting on Google+

By Jaime Westman

Our circle of friends expands and tightens over time, from childhood, high school and college to new neighbors, friends and business colleagues. Google Plus has a way for you to keep up and modify that circle with a feature called – drum roll, please – circles. The feature is intended for you to share content with the right people and follow content posted by people you find interesting or are familiar with.

No one in a circle can see who else is in the circle, and they also don’t know what you’ve named the circle or how many other people are in it. In fact, the people in these circles might not even know they’re in one. It sounds cloak and dagger, but circles are sort of like a friends list on Facebook or private Twitter lists. The good thing for agents is that you can create a Real Estate circle that deals with – again with the drum – real estate issues and topics, and people don’t have to “like” you or get a “friend” approval to be in your circle and see what’s being posted.

So if you use Google Plus like Facebook for your business you’re not getting its full value. By grouping people in circles you can share items of interest to specific people. Where you went on vacation or where you ate last night will only be of interest (maybe) to a Friend or Family circle. A person in your Real Estate circle could care less about that but would be interested in reports, tips, pointers and success stories about the business. Continue reading “Posting on Google+”

Hiring Ghostwriters

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I’ve always liked to write and, even though I have the gift for gab (or so I’m told), I’m comfortable expressing myself via the written word. But some people aren’t so they shun that type of communication, which can really stifle your business message in today’s texting, blogging and social media world.

While it’s important to get out in public and display your people skills whenever possible, social media is here to stay so developing a knack for blogging or electronic communication is crucial to stay ahead – or at least keep pace – with the competition.

Blogging is another way to generate leads for your business, but you need to devote some time to it daily. The more you post the more reach you’ll have with search engines, which leads to more activity and people reading your posts. But if you’re uncomfortable writing or don’t have the time, help is available in the form of ghostwriters. These can either be people you hire through a professional service or your neighbor’s son or daughter who majored in English at college. Or perhaps you have children skilled at writing and social media. I’m sure they’d be glad to help you out (with a nudge or bribe, of course).

Since it’s your face, name and business associated with the posts, you want it to be your message and written in a style you’re comfortable with. It doesn’t have to be long or even about real estate; perhaps you just want to tout your community as a good place to live. So if you decide on hiring ghostwriters, here are a few things to keep in mind because the writer has to be in sync with your personality and wishes:

Your blog should reflect the voice of you or your company, in addition to your marketing plan. You should know what style, tone and voice you’ll use when you “talk” to your clients and prospects. That persona is just as important, if not more, if you outsource marketing tasks to writers or consultants.

Your blog must have a message and a strategy. Read other real estate blogs to see what topics are trending. If you write about that, what angle can you use to highlight your business and skills? It’s also important to have a list of topics and to know what your audience is for each category.

Develop a plan and timeline and be consistent. Mapping out the process of blogging is important. If you post things three times a week to start but cut to once a week after a few months, people might not look for your posts anymore. It’s also a good idea to see if you can re-purpose content from other marketing materials your company uses.

Set up a chain of command. Until you develop a trust with the ghostwriter, you’ll want to approve all posts before they’re sent. If your blogs generate comments, you’ll also need to decide who will respond or at least monitor them. Brainstorming for topics also is a good idea with the more the merrier as far as posting possibilities is concerned.


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Pretty Woman

By Jaime Westman

There’s a good chance Julia Roberts won’t be one of your real estate clients. If she was, though, you’d likely go to great lengths to secure – and keep – her business. A scene from one of her movies points out, however, that you should treat all potential clients the same because you never know what could happen. Remember the portion of “Pretty Woman” when Roberts’ character was snubbed by a clerk at a high-end boutique because of her appearance and unpolished dialogue? That clerk was later embarrassed when Roberts returned to the store carrying shopping bags with a few thousand dollars worth of merchandise inside because she was treated differently at a store down the street.

Similar circumstances (minus the Hollywood script) likely occur in your real estate dealings each month. Some prospects appear able to afford houses in the higher price ranges while others might only want to search for homes in the lower levels. Do you treat these people differently or dismiss the latter group because you think your efforts won’t be worth the trouble? If so, a new game plan might be in order.

While it only makes good business sense to work with prospects or clients who are pre-approved or have pre-qualified for a mortgage, ignoring those who might need credit cleanup could hurt you down the road. Offering a helping hand or advice might lead to hope and, when they get their house in order and obtain pre-approval, they’ll likely return to you and tell others about your assistance.

“Most people get it,” said Lisa Hayes, a Realtor in Fernley, Nev. “They know that they and I need a working price range, otherwise we’re just wasting each other’s time. But when you delve into their situation a little more, you might discover a few more things that could help in the process.”

There’s also the chance that your client will discover that for only a few hundred dollars more a month they could get a house with the kitchen size they want or the patio area they desire. If you point out that the current confluence of low prices and historically low interest rates make this the last time to get reasonable upgrades for the foreseeable future, they might be willing to expand their price ceiling a bit if coaxed.

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Pro-tip: Work for your Referral

Published by Jim Droz

Word of mouth is becoming a lost phrase in our world of pushing keys and buttons. But getting referrals from satisfied clients remains a crucial factor for Realtors as they build a pipeline of prospects and future business associates.

A word-of-mouth recommendation comes with a seal of approval and carries more weight because it’s unsolicited and not seen as a typical marketing ploy. If you have such testimonials from past clients, putting a few on your website might help increase inquiries and get you more business.

A referred client also saves you time and money normally spent on marketing and prospecting, therefore freeing you up to put more effort into creating positive experiences. That in turn builds trust and loyalty that could lead to more referrals. The effort is not without work, so having a plan and being diligent is just as important as your personality when it comes to spreading the word on your services via past clients.

One way to build referrals is simply by asking past clients how they’re doing in their new home and how their job is going. Asking questions about their business will offer insight into what type of referrals they’d like to receive. By learning the nut and bolts and nuances of each other’s business you open a path to growth within both offices.

Providing tools and resources to your database on a consistent basis also builds trust and loyalty over time. Decide what it is your clients are most interested in and get it into your calendar. Whether it’s a neighborhood event, a tip on home buying or selling or answers to common questions, stay in the picture with relevant and friendly information. Don’t think of it as giving away free advice; think of it as doing things that will be a great return on your effort as they refer friends, family and co-workers who are interested in buying or selling their home.

Southern California and HouseHunt Realtor Mary Beth Buckles has built a loyal following during her years working in Dana Point, not to mention quite a pipeline of referrals. Saying that nearly 100 percent of her business – which was $12 million in sales volume in 2011 – comes from past clients and referrals, Buckles sends monthly postcards and a bi-monthly magazine to past clients and is “religious with Christmas gifts” for people she has worked with in the past.

 

“I think it’s really important to speak to your clients at least four times a year in person, and you also need to send them things at least once a month so they have your picture and phone number handy,” Buckles said. “Anyone I’ve ever sold a house to gets greetings, messages or items from me. It’s a simple thing to do and has a big impact on the relationship.”

 

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Appraisal Criticism Mounting

Published by Jim Droz

Appraisal changes instituted because of the financial crisis were intended to eliminate pressure on appraisers that occasionally led to inflated valuations during the housing boom. So much for that theory because critics are now saying that the changes resulted in conservative valuations and the increased use of appraisers with little knowledge of local market conditions. Other things appraisers have been taking heat for recently are that home values aren’t matching a listing or contract’s price and valuations are unfairly weighing distressed properties into the equation.

The best thing you can do as an agent is get educated on the appraisal process and the report itself. It’s another thing to add to your to-do list or to-know list, but the process is becoming increasingly heated and affects buyers and sellers, so no matter who you’re working with it could delay or derail possible transactions.

“Obviously, the market is depressed — home prices have fallen far below the values of a few years ago,” Appraisal Institute president Sara Stephens said in a recent statement responding to the criticism. “Many homes simply aren’t worth what their owners think they are.”

Continue reading “Appraisal Criticism Mounting”

Relationships Go Hand in Hand with Success

Published by Jim Droz

Long-term relationships have a different meaning than they did, say, a few decades ago. Whether it’s personal or involving business, a relationship is the cornerstone of success and longevity. As a Realtor, how you interact with clients and others in transactions will go a long way toward sealing deals and getting referrals. The same goes for how involved you are in the community. If you’re out and about and making a difference, chances are that will make a good impression on people who have a variety of networking connections.

“We’re representing the community,” said Eddie Gleason, a HouseHunt Realtor in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., who is a member of two neighborhood associations, his local Real Estate Association and a mentor for troubled young males. “More than likely when you get a new person who wants to move to the area their first contact could be with a Realtor, so it’s important to be a good representative of your city and to have the answers to all of their questions.”

Establishing a presence in the community helps people – whether they’re buying a house or not –meet you and get a perspective on your expertise and character. It’s a way of promoting yourself and the profession without coming across that way and will likely give you a better understanding of the way your city operates and the opportunities available in certain neighborhoods and on certain boards. Investing in others is also investing in yourself, and your good deeds will show up physically on signage and pamphlets, for example, as well as intrinsically by the solid reputation you’ll reap by being a good corporate citizen.

Many of the contacts you make in this fashion will likely be long term and not focused on the short-term gains of a sale. In all good deeds, what goes around comes around. In real estate, that means referrals and a pipeline bursting with solid prospects. That’s where distinguishing yourself from the competition with good service and a caring personality comes into play. The best way to accomplish this is to personally deliver for your clients rather than totally rely on advertising or social media. Use all of the marketing devices and tactics available, for sure, but also capitalize on your social skills to unite buyers and sellers and finalize deals.

“I’ve got to be able to meet them, talk to them and let them know how we can work together to get a house bought or sold,” Fayetteville, Ark., Realtor Blair Taylor said about prospects and clients. “I prospect on a daily basis, but until I can talk about their needs and how I can help them achieve them, nothing has moved forward. It’s only after a relationship is formed that the wheels start in motion.”

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Keep the Door Open to Prospects at Your Next Open House

Published by Jim Droz

Open houses can be effective business tools with a captive audience if they’re handled correctly. Your primary goal is to sell the house you’re standing in, but a potential pipeline of buyers for other properties could be streaming through the front door.

“The biggest mistake Realtors make is not engaging people at the open house in a type of lead-conversion conversation,” said Rich Levin, a real estate coach and teacher based in New York. “It’s a prospecting opportunity, plain and simple. If a person is interested in the house you’re selling, obviously focus on that, but the 90 percent-plus of people who aren’t interested in the house should be engaged in a conversation about what they are looking for and how you can help them.”

Levin said that a face-to-face conversation is much better than a phone call down the line, so agents shouldn’t let prospects get away without finding out the type of property they’re interested in and where and when they are thinking about buying. Continue reading “Keep the Door Open to Prospects at Your Next Open House”

Why Realtors Should Connect with Generation Y

Published by Jim Droz

We love labels in this country, and people born between 1979 to the mid-1990s are known as Generation Y…or the Millennial Generation…or Generation Next…or Echo Boomers. As a Realtor, however, you might soon refer to the group as the Generation That Saves the Housing Market.

Here’s why Realtors should connect with Generation Y: A recent Western Union Payment Money Mindset Index survey found that 47 percent of the Generation Y demographic plans to buy a home in the next five years or less, compared to 29 percent of the overall population. Narrowing the timeframe a little more, 10 percent of Gen-Yers said they expect to purchase a home in the next 12 months.

Are you ready? If not, there are some things to keep in mind when dealing with the demographic. If you’re not comfortable with the high-tech devices being used for searching, researching and communication, it’s time to get familiar because Gen Y consumers want easy access and extensive information on the product they’re researching. In real estate, this means being thorough with your listings, which should be accompanied by multiple photos or videos. If this type of service isn’t provided, a Gen Y consumer likely won’t bother to search deeper and won’t return to your site.

If you have a son or daughter in their 20s or early 30s, ask them what they would like to see and have available if they were searching for a home. Also keep in mind the expansive network of friends – both actual and on Facebook or other social sites – a Gen Y buyer is likely to have. Chances are a buyer will tell their network of friends about the experience, and if it goes well and you come across as cool yet professional, word of mouth will spread rapidly. The same goes for showing houses. A client might have friends along for the ride, so treat it as a more-the-merrier excursion because you never can have enough contacts in this business.

High placement on the company’s listings and services site gives you an immediate advantage over the competition. Going to the top of the list can be done via Search Engine Optimization (SEO), having a website dedicated to individual listings and having a strong social media presence. That can and possibly should include YouTube, where your videos can be a blend of humor and information ranging from things to do in town on a Saturday and staging a home to installing a garbage disposal and offering a panoramic view of one of your top listings.

When it comes to social media, Facebook isn’t the only platform you should be trying. Others include Google Plus, Twitter and LinkedIn, which also is good for business connections and networking. But if you’re on multiple platforms, be prepared to check on your traffic and inquiries numerous times each day. Because of instant messaging and other forms of fast communication these days, the Gen Y crowd expects instant responses on everything, including real estate transactions.

Most of all, remember that you’re a conduit of information. Give your Gen Y prospects or clients everything they need to make an informed decision. But don’t push. If you treat the transaction like a group process with everyone having a say, the chances of success are much greater. Position yourself to be a good educator. If a client doesn’t feel like he or she can or will be allowed to ask questions and be a part of the process, they’re likely not going to be dealing with you much longer – no matter if that’s face to face or through e-mails and text messages.

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Realtors vs. Lawyers, Politicians and Bankers

Published by Jim Droz

If you ever feel down, disrespected or underappreciated because of your profession, look on the bright side – at least you’re not a lawyer, business executive, labor union leader, stockbroker, car salesman or an advertising practitioner.

Those professions, and a few others, all ranked below real estate professionals when it comes to the public’s perceptions of honesty and ethics, according to a recent Gallup poll.

Real estate professionals received their highest rating since Gallup began measuring Americans’ perceptions of those work-related qualities in 1976. Of the 21 professions in the poll, real estate professionals finished 12th, so you’re in the middle of the pack but – like current housing market trends – climbing.

In the survey, 20 percent of respondents gave real estate professionals a “very high to high” rating on honesty and ethics. Fifty-seven percent of the Americans surveyed rated them as “average” when it comes to honesty and ethics.

The profession that scored the lowest was members of Congress, in which only 7 percent rated them “very high to high” when it comes to ethics and honesty – the lowest on record. The professions that scored the highest in honesty and ethics belonged to the medical profession, with nurses, pharmacists and doctors at the top of the list.

If real estate professionals want to crack the top 10 they’ll need to hurdle the two spots above them – bankers and journalists. Bankers? Seriously? After the financial bailout scandal? Easing by them should be easy, right? So here’s the plan. If everybody keeps these 10 tenets in mind, look out top 10, here we come!

Be an effective listener, a good communicator and understand the desires and needs of your prospects and clients.

Explain things in terms that your prospects and clients understand, which will empower them to make good decisions and feel like you’re working as a team.

Be available for your clients at all times. Answer the phone when possible, but if you can’t, always call back immediately. If a client wants to see a house on a Saturday night, show up and show it.

Brush up on your negotiating skills, particularly during a time when reports show multiple bids in certain parts of the country. If you can diplomatically get the buyer or seller to see your point of view it will be a win-win situation for you and your client.

Be organized and up to date on market conditions and legal issues involving the profession and city, county or state you’re working in.

Get along well with others involved in the process, such as title officers, escrow closing agents, insurance agents and those in the lending industry.

Be curious and ask questions about your client’s needs when it comes to houses and neighborhoods. It shows a genuine interest and will save you and them a lot of time because you won’t unnecessarily be looking at houses outside their interest or price scale.

Be honest at all times, even if you’ll be telling your clients something they might not want to hear. In the end they’ll respect you for it and continue the relationship.

Be the expert. If someone is interested in a certain part of town, offer tidbits and information they’ll need regarding that area. This includes everything from schools and parks to shopping and zoning.

Have fun! After all, you’re helping people achieve the American Dream.

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