Virtual Staging

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We all know that home staging can boost the value of a listing exponentially. But what if you’re selling an abandoned property? Or the listing just doesn’t seem to pop in your MLS photos? Only 1 out of 10 people can mentally visualize the potential of a property. This means 90% of your customers need a home staged in order to truly fall in love! That’s where virtual staging comes in!

virtual staging

What is Virtual Staging?

Virtual staging is a way to furnish or decorate vacant listings and rooms… without having to actually furnish or decorate. You create all the elements of the space online without ever touching the physical place.

You can post pictures of the rooms with different color schemes, simple layouts, or whatever else will best empower the viewer to imagine himself or herself in that space. You can change countertops, flooring, or even cabinets. All of this can be done with a simple listing photograph.

This is ideal for clients who are moving from out of state and cannot regularly visit your properties. For your own benefit, this strategy is great for simply promoting your properties online through any site or social platform where you share listing photos. It’s also a great money saver.

Here are some before and after photos:

alwaysimagine.com
alwaysimagine.com
rachellabelle.com
rachellabelle.com

How Can I Do It?

Hiring a professional to do real life staging will cost you around $6,000. Staging costs total can get as high as $30,000. So even though must virtual staging platforms cost money, it’s nothing compared to those massive figures. It puts in perspective how valuable this part of the selling process is.

You can usually find free samples of the various platforms before you make any kind of commitment. Some of the ones we recommend include Obeo vStager, CirclePix, or Virtually Staging Properties. (Let us know in the comments if we missed any.)

rachellabelle.com
rachellabelle.com

What Next?

Once you have your freshly staged listing photos, it’s time to do something with them. Post them on social media platforms where people access your listings. At broker previews and open houses, include hardcopies (or copies on a tablet/device) of the pictures to really ignite the imaginations of potential buyers.

If you have clients who seem really invested but are still on the fence, consider walking through the virtual staging process with them. Let them pick the colors and patterns so that they feel ownership over the room before they even realize they’ve made up their mind.

 

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How to Sell a Home Online [Infographic]

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This infographic marks the second installment of HouseHunt’s “How To” series for real estate professionals. This week we’re discussing how to sell a home online.

See Part 1: How to List a Home by clicking here.

Use this graphic for quick reference to the 9 key points to sell a home, and reference this blog for articles on each step along the way. After the jump, you’ll see links to dive deep into each step of this process!

HOW-TO-Sell-a-Home-Online

 

Step 1 – Get It Listed

Step 2 – Make It Real

Step 3 – Be Social

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How to Close Buyers

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Many people believe that buyers are closed when they find the home of their dreams, but there’s a lot more to it than that. As a Realtor, you need to know exactly how to close buyers: have a strategy and don’t depend on luck. Real estate expert Jim Droz recently hosted a webinar on how to close buyers effectively and efficiently, sharing where to find buyers and how to move the process along seamlessly. Here are some common questions about how to close buyers that were answered during the webinar.

how to close buyers

Why Buyers?

First and foremost, how much of your business should come from buyers? Jim states that 25 percent of your business should come from buyers, and 75 percent from listings. Why not focus solely on listings? Because with buyers you’re still making 50 percent of the commission check, there’s a possibility of working a double ended transaction, buyers become sellers, they generate referrals, and their successful purchase can be used in your marketing efforts and thereby create more listing opportunities.

Where Do I Find Them?

Buyers can come from listings, your “people bank” (people you’ve worked with in the past), marketing efforts, your reputation and image, unplanned opportunities, and the internet.

The majority of buyers—92 percent in fact—are using the internet to look for a home these days. This is great as a Realtor because you can harness this incredible resource to reach more people in a lot less time. Finding buyers via the internet will also brand you as the expert as opposed to a salesperson, will partially eliminate the chase, and will provide you with a better quality client.

Despite the many perks, it’s important to remember that only 4 percent of internet prospects will buy or sell immediately, that 90 percent of interested parties will buy in six to nine months, and that most consumers won’t decide on an agent until after six to seven contacts.

As we’ve stressed in previous articles, the best way to ensure you capture an internet buyer is to respond immediately: 90 percent of contacts hire the first agent to respond, and the percentage of quality leads drops drastically from a response time of two minutes to 24 hours.

lead quality

How Do I Secure Their Business?

Once you have your buyer leads from various sources, your first order of business is to get those buyers into your office or schedule an appointment at their home. Jim suggests using a service like Constant Contact for pre-appointment questionnaires, this way you have a better idea of what the buyer wants before you meet with him/her for the first time.

Next, come prepared to your first appointment with your buyer presentation and ready to qualify what type of property meets the buyer’s needs. If the buyer isn’t prequalified, make sure to obtain the necessary credit information in order to run a credit report. Once you have the buyer’s financial information, you can determine what they can afford. Make sure to take the buyer’s gross monthly income, any long-term debts, the lender ratio, and the lender limit on housing expenses into consideration before setting a price range.

How Do I Determine Which Properties to Show?

Now that you have contractually confirmed the buyer as a client and have a set price range, it’s time to determine which properties to show. First, provide your clients with a home and property qualifier worksheet. This will allow the buyer to fill in information like the preferred location of the home, community type, lot size, terrain, architectural style, and landscaping style. The worksheet should also include a breakdown of the features of the home and what the buyer must have, would like, and wants to avoid in each room.

By this point, you should know your client’s motivation for buying: will this home be used as a primary residence or as an investment property? Keep this in mind as you move forward with the process.

Continue to narrow down the search by showing your clients photos and virtual tours of available properties. Next, conduct on-site showings of appropriate homes, making sure to sell the neighborhood first and qualify the property type second. Remember: don’t show every property on the market! Only show properties that are “your buyer appropriate.”

How Do I Know It’s the Right Home?

Your job as a buyer’s agent is to be a matchmaker. Know what properties are the best bargains, listen to what your client wants, focus on location and make the match! Write a quality offer and leave the transaction with satisfied clients and money in your pocket.

This entire process should take you three appointments and five hours: two hours for the qualifying appointment, two hours for the first property showing appointment, and one hour for the last property showing appointment. If the transaction has not closed after these three appointments, take advantage of the internet by using it to send your clients information on homes that meet their specifications. However, don’t rely solely on the internet; continue to follow up with them via phone and in person for additional showings.

I’ve Closed the Deal. I’m Done Now, Right?

Not so fast! Closing a buyer is an opportunity to market your success and reel in more listings. Door-knock the neighborhood from which your buyer came and the one he/she is moving into. Send out mailers telling those in the area “My Buyer Just Bought;” these will allow you to showcase your local expertise and commitment to exceptional service. You can also post a sign in the buyers’ new front yard stating that you were the agent that helped them find their new home.

Lastly, plug your recently closed buyer client into your referral system for future business opportunities and check in with them periodically to see how they like their new home.

Congratulations, you’ve successfully closed another buyer!


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14 Ways to Build Client Loyalty

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It costs more to find new clients than keep existing ones, but how exactly do you get people to stick around? Here are 14 ways to build client loyalty. By following these tips you won’t only foster client loyalty, you’ll keep future sales prospects in your funnel and referrals flowing your way.

Client loyalty

  1. Hold Informational Seminars: This is a great way to offer value to your clients before they even become clients. Hold monthly or bi-monthly seminars on all things real estate related. You can hold informational sessions on topics including first time home buying, selling a house, homeownership, home staging, obtaining a mortgage, and more.
  2. Send Monthly Newsletters: Continue to educate your past clients about the real estate industry. As homeowners, there are topics they should be informed of, like the failure of the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Relief Act to pass in 2014, or certain tax breaks for homeowners.
  3. Send Quarterly Magazines: A great way to keep clients updated on the local market trends is to conduct quarterly market condition reports and include them in a quarterly magazine. The magazine can be as robust or minimal as desired, and can include articles pertaining to real estate as well as home-keeping tips.
  4. Host Client Appreciation Parties: We’ve written about client appreciation parties in a previous post, but love this idea so much we’ll share some tips again. Whether it be a catered dinner, holiday themed event at the community center, picnic, barbeque, or bowling night, client appreciation parties are great ways to catch up and nurture relationships.
  5. Give Holiday Treats: Speaking of the holidays, they’re a great time to let clients know you’re still around for any of their real estate needs. Check out our Halloween, fall, holiday, New Year’s, and Easter marketing ideas for agents; they provide great ideas for seasonal treats for your loyal clients.
  6. Wish Them a Happy Birthday: Remembering someone’s birthday or home purchase anniversary means a lot, so make sure to send birthday wishes or congratulations when they’re due.
  7. Hand Write Thank You Cards: Handwritten cards are hard to come by these days, so make sure to incorporate this element into your client retention program. Did you appreciate someone’s business? Did you receive a referral from a past client? Thank them with a handwritten thank you card.
  8. Hand Out Client Satisfaction Surveys: Right after you finish working with a client, ask him/her to fill out a client satisfaction survey. This will give you feedback on your process, and let you know what you can do differently during your next transaction. You can go the old paper route for surveys or check out Client Heartbeat for digital surveys with graphs and charts.
  9. Conduct Quarterly Phone Check Ups: Follow up quarterly with your top clients. Ask if they have any questions for you and how you can be of assistance to them at this point in the process. By checking in, you’ll stay top of mind.
  10. Offer a Homeowner’s Check Up: A few months after your client purchases a home, offer to do a homeowner’s check up. During this visit, you can address any issues they have with the home, update them on the local market, review their mortgage, etc.
  11. Connect on Social Media: Connect with your clients on social media platforms on which you are active professionally. Being connected through social media outlets will give you a more intimate idea of special events in clients’ lives, and let you know the best time and place to contact them.
  12. Give Recommendations: Provide clients with solid recommendations for local business owners and other professional services, whether they need their carpeting replaced or a plumber called. Such recommendations will not only make you a trusted resource, it will solidify your professional networking with these local business owners.
  13. Have an FAQ Section on Your Website: Every Realtor gets asked the same questions multiple times. Instead of answering each one individually via email, why not refer clients to your website? This will also be a great resource for prospective buyers or sellers that happen to land on your page.
  14. Pass on Resources: When you work with clients on something as intimate as finding a home for them to live in, you end up learning a lot about those individuals—their hobbies, industries, taste in décor, etc. Therefore, whenever you come across something that reminds you of a specific client, be it an article, book, website, or an organization, make sure to pass it along. The fact that you remembered something special about the client and took the time to send it to him/her will not soon be forgotten.

Have any other tried and true ways to build client loyalty? Please give us your input in the comments section below!


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Using Quadcopters for Real Estate Videos

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Quadcopters are becoming more and more popular for real estate videos these days. Although mostly relegated to high-end listings as of now, with the probable proliferation of the technology will come affordability for more Realtors.

Why remote control quadcopters as opposed to traditional handheld cameras? Quadcopters allow the mounted camera to fly around, over, and even inside of the property, giving an ethereal and otherworldly feel to the footage. You can check out the video below from Vancouver based real estate agents The Macnabs to get a feel for what quadcopters can do.

Although initially reserved for the bigger marketing budgets of high end properties due to price, quadcopters are becoming more accessible. Prices are as low as $140 for a quadcopter with built-in camera (although it may not have the best film quality), to more high-end quadcopters, like the Phantom, with GoPro mounts for around $600.

via QuadcopterHQ.com
via QuadcopterHQ.com

While the FAA regulations are still not set in stone when it comes to remote control operated “aircraft,” the current understanding is that if you’re in Class G airspace, meaning from the ground to 700 or 1,200 feet, you’re legally safe. There’s even more debate about if you’re flying drones for commercial purposes, spurred by Amazon’s wish to deliver packages by quadcopter, but laws on the issue are still not concrete.

If purchasing one for your brokerage isn’t feasible, you can always hire someone to shoot the listing video for you. Aerial541, based out of Montreal and Miami, “specializes in providing real estate photography for industry professionals.” They charge $99 and up for ground photography jobs and $199 and up for aerial photo and video jobs. All in all, the costs to hire a pilot will depend on location, size of the home, and hours needed for shooting.

So, whether you want to take marketing for a listing to the next level or impress your luxury clients with cutting edge technology, try using quadcopters for real estate videos and take your real estate business to new heights!

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How To List a Home [Infographic]

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This infographic marks the first installment of HouseHunt’s “How To” series for real estate professionals. This week we’re discussing how to list a home.

Use this graphic for quick reference to the 9 steps to list a home, but reference this blog for articles on each step along the way. After the jump, each of the steps listed in the text below is also a hyperlink to more resources to aid you in the listing process!

HOW-TO-List-a-Home-Infographic

Client Meeting

1. Research Property
2. Listing Interview
3. Sign Contract

Prepare Home

4. Necessary Repairs
5. Neutralize Home
6. Curb Appeal

Begin Marketing

7. Listing Photos
8. List on MLS
9. Plan Broker Preview 


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12 Methods for Capturing Local Leads

By Jaime Westman

It is a small world (after all) when it comes to getting noticed in the real estate game. That’s because buyers are often looking for something specific in a certain part of town. As the local experts of that neighborhood, that’s where we come in, so I’m often looking for extra tips and ideas to attract people to my website. Therefore, without further ado, here are 12 methods for capturing local leads:

Target Your Content

  1. Choose a URL that includes the name of your city or area market. Getting specific as opposed to listing the entire city is better if you want less online competition.
  2. Consistently plug the name of your city or market on each page of your website.
  3. Create fresh content to avoid having your site being dinged by search engines as having duplicate material.
  4. Always link to your blog and social media sites to give local prospects more opportunities to connect with and follow you online.
  5. Keep your branding consistent across your website and social media profiles. Your branding includes your name, title, photo or logo, and contact information.
  6. Highlight relevant local schools and real estate information by mentioning new housing developments, trends and zoning issues to name a few.
  7. Market reports are a sought-after resource guide for consumers, so having one on your site will establish your credibility and create a foundation for future visits.

Optimize Social Media Outlets

  1. Include the specific area you’re trying to target in all of your social media profiles, whether in your headline, about me section, or profile name. This will allow you to be found by specialized consumer searches.
  2. Use the “About” or “Bio” section of your online profile to highlight your expertise and specialties, such as foreclosures and short sales. Always include a link to your website and contact information.
  3. Post, tweet or blog about upcoming holiday festivities, concerts, fundraisers and park openings because homebuyers are always searching social media for the inside scoop on “things to do” in certain cities.
  4. Support new business openings as well through posting, tweeting or blogging. You can also highlight promotions at some of your favorite stores because local consumers often turn to the Internet to look for these things. Keeping them in the know will create better exposure for you and your business.
  5. Like, follow and “friend” local businesses and organizations so you can stay connected and interact with business and civic leaders. This will expand your sphere of influence online and give you more exposure and credibility on social outlets, in addition to showcasing your personality.

Mixing in some of these ideas with what you are already doing can’t hurt, right? The more your name is out there and viewed as being helpful, the more inquiries you’ll get and transactions you’ll make.

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Bad MLS Photos

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I look through a good amount of MLS photos everyday to find pretty pictures to put on HouseHunt’s Tumblr page. However, what I come across isn’t always so pretty. Over a few months I have collected a good amount of bad MLS photos, and have decided to post a few of my favorites–meme style–for your viewing pleasure. And in case you are skeptical, yes; all of these photos were actually taken from the MLS.

agent selfie

The infamous mirror selfie. Now this agent even has a selfie theme song!

christmas

Such a bummer. I seriously considered purchasing this property around Christmas time.

family portrait

Are they selling a home or the American dream?

unfinished

Why this was included as a property photo? We will never know.

sunbathers

The agent who submitted this photo wanted prospective buyers to know the many perks of living by the beach.

VEGAS

Snake pants and backless shirts for days.

FOYER

The perfect home for the budding pilot.

GOLDILOCKS

Owner occupied. Please do not disturb.

Have you come across any amazingly bad MLS photos? Please send them our way!


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Consumer Confidence is High for Spring [Infographic]

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In the real life drama of today’s economy, the real estate market can quickly turn from tragic to a happy ending. Such is the case with the quick shift in consumer confidence over the past year, and even in the last few months. Now your clients should be throwing flowers your way instead of rotten tomatoes.

Check out this infographic for a pulse on current consumer confidence, and know what to prepare for in the upcoming business quarter.

Consumer-Confidence


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How to Make a Custom Real Estate Listing Map with Google Maps

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Interested in turning the listings on your website into an easy-to-navigate, custom real estate listing map? Read on to learn how to take your real estate website to the next level with interactive, user-friendly visuals of the areas you farm.

Google Maps for Real Estate

Step One: Log Into Your Google+ Profile

You’ll need to be logged into Google in order to create a custom map. If you don’t yet have a Google+ account, check out our post on Google+ to get started.

real estate listing map step 1

Step Two: Head Over to Maps Engine

Head over to Google’s Maps Engine. You will see options to create a new map or open a map; select create a new map.

real estate listing map Step 2

Step Three: Name Your Map

In the upper left corner you will see “Untitled map.” Click on it to enter a title and description for your real estate listing map. Since HouseHunt is based in Huntington Beach, California, I decided to make a custom map of the listings we have available downtown.

real estate listing map Step 3

Step Four: Pick Your Area

To pick your area, type in the city or town you’re making the map of in the search bar. This is what Google means by “adding a layer.”

real estate listing map Step 4

Step Five: Add Your Listings

Now that we’re in the general area of where we want our real estate listing map, type or copy and paste the address of a listing into the search bar. Click on the green marker that appears and then click on “add to map.”

real estate listing map step 5

The marker will now turn red. Click on the red marker and choose the pencil “edit” tool. Now you can add listing details, like the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, and price, to the box that appears.

real estate listing map step 5

Continue adding your listings in this manner until you have all of them on your map.

Step Six: Customize Your Markers

Now that you have all of your listing markers on your map, it’s time to customize them! Go over to the left hand menu and add a name for your layer. I chose “Homes for Sale.”

Under your new layer title, click on “Style.” From the individual styles menu, play around with and choose from a uniform style, sequence of colors and letters, individual styles or style by data column.

The uniform style will let you pick colors and shapes for your markers.

real estate listing map

The sequence of colors and letters style will be just that!

real estate listing map step 6

Individual styles is like the uniform style, but will let you choose a color and icon shape for each of your markers. This is great when making a community map.

real estate listing map

Style by data column is similar to the sequence style but organizes your markers by name or description.

real estate listing map

To the right of “Style” you will see “Data.” This will give you a handy way of looking at all of the information you entered about the homes on your real estate listing map.

real estate listing map

To the right of “Data” you will see “Labels.” From here you can choose if you want your listings to be labeled by name (in my case, address), description, or have no labels at all. In this screenshot, I opted for the “name” label.

real estate listing map

Step 7: Customize Your Base Map

At the bottom of the left hand menu, you will see “Base map.” Click on the down arrow to the right of this to pick a base map style you prefer. There are nine options to choose from including regular map, satellite, terrain, light political, mono city, simple atlas, light landmass, dark landmass, and whitewater.

Here’s my map in the Simple Atlas style:

real estate listing map

Step 8: Extra Options

Maps Engine lets you undo and redo moves in case you’ve made a mistake, draw lines, and add directions.

You can use the lines feature to designate a specific area or outline a neighborhood.

real estate listing map

Use the directions feature to include directions from listing to listing, perfect for when you’re planning home tours for clients.

real estate listing map

Step 9: Share & Export Your Finished Map

After you’ve finished your real estate listing map, click on the “Share” button on the upper right hand side. This will give you options to share a link to your map, share your map via email, and/or on Google+, Facebook, or Twitter. It will also give you options to determine who has access to the map.

real estate listing map

If you want to export your map to KML or embed it on your site, go to the file folder to the left of “add layer” on the upper left hand menu. You must make your map public in order to access these options.

Here’s my embedded map:

And here’s the link to view it online: Homes for Sale in Downtown Huntington Beach, CA

 

That’s it; you’re done! These maps are not only great for active and recently sold listings, but for showcasing your community knowledge. Add a layer to a listing map to show your favorite restaurants, parks, etc, or make a separate community map to share with out-of-town buyers. Your custom maps will give boring, impersonal Google Maps a personal touch, showing off your community expertise and your active listings!


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