There’s always something to howl about

Don’t blog your listings? How about this? Don’t try to pass sales call reluctance off as social media marketing expertise

I know, I know — I owe, I owe.

I owe Jeff Brown a discussion of every little last thing we do to launch a new listing with maximum impact.

And I owe The Lovely Wife a discussion of the role of self-promotion in real estate weblogging.


We listed two homes today — Mutt and Jeff, $400,000 and $60,000 — go figure. And, while the prep work leading up to a listing can be time-consuming, the actual day of listing is often an 18-hour blur of activity.

Part of my effort was to write weblog entries about both of these homes. My primary reason for doing this was simple: I want them sold! But I also wanted to demonstrate that weblogging about listings is not only an appropriate use of a real estate weblog, if it is done right it can be a very effective sales tool.

So: In both cases, I am explicitly telling the readers that I am selling them on the home I am talking about — and I close, in both posts, with a bald-faced call to action. Take that, wannabe social media marketing experts rationalizing your sales call reluctance!


I say a lot of memorable things — so many not even I can remember them all. 😉 But there are two precepts that came out of this extended discussion of whether or not to blog listings that I think are worth remembering:

  • The purpose of real estate marketing is to sell real estate.
  • Nothing sells houses like houses.

I love new things because I have a young and eager mind, but I don’t confuse new with better. Nor old with better, for that matter. What I’m interested in — all I am interested in — is better, pure and simple and clean and cool and quiet and breathtakingly elegant. I know that good promotional copy sells homes. Imagine how effective it could be if it were read by, say… home-buyers

Kind of haphazardly over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been talking about our listing praxis. I owe, I owe, but over the weekend I want to try to tie that all up in a bow. Our wannabe experts don’t actually have sales call reluctance: You can’t fear what you’ve never done. But the things we do to list homes for sale push the boundaries of passive marketing in every way we can think of — and we are very eager to think of even more active ways to market passively.

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25 Comments so far

  1. Jeff Brown March 28th, 2008 11:50 pm

    I think the #1 lesson I’ve learned about how you guys list/market homes is this: Every home is made into Marilyn Monroe so it can be marketed as a beautiful blonde interested only in YOU.

    The rest seems to follow naturally.

    There’s nothing like a perfectly prepared home, marketed from more angles than you can find in a geometry class — unless it’s that home about to close escrow, and you’re the owner.

  2. Greg Swann March 29th, 2008 12:09 am

    I will tell you the god’s honest truth, Jeff: I love the idea of a perfectible praxis. True perfection might be unattainable, but it is approachable, and you can come closer and closer with every approach. We want to get as close as we can to abstract perfection — and then we want to think of even more things to do to get even closer. I love getting the houses sold, but there is a level at which the game of selling them is as much fun as getting paid for having done it.

  3. Jeff Brown March 29th, 2008 12:15 am

    Though I’m sure most would love to hear the thoughts of your owners, i’d be far more interested in the thoughts and observations of the buyers who closed on your listings.

    The buyers’ agents thoughts would in some cases be priceless, I’m sure.

    Besides the obvious, (staging, perfect condition, etc.) what have the comments been from buyers and their agents?

  4. Greg Swann March 29th, 2008 12:40 am

    > Besides the obvious, (staging, perfect condition, etc.) what have the comments been from buyers and their agents?

    I can’t remember anything like that, not during a transaction, but we’re very careful to avoid anything that might violate agency or create an implied agency or an undisclosed dual agency.

    After closing, though, we try to stay very close with the people who buy our listings. We want to list those homes again — and we already have a ton of work product for the next listing. We never kill the web site on a home we list, and we know that buyers of our listings send people to our sites long after COE.

    Maintaining those sites creates a natural belly-to-belly follow-up opportunity, too, although we’ve only done this casually so far. More formally, it would work like this: “I know you folks have been working on the house, and I’d love to come by to take photos of the upgrades so we can keep your web site up to date.”

    Where we hear feedback, when we list, is from the neighbors. The neighborhoods we list in are full of homes that the owners treasure, literally, like works of art. They know all about houses of their period, and they watch the real estate market like hawks. We keep waiting for the listing agents we compete against to swipe our ideas, but this hasn’t happened yet. And they still get listings, so we haven’t gotten our message through to every seller — not even close. But the sellers we do get to talk to understand a great deal of what we’re doing, and they eat it up as we go through the rest.

    The real trick for us is the SOLD sign. We get to come up to plate a lot more often if we’ve hit a home run on our last at bat. Everything we do to list a home is impressive, but it doesn’t advance our secondary objectives if we strike out at the primary goal — selling the house.

    This is why we’re so careful about the listings we’ll take right now, just because we can do everything right and still come up wrong. In the long run, I think we have what we need to list 50 or 100 half-million dollar homes a year, gradually working our way up toward the million-dollar homes. In the short run, we’re scrambling to keep getting high-percentage swings at the baseball.

  5. Larry Walker March 29th, 2008 5:50 am

    You knew there would be some dissenting readers. I think that blogging your listings dilutes the effectiveness of the blog as a tool to build relationships and trust. The public knows they can’t trust NAR after two years running of “Now is a great time to buy” while the market continued down. In the same respect, when an informational real estate blog includes pitches for listings, some readers may start to question the writer’s intentions and possibly their integrity. To me, a blog that pitches listings cannot be viewed as an unbiased source of information. Is it worth it to lose the trust of many in the attempt to sell a listing? If you must blog your listings, why not create a separate blog for that purpose but keep your main blog beyond reproach? As always, just my opinion, I could be wrong.

  6. Brian Brady March 29th, 2008 7:38 am

    “Is it worth it to lose the trust of many in the attempt to sell a listing?”

    Larry, I really don’t understand this logic. Few among us (the consumers) would expect a REALTOR to do anything else BUT to sell listings; that’s what they do. Consumers want to see homes from REALTORs and rates from mortgage originators.

  7. Mike Farmer March 29th, 2008 8:21 am

    I agree that the expectation is for listing agents to show and sell their listings. There’s nothing inherently dishonest about displaying what you have for sale.

    By giving plenty of straightforward, rich information about the listing, the listing agent is providing a service to buyers (and to the seller) — now, if the blog is a carnival of misinformation and deceit, then you have a point, but to display the true facts about a home is what buyers are looking for.

  8. David Sherfey March 29th, 2008 8:29 am

    “To me, a blog that pitches listings cannot be viewed as an unbiased source of information.”

    Larry, people are not stupid. Anybody listening to a REALTOR knows there has to be bias in there somewhere. Bias is natural and it is not all bad, and I think most people have a pretty good bias filter with all the media we are subject to daily.

    If I were a seller or a buyer, and I discovered that someone I was considering doing business with was a REALTOR who was a blogger who DIDN’T write eloquently about their listings….. I think I would just pass and go on to someone else who did. If you are a REALTOR blogger, you should be devoting some of your writing talent to your listings. Smart clients will expect it.

    Words and photos together can convey a message that will cause the right buyer to fall in love with a property, and this is why sites like Greg and Cathy’s sell houses, and so can the blogging (done well) of same work to develop REALTOR and buyer interest.

    Faulting a business person for bias related to his own industry is an unrealistic expectation of a level of purity that nobody expects.

  9. Larry Walker March 29th, 2008 9:03 am

    Not all realtors are listing agents. While it’s not inherently dishonest to blog about one’s listings, it does bring up questions about conflict of interest when the same blog offers comments about market conditions and/or direction, especially when those comments use NAR-like selective statistics to infer a rebounding or bottomed-out market. I’m not talking about anyone in this group here, but, I see listing agents’ blogs that weave posts claiming market bottom and variations on “Time 2 Buy” among ads for their listings. Consumers wanting true facts about a certain market would be well-advised to get opinions on market conditions from a variety of sources including some that aren’t peddling listings.

    I think in addition to the true facts about a home, buyers are looking for true facts about the market, something that is often counter-productive for a listing agent to comment on, especially in a declining market. I respect listing bloggers that resist the urge to paint a rosy picture of their market when they know that the facts do not paint the same flower.

    As before, only my opinion, but based on plenty of experience. I could be wrong.

  10. Norm Fisher March 29th, 2008 9:29 am

    I’m not sure about blogging listings but your logic makes sense to me. That aside, I love the way you’ve presented these listings. It’s a rare treat to see such a robust effort. The “virtual coffee table book” is wonderful. May I ask what you used to create it?

  11. Michelle DeRepentigny March 29th, 2008 11:52 am

    “To me, a blog that pitches listings cannot be viewed as an unbiased source of information”

    Who the heck ever said I was trying to be unbiased? And exactly why would that be my goal? I’m a broker, I love working with people to help them find thir dream, selling houses, and most importantly I love helping people choose my town to live and work in. I am a broker first and a blogger second and darn proud of it.

    I don’t consider myself hard sell but to have an listing posted along with community blog posts and market data is what makes a hyper local blog to me and it must work for the clients I am getting by email and phone directly from my blog.

    I learned something important this week: I can repsect you as a person and blogger and still disagree with your recommendations and methodology.

  12. Jeff Brown March 29th, 2008 12:00 pm

    >”Not all Realtors are listing agents”

    So true — and I wonder about a couple things.

    1. Do the buyer’s agents out there looking for historical homes for sale like to see Greg’s listings? Bet they do. 🙂
    Bet they’d be upset if Greg stopped marketing them there.

    2. How the heck do you think he gets so many listings as a result of his site? Those near his existing listings get their socks knocked off by what they see and read on his site.

    Bias? I think Taco Bell is biased in favor of melted cheese and hot sauce too. Point made?

    It all comes down to intent, Larry, but most of all integrity. Readers know honest, transparent information when they see it. They know incredible quality as well.

    It’s when all those lines cross that THEIR bias generates a call to Greg to list their property.

  13. Jeff Brown March 29th, 2008 12:03 pm

    Michelle — My guess is your site’s url doesn’t end in .org.

    From that assumption I might conclude, daringly, you’re not a non-profit entity.

    Going further out on that flimsy limb, I’ll assume you’re biased towards profits.

    Go figure.

  14. Greg Swann March 29th, 2008 12:21 pm

    > How the heck do you think he gets so many listings as a result of his site?

    Two caveats:

    1. We don’t list nearly as much as we hope to in the future.

    2. The square-one impetus for most of our listings is not anything on the web, but, rather, the physical work we do to promote our listings: The custom yard signs and directionals, the open house cards, the open houses themselves, etc. People find out about us by seeing our physical marketing, then check out our web sites, then make contact. We do get some pure web-originating clients, but the best combination for us is a synergy of offline and online efforts, almost always starting with the offline work.

    Most of the last day of Unchained will be devoted to the marriage of offline and online marketing.

  15. Jeff Brown March 29th, 2008 12:32 pm

    You may not list as much as you will, but you’re turning down far more listings than you’re taking. What you do works in a big way. When you begin listing more homes it will be because more home owners see the value. It’s my guess you’ve been seeing that trend line in real time, and heading the right direction.

    My business thrives on melding on & offline work, also.

    Once San Diego income property owners see the difference between what we do and what they’ve come to expect, our own local trend line will no doubt materialize.

    Of course we have an unfair advantage — our competition, generally speaking, doesn’t make use of 90% of the tools we’ll be using intensely. Imagine a coffee table book about your triplex for Heaven’s sake. 🙂

  16. Greg Swann March 29th, 2008 12:45 pm

    > The “virtual coffee table book” is wonderful. May I ask what you used to create it?

    It’s a value-added product produced with Apple’s iPhoto software. The actual coffee table books are being printed, but we won’t talk about them until we have them. For now, we can show off the virtual book and people can email it if they like. The physical book are printed and bound on demand in quantities as few as one.

  17. Greg Swann March 29th, 2008 12:55 pm

    > Imagine a coffee table book about your triplex for Heaven’s sake.

    One of the things I imagine for engenu is a web site for an office building or a factory. This is a much bigger job than one person can do, but you could split up the building by floors, for instance, with another category for the outdoor common spaces and another for the physical-plant facilities. Each of those categories is in turn split to individual rooms or entities, so that everything is documented. Investors are always going to do on-site due diligence — as they should — but a robust web site can answer 80% of the questions that might come up, and put a finer point on the remaining 20%. I firmly believe that well-documented properties are half-sold, simply because hyper-abundant transparency takes away so many objections and fears.

  18. Norm Fisher March 29th, 2008 1:08 pm

    Thanks Greg. The book would make a nice gift for the seller. Pretty darned reasonable at 30 bucks as well.

  19. Jeff Brown March 29th, 2008 1:11 pm

    In San Diego the opportunities to include the nearby recreational areas are numerous. I’ve also given serious thought, when appropriate, to podcasting an interview with happy, rent paying tenants. What does a landlord like better than that?

    Also, unlike most so called investment operations, we send prospects richly detailed before and after tax cash flow analysis of properties in which they’ve expressed interest. The #1 comment is — “It’s nice for a change, to see someone using real life numbers.”

    I’m very curious to find out how our new business model combines with creating the perfect physical property to sell. It seems on paper to be the creation of a positive ‘perfect storm’.

  20. Greg Swann March 29th, 2008 3:19 pm

    > The book would make a nice gift for the seller.

    For the buyer, too. It’s your perfect introduction after COE. Our take: Buy at least three. One for the sellers. One for the house while it’s listed. You’ll keep that one for your next listing presentation. And one for the buyers, to be presented after they’ve moved in. Our goal is to list any home we’ve represented the next time it sells, so those relationships are important. If we lose out on the listing, that’s tough. But we have the right to compete for it as soon as escrow closes.

  21. Broker Bryant March 29th, 2008 3:39 pm

    Greg, Lately I’ve been using Real Estate Shows(RES) to place my listings on my local blog. And of course I have a listing link on all of my blogs and posts. The thing I like about RES is that it has pretty good google juice. Once I have made a show folks can google the property address and the RES shows up in the number 1 position.

    I also use my posts’ titles to get a longer tail out there. For example “pool homes in Poinciana” has me in the 2nd and 3rd position. “catch lunker bass” has me in the 5th position. And my all time favorite is “sexy poinciana realtor” where I have the 1st possition :)So if they need a pool, want to catch a fish or just want to have sex, they’ll find me. Which of course leads people right to my blog and my listings.

    Pretty much any searches related to buying or selling in Poinciana I own about 40% of page one for Google.

    So while I’m not writing a commentary on my listings they are still getting out there and giving folks a visual.

    My blogs main goal is to attrack Sellers.

  22. Norm Fisher March 29th, 2008 4:16 pm

    Good thought Greg. I guess it’s one promotional piece that they’re not likely to throw away.

    I’m working on my first one now. Thanks for the tip!

  23. […] Don’t blog your listings? How about this? Don’t try to pass sales call reluctance off as… […]

  24. […] Write a weblog entry promoting the listing and linking back to the single-property web site. This has all kinds of benefits, as we’ve discussed, but here’s one we haven’t talked about: Linking to your single-property web site from a trusted weblog can break you out of the Google sandbox. […]

  25. […] Write a weblog entry promoting the listing and linking back to the single-property web site. This has all kinds of benefits, as we’ve discussed, but here’s one we haven’t talked about: Linking to your single-property web site from a trusted weblog can break you out of the Google sandbox. […]