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Gettin’ Listings Sold – Playin’ Hide the Pea

I’ve never really cared much about the infinite number of sites ‘marketing’ listings for real estate agents. It’s always struck me as oversold at best, and a con at worst. I’ll let you gentle readers gimme your experience in the comments section. I have done a kinda sorta poll in the last 10 days or so. The question was — How many sold listings do you attribute to any of the various sites that do that sorta thing? Mostly I was greeted with a whole buncha silence, though some immediately admitted not knowing.

This question began to bug me about 18 months ago as I was headin’ towards the return of my firm to our local San Diego market. I’m gonna be a lister for the most part — can’t help it, it’s in my DNA. My dad always said it was one of the ways to keep my ManCard. :) Actually, those who know me assume I won’t be showing houses, as my son will be representing buyers who can’t get started in investment property, but can own as cheaply as they can rent — another post altogether. I’m more than happy for him to be on the road. :)

As I was sayin’, in January of 2009 I was wondering how effective these sites really are when the Firestones kissed the pavement. The answers most agents finally gave me were exactly what I’d expected — they use them to get listings. Potential sellers are impressed like Little Leaguers at their first big league game when they see that Larry Lister from TopProducer Real Estate will be putting their home on 3,058 different sites — and by Saturday to boot. Boy, does that guy know how to market, or what?!

Um, I opt for ‘what’. This declaration of implied marketing savvy, also implies the agent is a techie of the first degree. Geez, does he leap tall buildings in a single bound too?

Wanting to find out for myself, I did a little experiment with the first local listing I’d taken in about six years. No sign — no fancy stand-alone websites — no Craig’s List ads — nothin’ except the good old MLS.

Oh, and doin’ things right in the first place.

Doin’ things right? I shameless copy Greg’s listing to-do list and claim it as my own. Clients think I’m innovative when in reality I’m BawldJapan. I have added an original twist, at least original for me. We bring in an interior designer who has the kind of experience most any 10 designers out there won’t have between ‘em.

Here’s what she ordered done on the property in question.

Best curb appeal in the neighborhood — check — already true when we got there. Quick redesign/remodel of both bathrooms. Shorten an interior wall here, modify a patio cover there, drywall the garage, and for kicks ‘n giggles, re-floored and/or re-carpeted the whole place. Oh, and painted everything not moving inside. Staged it pretty well, but not like we will in the future.

Results? Hit the MLS late Friday afternoon, opened escrow Wednesday morning. Took awhile since there was some give ‘n take between offer and acceptance. Again, no sign, nothin’ online, just MLS.

Back to my massively unscientific, Amateur Night at the Bijou, poll.

When pressed, every single agent, without exception, admitted that using all the various zombie-like listing sites was a marketing move used to convince sellers to list. And the congregation responds with a resounding — DUH! Having your listing on 1,001 sites is what may be gettin’ you traction during your listing presentation, but I’ve yet to find anyone who honestly believes they’ve produced (meaningful) squat in the sales of their listings.

It’s the 21st century version of the Open House — poster child for agents playin’ Hide the Pea with their sellers. It’s even in many of their presentations. “Yes Mr. and Mrs. Seller, we’ll put your listing on special websites all over the world. And…and…we’ll, um…we’ll hold really bitchen Open Houses too — Yeah, that’s the ticket. (Apologies to Greg & the rest who love them. To each his own.)

Meanwhile, their neighbors are impressed within an inch of their lives by how hard that nice real estate agent has been working. They hold Open Houses, and they have all sorts of stuff they do online. Aren’t they just the best of all 27 worlds?!!

NOTE: I’m not talkin’ about the stand-alone websites for listings. I’d just like the time to get one of ‘em up before the damn property goes into escrow. :)

Look, will I have open houses for the vacant rental homes/condos/townhomes I list in San Diego? Yeah, probably. I’ll recruit some starving agent who’ll be grateful for the opportunity to snag a buyer or three. I’ll tell my sellers exactly what I’m doin’ — showin’ other income property owners in the area how hard we work for them. Usually, when I’ve confessed this to a seller/client they laugh their butts off. I tell ‘em it’s intra-industry charity work. (That was bad, right?) Then they always ask the question.

“How many listings have you sold using open houses?”

“I’m positive of one, though there may have been one other.”

The TakeAway

When was the last time you shopped for a used car? Why did you buy that one? It was priced right. It looked fantastic — easily better than the others. It performed as advertised. All things considered, it was the best one you’d seen, hands down — so you bought it. Betcha you didn’t hafta be sold much if at all. Right?

The local MLS or some agent’s site with an IDX is all ya need out there. OK, Realtor.com comes with the MLS, right? Cool.

You’re a professional. List properties to sell, and stop listing properties to market.

Been around for awhile? Here’s your 60 second ‘listing presentation’ — “Mr. & Mrs. Seller, here’s a list of properties we’ve sold in the last six months. Here are the seller’s contact info.” I’ve often done that by phone, then immediately emailed them the contact info, promising to call them the next day. Just as often they’d call me first.

Do I have this whole 1,001 listing websites thing wrong? Am I the one who can’t find the pea?

Related posts:
  • Maybe We Need More Salaried Agents
  • Zillow’s Virtual Sold Signs go live: Are yours up yet?
  • The Syndicator News. Then My Opinion.

  • 16 comments

    16 Comments so far

    1. Jim Whatley July 23rd, 2010 7:52 pm

      As Russel Shaw says:
      “If it is in The MLS correctly, Priced at market, and in good shape. It will sell”

    2. Ken Brand July 23rd, 2010 8:03 pm

      You aren’t going to reveal all the “intra-industry charity work” secrets are you? We’ll kick you out of the Moose Lodge.

      People pretty much find a home like they always have. The choose their favorite real estate agent to help them, they tell the real estate agent what they’ve seen online, and ask them to search the MLS. The agent does, picks houses to show, then the buyer does what you’ve described, “All things considered, it was the best one you’d seen, hands down — so you bought it.”

      It’s been working that way for some time now, at least since 1978.

    3. Jeff Brown July 23rd, 2010 8:09 pm

      Jim — Russell and a couple other guys, one Bawld, will be sharin’ stuff with agents next month in Scottsdale. I’ll be writin’ about it very soon.

    4. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff Brown and Real Estate Feeds, My REALTY. My REALTY said: Gettin’ Listings Sold – Playin’ Hide the Pea: I’ve never really cared much about the infinite number of sites ‘mar… http://bit.ly/ayslGm [...]

    5. Broker Bryant July 24th, 2010 4:51 am

      It’s all about the price and always has been. Nothing will sell and over priced property and it takes nothing to sell one priced right.

    6. Keith Lutz July 24th, 2010 5:30 am

      Location, Location, Location – Price, Price, Price!

      One thing that bothers me lately, is all these e-mails I get from agents telling me they have listed a home. Lately I have been getting 5-6 a day. Do they really think I am cracking them open and looking? I will stick to the MLS for looking for homes.

    7. Doug Quance July 24th, 2010 12:18 pm

      It seems simple, doesn’t it?

      Funny how a foreclosure can get sold without pictures and nothing other than a crappy MLS listing.

    8. Jeff Brown July 24th, 2010 12:22 pm

      Pretty much, Doug.

    9. Sean T Shallis July 24th, 2010 6:42 pm

      Shocking…bottom-line ….in marketing and selling literally hundreds of homes personally over the last 14 plus years….I learned one very simple concept.

      Mr and Mrs jones…at our present price …”you are the highest bidder for your home” ….Oh Yeah..the last two agents..blah blah…Again very simple concept “Mr and Mrs Jones, we have great news…I figured out why you home hasn’t sold over the last 28 months (true story btw) ”

      Really ….Do Tell …”both of you are very strong minded/willed and intelligent business people…”

      Here is the pea!

      Tom and Mary Jones have been better sales people than the agents they’ve hired! “sure Sean, we understand the comps are selling at fifty thousand less…but ..Ah! The infamous BUT…..

      Price price oh don’t forget PRICE …..if you put a dollar on the tag…will it sell?

      Here is a simple concept ….great personal website hooked to blog with strong SEO …Natural SEO…How ..write about your success more than the Bloggers oh, sorry I meant wannabe realtors talking about “the market”

    10. Robert Worthington July 25th, 2010 5:31 am

      Jeff I love it. Value clearly exceeds marketing. Nicely stated.

    11. Alex Cortez July 25th, 2010 7:36 pm

      LOL, great Sunday reading material. Something is only worth what somebody else is willing to pay for it. No bells and whistles or magic marketing can help overcome an incorrectly price home. I did get a couple of buyers from Trulia on one of my listings (but we closed on other properties). So I can say without doubt or hesitation that I have gotten ZERO transactions closed due to the zoombie-cation sites. Good stuff, Jeff.

    12. Greg Swann July 26th, 2010 7:38 am

      I have added an original twist, at least original for me. We bring in an interior designer who has the kind of experience most any 10 designers out there won’t have between ‘em.

      Here’s what she ordered done on the property in question.

      Best curb appeal in the neighborhood — check — already true when we got there. Quick redesign/remodel of both bathrooms. Shorten an interior wall here, modify a patio cover there, drywall the garage, and for kicks ‘n giggles, re-floored and/or re-carpeted the whole place. Oh, and painted everything not moving inside. Staged it pretty well, but not like we will in the future.

      Results? Hit the MLS late Friday afternoon, opened escrow Wednesday morning. Took awhile since there was some give ‘n take between offer and acceptance. Again, no sign, nothin’ online, just MLS.

      No, not just MLS, though. You prepared the house to be sold. This is killer, especially when there are nine houses for every qualified buyer. The others were crap and yours was irresistible. That’s what marketing should do.

      In metro Phoenix, a turnkey house can sell at a 25% premium over a stone comp marketed as a short sale or an REO. This is our real job, not simply getting them sold, but getting them sold for the maximum attainable price.

      We don’t live or die by web-based listing sites, but we want to get our photos in front of as many eyes as possible, because photos sell homes. I need for people I may never get to talk to to hear my sale pitch. The web is how I make that pitch.

      Here’s a shaggy dog story: We failed to sell this house two summers ago. We were way over on price, but the circumstances left us no room to cut. Even so, the house drew hugely at Open Houses, with many parties coming back week after week. We ended up leasing it then, this to give the sellers a chance to move on and to hope that the market would turn their way. It didn’t, of course, so now we have it listed again as a short sale. Sold in four days to one of the folks who had kept coming back to the Open Houses, with a train of back-ups and wanna-back-ups behind him. We didn’t contact anyone. They had been waiting for it to come back on the market.

      My take: Price sells houses. Marketing sells homes — for a lot more money.

    13. Serhiy Onyshchuk July 26th, 2010 2:29 pm

      Jeff, thanks for sharing that “cutting edge” approach on how to sell homes :). I’m a relatively new guy in real estate and try to take classes/read blogs to learn more about the game. I tell you this, I haven’t seen this much common sense in a single blog post lately!

      Another thought. I’ve mostly been working with buyers, so I check new houses on the MLS in my market regularly. It frustrates me how many agents post a listing without a picture. Yes, they will upload them later (MLS rules) but why would I want to have a 3 day new listing on the mls without a picture?

    14. Jeff Brown July 26th, 2010 2:41 pm

      Serhiy — I don’t get that either, as pictures have gotta be one of the first things buyers and their agents would wanna see.

      Appreciate your kind words. Common sense has sometimes been a casualty of the high-tech ‘revolution’ in real estate.

    15. Vicki Walker July 30th, 2010 5:28 pm

      Jeff –

      I thought it was just me. I pitch all the websites the listing will on at the listing presentation, but never connected the dots about whether or not they were actually helping to sell the home. It does help to get the listing, though. Thanks for making us think.

    16. Jeff Brown July 31st, 2010 9:01 am

      Hey Vicki — One of the unsolved mysteries of real estate is how sellers, for the most part, haven’t figured out how worthless open houses are, and where their real value resides — for the agent.

      Have a good one.