There’s always something to howl about

Just because a Realtor® can do something, does it mean that they should?

OK, boys and girls it’s Pop Quiz time!

Quick, without beautifying your answer, be honest and name one of the normal pickup lines a Realtor® would tell a FSBO in order to get their business?  This one comes to mind:

“If you let a professional sell your home, you will walk away with more money.”

IF, that’s the case (third class condition, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t depending on the agent, property and market) then why are Realtors® so darn stubborn about following their own advice?

Is it that we have to do everything ourselves? That we can do it better? Faster? Cheaper? What drives this mentality? Since when did passing a multiple-choice examination on specific real estate matters make us omniscient about all things under the sun having to do with marketing and selling homes? I’m not being overly critical. I’m just asking. I believe it’s a very fair and valid question.

For Example:

Photography: Sure, I own a digital camera and have taken hundreds of pictures of my family. That doesn’t even begin to qualify me as a professional photographer. I’ve read a few things about lighting and the rule of thirds, but I’m still not an expert. I’m experienced enough to be dangerous. And that might not be a good thing for my client. You know what they say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, I’m being paid thousands of dollars to make the photos speak to buyers. Maybe an expert could help more accurately express what needs to be said through them? Just a thought…

Video: Yes, I own a flip camera and Jason has a $5,000.00 Sony pro-consumer video camera that he loves to play around with. He has filmed videos of the kids opening birthday presents, Brutus jumping into the pool, and many other wonderful and exciting things (don’t even go there). But Peter Jackson making Lord of the Rings, he is not! We’ve always hired a professional for any project that wasn’t just for our enjoyment. A video of your client’s home is a grand production. It’s your cinematic masterpiece to show buyers the wonderful features and benefits of owning the home. It should be shot with the full intention of winning the Academy Award for best real estate production, not a home made snuff film-killing your prospects with poor quality.

Staging: I clean and throw away stuff (from time to time) around my house. I declutter. It’s happened before. Occasionally. I even decorated my office back in Georgia and everybody wanted to know who I hired. People were either very impressed by my newly discovered talent or thought that I was lying about it. I wasn’t lying, just ask my mother-in-law. She painfully remembers being dragged from store to store and the midnight madness sale at one shop in particular! But that doesn’t mean I am best person to stage my seller’s home. A good stager can make all the difference and will do it for a fraction of the cost that I probably could.

Writing: Now, this is the one where the natives will probably really get restless. I really enjoy writing-writing to and for real estate agents. I don’t like writing local information. It just isn’t my thing. As I said in a comment earlier today, I would rather have a pot of steaming hot coffee dumped over my head than think of 300 – 500 words to describe why I enjoy drinking coffee at the local Starbucks.

Yet, I see the purpose and importance of having local information up on my blog. I don’t have time to put out 6 – 10 articles a week. And even if I did, I don’t have the desire to do it. People come online looking for information, and I’m not going to let my lack of motivation, time or skills prevent me from giving it to them. So, I’m going to hire somebody to help me. Now, some will say that is disingenuous. They are certainly entitled to their opinion. But so is getting your children to sign holiday and birthday cards, seal them up and mail them, and so is getting your assistant to sign your correspondence or even write it. Not to mention having them pull your comps and call for feedback. You didn’t do all the work…why take credit it for it?

But, I digress…

The question isn’t whether or not hiring a ghost writer is right or wrong; that is fully discussed on this post. The question is, just because a Realtor® can do something, does it mean that they should do it? Are we putting our clients in the best possible selling position by doing other professionals’ jobs ourselves? Are we really that proficient and talented at so many things besides real estate? Or are we just trying to save the out-of-pocket expense by doing it ourselves? You know, kind of like that For Sale by Owner?

I still think that a For Sale by Owner is likely to walk away with more money by letting a professional do it for them. I also believe that a Realtor® will get more business by being professional enough to stick to what they do best and let other professionals do likewise for their clients. But, that’s just me.

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    19 Comments so far

    1. James Boyer Morristown NJ August 18th, 2008 7:57 pm

      I have been trying to explain this to my partner for years. It is a mental block thing I think.

    2. Obeoman August 19th, 2008 9:26 am


      Consumers run fromm a bad experience, it seems to be in the best interest that Realtors give consumers what they want-great images, lots of local, free information and of course, answer the phone!

      I would never try to sell a home on my own, that is for SURE…(and we would be happy to help you out with your photos at Obeo;-]


    3. Greg Swann August 19th, 2008 9:38 am

      My two cents: Virtual remodeling makes Obeo the category-killer in virtual tours. There is no second-best.

    4. Obeoman August 19th, 2008 9:46 am

      Okay, forgot to spell check again: FROM a bad experience.

    5. Obeoman August 19th, 2008 9:48 am

      And THANKS, Greg!

      …very much!!!


    6. Lane Bailey August 19th, 2008 10:04 am

      Jessica, Jessica, Jessica…
      I liken it to auto repair. There is stuff I do, and stuff I don’t. Others may not see the reasoning, but it comes down to special skills and desires. I have $15k in tools, but I don’t change my own oil… not worth it… but I will build a frame from rectangular tubing. I was a professional photographer for 10 years, but hired Obeo to shoot a house recently.
      I write because I like it, and I do a lot of other things because I like to… but if it isn’t AT least as good as something hired out, I hire it out.
      There are FSBOs that can sell a house as well as any agent… and there is nothing wrong with it.
      The hard part is knowing when you are outclassed and should out-source a particular task.

    7. Thomas Johnson August 19th, 2008 11:16 am

      This is a business, first and foremost. There are certain prices(commissions) that the market will not bear. With a 150k average sales price in our MLS, there is not a whole lot of margin for staging, photographers, Obeo(man I love that site!) or video. Heck, the cost of a video tour would leave nothing with which to fill my Starbucks card.

    8. Jessica Wynn Horton August 19th, 2008 11:39 am

      @ Steve I agree with Greg. There isn’t even a runner-up.

      @ Lane Time to money is always a factor. So is just not wanting to do something, even if you are more than capable of doing it. I look back on some of my listings and I should have outsourced instead of trying to save money. It isn’t about me. It is, but it isn’t.

      @ Thomas I understand. However, if you are going to do something yourself, get very darn good at it. The client deserves our best foot forward.

    9. cindy*staged4more August 19th, 2008 11:49 am

      GREAT blog! Over the years, I have learned that I can’t be all things to all people. Same with my job! Clients hire professionals to do what they do best, not doing everything they sort of do okay in.

      Cindy :)

    10. Melina Tomson August 19th, 2008 12:20 pm

      I think most people bring a strength into the real estate world. I know many agents that have fantastic taste and can stage homes well. I know agents that are great photographers and do that job well. I think there are two issues here…1) is are you competant in that particular aspect of the marketing plan. If not, outsource and 2) do you enjoy it. If you love taking pictures of homes and you are good at it, do it. Otherwise, outsource it.

      Obviously we all want to make money, but you do need to throw a little enjoyment into the job at some point. Otherwise you will burn out anyway. Time is money, but if you are making your monetary goal, then allow some passion into your job.

    11. [...] A fellow real estate blogger and a realtor Jessica Wynn Horton shared similar sentiments on her post at Bloodhound: [...]

    12. Carolyn Gjerde-Tu August 19th, 2008 7:00 pm

      Outsourcing certain tasks seems very logical, focus on what you are good at and want to spend your time on, that way things will get done. The key is to get enough volume where it makes sense to be able to rely on someone else to do the tasks that aren’t so fun.

    13. Jessica Wynn Horton August 19th, 2008 10:00 pm

      @ Cindy I agree. I can’t be all things to all people. But, I do want to strive to give my clients the best of all things.

      @ Melina I think it also depends on the personality type. I tend to be expressive in my writing (my alone time off by myself) but very driven in person. What motivates me doesn’t necessarily motivate others. Actually, I’m probably in the minority.

      @ Carolyn I agree. My assistant is back in Georgia managing my company. I miss her!

    14. Louis Cammarosano August 19th, 2008 11:08 pm

      Hi Jessica
      Funny that you make that argument. I made the same point that perhaps real estate agents should allow third parties to help with their marketing in “The Case Against Blogging!

      “4. Are you blogging for business to prove your independence or to make money?

      Self reliance is an admirable thing and something that most Realtors have. However, just because you can do something by yourself, doesn’t mean you should. We let other people prepare our meals for us when we could cook them ourselves, we buy butter even though if we really wanted to, we could churn it ourselves and we buy electricity when we could set up our own generators in our basements to keep the lights on. As the world becomes more interdependent, maybe it might make sense to pay others to do the things you can’t do efficiently (like lead generation) so you can focus on those things that you can (like selling real estate).”

    15. Jim Kimmons August 20th, 2008 8:11 am

      Your “save the out-of-pocket expense by doing it ourselves” reference is probably at the heart of the matter for many real estate professionals.

      I am a real estate broker, blogger and writer. I freelance and ghost write, including ongoing blog posts for clients in several industries and business types. A great deal of my writing work comes from projects I bid on and Though I have the knowledge and credentials to do the very best blogging for real estate sites, I have none for writing clients.

      My blogging clients are in everything from SMS marketing to Architecture. The projects posted by real estate agents and brokers on the freelance sites all have unrealistic budgets for good, localized and SEO-savvy blog posts. A 300 word post with engaging writing, SEO planning, and a legal image now and then will cost $30 to $45 from writers with real estate knowledge. Most agents will not commit that much to their blogging costs. It’s interesting that they will continue to regularly run small ads costing the same or more in print media.

      On the other side of the argument, if the blog isn’t set up properly, and there isn’t other content and useful offerings for lead capture, then the money for a writer would be wasted.


    16. St. George commercial real estate August 20th, 2008 8:46 am

      Very good information. Just because you do something does not mean you are a professional. So the question is what does technically make a professional a professional.

    17. Investment Property August 20th, 2008 11:25 am

      You’re right on with that. It’s not because you are doing a thing for years you will also do it perfectly. It’s a matter of experience not professionalism. You can be an expert because of your experience but you can never tell if you are professional.

    18. Fred Light August 20th, 2008 4:30 pm

      This has been a sore subject with me for years. I don’t get it – it really is contrary to what Realtors preach to their FSBO customers.

      As someone who has dealt with realtors in a variety of ways for many years, cost IS an issue. Realtors, generally, are tight when it comes to marketing. I think that’s universal everywhere.

      But I also think a big part of it is that realtors don’t understand what their limitations are. They ‘think’ they take good photographs. They ‘think’ their self designed website is da bomb! They ‘think’ their flyers are amazing. They ‘think’ their shaky, semi nauseating video tour taken with their new Flip camera is amazing!

      That is part of the reason I think many won’t outsource to professionals in areas where they do NOT excel. They ‘think’ what they’re doing is not only good ENOUGH, but really GOOD.

      What can you do? Personally, if I were a seller and had some of these realtors doing MY marketing, I would fire them in a heartbeat! There is an awful lot of embarrassing marketing out there!

      But a big part of the problem lies with the seller. Many do not have a CLUE what their realtor is doing to market their home! I don’t think they check it out BEFORE they hire them, and I don’t think they check out what they’re doing AFTER they hire them! So if sellers are willing to accept sub par marketing, and it’s good enough for them…. what can you do?

    19. Ian Haseltine March 3rd, 2009 2:03 pm


      You make a lot of great points. I am happy to see that you are not afraid to claim to be a real estate professional and that your job is to market the home in the best way possible. Using all of the other professional services available to market a home is only smart. If they prove to be effective keep using them. Your ability to gain experience in this business is what separates you from the FSBO.