Current statistics show that approximately 80% of home buyers began their search for a new home on the Internet. And why wouldn't they? You get to sip your coffee with one hand and use the mouse to click like mad. You get beautiful high-resolution images, virtual tours, maps, aerial views, and tons of information about a property. Contrast this to the old style of newspaper advertising where you had to sort through columns of disorganized information with small, low-quality pictures and the whole time getting black ink smudges all over you. The era of advertising a home through printed media is almost completely dead. In fact, the NAR 2008 Home Buyer and Seller Survey shows that only 3% of the buyers found the home they purchased in the newspaper, and only 1% found it through a home book or magazine. The good news is that a great real estate agent KNOWS all the new-media ways to advertise your home. The Bay Area MLS is certainly one way and this listing is picked-up by a huge number of other sites that “re-distribute” this information on other internet sites across the country.
The beginning (and most important part) of a good marketing campaign is to set the listing price of the home correctly. There is absolutely no other component to the marketing plan that has a larger impact on your success than proper pricing. No amount of internet exposure, literature, fancy brochures, open houses or any other activity can offset a home that is priced too high.
The second fact is that the vast majority of ready, willing, and able buyers are currently working with a real estate agent in some fashion. The same survey mentioned above shows that 93% of all open-market real estate transactions used a real estate agent. So, where do these real estate agents look to find homes for their buyers? Almost exclusively, licensed real estate agents in the Santa Rosa / Windsor area will use the Bay Area Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to identify homes that their clients may want to tour. They never use the newspaper or magazine's to find homes. The information in newspapers and magazines is WAY out of date and is useless from an agent's perspective. Therefore it is important that your listing agent create a good, informative listing. This means (among other things) as many high quality photographs as possible and a well written listing. The information in this listing must be current, accurate and complete.
The few buyers that have not already selected a real estate agent are either in the process of selecting one, or are "surfing" the Internet looking for possibilities. For this reason a strong web presence is extremely important. A strong web presence begins with an attractive, well-designed agent website that provides learning opportunities to help educate potential buyers and motivates them to contact the agent. Another component to a strong web presence is a website exclusive to selling your home. These are often referred to as “Single Property Websites”. When properly done, these create an opportunity to showcase additional high quality images, virtual tours, and enhanced written descriptions along with other pertinent information. All other advertising materials should refer to this website and use it as an extension of their information. Be cautious here because all too often I have seen the information on these sites to be just a re-hash of the exact same information that is already on the MLS. The Single Property Websites allow so much more and a good agent will include additional photos, more written information and a presentation that is not possible on the MLS.
Weekend open house tours are also a good way to spread information about your home to the local neighborhood, other real estate agents, and buyers in general. Minor components to your marketing campaign will include the use of a front-yard brochure-box, postcard mailing campaign, submission to Craig’s List, and the local Brokers Tour.
Staging does not have to be a complete whole-House remodel and a makeover. You do not have to remove every last piece of your own furniture and replace it with the staging professional’s stuff. You do have to reduce clutter, change colors when necessary and possible, etc. One of the most effective staging techniques is simply to rent a storage unit and fill it up with the volumes of personal belongings you have cluttering up your home right now.
Buyers and agents alike believe that the best real estate deals go quickly. While there are exceptions to this, it is generally true. For this reason 90% of the people looking at properties are focused on those properties which have been on the market less than two weeks. This means that you have two weeks (or less) to make a good first impression. A good first impression means the home is priced correctly, the advertising is in place, the home is staged, and the property is posted in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) in the best fashion possible. In my opinion, there is no excuse for a real estate listing agent to list a property in the MLS with a note indicating "pictures will be posted shortly", or to only write a single sentence describing the home. That said; I see these errors all the time. Honestly it doesn't take that long to take photographs of a home, write a good listing and post it to the MLS. This is a big part of your first impression; it needs to be done right.
For real estate agents who are a member of a local real estate group, they can typically put your home on the "broker tour". This is an open house just for brokers and is typically done midweek. The number of agents that attend can be large or small depending on how busy the local agents are. The first weekend following the listing is a good time to have your first “market” open house. While holding an Open House is a good idea, this should not be done too frequently because this seems to reduce the feeling of urgency about the property. People don’t go out of their way to see the house because they know it will be open again real soon. Typically the best quality of traffic is to have one of these every four weeks, but depending on the Sellers preference I will do them more frequently if requested, or if other circumstances exist. For this reason, I usually limit my Brokerage to a maximum of four active listings at any point in time so I can provide excellent service to my clients. I know agents that have 20 listings, how much attention do you think each client gets from them? In a strong buyers market (such as now) it takes a lot more effort on the part of the listing agent to give the client the quality representation they deserve.
One way to know how long a house has been listed is to look in the brochure box in the front yard. At first it is full, but as the house sits on the market the box begins to sit empty, often dirty and in disrepair. The agent should take responsibility to maintain the box, but the agent can’t always be there, so you need to help. Keep it full. Empty box = seller has given up and may be desperate. If the sign or box needs any maintenance, let your agent know immediately so they can make the corrections.