Thursday, May 3, 2007

6 Steps to a Successful Listing

We all know the Phoenix-area real estate market is a little slow right now, which means it can be a real challenge to sell your home. Each seller is actually competing, either knowingly or unknowingly, with all the other sellers of similar homes within the same area. So what can a seller do to be successful? I hate to say it, but they have to be PERFECT in these six steps. Failure to execute any one step could be the difference between a successful sale and a year on the market…

Step 1: Top Quality Marketing. Placement and Presentation. Your home needs to be everywhere potential buyers might look. The internet allows potential buyers from around the world to preview all the homes in their prospective search area, and your home needs to be seen regardless of which MLS searching web site they happen to be using.

In addition, the quality of your online listing brochure can make a world of difference. This may be your only chance to make an impression on a buyer, so your pictures need to be excellent. (I've written about this before.) Use a wide angle lens to make the room look bigger. Make sure the lighting is good, and that all clutter is removed from both the foreground and the background! Since the MLS only allows six pictures, offer a video tour to show the rest of the house, or to show additional features that aren't captured in the six pictures.

Failure to follow this step will drastically cut down your number of showings. When I'm looking for homes for my buyers, and I need to cut the list of 40 potential matches down to the 5-10 we might see in an afternoon, I look first at the homes that either present very well, or that show as a tremendous value.

Step 2: Price to Sell. In this market, you cannot command a price premium above what the market is paying. Look at what houses similar to yours (even better is if you can find an exact model-match to yours) are listed for, and realize that these homes have NOT sold. This should give you a starting point, or a ceiling, for your price range. Then look at what homes like yours have actually SOLD for, and price yours accordingly.

Steps 1 and 2, when taken together, will allow your home to shine. People searching for a home will either look by price range, and yours will be the best looking one they find, or they'll look for homes that look fantastic, and yours will be the least expensive one. Great – now you've got them interested.

Step 3: Availability. Now that the potential buyer is interested and wants to see your home, let them in! Making their agent set an appointment, or give you too long of a notice before they show it, will move your home to the back of the pile. Remember, they're trying to weed through 40 homes to find the 5-10 they want to go see. You want your house to be shown on the first pass – don't give them an opportunity to fall in love with a different house just because they didn't have time to schedule an appointment with you.

Step 4: Perfect Showings. They've found your home. They wanted to see your home. They've made it into your home. Now your home must shine! Yard is manicured; house is clean & clutter-free; closets are organized, etc. This is when you'll get rewarded for all your hard work. (We've written lots of articles about how to do this.)

Step 5: Relentless follow-up on prospective buyers. Whether someone calls your realtor from the For Sale sign while they're parked in front of your home, or they email your agent after seeing your home on, your realtor needs to follow up with that prospect IMMEDIATELY and RELENTLESSLY, selling the features and benefits of your home while trying to arrange a showing for them.

Step 6: Constructive (and timely) follow-up with realtors. If I go out with buyers one afternoon and show 10 houses, I'll probably get calls over the next week from 6 of those 10 listing agents. 5 of those 6 phone calls will go something like this: "Um, I noticed you showed my listing at … Are your buyers going to make an offer?" That's just not good enough – if my buyers were interested I would either be calling you to ask questions, showing them the house again, or sending you an offer! (We've written about this before..)

When I follow up with realtors who have shown my listings, I want information I can use. "What other homes are your buyers considering?" Knowing this allows us to position our listing better than our main competitors. "Was there anything about the home your buyers didn't like?" If the market is telling us to replace the carpet, or to paint that dark bedroom, this gives us a chance to act on the information. There are also times when they might not know about a feature, and this gives me a chance to tell them more great things about your home – maybe we can put a deal together after all.

Failure to do ALL 6 of these steps is like shooting yourself in the foot. If buyers don't know your home is available, or if it looks ugly online, or if it's priced too high, or if they can't get in to see it, or if it doesn't look good when they do, or if they want information but can't get any, or if they have questions but aren't savvy enough to call us, you're not going to get an offer. This market is challenging enough right now; you (and your realtor) need to be perfect if you want to be successful.

-Chris Butterworth