Houses aren't Pet Rocks... No Amount of Marketing Can Sell a Stupid Product!

Education & Training with Sell with Soul


I remember interviewing for my second listing back in 1997. The seller asked me this question: "Jennifer, I assume our house will sell quickly because it's so cute (it was), but if it doesn't sell right away, what will you do?"

Hmmmmmmmm. Hell, I dunno. I was a green bean agent; I'd only had one other listing in my career and didn't have a clue. I came up with something, that probably sounded like this: " I'll do a broker open house, I'll do mid-week open houses, I'll distribute color brochures throughout the neighborhood and post an ad on the nearby college's bulletin board."

Lucky for me, the house did sell quickly, so I didn't have to implement my admittedly weak Plan B.

But it's now 12 years later and I still don't have a good answer to the question: "What will you do in 30 days if my house hasn't sold?"

However, with 12 years of experience under my belt, I KNOW that there ISN'T a great answer to the question! Especially if the seller is expecting me to reach into some magic bag of tricks and pull out a secret marketing strategy that I reserve only for my non-selling listings!

Here's the thing. Even if I HAD a magic bag of secret marketing tricks, why would I hold out using them until after the listing is stale? Wouldn't it make more sense to hit the market with all guns blazing?

But the truth is, I don't have a magic bag of tricks (and neither do you). NO AMOUNT OF MARKETING CAN SELL AN UNSELLABLE HOME. You can do broker opens every day of the week, distribute enough color brochures to kill a small forest and refresh your Craigslist ad every 21 days for the next five years and your listing will not sell if it's not properly priced, properly prepared and properly presented! NO AMOUNT OF MARKETING CAN SELL AN UNSELLABLE HOME!

Our job as professional real estate agents is to know what it's gonna take to get a house sold. We need to know how to price the home TO SELL; how to prepare our sellers for the reality of Being on the Market and how to help them prepare the home to evoke the most positive emotional reaction from the greatest number of potential buyers (and their agents). It needs to look good, smell good and photograph well. It needs to be easy to show without the distraction of barking dogs or a work-at-home owner. If there's an obstacle to sale, we need to recognize it and have the balls to be frank with our seller about it (and help ‘em fix it).

That's how you sell your listing. By working with your seller to create a marketable product, not to throw time and money at advertising after the sign goes in the yard. Frankly, the MLS system is an incredibly efficient system to sell houses and there's nothing we can do individually to out-market that MLS.

WARNING - infomercial to follow...

I wrote a little book last year called "For Sale Signs Don't Pay the Bills" which is a very detailed list of 74 things you as a listing agent can do to get your listings sold. It's a damn good book, if I do say so myself and it's only $14.95 right now at my bookstore. If you have listings that aren't selling, or don't WANT listings that don't sell in the future, check it out. I also do live presentations on the material, if your Association is looking for a speaker in 2009.

Okay, Infomercial Over.

Let's go sell our listings!


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  1. Jessica Bigger 12/31/2008 09:15 AM
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Alexander Harb
Knights Investing - Mesquite, TX
Dallas, Texas Real Estate Investing

I have been given a cute book that is 88 pages long by,"The Energized Seller"... it lists all the wonderful things a HOME OWNER can do to help with the sale of their home.

I took a look at it and I ordered another set of them to give to my owners.....


Dec 23, 2008 05:01 AM #13
Dena Stevens Coriz
Rocky Mountain Realty - Canon City, CO
Putting The Real Into Realtor Since 2004

Congrats! You just sold another book, to me.......after I'm done with "For Sale Signs Don't Pay the Bills"  I'll look into De-Dorking your letters. Sounds like some thing I need because the letters I'm using aren't getting the job done.

Dec 23, 2008 06:20 AM #14
George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

Jennifer and here a thought that you could sell anything :) :)

I like the new picture, especially with all the snow on the ground around here.  Bring on the warm sunny weather again.

Dec 23, 2008 11:52 AM #15
Cindy Marchant
Keller Williams Indy NE 317-290-7775 - Carmel, IN
"Cindy in Indy" , Realtor, Fishers Real Estate

Hi Jennifer, always good to ready your posts; always great insight.  I do have a list of 37 things I do for a listing; but in the has to have the the right price.  What's that saying, you want to be the first born, the 2nd wife and the last realtor??? Or something like that. 


Dec 23, 2008 12:28 PM #16
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

David - You got it!  Reblog away!

Dec 23, 2008 11:13 PM #18
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Cindy - Yes, indeed. Although I believe that you can't price for everything - buying a home is still an emotional decision and unless you want to slash your price, a home must be presented well.

George - you flatter me, but I'm the world's WORST salesperson!

Dena - Thanks for all your support of SWS!

Dec 23, 2008 11:27 PM #19
Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®, CRS
RE/MAX Northwest. - Tacoma, WA
Tacoma Washington Agent/Broker & Market Authority!

Jennifer, It's taken me 10 years and I still find myself trying to sell stupid products (Over priced to state it better).

Dec 24, 2008 12:43 AM #20
Patricia Beck
RE/MAX Properties, Inc., GRI, CDPE - Colorado Springs, CO
Colorado Springs Realty

Love your new pic Jennifer!  I like what you said about removing barriers whether it be price, pets, or odors.  If a home isn't selling there is usually a barrier slowing down the process...and it's usually the price. 

Dec 24, 2008 06:01 AM #21
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Paul - once you shift your mindset from marketing a house to preparing a house for market, it's easier to avoid the Pet Rock syndrome!

Patricia - I agree! In some cases, there simply isn't a buyer at this time, but if there IS, I want my listing to be the next one to sell!

Dec 24, 2008 09:16 PM #22
Alan Brown
Coldwell Banker Montrose Colorado - Montrose, CO
29 Years of Real Estate Experience .

Like the new photo......pricing has always been important but even more so now. I find that a lot of sellers still think their home is the same value as 2 years ago even when you show them the comps. I lost a listing 2 weeks ago to price. I did a CMA went over it with the sellers I had some good comps, they even said they knew the market was slow. Keeping it short, the house is now listed at a higher price than my recommendation.

Dec 26, 2008 04:35 AM #23
Peter Baumbach
Search Homes for Sale in Maryland at - Owings Mills, MD

Jennifer - I tried to visit your bookstore, but your link is broken. You forgot the .html at the end. Here is a link if anyone else wants to go there.

Price is important, but there are other obstacles to selling a house that I am sure everyone here agrees with. All you need is one obstacle to stop a sale. Get lots of great photos; declutter, clean, stage; make showings easy and convenient to buyers; sell benefits not features; listen to feedback; know all the financing options; describe and present for the Internet buyer; etc.

And yes price. Price too high, and you are the comparable that sells the other listing.

Dec 26, 2008 06:44 AM #24
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Thanks, Peter!!! I fixed it...  I agree 100% that price is not always the issue; in fact, I don't think it's the issue nearly as often as people claim it is. It's the entire package, which includes price, but the other stuff is important too. Great point!

Dec 26, 2008 06:51 AM #25
Eric Lowery


This post topic is probably the hardest subject to coach new (and some experienced) agents.  Sometimes sellers get caught up in the sizzle of the process and forget about their own goals.  I liken the idea to sellers that get hung up on paying closing costs, even when they net exactly what they want. 

Another side note to this: I find many agents price property too high because they are unable to convey the fact that the home is not in showroom condition.  Many agents are too abrupt about it and lose the listing.   Others just agree with the seller because they're afraid of rejection.

Your comment on the mindset of "preparing" vs. "marketing" is dead on.  It's not our job to "market" a home.  Our job is to set the seller/home up for a successful transaction, and not leave the seller (and our bank accounts) relying on hope alone.

Eric Lowery, Expert Skills for Real Estate Agents

Dec 26, 2008 02:52 PM #26
Paul McKee
Keller Williams Realty - The Hatcher Group - Portland, ME


Every house sells regardless of marketing if it is seen as a good value.  The trick is making it a good value.  In today's market sellers are not only in a price war, but a beauty pageant as well.  Once they understand that and they price the home at or below market value, as well as preparing it for sale, it will sell and it won't be because of marketing.  Thanks for the blog!

Dec 28, 2008 11:52 AM #27
John MacArthur
Century 21 Redwood - Washington, DC
Licensed Maryland/DC Realtor, Metro DC Homes

Jennifer ..........let me share two pearls of wisdom for you, (in a grandfatherly way).

1. Get an education. It is the one thing you can achieve that no one can take away from you.

2. There is a sucker born every minute.

Dec 29, 2008 08:43 AM #28
Linda Jandura
Raleigh Cary Realty - Apex, NC
Realtor, North Carolina Buyer & Seller Specialist

Jennifer- I'm thinking if the sellers asked me this when I was new I would have answered something like you did.  But now I think I might ask the  " Mr Seller, what will YOU do if your house doesnt' sell in 30 days?"  Then explain to him that I've done all the marketing right from the start, etc. so if it doesn't sell, it's not the marketing, but the product that has to change.

Love the new picture too Jennifer. Happy New year!

Dec 29, 2008 10:33 AM #29
Larry Riggs
Century 21 Redwood - Frederick, MD
GRI, SRS Your Frederick County Specialist


      When I was managing I borrowed an idea from a Ninja Selling course I took. They had a saying that went like this "Having an overpriced listing is like trying to ride a dead horse" I took that concept and made a little flier for my agents. I'll email you and attach it.

Jan 02, 2009 02:08 AM #30
Ryan Shaughnessy
PREA Signature Realty - - Saint Louis, MO
Broker/Attorney - Your Lafayette Square Real Estate Partner

Realistic pricing and preparing the home for sale are key components.  However, exposure to the market does play a role.  You may have the great home at the best price but you still need to attract attention, get the message out and generate traffic.  The MLS is a great tool - but there are other real estate portals being used by buyers to preview homes that also play a role.

Jan 03, 2009 11:53 AM #31
Walter Espejo
Weichert Realtors - The Andrews Group - Nashville, TN
Bellevue TN Homes for Sale

Thanks for the great tip. Now I know what to say in case I get asked that question. Everything you said makes pretty good sense.

P.S. From a new agent who also happens to have one listing  in his career.

Jan 09, 2009 04:12 AM #32
Dawn Isenhower
Sibcy Cline Realtors - Milford, OH

Ouch! This hits too close to home right now:( Thanks for the kick in the behind.

Jan 09, 2009 03:32 PM #33
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