Dear Mr. & Mrs. Seller, Here is What You NEED To Do.

Real Estate Agent with Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel

As I read the Sunday paper this morning my stomach started to knot up.  Felt a little bit like nausea coming on.  I have homes to sell in Michigan (for the clients we represent).  If you are selling a home in Michigan, you know what I am talking about.  I can no longer count the layoff announcements, restructuring plans and plant shut-downs.  Record numbers of foreclosures and an increasing number of homes to sell without new jobs to replace the old.  You don’t need a degree in economics to know that an increase in homes for sale with a decrease in the number of buyers equals falling prices.  Where can I look for some help and a bit of good news for a change? 

Perception is reality.  I would love to spin this buyer’s market in to something good for sellers.  But I don’t have the spin in me for that one. 

The other day I was at a brunch with Birmingham/Bloomfield’s top producing Realtors.  A REALTOR, whom I highly respect, said that he recently told a seller that there is actually very little difference in what most top producing agents can do for their clients.  I didn’t say anything then, but I strongly disagree.  I’ve watched other agents for a long time, and I think the difference can be huge.   Among other things, technology is leveling the playing field and the dinosaur agents who have dominated the industry are either going to have to ‘get on line or get in the bread line.

If you are a seller or a potential seller, listen up.  Here are some things I think you can do to make your home the one that gets the seemingly elusive buyer.  You think you’ve heard it all before, but I bet you haven’t.  I know you haven’t.   I don’t want you to be in the bread line, next to that agent who told you she was a top-producer.  She meant 10 years ago, but she forgot to mention that.

New School Thinking

When you are interview agents, here are the things I would ask, in addition to the usual questions:

  • How many hits are there on your company web site each month?  How does that compare to your competitors' sites?
  • Where does your company’s site rank on Google for “Birmingham Michigan Real Estate” (insert your town’s name)?
  • Does your company use pay per click?
  • What else is your company doing to direct traffic to its site?
  • How many inquiries does your company’s site generate per month?
  • How does your company track inquiries?
  • Who would be following up on an inquiry about my home and how quickly would they do it?
  • How will my home be displayed on your web site?
  • How many pictures will there be? When will they be posted?
  • Will they be updated if the seasons change?
  • Will there be a virtual tour?  When will it be up?  Will it be on
  • Will my home be “enhanced” on
  • Do you, Ms. Agent, have a personal web site?  How long have you had it?  How does it do in attracting buyers compared to your peers’ web sites?  What do you do to make sure that your web site is effective?  When was the last time you added something to your personal website besides new listings? 
  • Do you have a blog?
  • Does your company have a national (international) web site where my home will be displayed?
  • Will my home be on, oodle, googlebase, craigslist?  

If the agent you are interviewing can’t answer most of these questions, move on!  Today’s buyer is looking on the internet for his next home, and your positioning here makes all the difference. 

Old School Stuff Matters too:

I think any agent, new school or old school will give you the following tips. 

  • Now is not the time to be fishing for that one buyer who might overpay for your home.  A home priced slightly below the competition is the most likely to find a buyer quickly.
  • Bonuses to buyers’ agents get noticed.  Agents have literally hundreds of homes to chose from for most buyers and a dangling the carrot of a bonus in front of them is cheaper than a price reduction or sitting on the market another month.  It will get you showings.
  • Sellers’ concessions help too.  Be open to creativity in the way the deal is structured.  Can you offer land-contract, a rate buy-down or seller paid points on the mortgage?  
  • Clean and clutter free really matters.  Move-in-ready is the only acceptable standard these days.  Staging helps.  No buyer is looking to take care of the projects you never got around to, so get them done!
  • No matter how inconvenient, let the buyers in when the want to get in.  If you don’t, chances are you will never see them again.

I know I have missed some things, but these tips should get you started.   I don’t want you to share the same fate as the dinosaurs.  I sincerely hope you are successful in finding the right buyer.

Comments (24)

Ray Saenz
Exit Realty Laredo - Laredo, TX
Homes for Sale in Laredo, TX - Texas, Realtor
Susan Trombley
Trombley Real Estate - Wake Forest, NC
Broker/Realtor, Raleigh, Cary, Wake Forest, Youngs
It's hard. We have a market in NC that is changing to buyers. Also we have another problem. We have a market that the resales are not moving because the buyers perfer the new home sales. And the resales are priced correctly but so are the new homes. Then the sellers are getting mad because theirs are not moving. It used to be hot area to move to. And now it is slowed down and localizing to the new homes. But we have not had that many questions. OUCH.
Sep 17, 2006 02:12 PM
Geri Sonkin
Douglas Elliman Real Estate 516-457-7103 - Merrick, NY
Long Island Real Estate & Staging Expert

We've been in a declining market for over a year now and the numbers of homes on the market has increased exponentially, creating a greater need than ever to set the seller's house apart from the crowd.  Some of it is in their ball park.  If the home is "special" it still sometimes sells with lightening speed and with multiple offers.  For the rest, they and we had better have a plan to get it sold.


Sep 17, 2006 04:06 PM
Professor X
NONE - Ludington, MI
if it is true that 85-90% of buyers start their search for houses online, than this is excellent info as always...but personally I am interested to know the following:  While many buyers start looking for houses online, retention is very important as well...what can realtors do to help collect and retain these buyers or is it more a law of averages, the more visible you are, the better chance there is the home will sell?
Sep 17, 2006 04:16 PM
Maureen Francis
Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel - Bloomfield Hills, MI
Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel

Respond quickly to inquiries.  Statistically speaking, most buyers work with the first agent to get back to them. So you've gotta be quick with a phone call.

My company has a lead system that puts email out to agents immediately.  If the listing agent does not get back to the buyer in less than 10 minutes, another agent is asked to respond. Buyers do not wait for answers with us.  

Sep 17, 2006 04:20 PM
Wynne Achatz
Real Estate One Westrick - Marine City, MI
Michigan Realtor and Notary Trust,Care, Experience
AH MAureen you hit the nail on the head in this post. I am going to use this on my own website (giving you credit of course) I could not have said it better or more clear. Being in the tecno spin myslef, it is good to hear others have the same approach and out there to provide the marketing today's sellers deserve. how about newspaper adv?
Sep 17, 2006 04:40 PM
Sharon Simms
Coastal Properties Group International - Christie's International - Saint Petersburg, FL
Excellent list.  It's also important to have a plan over time. You may do 100 things to market the property in the first week, but sellers will then say, OK, you've done all that and it's not getting the house sold, what are you going to do this week?
Sep 17, 2006 10:33 PM
Karen Hurst
Rhode Island Waterfront!
Great list Maureen. And I agree with Sharon, you need a plan after the initial Shock and Awe. What works in some areas does not work in others. We have 11,000 homes for sale here in the Ocean State, whereas it was 3500 topping at 4000. It doesn't matter at this point who has the listing. The market has changed. Buyers are wary! Unless they absolutely have to move, all I am hearing is they are waiting it out. However, this is a good time to spend sharpening your skills, leads, websites, marketing, etc. This too shall pass.
Sep 18, 2006 02:15 AM
Maureen Francis
Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel - Bloomfield Hills, MI
Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel
Thanks, Karen and Sharon.  I will work that idea in.
Sep 18, 2006 02:49 AM
Sell This Damn House
RE/MAX Realty Suburban - Shawnee Mission, KS

Thank you for this post.

Sep 18, 2006 04:19 AM
Ann Burns, CRP
SKBK Sotheby's International Realty - Birmingham, MI
Great list Maureen.  I also think it's important to point out to seller's that newspaper advertising, at least in our market, does not sell houses.  They need to be aware that a strong internet presence is more important than the number of newspaper ads their home will appear in.  I also think it is a great way to set yourself apart from other agents....this list of questions alone would probably eliminate 1/2 of your competition.
Sep 18, 2006 06:46 AM
Fran White
North Kansas City Real Estate, Reece and Nichols Residential - Kansas City North, MO
Kansas City North Real Estate, 816-682-3897

Fabulous list Maureen....

I chuckled at this one re: Will they be updated if the seasons change?

We'd better hope it doesn't take that long to sell it or there's something wrong.... :)

Sep 18, 2006 02:42 PM
Maureen Francis
Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel - Bloomfield Hills, MI
Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel
Ahhh, Fran, in my market we have some price points where there is enough inventory today to take care of 4 YEARS of sales.  A season change is all but inevitable if you are a home seller in MI.
Sep 18, 2006 02:47 PM
Mitchell J Hall
Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn


Have you ever heard the expression "when you need something done ask a busy person" (sorry to play devils advocate)

We too are getting the 10 minute lead routing system. It is very controversial. If a seller hires an agent to list their property I think that seller has confidence in their agent and should feel comfortable that the agent will answer phone calls and emails in a timely fashion. Is it really better for the buyer and the seller to get the agent who has been in the business for 3 days who answers the call in 10 minutes vs the experienced great knowlegeable agent who might take 15/ 20 minutes to answer the call because they are busy showing a property. Doesn't the 2nd agent have to call the 1st agent to get info and or make an appointment in order to answer the buyers questions.

Agents work on a straight commission why wouldn't any good one return calls? I think most agents are adult professionals that should be trusted to use their own discretion about answering calls. It's not Life or Death.

Sep 19, 2006 03:00 AM
Maureen Francis
Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel - Bloomfield Hills, MI
Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel
Mitchell, we are new to leadrouter, and I can't say that I don't agree with you.  The controversy has not really arisen yet here, but I am sure it will. 
Sep 19, 2006 03:36 AM
Christy Sandhoff
Credit Matters - Auburn, CA

Another marketing/sales tool that works (out in the wild wild west) is Home Down Payment Gift Funds.

Buyers are looking for incentives, and help with their downpayment is one that works.  It gets more buyers to your listings.

It's a win for...

   the seller - gets her property sold and gets her a tax deduction.

   the buyer - gets her property bought and gets help with her downpayment, resulting in less funds to borrow.

   YOU -- close another deal and get referrals too!

Ask me for more info if you are interested.




Sep 19, 2006 08:57 AM
Toby Boyce
C.G. Boyce Real Estate Co. - Delaware, OH
MBA, Delaware Ohio

Mitchell - While I would agree that you'd think people would respond to phone calls. The last six floor-leads and the possible listing I'm negotiating have started "I've called 'x' Realtors and none of them have returned my call..."

So while it would seem elementary that people would return calls. My thought is that in the seller's market -- many got lazy and haven't retrained themselves yet. But, I could be wrong.

Sep 20, 2006 02:15 AM
Karen Flory


 Great info. from you as always. I'm thrilled that we are colleagues. 

Sep 20, 2006 02:28 PM
Geno D'Angelo
Coldwell Banker Fairbairn - Mackinaw City, MI
I am about 32 years younger than the next youngest agent in our office. Every so often I notice the other agent miss some new great technological marvel (i.e. Blogging) and lick my lips with joy because one day the father time of real estate is going to show his ugly head and pull them into the black lagoon of out dated and I alone will have Northern Michigan dominance.
Sep 21, 2006 01:44 PM
Jeff Link
Asheville, NC
"Your Asheville Real Estate Link"
Geno, You are so right.When I had an agent that just started say to me that Top Producer was a waste of money and all she used was a notebook. I just smiled and laughed to myself(and will keep laughing all the way to the bank). 
Sep 23, 2006 04:30 PM