So we’re all painfully aware of the major challenges facing the residential real estate market right now, with homes of every shape, size, color and price available for the (relatively few) serious buyers out there who are still looking to buy real estate.
One thing we know pretty conclusively these days is that most buyers no longer drive the neighborhoods (at least initially), read the classified ad sections in newspapers or flip through those glossy magazines available at the local supermarket. No, these days you will find the vast majority of buyers clicking their mouses (er, mice?) to locate their next home. No secret there. But given this common knowledge, it is still amazing to me the staggering numbers of agents who put forth little to no effort in creating any kind of compelling online presence for their listings. It seems like the number of listings that have either no photos or really bad ones, bland and boring home descriptions, no virtual tours or video tours, etc. outnumber the well-represented homes online by about 20 to 1. With soooo many homes on the market these days, your listing had better really speak to buyers when they do come across it, or they quickly and effortlessly move on to the next one with a click of their mouse.
I’ve decided to go with a shopping analogy here. Just a few short years ago when the demand for homes was high, homes on the market were not unlike a limited-supply specialty item sold at an exclusive retailer (recent items like the iPhone and the Wii come to mind). From time to time there is great demand for an item that is in limited supply, whether or not that scarcity is organic or engineered by the company through controlled production. But regardless of the reason for the high demand, people will react the same. They are willing to stand in line at the stores, pay premiums, get on waiting lists, etc. etc. Of course, they have to be able to pay for an item they buy, and the good old banking system in the USA made sure that buying these items was possible for almost anyone through easy credit. We’ll roll all of these lenders/banks/credit card companies into one aggregate person, and we’ll call him “Marvin Moneybags”.
So what happens when dozens of other companies come out with competing products and manufacture them in bulk, so that the supply easily outpaces demand causing prices to plummet, and consumers suddenly have dozens of choices? We’ll just imagine that instead of a few specialty retailers offering a limited supply of these high demand products to a long line of buyers, that now a huge warehouse store (we’ll call it “CostMart”) is full of these products and competing products of every shape, size, color and price, now stacked floor to ceiling. The line of buyers has disappeared because even though these items are much more affordable now, Marvin Moneybags has lent out all of his money and so much of it didn’t come back in (loans and credit card payments in default) that he can’t/won’t lend any more.
Now there are just a few buyers who can buy, and maybe they wander through the door to see what’s available. They are overwhelmed with the sheer amount of products they see. Every shape, size, color, function, etc. they could ever imagine even having a need for is here. How do they choose just one? Well, for starters, they should be able to pick it up off of the shelf. Buyers are far more likely to buy if they can view it from every angle, touch it, try it, learn about everything it has to offer. Now remember that there are so many of these things for sale that they are stacked all of the way to the ceiling. Waaay up there on the top shelves are products that could be every bit as shiny, cool, functional and attractively priced as the products that can be easily taken off of the shelf to be examined. Now a buyer could go around the store and see if they can find a ladder in order to get up to those higher shelves, but with so many attractive products within arm’s reach, why would they bother?
So imagine your listings are products that are being offered for sale along with everyone else’s products at your local CostMart. Although your “products” are somewhat unique, you still are offering something that is stacked floor to ceiling in every aisle of this massive store. How are you going to sell your “products” when buyers have so many others to choose? Well, for starters, you can make sure your “products” are not up on those high shelves, only accessible by the few (if any) buyers who will take the trouble to go “find a ladder”. While you cannot control which “products” buyers will take off of the shelf, you can make sure that yours are within arm’s reach, so a potential buyer can take it off of the shelf, look at it from every angle, learn about it, and “feel it” emotionally.
So just how do you make sure of this when your buyer wants all of this without leaving their easy chair? Make sure you ALWAYS post lots of good pictures (preferably shot by a professional like myself), and at least one (if not all) of the following: a virtual tour, a video tour, and a single property website. This not only brings your “products” down within arm’s reach and eye-level, but also makes them scream out, “ooh pick me, pick me!!”. There are a lot of technology options out there these days at every budget (some even free) so why would you not use these things to market your listing? It’s also important to write a compelling description of the home that speaks to buyers and paints a vivid picture in their mind of what is unique and appealing about this home, but I’ll save the specifics of that for a future entry. For now, just make sure that your “products” and are readily available for the shoppers to “pluck off of the shelf” by giving them the compelling information and imagery they seek online, and you’ll have a much better chance of a buyer heading to the check-out lane with your “product” under their arm.