Realty agents and sellers still need to have the term "crisis management" enter into their thinking at all times. It makes things appear even worse when a "negative" event goes all but ignored.
This week, I'm using Buffalo NY as a prime example. Obviously, the massive snowstorm is devastating for the local residents and the economy regardless of the coincidental challenges of the real estate market.
I asked, "Who would want to buy a house right now in Buffalo?". My answer is "investors that figure they could get some lowball offers accepted by frustrated residents looking to get out of town ASAP". The snow will melt, whether with flood damage or not, and at some point soon the community will return to normal life. Not everybody will want to wait for that to happen.
Then, I asked, as should realty agents, "What can be done to sell houses in Buffalo right now?". I'll grant you there is no certain answer. But there needs to be an effort. One has to think that there will be plenty of folks looking to abandon ship and relocate.
My next step was to go on to Realtor.com, and do a search for "New Listings" for Buffalo NY. This search produced more than 1,800 listings, including several pages of homes which were put on the market since the monster storm hit.
Next, I went through the first (and most recent) 50 listings which came up on the search, including a variety of price ranges. From an advertising and marketing standpoint, these findings were extremely disappointing.
Agents may not be able to drive to visit their sellers or even get to their office yet, but they most certainly can access and update their listings and information online. One of the few things this storm did not stop is technology. At least it shouldn't be.
Information about these newly available homes should be updated to INCLUDE the impact of the weather, especially when positive. Ignorning it would only make an investor skeptical at this point.
As we all know, the primary photo is a huge part of the first impression of any property ad. Yet, incredible as it is, 28 of the 50 primary photos (that's the majority!) did not show snow. Combine that with 18 others with no photo and a "Coming Soon" poster. Say what?
Hours after an historic snowfall stops the city, the majority of the photos do not show or even mention the storm. Sure enough, only four out of 50 photos showed more than either a lawn or a little bit of snow.
Of course, I explored those four listing ads more closely. The first (and most recent one put on the market at the time) did it the right way. The photo with mountains of snow on the lawn also revealed a plowed driveway leading to the garage, and announces that there will be an open house on Sunday (Nov. 29th) at 86 Garry Drive in West Seneca.
Before I even researched other similar properties in the area, this home already has a signficant edge by providing the impression that potential buyers can get to this house and see it with no problem (if and when they can get to the neighborhood, but that's not the point).
More importantly, this photo reveals that the roof has a minimal amount of snow on it, removing one of the upcoming dangers of a collapse. This tells all comers that the owners have clearly taken steps toward maintaining the property under pressure - while surrounding homes are not even close to showing anything nearly as reassuring.
Only one of the other "snow photo" properties showed a path to the front door and minimal snow still on the roof. The other two homes which showed massive amounts of snow in the primary photo had something else in common.
The interior photos of both properties reveal that they are empty! While showing the huge snow and a path to the door would normally be a positive, the showing that these homes are empty while the threat of flooding, leaking, and other storm related problems are even greater is a significant deterrent for any potential buyer.
Agents do (or should) have the ability to update their advertising information, and it is so important under these conditions. I should have been reading about which homes are on "freshly plowed streets" or that "(name of grocery store) is steps away", and other such pertinent information that shows that if I lived there and a major snow storm hits in the future that I would fare better than a similar home in another area.
However, not attacking this concern for 48 out of 50 properties is a poor reflection on the market and hurts everyone looking to sell in that region. The message coming from a Buffalo area property search should be that "the storm is not going to stop us". Instead, potential buyers are getting a different type of 'snow job'.
Oh, and here is the link to that home on Garry Drive: