Friday, September 27, 2013

When "Bend" Could Break This Seller

No matter what the condition of the real estate market, the advertising and marketing of million dollar and up listings is always a challenge. There are always fewer potential buyers to go around. Even more concerning is that, frankly, it is not always the sharpest of realty agents that work their way up toward handling the luxury and high end properties.

This becomes an even bigger challenge when a listing is in or near a small town or community which often depends on luring in a buyer from out of area.

With this in mind, I decided to look for a current advertisement for a million dollar "plus" home in Bend, Oregon, which is a smaller community that I personally have never been to. Therefore, I would need to know something about the area as well as its "best" listings.

I went to the Bend Bulletin (local newspaper) web site and searched. Instead of my usual random pick of a listing, I decided to go for my "least" first impression and comment on that.

Out of ten listings that came up from my initial search, the home at 17062 Cooper Drive caught my attention above all of the others. Here is why.

The search page, even for homes at over $1,000,000, came up, like most, with one thumbnail photo and the first part of the description copy. In other words, it is intended to be (and NEEDS to be) the most flattering photo and most enticing description. With, in this instance, nine other homes to choose from, the first impression is of the utmost importance.

Keeping in mind that I did this search during September, I was amazed to find the photo of this listing showing snow on the ground and covering the home. I literally moved up closer to my computer screen and noticed that I could not see any shoveled or cleared path (not even a sidewalk) leading to the front steps of this home or to the snow covered porch. Incredibly, I could not see a garage or driveway! And this is for a home listed (at press time) for $,1395,000.

Thus, my first visual impression was a large home surrounded by snow, and this is September!

Next, I started reading the less than two sentences of the description next to this photo. And it begins by saying "This amazing 1.25 acre property has seven bedrooms......".

Let me add that one of the homes in the same area, listed at $1,499,000, which showed ABOVE this Cooper Drive estate, shows "A gated estate on 25.72 acres....." at the beginning of its thumbnail description.

Notice the significance of this first impression. I looked at this Cooper Drive thumbnail to see a photo of a snowbound home with seemingly no easy access, after having seen another property in the same general area with NO snow and with literally 24 MORE acres available for about $100,000 more.

If you were looking in the community of Bend for a property valued at near one and one-half million dollars (and it was September), which of those two properties would you gravitate toward?

Chances are you said the larger property.

This is my point. There is the importance of a first impression. One agent placed a flattering photo and started right off with the huge size of the lot and location within a gated community, while another uses a photo outdated by months and a poor comparison fact up at the beginning.

It didn't matter what else came after, because potential buyers are far less likely to click on the Cooper Drive home for more information. Again, chances are most of the potential buyers are from out of area, meaning that a couple of miles of location makes no difference. The street address means nothing, in this instance.

I did go ahead and click on the listing detail page. And I found that it gets worse for the seller. A big part of the description copy which followed touches upon the large deck and the hot tub. Below that, the first of the features of the property detail was "central air".

Normally, those factors are not a problem. Might even be important to a potential buyer. However, the only photo I have seen, to this point, shows the home as if it is snowbound. Hardly a fit for sitting on the deck or in the hot tub, let alone being concerned about the air conditioning.

What makes this more frustrating is that there are several additional photos available on the full page advertisement, and most of them are very flattering for the listing. Simply put, all this agent had to do (and should have done) was to pull the snow photo completely, and re-arrange the copy to highlight the features of the interior.

But since the listing agent did not do this, I'm afraid that the sellers on Cooper Drive will face the upcoming winter being snowed in at their unsold estate.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Watching The Competition Helps To Sell

While researching for my upcoming book about selling "your" home and getting the price "you" want, I stumbled across an agent doing an effective job of selling against the current local competition. That is all too rare of a find, even in this uncertain market.

Among the many problems with how agents advertise properties is that the vast majority of property advertisements do little to nothing to combat the "competition". As a home seller, you should be making sure your agent knows how and why to distinguish your home from others nearby.

I found the ad for a home at 3803 Landlubber St. in Orlando by looking for the home with the most bedrooms in its price range, and then looking to see if or how the listing agent presents it. Usually all this type of search does is provide me with more ammunition for my book and for my clients. But not this time.

This advertised home has five bedrooms, more than any other Orlando home within the $10,000 price range I chose. While I will grant you that a city wide search brings a lot of different quality neighborhoods and communities into play, I also couldn't help but notice that this nice looking five bedroom home is priced at less than a 3-bedroom home which is a foreclosure.

Although the specific ad, which I found on HomeFinder via a search on the Orlando Sentinel web site, could use some improving (as do about 99% of them!), I'm considering this one to be a positive because of the first impression it provides.

Having just one photo of any property, especially when most other ads in the same city and price range have multiple photos easily available, is not a good thing. At least in this instance the photo used is a very flattering exterior shot showing a well maintained lawn and garden, driveway and attached garage, and a well painted and trimmed home. It did make me want to see more, even though it is frustrating not to be able to.

The description copy highlights facts which are "outside" of the home, such as the fenced pool, new a/c unit, corner lot, "A" list schools, and being near restaurants and shops. Those are all important and, in this case, positive facts, which, again, makes me want to find out more.

This description copy also includes mention that "This is not a short sale or foreclosure so there is a quick response to all offers".

Sticking with this copy for a moment, it is all positive. Chances are the potential buyer for a five-bedroom home has a big family. Having an attached garage, pool, a large lot, and being near "A" schools are likely important factors for initial consideration.

Pointing out the home is "not" a short sale or foreclosure is not always a necessary thing. But in this case, when it is priced among other homes, with FEWER bedrooms, in the same price range which are, this mention is a direct attack on "competition" properties in the same city.

That includes area homes whether short sale, foreclosure, or not. This ad is basically saying "You get at least one more bedroom and these benefits for the same price!". And I like this approach.

We can also tell that his home had been listed for exactly two weeks (as of the day this is written), unlike other area homes which have been listed for months.

It's good to see the listing agent presenting this listing with benefits against the other homes in the same price range, instead of on its own merit. You see, my search was for "2+" bedrooms, and this was the only five-bedroom home that came up within the $10,000 I selected. Obviously, anyone looking for a five-bedroom home in this area would also pull up this property. The fact that I wasn't but it came up and appears favorable against two, three, and four bedroom homes in the same city is a strong one.

Of course, this ad could use some improving upon. The fact that there are no interior photos and no mention of anything specific to a five-bedroom home does make me skeptical. I could not find anything about a basement and/or rec room, about the capabilities of the kitchen (where meals for a lot of people would be created), paint, carpet, closets, or storage.

Even though the lack of information about the interior is a glaring omission, I can just about let it go for this example for one important reason. There just might be enough here that if I really was looking to buy it might get me to contact the agent for more details. Of course, that agent had better be ready to promote the amenities inside, or I'd be on to the next property and another agent quite quickly.

A good start on how to sell against other homes in the area!