Friday, January 24, 2014

No Wonder It's The "Home Alone" House

This is another one for those who still don't believe that advertising and marketing of properties must improve in order to help the real estate market.

As is my instinct, as soon as I saw a newspaper story (Chicago Tribune) online about the house used in the "Home Alone" movie being for sale, I wanted to read it. I'm always curious to see if there are quotes from a realty agent involved in the process and whether or not the quotes are effective ones.

The home, in the upscale Chicago suburb of Winnetka IL, is listed, according to the report, at $3.1 million dollars.

It turns out that no agent is quoted anywhere within the story, although the listing agent's name and affiliation is the last line of the story.

However, there is a big problem pointed out within the 4th paragraph of the Tribune story. It is the sentence which reads, "The bay windowed breakfast room is lovely but brrrr - there are no curtains in the listing photo".

Why is that a "problem"? Because during the week leading into this story, the temperature in Chicago did not get above the mid-20's. On the very day the story "broke", the temperature at the time was near 0 degrees.

Mother Nature does not distinguish between trailer park homes and multi-million dollar mansions when it comes to windows without curtains or blinds letting frigid air inside. Chances are the reporter had the same reaction as I did, and others will, upon seeing that photo, now thinking that it is probably cold in that house at "this very moment".

If I might, I'm going to speculate that a potential buyer for a $3 million property does not want to worry about being too cold. Especially if that same potential buyer has looked at other properties in that range with NO indication of cold temperatures.

The photo spread for the listing , based on the amount of snow shown on the exterior, taken very recently, and that is a plus for the listing agent and the seller.

In this instance, all the agent, photographer, or home stager needed to do was close the curtains or blinds! Doing so would have prevented the reporter from making the comment, which instead reflects as a negative.

As for the remainder of the photo spread, there are two unflattering photos of the exterior. One shows the swimming pool area covered with snow, while another shows a covered walkway area that has what appears to be some drifting snow on it.

Why show a snow covered swimming pool? A potential buyer would want to know there is a swimming pool there, but seeing it snow covered and not ready for us is still another less than positive "message".

A potential buyer of a multi-million dollar property, and there aren't that many, needs to see nothing but positives, and this photo spread fails to do that. As a result, the seller could lose thousands and thousands of dollars (perhaps even six figures) by eventually needing to accept a lower offer in order to get the sale. My point is that if and when that happens, it is really NOT a reflection of the local market. It would be reflection of the marketing.

This is why I suggest that home sellers monitor any and all advertising and promotion their realty agent does, and demand that updates and changes be made if and when something doesn't look right. For this listing's photo spread, either take out the unflattering photos and/or re-shoot the bay window with the curtains closed. Put "Stay warm in the spacious living room" or something to that effect in the copy.

Hopefully this will be changed so that the sellers of "Mr. Marley's house" will get their sale price. If not, they might be "Home Alone" for quite some time.,0,5003714.story

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Don't Freeze Out Potential Buyers

After spending hours reading up about certain realty agents and how important the new techology supposedly is in their sales process, it took me about 30 seconds to find out that far too many of them are still not using it where it counts the most.

As most of you know, the first week of 2014 brought record and near-record cold temperatures to much of the country, along with significant snowfall amounts in many north and northeast states.

However, homes are still for sale, and there are some potential buyers out there looking in certain areas. Yet, the advertising that so many realty agents are using fails to reflect this, even when the only technology they truly need this week is a decent camera.

I can understand if an advertisement for a home appears outdated in a monthly magazine, but when it happens on updated web sites, there is no excuse.

South Bend IN was hit with 20+ inches of new snow during the first few days of 2014. So on January 9th, I went on to and searched the area. My hope was that at least a couple of agents would update their primary photo or the "headline" description of their listings to reflect coping with the winter storm.

What did I find? Of the first 15 listings which showed up on my search from $100,000 up, not one of the photos had any snow in them. In fact, 14 of the 15 showed green grass on their exterior shot. (While the 15th also had an exterior photo without leaves on the trees and a lawn that looked as though the grass had died for the winter. Not exactly flattering.)

Suppose I really was a potential buyer in that area. My first impression is that, based on the snow and cold weather currently in place, every house in the area has been listed for weeks if not months, and therefore with ZERO urgency for me (potential buyer) to want to follow up about.

Why not use some technology to update the copy? Can't these agents let us know that "the furnace heated the house every day as usual" or "The sellers drove to grocery store every day during the storm"? There should be something to indicate that these houses would be good buys during the worst of winters.

Why not change the primary photo to an interior shot? Obviously, somebody looking to move in during the first quarter of 2014 (the SOONEST possible) is not worried about the lawn and the yard in a cold weather area such as this one.

But it gets worse. I clicked on the property at 19540 Southland Ave., which, during this January snowy mess, showed a primary photo from a sunny day with a large and very green lawn in front, and found out that MORE THAN ONE MONTH AGO this home had a price reduction of $25,000.

The property description includes the "large yard and deck" and boasts about the "landscaping". In January?

So if a more than 25% price drop announced five weeks ago has yet to spur any interest in this home, why is the SAME advertising photo and description still in place?

Yet, it gets even worse, if that is possible. I then clicked through the photo spread to see that this appears to be an EMPTY house. All we see is what appears to be empty rooms, with one of the published photos being blurry.

Let's hope these agents learn to use the new technology to actually UPDATE potential buyers.