The past 10-15 years have definitely changed the dynamics for home buyers and home sellers. The primary difference is the internet. What home sellers need to understand is that the first showings of your home are online.
What do you mean The First Showings of your Home are Online?
I have been a full time agent since early 2002. By 2005 most home buyers were using the internet as their main tool of identifying homes for sale. Lets look at some information:
- 87% of home buyers found the photos and information they found online of a home very useful in making their decision on a home.
- The average internet home buyer spent 5 weeks looking at a homes and looked at an average of 5 properties vs non internet buyers who took 10 weeks to buy a home and looked at an average of 10 properties.
Now lets look at some history when I bought my first home in the 90’s I was reliant on my agent choosing the properties for me to look at. My agent faxed me the MLS sheets daily. I couldn’t see anything about the home just specs. I had to do my drive by’s and was reliant on my real estate agent to pick the right homes.
So fast forward….. 2016, just about every home buyer is on the internet, looking for their perfect home. Technology has made it easier to take better photographs, upload information, gather information and more. There is just more information available now. Home buyers are now determining what homes they will see and which ones they don’t want to see, based on the online presence of your home. Every home available for sale is virtually right at their fingertips. Because there is so much information o line about a given home the first showings of your home are online now not when they actually decide to pick up the phone and call an agent for a showing.
If your home does not show well online, home buyers are not going to request a showing. They are making determinations about your home without ever walking through the door. I am going to say this again… if your home does not show well online they are not going to schedule a showing of your home.
Your Online Presence of Your Home
The core of your online presence starts with your local Multiple Listing Service. It will include photographs, descriptions, room dimensions and basic facts on your home. Lets break it down into three areas. We will start with the most important.
#1- Quality Real Estate Photographs
Buying a home is so visual, so it goes with out saying the photographs are the most important element of your online listing. It is vital the real state photography represent your home in the best possible light but also creating accurate an sense of the space. When hiring a listing agent make sure that the agent takes high quality real estate photos or is hiring a professional real estate photographer.
Photos should not be dark, out of focus or crooked…. ever!! Each room that is properly prepared should be accurately represented with one or more photographs including representations of the exterior and landscape. If a listing agent has a 9 room house and only shows 5 photographs, the home is not be accurately represented. Smaller homes should have 10-20 quality photographs and larger homes 15-30. Quality is the key not quantity. 10 very good photographs of a small home is better than 30 poor photographs. The photographs are a teaser that draws the home buyer in on the internet.
I spoke with my friend Bill Gassett a REALTOR in Hopkinton MA for RE/MAX Executive Realty. While Bill does not hire a professional real estate photographer for most of his homes, he has an on staff assistant who takes high quality photos of his homes. In speaking with Bill he said that his preference is to have his staff do the photography because he has felt that he has not found a professional yet that can accurately produce what he is looking for on his the homes he lists.
I myself, in a prior career was a professional photographer and take the time to do my own photographs. I try to recreate accurate lighting and scenes of each room that help online viewers get a sense of the space with out exaggerating perspective. Below are a few galleries of recent homes that I have sold.
Make sure your home is also fully prepared and staged for the photographs. Unprepared areas will stick out like a sore thumb in the photographs. Here are two kitchens, both extremely small and of similar quality. One client took the time to prepare and stage their kitchen as recommended by me. The other chose to do nothing. What does each photo say about these homes or how the homeowners took care of their homes?
Time and time again I will spend hours with a seller helping them prepare and stage their home and they laugh saying of course the home will be prepared. But then time comes to take the photographs and the photo on the right is the best they can muster.
One last word on photographs. I recently wrote a post on an ocular study of home buyers vieing homes online. You have 20 seconds to capture a buyers attention with photographs. Do you want home buyers to fall in love at first sight or bypass your home completely?
#2 Your Homes Description
The Massachusetts MLS now allows up to a 1000 characters to describe your home. USE IT!! Your real estate agent should take some time writing a compelling description of your home. This is where you highlight the best features of your home that may not be seen readily by photographs.
When writing a description of a home I try and do two things. One use all 1000 characters and to lead with one of the key features of your home. Again you are tying to capture someones attention in a short amount of time. If nothing compels them in the first 20 seconds they will move on.
I like to be very matter of fact for my descriptions and avoid subjective or cute adjectives for a home. For example charming or cozy… when I see charming or cozy it means the house is small and there is nothing else nice to say about the house. Charming is also very subjective which I would also like to add that you must be careful with subjective descriptions to avoid future lawsuits. Adjectives like quiet and safe are very subjective and can lead to law suits later on down the road.
Be honest and state facts. Think about what is unique about your home compared to all the other homes your house is competing with on the market. If your home needs work be honest, there are some people who want to put sweat equity into a home. You want the right buyer to see your home and not create something that does not exist. If you get a buyer to your home based on exaggerated or false details they will be angry and secondly they are probably the wrong buyer for your house.
Following is an example of two descriptions the same property
Mine– Taste, charm and style abound in this spacious Coolidge Corner Condo. Close to everything; walk to public transportation, restaurants, shopping, etc… This unit features a large modern kitchen with a breakfast bar, an open dining and living room area, gleaming hardwood floors, incredible screened balcony, back deck, dining room with a built in hutch, large front foyer and 3 bedrooms. This unit is in outstanding condition and shouldn’t be passed by.
Other Agent-BEST VALUE IN THE MARKET.SPACIOUS CONDO IN TOP LOCATION 3 BEDROOM, COOLIDGE CORNER LIVING ROOM W/ BAY WINDOW, LRG KITCHEN W/ MUCH COUNTER & CABINET SPACE, LOVELY LEADED GLASS CHINA CABINET ***EASY TO SHOW***CALL FOR APPOINTMENT**
I must apologize as this listing was early in my career and I did break some of my cardinal rules I would not do now 12 years later. I use this as an example because this condominium expired with another agent and went to get multiple offers in 2 days and sell for 50k+ over asking when I took over the listing and repackaged it.
What did I do differently? I looked at what was different and compelling about the unit. It was unusual in the heart of Coolidge corner to have a unit in this price range with 3 bedrooms, a large recently renovated kitchen withe a breakfast bar, an open living arrangement between the dining room and living area, an actual entry way, etc… all with in a stones throw of the center of Coolidge Corner. Its subtle but you get my drift. I spelled out why it was a top location and what was particularly unique about this unit.
#3 Room Dimensions and Home Specifications
Put in room dimensions don’t skimp!! Huge pet peeve of home buyers when they see a home they like but then there are no room dimensions. This also carries out to all of the other specifications on your home. Make sure as many of the other fields are accurately filled out.
Remember every buyer is unique and has different requirements in a home. You don’t know what will attract a buyers attention. Some buyers the kitchen is the most important room and they want a large kitchen, while another buyer could really care less about the kitchen buyer want a large master suite or family room.
Again this is the same condo as spelled out in the Description section of this article. While I am doing things differently now this is one of the defining listings early in my career that made me formulate ideas and a listing plan that is now in place to get your home sold quickly and for top dollar. This desirable condo was listed with another agent for 445k and expired after 106 days. Subsequently, it was listed with me after the home sellers were so distraught their condo did not sell and I went on to sell it for 511k well above asking with 50+ showings in 2 days.
What was the difference? lack of quality photos, room dimensions and small details created a listing that was by passed by home buyers. This was in 2003 and the concept that your first showings are online are more prevalent than ever. While this is the core basics of marketing your home online their are certainly many other aspect that go into marketing and presenting your home online, like floor plans, social media strategy, etc…
Make sure you are hiring a real estate agent that has a strong, proven marketing plan that implements the basic principle, The First Showings of Your Home are Online.
This article, The First Showings of Your Home are Online, was written by Kevin Vitali of EXIT Group One Real Estate. If you are thinking of selling a home in Essex County or Northern Middlesex County Massachusetts contact me for presentation of my comprehensive listing presentation. I can be reached at any time on my cell phone at 978-360-0422 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.