Sometimes I’m shocked by the lack of attention to detail on the part of listing agents, and unfortunately sellers usually don’t even realize it. There are at least 10-15 significant ways that a listing agent can differentiate themselves–and, by extension, the listed property, and they do not all involve spending more money. In fact, sometimes it’s the activities that require time, not money, that get a property more attention. I work with a lot of buyers, so I see exactly how buyers react, and as their agent, I know which inconveniences I’m willing to tolerate to still show your home. Believe me, it’s not enough just to list the property in the MLS!
Here are a few “quick hits” that sellers can easily check for themselves. If your property is currently listed, see if your listing meets these criteria. Though they may seem obvious and easy, you’d be surprised at how many listings don’t do these simple things that encourage easy showing of your home. As your agent (or check for yourself) to see if your property is “buyer-friendly.” In a market where there are so many options for buyers to choose from, combined with buyers who are part of the internet’s “instant gratification” generation, it may make the difference between getting your house shown and not.
Obviously you want to make sure your property is listed. But ask your agent to send you the listing (or even just search for it yourself on any of the major broker or agent sites, like this one. Here’s a sample of what a property will look like in the MLS (this is one of my recently sold listings.) There are 5 simple yet very important things to check:
- Photos – Does the listing have multiple photographs (either via still shots or a “virtual tour”)? On the top left corner of the sample listing, you can see a small camera with a number next to it (the stills) and a movie reel (the virtual tour). I’m partial to the stills because they load more quickly, which is critical for the internet-savvy buyer. There are also some really bad virtual tours out there that focus more on the music and zooming rather than actually showing the property. A lot of photos is an absolute must–buyers assume something is wrong with the property if there is just an outside shot (or even worse, no photo at all!)
- Directions – You’d be shocked how often directions are incorrect. I often send my buyers on a “drive by” of properties before we go see it together. If the directions are wrong, and they’re already out driving and can’t easily mapquest it, they will quickly give up on your property. (A corollary to this: if your agent is doing open houses for you, check the ad that runs on the day of the open house.)
- The description (“Remarks”) – What does your agent say about your property? Is the description accurate? Do you think it presents the most positive features? Are there typos or spelling mistakes? What does that say about their attention to detail?
- Showing Instructions – This isn’t publicly viewable so you will have to ask your agent to print out their own version of the listing for you. It tells a buyer’s agent where and whether to call before showing, and where to find the lockbox. It’s important that it not be too difficult to arrange viewings (e.g., “Call two owners and agent prior to showing. Show only M-F 9-5pm.”) If I have to make 3 phone calls to coordinate a visit–not to mention coordinating my schedule and my client’s–versus the unit across the street from yours that says “Go anytime,” which one do you think will be the one we will visit when we just have time for one or two showings? Or if a client calls at the last minute–as they often do–to say “Do you have time today to show me some units in X development?” Also, ask your agent where the lockbox is, and if it’s on a fence with 10 other lockboxes, as is often the case of a condo building, make sure it’s clearly labeled as belonging to your agent and/or your unit. Better yet, go check out that fence yourself and make sure you can tell which one goes to your unit. If you can’t, chances are a buyer and their agent can’t either. If you can’t find the box and the key, then how can the person that wants to show it to a buyer? It’s so frustrating to have planned all week to spend the afternoon with a client, then we can’t find your lockbox. I call your agent but get their voicemail. If I can’t find the box and key, unfortunately I have no choice but to move on, as there are plenty of other units out there.
- Online presence – is your home listed on sites other than the MLS? There are dozens of places that agents can list your home for free, if they take the time to do it. Go to Craigs List, Yahoo real estate, GoogleBase, Trulia, and other sites and search for your home. Study after study show that the majority of homebuyers start their search on the internet, so you want to cast as wide a net as possible. If you can’t find it, ask your agent why not.
These are just a few of the ways you can make sure that you raise the expectations bar for the quality of services you receive. To hear more about how listings agents can differentiate themselves, please contact me.