Saturday, August 4, 2018 / by Robert Woessner
How Buyers Search for Homes
Whether it is to relocate for work, upsize so you have more room for the kids, or downsize because the kids are gone, selling a home is one of the most stressful experiences a person can go through. And that stress goes up the longer the process goes on.
Not only are you likely to do a fair amount of work before listing the home, but having to keep the house impeccably clean, vacate the premises at a moment’s notice and having numerous strangers walking through the home, your nerves are likely to begin to fray pretty quickly.
The other significant component of that stress is the fact that the longer a house sits on the market, the more the price is going to drop.
That fact alone can have a significant impact on life after the sale as many people intend to use whatever excess there is from the sale of their home as a down payment on their new purchase.
To keep the stress down and the price up it is important to take advantage of every marketing technique available to get your home in front of as many buyers at possible.
From online to yard sign, this book will teach you the most effective home marketing techniques and how to implement them so that your home sells for the price that you want, not the price someone else wants.
Like so many areas of our daily lives, the internet has taken over house hunting. Using the internet, buyers can do more than just preview a home. They can research the history of the home, what sort of neighborhood it is in, what the local attractions are and more.
And the proliferation of realty agencies and websites like Zillow that list homes complete with photos of the home’s interior and the ability view the home from the air thanks to apps like Google Earth mean that buyers can learn a great deal about any given home before even leaving their own home, making the internet an ever more appealing way to at least begin a search.
In fact, it was recently reported by Realtor.com that 90% of buyers used the internet at least some point in their house hunting process.
This section will focus on the myriad of online tools available for the home seller and how to get the most out them.
Realty website – Websites for realtors have become increasingly sophisticated in recent years.
While once they may have had some text and one or two exterior photos of the home, they now offer full video tours of a home’s interior, links to Google Earth to provide aerial photography of the area, detailed floor plans and more.
How to get the most from an online listing: Make sure you follow some basic steps before taking a single photograph.
Make sure any improvements that need to be made in order to ensure a quick sale have already been taken care of. Remove the clutter, fix any obvious broken items and add a fresh coat of paint if necessary before snapping a single photograph.
Also consider doing a video tour of the home. This simple addition to the listing site can generate more traffic for your listing than any mere description, no matter how complete it may be.
Some even go so far as to say that one minute of video is worth over a million words. Don’t worry about host costs for the video. Simply upload it to YouTube to let Google handle the hosting duties while you embed the video on the listing site.
While video is predominate, the writing on a listing has also grown in importance. A simple listing of the home’s features (large deck, sunroom, two-stall garage) are not enough in today’s market.
If necessary, hire a writer to bring out the details of the features, and present them all in an engaging way that draws the potential buyer in with the possibilities that the home offers.
Buyers also frequent third party sites, often in the beginning stages of looking for a home. There are plenty of ways for a buyer to narrow his search and compare prices and other features of various homes.
Mobile apps that allow buyers to search homes, view photos and videos and more wherever they are have also grown in popularity. More on that below.
Facebook – Posting your listing on Facebook will help you extend your reach far beyond what you might think.
Once you post the link, every one of your friends can see it. And if they are not looking for a home themselves, they may still share it with their friends, creating an ever widening circle of people who are able to view your listing, many of whom you have never even met.
This brings your home to the undefined market of people who might be interested in moving but have yet to actually begin looking, in addition to putting your listing out in front of others who simply may have missed your home in their search.
Pinterest/Instagram – Making use of these social media sites will extend your reach in many of the same ways Facebook does.
Both are very photo-friendly so make sure that you have plenty of great, well-lit pictures of your staged home to post, allowing buyers to stumble across your listing while browsing on a lunch break.
Craigslist – Many people even search the well-known second hand site for homes.
This isn’t nearly as popular but there is no reason to not put up an advertisement that includes some of the photos and a link back to the listing.
Individual website – One way to centralize all of your content for your home listing is to have a separate, stand-alone site.
This site can act as a hub for all of the content relating to the home sale. In addition to all of your videos, photos, and links to your social media accounts, you can also include additional information and links to neighborhood attractions and activities that will give your buyers a feel not just for the home but for the whole experience of living there.
More and more people are moving away from fixed internet access on a desktop, relying instead on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. That’s not to say that desktops are not important, the majority of website visits are still done using the older computing format.
That said, the data clearly shows that desktop use is decreasing while mobile is increasing dramatically. In fact, people actually spend more time online with their mobile devices than with any other method.
This trend will only increase as movements to cut cords and simplify life in general continue.
The clear implication of this trend for home marketing is to ensure that your listing is mobile friendly and listed on sites with easy to navigate mobile versions.
Again, these listings will make extensive use of photos, floor plans and videos that show off the home at its best. Naturally, if you choose to set up a stand-alone website, ensure that it is either mobile friendly by default or a hybrid that can easily switch between desktop and mobile versions.
Of course, setting up such an extensive website can be rather technical and time consuming so consider hiring a professional to handle the site development.
The Real World
Although online resources, whether desktop or mobile are great for marketing eventually the buyer will move from the couch or the coffee shop and start looking at houses in person.
While it does happen, most people will not buy a home on the strength of an internet listing alone, no matter how attractive it might be.
Nearly all buyers who make use of the internet in their search use it not to make their final decision but to narrow and direct their search.
Also, it is worth pointing out that not everyone relies exclusively, or even primarily on the internet in their search for a new home.
While nearly all go online at some point during their search, many will default to traditional methods to direct their search and make a decision on which home to purchase.
In fact, nearly all buyers will still work through a professional realtor. Even traditional marketing methods like open houses and yard signs still play a very significant role in the home buying process.
Real Estate Agents – These men and women are an invaluable part of the process of searching for, selling, or buying a home.
They provide a number of advantages for both buyers and sellers.
Buyers: A local realtor will already be familiar with the area that the buyer is interested in.
This includes being aware of pricing trends, which neighborhoods are the most desirable, a knowledge of local laws such as those concerning property tax, reputable loan officers and a host of other things that a buyer would have to spend large amounts of time learning for himself.
Sellers: For you the seller, a realtor also can help in many ways large and small. In your case, the realtor’s knowledge of the area applies in helping to price the home appropriately, comparing it with similar homes in the region and basing your price on what those similar homes sold for.
He will also be able to guide you in the preparation phase, determine which areas need to be repaired, repainted or just touched up a bit and how to do it to best appeal to the demographics that are most likely to be viewing your home.
Also, he will be able to handle the details of getting your home listed online on the major listing sites in your region, freeing you to focus on marketing through your social media accounts.
A good realtor will also be marketing the home through his own professional social media. Another distinct marketing advantage in hiring a realtor is that he talks to others in the real estate world.
This already established network can lead to connections made between realtors that in turn connect buyers with sellers who otherwise might never have met, no matter how much time they may spend online.
If your agent is able to work as a dual agent (working a realtor for both buyer and seller) he can make these connections with his own clients.
Again, while an individual can learn all of this for himself, it is difficult. And most sellers and buyers recognize this. Recent studies by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) have shown that 89% of home buyers use a realtor during their search and realtors are ranked nearly equal with websites as sources of information and in terms of general usefulness.
Given this, if you are selling, you should be working with a realtor. To not do so is to rob yourself of an excellent partner in marketing your home. And if you are realtor, don’t worry, Zillow and other mobile sites won’t be robbing you of a job anytime soon.
While only 17% of buyers make contacting a realtor the first step in their search, nearly all will be calling one at some point in the process.
The open house is a venerable staple of home selling. Allowing a large number of people to casually walk through a home unannounced has always provided a certain appeal to buyers.
While, they have fallen out of favor with some realtors in recent years, they can still play a very important role in the sale of a home.
Advantages - As stated, it is the casual nature of the format that provides the main appeal. Anyone, whether a serious buyer who has been searching for weeks and months online or a couple that happens to be driving by can tour the home, taking their time to inspect the bed rooms, common rooms, and yard without an agent following them around.
In this sense it takes a good deal of pressure off the prospective buyer. However, in a seller’s market, an open house can be very busy, instilling a sense of urgency in the buyer to place an offer as soon as possible.
This is made extremely convenient as the seller’s agent will be on hand. Should more than one party be interested in the home, a bidding war can begin, which the seller (and his agent) will naturally appreciate.
Before the event - The house has be to as perfect as possible before the day of the open house. Decluttering should already be done, the surfaces dusted, windows cleaned, and the lawn mowed.
Essentially, the home should be show ready on the morning of the event.
Marketing - Your realtor should be marketing the open house just as hard as the home itself. Any place the house is listed should be updated with the date and hours of the open house.
A separate video should be made announcing the open house and incorporating an abbreviated virtual tour of the home while the realtor highlights some of its best features.
Think of it as being like a movie trailer, designed to emphasize the best points of the home without revealing everything, so that prospective buyers will be drawn in.
Beyond this, flyers should also be put out ahead of time and signs placed on nearby cross streets. This not only makes it easy for those who have already researched the home online to find it, but can also catch the couple who are simply driving around prospective neighborhoods, curious if any homes are for sale.
The latter may not make an offer that day, but if they find the home appealing, they may well find themselves accelerating their process unexpectedly.
The yard is one of the oldest and most recognizable of real estate marketing tools. As such, it may seem to be something of a quaint anachronism.
It is anything but. The NAR study referenced above also reported that 51% of home buyers said a yard sign was an important source of information in their home search.
How can it be that in this age of mobile apps and satellite photography a simple “For Sale” sign can be cited as important by such a large percentage of buyers?
For one, as stated above, it makes the home easy to find. For the buyer searching for a home they researched online, that sign in the front yard instantly draws his attention towards the home he’s looking for.
If for some reason the buyer did not get the contact information for the seller’s agent from the listing, he can easily get it from the sign.
As with the open house discussed above, it also provides a focal point for those who prefer to search more casually, driving around just to see what is available.
There is also the possibility of attracting a buyer who did not even consider searching for a home before stumbling across this simplest and humble of marketing tools
Today’s real estate market is highly dynamic, filled with sophisticated buyers using a variety of sources to aid their search. As a seller it is important to be aware of buyers’ shopping trends and how to reach them. This book will take you through these and other marketing methods so that you will be able drive traffic to your home and get the best price in the shortest time possible