Posts Tagged ‘systems’

Safari is Just Around the Corner!

May 24, 2011

Don’t let the amazing event pass you by!

We’ll be looking at:

  • Where you are in your business.
  • What the last two years have brought … and what the next two years could bring.
  • Your natural work and behavioral styles, and how they dramatically impact your success.
  • The ten essentials for a successful business.
  • How to create an action plan that takes you where you want to be.

Think this is just another real estate seminar?  Think again!  We guarantee you’ve never attended an event quite like this.

Here’s what one agent had to say after our last event:

“This was the most personal and insightful seminar I have ever attended.  Denise has a great gift, and this could be the key to my personal and professional success.”

If you’re ready to take action, enroll in Safari while seats still remain!

Open House Preparation … it’s More than Signs and Flyers!

May 19, 2011

As the third installment of my open house series, I want to discuss how you prepare for your open house, and then how to actually host a highly successful open house. 

In order to have a highly successful open house you must prepare, prepare, prepare. Simply showing up at an open house with a couple of directional signs and some flyers is not enough! If you’re like many agents who tell me “Open houses don’t work”, I’m willing to bet that signs and flyers are your only open house tools. That simply is not enough!

Let’s talk about what you do need to do in order to create the kind of open house success you are looking for.

BEFORE THE OPEN HOUSE

It goes without saying that having systems in place will simplify your life – and your open houses!  Once you know exactly what you need for each and every open house you’ll find it extremely easy to get prepared ahead of time.

I recommend that all of your printed pieces – from signage to marketing materials – feature your custom brand. This is one of the best ways to stay top-of-mind with potential buyers and sellers, and stand out in the crowd of open house agents.

Some agents like to have an open house planning list to keep track of what needs to happen the week prior to the open house. Using this kind of checklist is very helpful because it keeps you on track.  You won’t forget one of the key essentials of your successful open house program if you’re managing your activities with a checklist. Regardless of whether you do or don’t create a list, below are the items that I think you must have on your open house checklist.  These can easily be customized for every open house you do.

  • Do the research. I talked about this in last week’s Zebra Report. In order to have a successful open house, you need to strategically select properties that offer the best opportunities for buyer and seller traffic. Do you remember what I said last week?  Instead of letting the property choose you, you need to choose the property. If you’re not sure how to do the research, go back and read last week’s Zebra Report, entitled Put on Your Thinking Cap”.
  • Plan your advertising. I also talked about this last week.  You must take the time to prepare a well-executed online and print advertising campaign. Simply putting an ad in your local paper will never generate the kind of traffic you want – or should expect.
  • Create an “Open House Book”. Provide additional value to attendees by offering a take-away open house booklet which includes full-color pages of information on your listing, as well a “tour of homes” sheet that has information on other comparable listings. You can also include a map showing each home’s location, and a one-page profile detailing your expertise.

  • Create custom branded display boards. A little later in this Zebra Report I’ll talk about display boards – what they are, how to use them, and why they are so important to your business. There is preparation needed for display boards – but once you have the format, it’s easy to update them for each house, or each neighborhood.
  • Plan your signage. If you’re looking for a very easy and inexpensive way to create a buzz around your open house, consider attaching an open house rider to your yardarm sign. This works well if you typically hold open houses on the same day and time … say, Saturday from 1pm-3pm. Attach your sign-rider on Thursday to alert people ahead of time about your open house. (Remember to remove the sign after your open house, however, or your sellers may be surprised the following weekend by a knock at the their door!)
  • Create invitations. If you’ve done your research, and you know who the most likely buyers are for the home you are holding open, send them a personal invitation. Postcards are a great option!  They are inexpensive to create and mail, and they offer a quick and colorful way to catch potential buyers’ attention. Don’t forget to go through your database and think about people who would also be good move-up or downsizing buyers.
  • Plan for a “neighbors only” open house. Again, use postcard invitations and explain that not only do neighbors get a private viewing of the home, you will also have valuable market and/or neighborhood information that you can share with them.
  • Plan your technology. There are a lot of options here, depending on whether you use video, social media or email invitations. Think about what will work best for you, what technology skills you have, and how savvy your market’s buyers and sellers are.
  • Shop for snacks and beverages. Depending on the home and the seller’s wishes, consider providing bottled water and some sort of snack. When you buy in bulk, you’ll save money upfront, and you’ll not be scrambling at the last minute to buy what you need.

DURING THE OPEN HOUSE

It’s what happens during your open house that will ‘wow’ attendees, elevating your open house from lackluster to amazing.

Even if you’ve done an amazing job preparing for and getting people to your open house, that’s only the beginning. Unless you provide a welcoming and professional atmosphere, visitors will likely walk in, and then walk out. Capturing their attention with eye-catching visual props (and accompanying information) is critical to building relationships – and building your business.

  • How to welcome attendees. You’ve put your open house signs on the street corners and at the curb, but have you considered how effective a ‘Welcome’ sign would be either on the front door or as a tent-sign on the front porch? What an engaging way to tell people “come on in – this is the right house – take a look around.” Most agents have never thought of doing this, but in fact it’s a very nice way to welcome your guests. And, if you use your custom branding on your ‘welcome’ sign, you’ve now set the tone for a higher-level, professional experience for your attendees.
  • Do you have a sign-in policy? Some agents have no problem putting out a sign-in sheet; other agents feel it can destroy a budding relationship in seconds. Personally, I have rarely seen this done well. If you are comfortable asking people to sign in , that’s great. If you’re using an excuse such as “my sellers are requesting you sign in for security purposes” be aware that open house visitors have been hearing this for years, and it may backfire on you.
  • Really know the best features of home and the surrounding area. People not only buy houses, they buy neighborhoods and surrounding areas. Identify at least five or ten area features and be able to talk about them comfortably.
  • Display features and benefits visually. This is a must-learn skill – not only for your open houses, but for every piece of home marketing you do. For every feature you want to highlight, there must be a corresponding benefit. Here’s a great example: if the home has a solid oak front door with heavy-duty hardware, the benefit is a heightened level of security, as well as exterior noise reduction. Once you have your list of features and benefits, create tent cards that you can place around the house to describe these to visitors.
  • Provide a personal brochure. Granted, you are selling the house.  But you are also selling yourself and your professional skills. A brochure is a terrific take-away that explains more about you, how you work, and the services you provide to both buyers and sellers.
  • Provide custom display boards. Most of us have visited a new-home subdivision and walked through model homes. These folks are experts at the display board business! They have boards that feature the neighborhood, the surrounding community and the features of the homes. You should have similar boards for the community (see below), plus boards that also showcase market data such as neighborhood appreciation rates, days-on-market statistics and recent pending and sold information. Determine what pieces you want on your boards, and then customize them for each house (and neighborhood) that you hold open.
  • Provide historical sales. People want to know what sort of investment they might be in for, especially if they fall in love emotionally with the house. Show visitors historical data going back far enough to highlight positive appreciation rates, and what they may expect going forward.
  • Display a “community board”.  Your board should include information on the community, such as population, demographics, parks, city services (police, fire stations, city hall), schools, and shopping.  You may also want to create a portable flyer version that visitors can take with them. Show where this house is in relation to other community amenities. It’s easy to overlay a street map with indicators for parks, schools, shopping and restaurants, and create a flyer that attendees can take with them. You may also want to include an aerial view of the neighborhood with the home clearly indicated.

  • Have open house book available. I talked about these booklets above. Once you have your system in place and format done, it’s simply a matter of adding your “open house tour” pages.
  • Provide extra amenities that set your open house apart. Offer shoe covers (also called “booties”) for those people who prefer not to remove their shoes. Or lay down carpet runners in high-traffic areas.  Some agents I know set out a basket of toys and coloring supplies for kids. You’d be surprised how easily this can build additional camaraderie with parents, while also providing a welcome respite for kids who were tired of having their parents drag them from open house to open house.

There is a lot of information in this Zebra Report, and many ideas for how to create a memorable open house for every attendee. It may feel overwhelming at first.  Just tackle one piece or idea at a time and start building your system and plan.  Before you know it you’ll have everything you need to really ‘wow’ your open house visitors.

Are you a real estate agent working in Washington State?

If so, we want to invite you to attend our “Unforgettable Open House” event on Tuesday, May 24th.

We’ll teach you how to design and conduct a truly unforgettable open house experience. You’ll learn the secret “props” needed for success, and how to captivate open house visitors. Discover the art of truly showing a home, rather than simply standing in the kitchen while potential clients walk in (and out!) the door. Hear the simple secret to capturing client contact information, without seeming like a pushy salesperson, “man talk” versus “woman talk”, and much, much more!

We’re offering this amazing opportunity in support of the Washington REALTORS® and National Association of REALTORS® Open House Weekend, which will be held June 4th and 5th this year. Master all of the insider secrets to a successful open house … then participate in the Open House Weekend by holding your best open house ever!  Public awareness of open houses will be high, and their expectations will be as well. You need to be ready to deliver!

There is no charge for the class; however, if you wish to participate for clock hours a fee of $35 ($40 at the door) will apply.

If you want to create an unforgettable open house experience – one that will generate income for you – you must attend this memorable class. Register Now!

Put on Your Thinking Cap … and Find the Right House to Hold Open!

May 12, 2011

This week, I want to discuss why it’s so important for you to choose the right house for your open house. It’s not just a matter holding an open house because one of your sellers wants you to. I want you to avoid doing that!  Instead of letting the house choose you, you need to choose the house!  And I’m going to tell you exactly how to do that.

First and foremost, not all houses are great candidates for an open house. If a house is in a rural area, or in a physical location that presents challenges, you’ll spend a lot of money on marketing and a lot of wasted time sitting by yourself waiting for buyers to find you. That is not the best use of your resources.

However, when you pick the right house – for the right reasons – you’ll find that your success rate in generating new prospects and clients will increase substantially.

Here are the categories for houses that are great candidates for your next open:

  1. New listings: New listings attract lots of traffic! People love to see what’s new on the market, and they love to be the first one through so they’ve got ‘insider information’ to share with their friends and family. You’ll also get a lot of neighbors who will come by … not only are they just curious about the house, they may be secretly interviewing agents prior to putting their house on the market.
  2. Well-priced listings: You will be amazed at the traffic you will generate when you hold open a well-priced listing. Buyers are amazingly savvy today, and they’re very aware of what constitutes good value. Well-priced listings can bring them out of the woodwork! Savvy buyers will not take the time to visit open houses where the listing price is out of line with the market. (Note: If you have listings that are overpriced, this is a terrific reason to have a serious ‘price-reduction’ conversation with your overly-optimistic sellers.)
  3. Easy-to find-listings: These listings offer a wonderful way to market yourself – and your name – by giving you lots of opportunities for signage. Imagine the marketing impact you’ll have when you place your personalized open house signs in numerous strategic locations. There’s a cumulative benefit to this when you hold open houses on a regular basis, and those houses are on well-traveled routes.
  4. In-demand listings: Do you know what style and price of house is the hottest seller in your market? You will if you search your MLS and track the most recent pendings. One of my coaching clients recently did this and then called me up the next day to say, “I thought I knew my market, Denise. But I clearly didn’t. What I thought was selling well now was actually selling well 6 months ago. But it’s not now! In my market – right now – one-level homes in the $279,000-$299,000 price range are hot. I had no idea!”  It’s critically important that you do your research. Find out what’s in demand right now – and take advantage of that knowledge.
  5. Well-advertised listings: It goes without saying that listings that are advertised well will attract buyers. But listings that are really advertised well — online, in print, and with targeted print mailing — are great candidates for an open house. There is already a buzz about them, so take advantage of that.
  6. Listings with great curb appeal: I call this the “irresistible factor. Who can’t help but want to go into a house that looks absolutely wonderful from the outside? Yes, we’re agents and we’re predisposed to appreciating fabulous curb appeal. But everyone else appreciates it too! When you’re doing research on the right kinds of homes to hold open, do not forget listings that are intriguing from the outside. When a house has ‘wow-factor’ curb appeal, you’ll generate significantly more traffic – which in turn can generate more potential clients.
  7. ‘Where fish are biting’ listings: These homes are the fastest-selling homes in you market. How do you determine this? Again – by doing some targeted MLS research. Find out what the days-on-market statistics are for a particular neighborhood, or within your community. Is there a correlation between a low days-on-market number and a particular price point or style of house? When you can connect these dots, you’ll have a very good idea of which homes are getting buyers to get off the fence and into the market.

Now that you know which houses are the best candidates for an open house, you need to determine how to attract potential buyers (and future sellers) to your open house.

Here are my “Top 5 Traffic Generators

  • Online marketing: The key here is consistency. To build strong traffic, your open house needs to be posted anywhere that open houses in your market are posted – including your personal website and your company website. Additionally, spread your social media net as wide as possible through Facebook and other social media sites. Remember to confirm with your sellers that they are comfortable having you advertise your open houses via social media.
  • Offline marketing: While many agents turn their noses up at print marketing these days, I do not. This can be a very effective method of building open house traffic. There are lots of options based on your market, including newspapers, magazines, trade publications, and community or neighborhood newsletters.
  • Immediate neighbors marketing: You’re missing a real opportunity if you’re not targeting the neighbors! If you normally hold your open house from 1pm-4pm, invite the neighbors over at 12:15pm for a special “neighbors-only” open house. Create an invitation that provides a reason for them to stop by. These could include getting current information on their neighborhood’s 10-year appreciation rate, or perhaps sales ratios and days-on-market statistics. For the neighbors, it’s not about the house as much as it’s about providing them with market knowledge. It’s about articulating your expertise.
  • Move-up buyer ‘radius’ marketing: This is a great way to generate traffic. Choose neighborhoods where the homeowners’ next move up (or down!) would likely be in the price range of your open house.
  • Database marketing: Never forget the value of the people who already know you and trust you – and support your career. List your open houses in your monthly newsletters. Send out an open house schedule via email, with a link to your website’s open house page. (Don’t forget to update this page each week!)

Lastly, I want you to think about open house options – those “outside the box” option that can generate additional traffic.

  1. Saturday versus Sunday open houses: For many people, Sunday is their ‘stay-at-home’ day. They have family activities, laundry, and yard work as priorities. Saturdays often will provide you with much better traffic, since people are already out and about doing errands. With ample signage you can attract a lot of traffic! Try this idea – test it for two or three months to see if that’s the case in your market.
  2. Condensed open houses:  Consider holding two homes open on the same day. It could look like this: House #1 (123 A St) is open from 9am-10am and then again from 1pm-2pm. House #2 (123 B St) is open from 11am-noon and then again from 3pm-4pm. Essentially, you’re increasing your opportunities to get a lot of people through in a short amount of time.
  3. Multi-property open house tour: Pick several houses that meet a particular niche and hold each one open for one hour. You could pick first-time buyer homes. Or waterfront homes. Or equestrian properties. Done strategically, you’ll quickly establish yourself as an expert in that particular niche.
  4. Multi-agent or entire office open house blitz: There’s power in numbers! Gather together a group of agents – or your whole office – and build an open house event.
  5. After-work weekday open house: This is a terrific idea for homes that are on commuter routes, or in neighborhoods that are close to bus stops. Hold an open house at approximately the same time as these folks are headed home. You’d be surprised at how many will stop in for a few minutes.

I’ve just given you a lot of ideas — and things to think about. What I want you to do now is toss your preconceived notions about open houses out the window and start thinking outside the box. Open houses can be an amazingly successful strategy for you — if you pick the right houses, determine how to build traffic, and schedule them to maximize your reach.

Are you a real estate agent working in Washington State?

If so, we want to invite you to attend our “Unforgettable Open House” event on Tuesday, May 24th.

We’ll teach you how to design and conduct a truly unforgettable open house experience. You’ll learn the secret “props” needed for success, and how to captivate open house visitors. Discover the art of truly showing a home, rather than simply standing in the kitchen while potential clients walk in (and out!) the door. Hear the simple secret to capturing client contact information, without seeming like a pushy salesperson, “man talk” versus “woman talk”, and much, much more!

We’re offering this amazing opportunity in support of the Washington REALTORS® and National Association of REALTORS® Open House Weekend, which will be held June 4th and 5th this year. Master all of the insider secrets to a successful open house … then participate in the Open House Weekend by holding your best open house ever!  Public awareness of open houses will be high, and their expectations will be as well. You need to be ready to deliver!

There is no charge for the class; however, if you wish to participate for clock hours a fee of $35 ($40 at the door) will apply.

If you want to create an unforgettable open house experience – one that will generate income for you – you must attend this memorable class.

Throw Open the Doors!

May 5, 2011

Think open houses aren’t effective in today’s tech-driven society? Think again!

Open houses – if done strategically – can generate more business than you would ever imagine.

Open houses have been around for a very long time. Twenty or thirty years ago, they were one of the only ways to get buyers into a home without an appointment. They were much more effective than printed ads because buyers had a chance to really look around and get a feel for the home. They were certainly the best way to do some low-cost marketing! Buyers simply showed up at as many open houses as they had time for and could quickly get a fairly good feel for their local market.

But then the internet arrived … and it wasn’t too many years later that real estate agents started marketing homes online. Beginning in early 2005 there were a number of articles discussing the fact that the open house – as a marketing tool – was a dying breed.

I disagreed with that theory then, and I still disagree with it today. I believe that open houses can be an incredible source of marketing for a home, an incredible source of business for agents, and an incredible tool for buyers to really explore what they want and need in a home.

According to the National Association of REALTORS® 2010 “Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers”, 45%* of buyers use open houses as part of their information source. That means nearly one out of every two buyers is attending at least one open house! That’s an important fact for agents – and their sellers – to understand. Open houses are not just a last resort to find buyers for an over-priced listing, or to find buyers at all. An open house can have a very positive effect on the sale of a home.

A lot of agents will say that rarely have they sold the listing where they were holding an open house. That may be true, but remember this: open houses sell other houses. Open houses cultivate buyers and engage them into making positive buying decisions by getting them into houses and off the fence. Open houses can help get a sluggish market back up and running!

If you’ve taken open houses off your list of marketing activities, you need to put them back on your list. Right now – today – you have a better chance picking up a buyer than you did 5-10 years ago. Why? Because today’s buyer has more access to home information than ever before. They’ve already done their research. They have seen homes online and reviewed the stats. When they attend an open house, they’re attending because they have some interest in, or at least some curiosity about, the home. Today open houses are very targeted toward ready, willing and able buyers, compared to open houses of the past. And today’s buyers are savvy buyers. They are very clear on what they’re looking for. When they attend an open house, that house has already gotten their initial stamp of approval.

Have I piqued your interest yet? I hope so! Here are more things for you to think about.

Open houses have a lot of pros and a few cons … based on who you are, what your market is like, and your natural personality style.

The Pros

  1. You have a chance to meet with potential buyers face-to-face and build credibility and trust.
  2. An open house is a great way to sharpen your client interaction skills.
  3. You’ll learn a lot about a neighborhood by doing the analysis necessary to have ready answers to buyer questions.
  4. An open house is a very low-cost marketing alternative.
  5. You’re creating an informational focus group to get feedback on the listing for you, and for the seller.
  6. You receive immediate results – and feedback. You’ll quickly get a sense of what buyers are looking for – and what prices are most attractive to the “right now” buyer.
  7. An open house shows that you are proactively involved in your local market.
  8. You can pick up a listing in the neighborhood. Many people attend open houses in their neighborhood, not only to see how their home stacks up, but to get to know agents that they might want to hire when they decide to sell their home.
  9. You could pick up a buyer for another home without spending a lot of money on marketing.
  10. An open house helps you familiarize yourself with the area or neighborhood inventory.

The Cons

  1. An open house can be a waste of time if no one shows up. (If you do an open house strategically, this won’t happen to you!)
  2. Prep time is needed, and can appear to be a lot of work. (It’s not a lot of work once you’re organized and you have a system!)
  3. An open house can be stressful if you don’t like to meet new people and you find building quick rapport challenging. (Role playing can help.)
  4. You have to be a great listener, and you need to know how to ask good questions. (Again, some role playing can do wonders for your interaction skills.)

I want you to take a few minutes right now and start a simple two-column list. On one side, write down all of the reasons why you like (or might like) holding open houses. On the other side, write down why you don’t do them. Compare both lists. Figure out what – If anything – is holding you back, and determine what you can do to help you see success with this potentially lucrative marketing strategy.

Believe me – open houses can be a goldmine for you! It’s time for you to throw the doors wide open and join the open house crowd!

If I’ve piqued your interest, stay tuned because this is just the first installment in a series of Zebra Reports that I’m going to write on open houses. Next week I’m going to talk about what kinds of houses get good traffic, and how you determine the right house (or houses) based on doing some highly-targeted research.

*Source: National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers 2010, page 46: INFORMATION SOURCES USED IN HOME SEARCH.

Are you a real estate agent working in Washington State?

If so, we want to invite you to attend our “Unforgettable Open House” event on Tuesday, May 24th  in Bellevue, Washington.

We’ll teach you how to design and conduct a truly unforgettable open house experience. You’ll learn the secret “props” needed for success, and how to captivate open house visitors. Discover the art of truly showing a home, rather than simply standing in the kitchen while potential clients walk in (and out!) the door. Hear the simple secret to capturing client contact information, without seeming like a pushy salesperson, “masculine talk” versus “feminine talk”, and much, much more!

We’re offering this amazing opportunity in support of Washington REALTORS® and the National Association of REALTORS® Open House Weekend, which will be held June 4th and 5th this year. Master all of the insider secrets to a successful open house … then participate in the Open House Weekend by holding your best open house ever!  Public awareness of open houses will be high, and their expectations will be as well. You need to be ready to deliver!

There is no charge for the class; however, if you wish to obtain clock hours, a fee of $35 ($40 at the door) will apply.

If you want to create an unforgettable open house experience – one that will generate income for you – you must attend this memorable class! Space is limited, so register today! 

Powerful Home Presentation Tools

April 28, 2011

This is the sixth article in my series on powerful listing presentations. So far we’ve covered pricing, communication, technology, and marketing. This week’s topic is home presentation & photography.

Humans, by nature, are visual creatures. What we see with our eyes is what tugs at the strings of our heart, and engages us emotionally. Because of this, visual cues are extremely important in real estate – it’s the way we first connect buyers to homes, and it’s the way those buyers ultimately move beyond simply looking at homes, to mentally creating new memories in that home … before they even live there.

When you have fabulous home marketing materials to showcase at your listing presentation (remember — these are your “props”), you’re not only reinforcing the positive way the sellers feel about their home, you’re also visually showing the importance of reaching to the emotional side of buyers through home preparation, beautiful photography, and engaging video.

Sellers tell us over and over that home presentation is critically important to them. It’s one of the reasons they choose one agent over another. If your home presentation tools aren’t up to snuff, you’re going to lose business!

When you have “props” that show potential sellers what your home presentation tools look like, your ability to “wow” the sellers and get the listing goes up very quickly. This is especially true if sellers are comparing you to agents who have either poor quality – or very few – tools.

If you know you need to step up your game, but aren’t sure where to start, here are some ideas to get you started. None of these ideas are terribly expensive. But they will give you a huge return on your investment in building a long-term and sustainable relationship with your sellers, and in attracting potential buyers to every one of your listings.

Photos, photo galleries, and video: I’ve talked about these three items in previous Zebra Reports, including a recent Zebra Report titled Powerful Marketing – the Signature Virtual Tour, but I’m going to say it again. Unless you are also a professional photographer or videographer, hire professionals who specialize in showcasing homes. Your home presentation tools should include incredible photography that draws buyers in from the first time they pull up the listing. When you show sellers what kind of photography you invest in, they’ll instantly understand the value you bring to the table.

The Home Photo Book

This is different than what I call the “home book” (a book where you include items such as home care and warranty records, the most current inspection report, tax and appraisal records, and neighborhood and community information). The home photo book is a photographic tour of the home that draws the buyer in and allows them to envision living there. This is where you tell the story of the home!

Here’s how to build the home photo book:

  • Start with amazing photos. These photos must be very high resolution and print-quality. They should be so good that when you print them at 8”x10” they look even more amazing.
  • Many agents use an online company like Shutterfly to build their home photo book. For about $30, and just a little time, you can create something quite stunning. All you do is pick your style, pick your cover and upload your photos.
  • Other agents buy what I call the ‘wedding album’ book. You can find these at any craft or photo store. If you buy the version with the die-cut front cover, you can insert a beautiful exterior home photo for the cover. Print out high-quality photos on glossy photo paper and mount them to the pages. If you’re making this version, remember to keep it in great shape – it will get worn out as you show it to more and more potential sellers.

When you’re showing your sample home photo book to your sellers, be sure to let them know that you’ll be creating a book similar to this for their home. That book would be prominently displayed in the home (perhaps next to the flyer stand) for buyers to look at when they’re touring.  And don’t just make one of these books!  When you create the book, order (or make) two!  After closing, one can stay in the home for the buyers, and you can give the second copy to the sellers at closing. They will love having this beautiful book to remind them of their former home.

Home Staging

Be careful here, because sometimes sellers think that when you offer to stage their home you are actually going to change their home so much that you make it unlivable for them. Or, when you say you stage a home, you are offering to spend hundreds of dollars to get their home ready for the market. Make sure you are clear in what you are going to do, so your expectations of service will match your seller’s. Some agents are now calling this service “home merchandising” rather than “staging”.

Here’s how it might sound as you talk to sellers: “One of the things we need to consider is how to merchandise your home properly to engage potential buyers. I know you might have visions of us drastically changing your home. Don’t worry!  We don’t need to change the way you live – we just need to help buyers see how they might live in your home.”

Be sure to use your home merchandising props – the before and after photos that show sellers exactly what you mean by merchandising, and the value that it brings to them. If you have statistics that show how your merchandising efforts lead to a shorter days-on-market number, or a higher sales price, use them in your props! Create a visual board that has some beautiful “before and after” photos, and a flyer that displays the statistics to back you up.

As a wrap-up to my six-part listing presentation series, let’s talk about where we started and where we are ending. I’ve talked about everything you need in your listening presentation – the powerful tools that will set you apart and really build your business. You need pricing tools. You need communication tools. You need technology, marketing and home presentation tools. The reality is that you need them all!

However, I don’t want you to feel so overwhelmed that you never get started creating your listing presentation props. So – start small if you need to, and create one or two pieces from each of the categories I’ve covered. Once you see the value (and I guarantee the value will be BIG), you will be ready to create more and more visual props that reinforce your professional skills as a listing agent. Your goal should be to have a very compelling, very professional presentation … one that is so impressive that sellers hire you on the spot.

Want to get hired every time you do a listing presentation? When you have powerful listing tools that’s exactly what will happen. 

Based on the feedback we’ve gotten from this series it sounds as though many of your really like a multi-part format. Well, here’s some good news!  Next week I’m beginning a brand-new four-part series, sort of a “how-to” on holding highly successful open houses.  In fact, I like to call it the “unforgettable open house”. Stay tuned – this is going to make you think about open houses in a whole new way!

Powerful Print Marketing Tools

April 21, 2011

This is the fifth article in my series on powerful listing presentations, where we’ll be covering pricing, communication, technology, marketing, and home presentation & photography.

This week I want to discuss the power of your print marketing tools … and why you simply must spend time creating a portfolio of materials that represents your professional expertise and shows your sellers exactly how you’ll market their home.

As I’ve said in each of the previous Zebra Reports about listing presentations, sellers want to see how you are going to sell their home. They expect you to outline the steps you will take, and they want to see “real life” samples.  You probably remember from previous Zebra Reports in this series that my term for these samples is “props”.

If you’ve ever taken one of my classes, or read any of my previous Zebra Reports on marketing, you’ll remember that one of the cornerstones of my business is my belief that agents need to develop their own personal “brand”.  The materials that we’ve talked about throughout this “Powerful Listing Presentations” series should all be created using your brand.

If the materials you use when marketing homes – the same materials you showcase during your presentation – aren’t beautiful, colorful, and extremely high-quality, you are doing your sellers a disservice. A seller’s home is a huge investment – they deserve nothing but the absolute best from you!

Before I explain what I believe are the most important items, I want to talk for just a minute about what I often see. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven by a house and stopped to take a flyer out of a flyer  box … only to find it printed on plain white paper. And sometimes the colors aren’t even accurate. Here’s an example: That lovely taupe house that I’m standing in front of … with the crisp white trim and black front door? On the flyer it looks dingy yellow and muddy brown! And the interior photos on the flyer certainly aren’t going to get me excited about seeing the home.

Remember – even if the contract and the negotiation phase of real estate is where you shine (and what you enjoy!) you can’t get to that point if you don’t market the house properly and attract buyers to the table.

I want to start by addressing how you present your marketing plan. Do you have something in writing that tells your sellers exactly what you are going to do, and when you are going to do it? Do you have a calendar that you leave with them that they can refer to? A lot of agents over-promise and under-deliver when it comes to marketing.  When you give your sellers a calendar of activities you are reinforcing the fact that you do what you say you will do.

Now let’s talk about all of the printed pieces – the “props” – which you need for a very polished and professional listing presentation. I’m going to give you lots of ideas, but it’s up to you to choose the ones that best fit you and your market.  However, regardless of which tools you use, it is absolutely critical that those tools be created using your brand. If the sellers are interviewing multiple agents, the use of your brand will absolutely elevate you from “ordinary” to “extraordinary” in terms of memorability!

Here are the tools you may want to consider for your next listing presentation:

1. Marketing Binder: One of the most impressive items you can give your sellers is a full-color copy of your customized marketing binder. This is the package that pulls your marketing calendar and all of your samples together into a ‘leave-behind’ for your seller to review and refer to. The cover must have a beautiful photo of the seller’s home. Where appropriate, each of the sample pieces in your binder should also include that photo.

2. Flyers: Regardless of whether you create one-page, two-page or four-page flyers, the photos you use must be amazing. I also encourage you to use high-quality, gloss paper. Remember – your flyer says a lot about you to other potential sellers, as well as to buyers. Keeping the flyer box full of extremely well-done flyers reinforces the fact that you are a true professional.

3. Photo gallery CD: Many agents create a photo gallery CD, which they reproduce and leave at their listing for prospective buyers to take. Print an exterior photo for the CD jacket and include the same photo on the CD label.

4. Advertising: It goes without saying that regardless of whether you are marketing your listings in a newspaper, a magazine, online or on your flyers, including truly engaging descriptions is imperative to attracting buyers. Before the listing appointment, spend some time thinking about the profile of likely buyers for the home. Then write two to three different ads based on that target audience. Preparing in this way will definitely impress a potential seller!

5. Marketing Boards: These boards are the perfect way to present a visually compelling story of how you are going to market the seller’s home.

6. Just Listed postcards: Never underestimate the power of a beautiful postcard. Send these cards to the neighborhood, your database, and other potential buyers. Postcards don’t cost a lot, and your potential sellers will love that you send them.

7. Home Book: This is one of my favorite pieces. You might remember that I mentioned it recently when talking about your communication tools. The home book is a notebook that you leave at the house during the time it’s listed. Include items such as home care and warranty records, the most current inspection report, tax and appraisal records, and neighborhood and community information. Show potential sellers what their home book will look like. They’ll immediately understand the value of the book, and of hiring you.

8. Home marketing cards: This is another idea that my coaching clients have found particularly useful … and that sellers love! Print business cards that feature the home (a photo on the front, and details on the back), and give them to the sellers to pass out to their friends and neighbors. It’s their home, and they are undoubtedly proud of it – so let them be a part of your marketing efforts!

9. Open house materials: Most sellers still want you to hold open houses, regardless of how much other marketing you are doing. It comes up at nearly every listing presentation. When asked, the typical agent simply responds: “Sure, I can do an open house for you.” Or they might even say: “You know, I don’t do open houses and here’s why.”  Open houses can be a gold mine when done correctly! Without going into a lot of detail, here are the open house props that will ‘wow’ the socks off of potential sellers.

  1. Open house invitations: Postcards are quick and easy. Let your sellers know exactly who you are targeting, and why.
  2. Open house display boards: Many agents use small easels that fit on a kitchen counter or dining room table to present neighborhood information. These could include maps of the area, as well as information on schools, parks, and shopping.
  3. Open house feedback forms: Sellers like to know what buyers are thinking! Show your sellers what your feedback forms looks like.  Even better, ask them if there is anything in particular they want buyers to provide feedback on.

10. Database marketing: I talked about this in the Zebra Report just a couple of weeks ago. Show your potential sellers the type of marketing you are doing with your databases, and where their home may be featured in this marketing. Do you feature your listings in a newsletter, or send out your ‘just listed’ postcards to your database as well as targeted buyers? If so, bring samples! Sellers will appreciate your extra efforts to find a buyer for their home.

I want you to remember one thing about marketing that is easy to forget in this high-tech world. Print marketing – if done well – still has enormous impact. While buyers may be looking at homes online, they still want a beautiful brochure or flyer to take home, to look at again, and to share with friends and family.

Remember – sellers expect their home to be showcased in full-color and beautifully presented to potential buyers, both in print and online. Don’t let them down!  With your brand as a starting point, create beautiful printed materials for your next listing presentation.

Next week we’ll feature our sixth and final topic in our “Powerful Listing Presentations” series: home presentation & photography. Be sure to watch for next week’s Zebra Report!

Powerful Technology Tools

April 14, 2011

This is the fourth article in my series on powerful listing presentations, where we’ll be covering pricing, communication, technology, marketing, and home presentation & photography.

This week I want to discuss powerful technology tools and the importance of these tools in your listing presentation.

Regardless of whether technology is important to you in your personal life, you must step up to the technology plate when it comes to your business. In today’s world, providing the widest possible array of online marketing tools is critically important to your success as a listing agent.

Here’s why: Sellers are hiring you to expose their home to the largest potential group of buyers available. Online marketing is a very important part of this process. Gone are the days when can you simply rely on flyers, yard signs, newspaper and magazine ads, the MLS, and other agents.  I’m not saying to stop using these traditional methods, just trying to make sure that you’re integrating technology into the mix.

Yes, there are buyers who likely only look for houses through print media, or only with their agent. And there are also buyers who rarely look at houses online, and would rather spend their weekends attending open houses. However, many buyers today are completely plugged into online real estate search sites, as well as Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets. It’s part of your job as an agent to understand the value of technology, embrace it as part of your overall business plan, and apply it to get results.

And your listing presentation is the perfect place to show that you “get” technology. According to the National Association of REALTORS® 2010 Profile of Buyers & Sellers, more than 90% of sellers today expect enhanced online marketing. The message is clear — online marketing is extremely important to sellers!

While there are lots of technology tools to choose from, and even more opportunities for online marketing, the way you present your technology plan to sellers is immensely important to meeting their needs and expectations. If you can show your expertise in this area, you’ll immediately increase the likelihood of walking out with a signed listing agreement.

So just how do you articulate your value to today’s tech-savvy seller? You create visual tools!  Remember those? They are the ‘props’ I’ve been talking about in my recent Zebra Reports. Use your props to show sellers how you will expertly market their home online.

Below is my list of the technology “musts” for today’s successful agent.

1. You must have a custom website: It would be hard today to find a real estate company without its own website. Since the late 1990’s, real estate companies around the world have built websites that: 1) help buyers search for homes, 2) help sellers market their homes, and 3) act as a marketing tool for the company itself. Some are amazing … and some leave a lot to be desired. Regardless of how robust your company’s site is, you need your own custom website.

Often an agent will say, “My company offers nicely done template websites at very low cost. That’s good enough for me.” I disagree! Imagine this: you work in a market where you and many of your company colleagues are competing for the same listings. Each of you shows up at your listing presentations with the same basic template, and very, very similar online tools. OK, so maybe there are a few changes – your personal photos are obviously different, and maybe a couple of you have changed a background photo on the site — but it really is the same website.  Who stands out to the seller? Nobody. Remember that statistic above? Sellers are telling you that they want more – they want to know that you have stepped up your technology game to a whole new level. They are looking for technology that meets their expectations, and exposes their home to the largest number of potential buyers.

They also want your website to showcase their home – not simply advertise their home as one of the many listings you may have. Just as you want to stand out from the agent crowd, your sellers want to know that their home stands out from all the other listings on the market.

There are hundreds of features available, such as simple map searches, common-feature searches, school-proximity searches, and pre-mapped neighborhood searches. You don’t need them all, but you must have enough custom tools on your website to ‘wow’ your sellers with your ability to reach and engage buyers.

A custom website allows you to do all of that.

Take a look at John Hurlbut’s website, below.  John was in my EVOLVE coaching group last year, and is part of this year’s ENCORE group. We developed John’s website for him in 2010.  A tech-savvy agent, John knew that a website was a key component in building his business. John’s website utilizes an IDX (Internet Data Exchange) service to pull in listings from the MLS and display them front and center on the website. Visitors have the ability to perform as simple or complex a search as they desire, can save search queries and favorite listings, make notes on listings, receive updates, plug numbers into a mortgage calculator, and so on. In addition, a custom website allows you to include other helpful pages, such as details on your client services, an area resource section full of information for anyone who might be new to the area, and a blog.

While you’re building your custom website, consider including a private client area as well. This is a username and password-protected area where your sellers have access to a wide variety of information about their individual listing.  The private client area is the perfect spot for feedback reports, showing reports, local and neighborhood market data updates, your marketing calendar, and – once there is an offer – your pending-to-closing calendar. While this doesn’t replace having person-to-person discussions with your sellers, it provides them with another layer of service that few agents provide.

2. You must engage in social media: Gone are the days when posting your listing to a website is good enough. Long-gone are the days when every evening an anxious buyer sits down at his computer and weeds through all of the new listings. Today’s buyer is instantly plugged into the latest information on new listings. Even though real estate is still about building relationships, and those relationships need to be personal and face-to-face, sites like Facebook and Twitter have fast become the communication tool many people use on a daily basis.

If you’re not engaged in the conversation – and talking about your listings and real estate – other agents will be filling in the gap. And their listings are being put in front of thousands of potential buyers every single day. Your sellers deserve the kind of global marketing that social networking sites offer.

3. You must syndicate your listings: It’s not enough to have a website and use social media to market your listings. There’s one more step you must take – and it’s listing syndication!  What is listing syndication?  It’s a way to is a way to promote your listing in a national – or perhaps – global way.  When you “syndicate” a listing, you post that listing on a large number of websites … and in turn, those sites share their website content (a part of which is your listing) with other websites.  Syndicate strategically, and you’ll be able to promote your listings to hundreds of thousands of potential buyers searching online for real estate.

Listing syndication is a terrific tool, but you need to do a little research before syndicating. Take care to only post to sites that accurately represent your listings, and which provide a way for you to quickly and easily update pricing information or additional photos.

Look for websites that offer you the widest amount of buyer-friendly tools, including the ability to add multiple and virtual tours. Determine who their online partners are (who they syndicate to), and the depth of the exposure your sellers will receive. Create a visual ‘prop’ that indicates not only where you post your seller’s home, but where those posts are syndicated and the number of visitors that each site has every day. There is value in numbers – and your sellers will instantly understand how that value impacts their goal to get their home sold.

If you want to syndicate, but you’re not sure where to start, look no further than your real estate company. Find out where they post your listings. Then look at regional and national sites. There even companies that will syndicate your listings for you. You simply post your listing information once, and they do all the work for you.

Many of the agents I work with tell me the sites below are ones that they regularly use to take advantage of listing syndication. You should do your homework, however, to find websites that offer you the most benefit.

The technology board below is a terrific example of a listing syndication ‘prop’ that one of our clients uses during his listings presentation. This allows him a visually compelling way to explain what listing syndication is, and the considerable benefit it brings to his sellers.

I know this focus on technology may sound a bit daunting at first blush.  It will take you some time to do your homework, determine the best ways for you to market your listings online, and learn how to articulate that value to your sellers.  But I promise you it will be well worth it in the long run. Listing competition is tough these days, and if you want to successfully build your business (and increase your income!)  you absolutely must use technology to your advantage. If you do, your listing presentation will have yet another layer of expertise that will dramatically set you apart from the competition. And that means sellers will look no further than you when hiring their listing agent.

The fifth topic in our six-part “Powerful Listing Presentations” is marketing … and we’ll be unveiling that next week.  Be sure to watch for our next Zebra Report!

Ask Denise: Time Management

April 14, 2011

Q: I have too much to do every week and am getting behind. How do I manage my time more effectively? I feel like I’m drowning!

A: Any time I hear an agent feel like they’re losing focus I know they’re not doing what I call “the hour of power”. You’ve probably heard me talk about the hour of power before. It’s as simple as this: set aside an hour of time each and every day where you work on projects that will improve your business. During that time you DO NOT call clients, email clients, text clients, or communicate with clients in any way. Instead, tackle those projects that will provide a long-term benefit to your business – such as the development of your website, the creation of a buyer or seller package, or the development of a brochure that describes your services. If possible, have your hour of power at the same time every day, and try to do it in a spot with as few distractions as possible.

Powerful Client Communication Tools

April 7, 2011

This is the third article in my series on powerful listing presentations, where we’ll be covering pricing, communication, technology, marketing, and home presentation & photography.

This week I want to discuss powerful client communication tools and how they will enhance your listing presentation.

Many sellers say that one of their biggest frustrations and challenges is agent communication. In my company we often talk with seller focus groups, and communication issues come up over and over again. Here are some of the things that sellers tell us:

  • “Once I signed the listing agreement, I rarely heard from my agent.”
  • “I have no idea what I am paying my agent for – she doesn’t seem to be doing anything to get my house sold!”
  • “I canceled my listing because my agent promised a lot, but delivered very little.”
  • “My neighbor’s house sold and my agent never bothered to take the time to tell me why theirs sold and mine hadn’t even gotten an offer.”

I can’t tell you how many agents still don’t recognize the seriousness of this issue!  Agents lose a lot of business – especially repeat and referral business – simply because they don’t meet a seller’s communication expectations. And it saddens me to know that with just a little planning and effort, this doesn’t have to happen.

First and foremost, find out how your clients feel about communication. Ask what method will be the most comfortable for them. Remember – this is about their preferences, not yours. Just because you’d rather talk on the phone does not mean that everyone else would. Some people are happiest using email. Some prefer the phone. Some only want to talk to you face-to-face. And some want different communication methods, depending on the issue. As an example, I had a client once who didn’t mind phone calls for simple things like a buyer feedback report. But they expected to have face-to-face discussions for anything more serious, including market changes, price reductions, or the new listing down the street.

If you don’t ask how clients prefer to communicate, you are missing the mark. And when that happens, you’re going to lose business.

Beyond knowing how your clients want to communicate, you need to have a communication plan, and accompanying tools, which clearly shows them what you are doing to earn their business (and their trust!). You must show them exactly how you will keep them apprised of important issues like market changes, feedback from other agents and buyers, and what you’re doing to market their home.

Remember when we spoke about “props” in the previous Zebra Report?  In case you need a reminder, props are visual tools that help you articulate your services – and your value!  Props help show your clients that you do take your communication plan seriously, and that you have the tools needed to follow through as promised.

So, what kinds of visual tools do you need?

1. A broker open or office tour report. Many agents have some sort of a comment form that they ask other agents to fill out about a new listing. But very few agents turn those comments into a visual report for their sellers. Sellers want to have something to look at. They won’t remember what you told them on the phone. And if you need to reduce the price or recommend staging in a few weeks, you’ll have data from your colleagues to back you up when talking to your sellers.

2. An ongoing feedback report. This report is based on buyer feedback – which is even more critical than agent feedback. Typically an agent will call a seller if there is feedback on their home. If that feedback is negative feedback, agents will ‘duck’ this discussion altogether. Tell your sellers that having a feedback report for them – based on unedited comments from buyers – will provide both of you with important and relevant information about what buyers are seeing and experiencing, regardless of whether you receive good, bad, or neutral feedback.

3. A pending-to-closing calendar. You must visually reinforce the organizational skills you provide once there is an offer on your seller’s home. Too often agents believe that sellers know what happens from day-to-day or week-to-week during the pending and closing process. However, sellers tell us that is not the case! They do not remember all of the steps even if they’ve sold several homes in the past. Show them what your calendar looks like, and tell them what to expect.

4. A marketing calendar. From writing and placing ads, to posting online, to building flyers or brochures and creating photo galleries and videos – selling a home takes extensive marketing. Do your sellers know exactly what you do, and when you do it? Do you explain to them what needs to happen and in what order it should take place? Providing a calendar (not simply a checklist) reassures them that you are doing everything you can to market their home effectively.

5. A marketing activity report. Even though you provide your sellers with a marketing calendar, you should also provide weekly updates on what you are doing. If you have ever had a seller say, “…you don’t seem to be doing anything to get my house sold…” providing weekly activity reports will answer that concern in a very powerful way. It takes a lot of work to sell a home – let your sellers know that you are working for them.

6. Samples of all of your marketing tools. It goes without saying that sellers expect to see samples of high-quality, professional marketing materials. You must have samples of your flyers and brochure, your open house materials, and your online marketing – including your photo gallery or a video home tour and how your listings appear on websites. You should have a visual representation of every website where you post their listing.

If you create “just listed” postcards, have a sample. If you send out a client newsletter that features your listings, let them see exactly what that looks like.  Consider creating a notebook that includes not only sample newsletters, but a printed copy of your database. When you explain the power of your database in marketing their home, you add another important layer to your listing presentation.

7. An annual client review. Even though your potential sellers won’t receive an annual client review on a home they are selling, they will understand the value when you say “I want to show you my Annual Client Review. Because I am very good at staying in touch with my past clients, they call me at the very beginning of their home search – which means I often have an ongoing list of potential buyers who may find your home the perfect fit.”

8. A homeowner’s book. Here’s a great way to discuss the homeowner’s book with potential sellers: “Imagine you are a buyer who has fallen in love this house. And on the kitchen counter is a notebook that includes all the details – and answers all the questions that you have. Details like home care and warranty records, the most current inspection report, tax and appraisal records. Neighborhood and community information. A homeowner’s book calms their concerns, so that instead of walking away with more questions, they are excited about writing an offer.”

If you find this list daunting, start by simply creating one tool at a time. Before long, you will have an entire set of communication tools at your fingertips … and a much more powerful listing presentation.

When you visually engage sellers with a systematic communication plan, the opportunity to leave the appointment with a listing contract in hand increases dramatically. And when you follow through with your communication plan, you will have solidified a client relationship that will bring you business for many years to come.

Next week I’ll be covering the role technology plays in the listing presentation.  You won’t want to miss it!

Fresh From The Lones Group’s Instant Image Portfolio: “Quiet Night at Home”

April 7, 2011

A refined palette featuring soft blue tones, couple with a warm beige, provides the color elements for our “Quiet Night at Home” Instant Image brand.  Created to invoke a sense of understated elegance, this serene design offers great flexibility when marketing properties.

Whether you want to develop a completely custom brand, or select from one of the amazing designs in our “Instant Image” portfolio, we are here to help.

Interested in learning more about developing your custom branded image? We can help with that too! Please send an email to support@thelonesgroup.com or call us at 360-527-8904 to learn more.


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