Note: This is a chapter in my new ebook called The Ultimate Guide to Buying (and then Selling) Your First Home. I will post a chapter a week. If you like what you read, you can pick up a copy here for the price of a candy bar! Buy a candy bar or be a real estate guru! The next chapter we examine how you can put together the perfect listing for your house. The last chapter to be shared on this blog you can find here.
I started working on Steve and Sally’s listing the next day. The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is the portal/database agents use to market and advertise a listing to other agents and potential buyers. Each MLS has strict guidelines on how the listing is created with limits such as the number of characters you use to describe the property. I must develop and get the listing ready to go online. It is not as easy as one would think and can take some time to get it right. There is an art as well as a science in putting together listings to go online. In order to make your listing stand out, here are three tricks I utilize.
1. Good Pictures Matter – Today, most people find their homes online. They will evaluate a home comprehensively through the MLS listing before deciding to go look at the home in person. For this reason, your agent will make sure the photographs taken of your property are stellar and show its strengths. Some agents will have their photographer use tricks to make the property look better like wide angle lens shots and special lighting. However, these tricks can be easily seen online by the buyers today who have gotten very savvy in their abilities to recognize modified photographs in property listings. It is perfectly fine to utilize good photographer tricks for the pictures, but be forewarned that most people will see through them. With Steve and Sally’s house, I decided to skip the wide-angle lens approach because their house can sell itself. I did go ahead and schedule a 3D tour to along with the professional pictures as this seems to have the biggest impact on how people see the house online. It is worth the couple hundred dollars to showcase your listing with great photos.
2.Description needs to highlight strengths – As indicated before, all MLS systems require a particular character length for parts of the property listing, and it is only 3000 characters for the actual description. Agents must get creative in this section without outright lying. Descriptive languages must be used lightly as people translate words like beautiful, spectacular, remarkable, etc. in their own way. One beautiful kitchen for the agent could be downright ugly to a buyer. With this in mind, agents are always careful to keep the descriptions only to the facts about the property without putting too much subjective language in it. At the same time, the agent will need to write a description that attracts the reader to the property. Agents will rely on factual descriptions of the property strengths. You also must craft a story for the house that buyers will be able to relate. The easiest way to do this is find faults with the home and see how you might spin the story in a way to make the fault into a strength. For example, with Steve and Sally’s home, their bedrooms are smaller because of the age of the house. However, they have two very open and attractive living areas adjacent to the kitchen. I was able to incorporate into the listing description that the house was made for entertaining guests and families.
3.Attachments should be there – Agents will most likely ask you to sign some additional paperwork beyond that of the listing contract. These documents are then uploaded to the MLS and presented as attachments in the property listing. Some example of documents you might have to sign include a Seller’s Disclosure notice, a lead-based paint form (for properties a certain age), mineral rights form and a form specifying that survey is accurate to the best of the seller’s knowledge (called the T-47 form). Why is this so important? Full disclosure is so very important with listings and each of the extra forms disclose something else about the property. If these attachments are not provided, the buyer’s agent will probably be suspicious of the reasons and caution the buyers to be watchful of the property during the option period. You should have nothing to hide so go ahead and do the work to get the documents online. Many of the documents are required via the residential contract for 1 to 4 homes, and they must be provided within a certain period of time, or the buyer has the right to terminate the contract. It is always best to make sure the attachments on ready to go whenever the listing goes live in the MLS.
With Sally and Steve, they were very responsive to my request to get the documents back to me within a few days. I had everything I needed before I had even finished one draft of the listing. I had the initial draft done by that evening and sent it over to Sally and Steve to review. They said they liked it, but made a few changes to it, which I readily agreed. I then asked them how long it would take for them to finish up getting the house ready to sell. Sally seemed frustrated with the question, but said it would be a few more days. I told them that the most optima time to go online was either Thursday or Friday when most buyers will start to look at housing again before the weekend. With that thought, Sally said it would be Friday before it was ready. I told them I would have the photographer out to the house Friday morning, so we could get everything online that evening. They agreed. Friday morning, I went to the house with my photographer to find Sally still working on the house, but we were able to get pictures of the finished areas while she finished up some light touches in other parts of the house. We were out of the house two hours later and the listing came online at 7 pm that evening. Fifteen minutes past seven, we got our first showing. By the end of the evening, we had 10 appointments set up for the weekend. I put in a call to the couple to remind them about some items when it comes to showing the home.