The rules of online dating suggest your profile shouldn’t mislead suitors with old photos or filtered close-ups distorted by creative camera angles. And when you sell your couch on Craigslist, it’s best to disclose that red wine stain.
Same goes for how to market your house. Nearly all generations of home buyers begin their house hunt online now, giving you the opportunity to draw them in with magazine-worthy photos splashed across the web and a digital marketing blitz that pulls out all the stops.
But buyers won’t make an offer until they’ve stood in your house physically, at which point they’ll see right through your fisheye-lens photos, overblown list price, and lipstick you tried to put on the pig.
Follow these dos and don’ts from top agents who sell homes faster than their peers and you’ll have a flattering but realistic strategy that targets your ideal buyer in less time.
How to market your house: Don’t forget these basics!
Every home—from luxury waterfront estates to the most average house on the block— deserves a special marketing plan to give it the widest possible exposure. Your agent’s in charge of developing a well-rounded strategy to reach buyers at multiple touch points, in person and on the web. Don’t settle for anything less!
You should expect your agent to:
Help you take amazing photos.
Your agent will hire a professional photographer from their network to capture high-quality listing photos with a DSLR camera and tripod.
No, smartphone photos won’t cut it, even if you have the latest and greatest technology. The lighting, angles, and details need to be just right.
Spread the word about your listing online.
“When a home goes into the MLS, it’s syndicated to all of the other real estate websites,” says Mary Jo Santistevan, who’s sold over 81% more properties in Phoenix than the average agent and ranks as the #1 Agent/Team for all of Berkshire Hathaway Home Service agents in Arizona.
“You definitely need to have a strong online presence and high quality marketing because it’s a reflection of the home’s high quality.”
Your listing should appear on Zillow, Realtor, Trulia, Homesnap, and your agent’s local public-facing MLS at the very least.
Create social media campaigns.
Your agent needs to be well-versed in the top social media channels for real estate, most importantly Facebook and Instagram, to generate buzz and raise your home’s visibility in your area.
Check to see if they’re using all tools in their toolbox, like demographic targeting, hashtags and location tags, catchy copy, and stunning visuals.
Put out the for-sale sign!
Catch the eye of any house hunters who may be out for a walk or on a casual Sunday drive with a trusty for-sale sign in the yard.
Go all out with 3-D tours and single-property websites
Even better if your agent can create a single-property website to show off all of its marketing collateral, such as your home’s virtual or 3-D tour, property video, listing description, and stunning photos.
Put together print advertising materials.
“For every home I sell, I create a high-quality flyer for buyers to take with them,” says Santistevan. “You don’t know how many homes buyers are seeing on the same day. And when they’re reviewing the homes later, that first-class, heavy cardstock brochure with the great photos that I created for my listing triggers a positive emotional response for those buyers.”
Marketing your house: Follow these 10 dos and don’ts
Got these basics down pat? Now you just need to make sure your marketing materials reflect what your home has to offer.
These 10 dos and don’ts will keep you on track.
Do: Back up your home’s value with a comparative market analysis
The asking price you land on sets the foundation for your marketing plan.
To pin down that price, your agent performs a comparative market analysis, which evaluates homes recently sold in your area that are comparable to yours in lot size, square footage, number of rooms, etc. Think of this report as more than a tool to to price your home—it’s evidence for how your home stands out (if it does).
Let’s say your house or lot is larger, or you have more rooms or upgrades than other recently sold homes. Or say the nearby comps sold more than 6 months ago, when home values were lower—the CMA will deliver this proof that your home is worth more.
When a home is rightfully priced higher than others currently listed or recently sold, your agent goes to work spreading the message via word of mouth, broker tours, and in the listing description.
But if your CMA shows that your house offers nothing special over your neighbors’, and it’s positioning on a steep hill or proximity to a power line actually knocks off value points, then the proof is in the pudding and you need to price it right.
Don’t: Overprice based on sentimentality or an online valuation
Overpricing your home is never a good idea. It forces you to make detrimental price reductions, and makes marketing your house an uphill battle.
Spoiler: You can’t just pick a number that “feels right” or tell buyers that the internet says your house is worth this much like a used-car salesman selling a clunker with a fresh coat of paint.
Remember, online home valuations give you a ballpark estimate to use as a starting point, not your final listing price. And your “wonderful family home for 30 years” plays to buyers’ emotions but little Sally and Joey’s childhoods and your Thanksgiving memories alone won’t support a lofty price.
If you have a legitimate reason to price your home above the comps, there needs to be proof to back your message.
Do: Declutter your home before the photographer arrives
This process takes a lot of sweat equity, but it will make for gorgeous photos, no matter your home’s size.
Make sure you’ve cleared all the kitchen countertops, and removed everything in each room but the essentials like furniture, lamps, and decorative accents. Stack any extra boxes in the garage to get them out of the way.
A thorough decluttering instantly makes your home look and feel bigger, without the need for cheap tricks. Then, wash the windows and open up all the curtains before photo day to let in as much natural light as possible.
Don’t: Distort your listing photos with funky lenses
Real estate photography is tricky to get right.
Bad angles and the wrong camera lenses (like the reality-warping fisheye lens) distort the images of your home’s interior.
It’s fine for your photographer to use a wide-angle lens to better capture more of the room in the frame, but be aware that even these lenses can lead to distortion in the wrong hands, and may over-exaggerate a room’s size, leaving buyers disappointed when they see your home in person.
The best agents hire professional photographers who specialize in real estate to snap photos of their listings and avoid these amateur mistakes.
Do: Craft a listing description to paint a picture of your home and neighborhood
Photos attract buyers’ attention, and your description feeds their curiosity about the specifics.
A well-crafted listing description should be a highlight reel of your home’s best offerings, and that includes any perks that come with its location.
“I will always point out things that are desirable,” says Mary Jo Santistevan, who’s sold over 81% more properties in Phoenix than the average agent and ranks as the #1 Agent/Team for all of Berkshire Hathaway Home Service agents in Arizona.
“If it borders on a waterfront, golf course, or a nature preserve, and if it’s conveniently located to freeways or top-ranked schools, that needs to be in the listing description.”
Don’t: Don’t sweep any obvious issues with the home under the rug
It happens all the time—buyers check out your home’s photos, read the listing description, and call up their agent to book a tour immediately.
When they arrive, it seems the seller forgot to mention a few negatives (how convenient!)
You don’t have to make your listing description a laundry list of flaws in the spirit of honesty.
However, if there are any obvious signs of disrepair in the house, one thing you can do is address them head on with a note that you put out during showings, i.e. “seller will provide $500 repair credit for broken sink at closing” (even better if you can get that fixed up before the sale).
Or if you didn’t mention that your house is located on a busy intersection, make sure that it’s priced accordingly.
Finally, be aware there’s a good chance you will have to disclose any material defects about your home to buyers in writing, like your basement flooding 3 years ago, or lead-based paint and hazards.
Do: Draw attention to any recent upgrades or renovations
Your listing photos paired with your description should flow together to tell buyers about any expensive renovations or remodeling projects you’ve completed recently.
Talk up any swanky name-brand appliances, desirable materials, on-trend design styles, and special features worth noting.
Don’t: Forget to arm your agent with documentation and receipts
You’ll want to have all your home improvement receipts at the ready for buyers in case any questions arise about the materials or cost.
This is critical from a marketing standpoint for upgrades like your expensive HVAC, copper wiring, or the new plumbing you just had installed.
You see, when it comes to gift-giving, it’s not the wrapping paper that matters, it’s the present inside that counts. In home selling, the opposite is true—many buyers are more interested in the sizzle than the steak.
Photos of shiny pipes and a pristine air conditioner don’t quite get the heart racing like a farmhouse kitchen. To recoup some of your investment on these functional upgrades, make sure the buyer knows about them—and the price tag you paid.
For one, provide your agent with copies of the receipts for these updates. Be sure to highlight the final price and the date of the installation or renovation.
Leave these papers out by the marketing materials during showings for buyers to peruse—tack on a brightly colored note that says “brand new furnace information!”
Do: Use virtual staging to save money where you can
When you sell an empty house, buyers have a difficult time visualizing themselves living there. There’s no couch to cuddle up on and the rooms feel undefined.
Problem is, staging costs anywhere between $1,000/month to $15,000 for three months.
There is a cheaper solution: Virtual staging is a marketing tool that lets you add computer-generated furnishings to your digital images to help inspire buyers’ imaginations and sell your home faster.
Don’t: Doctor photos without clear labels
Altering photos with virtual staging and then marketing them like regular listing photos is a big no-no.
Every virtually staged photo should be marked clearly with a “virtually staged” label on the photo itself or in the caption if it could be mistaken as a real photo.
Some agents may even take the extra step of notating in the listing description that the home is vacant so that agents can prepare their buyers to see empty rooms at the showing.
How bad marketing throws a wrench in your home sale
There you have it! Now, if you have a hard time booking showings of your home, or buyers aren’t making any offers, an inadequate marketing plan may be the culprit.
Do a gut check to see if your agent’s covered the basics, and then make sure your home in real life matches what buyers see on paper.