Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Lost Art of Real Estate Listings

I suppose there are many good reasons that would prevent real estate agents from actually developing a comprehensive photographic presentation of their clients' properties, but from some of the sloppy, poor and downright lazy work I've seen recently, I'm not willing to accept them.

Lets start by assuming that the goal is of every online listing is to drive random visitors, like myself, to want to come visit a listed property in person. I haven't research the statistics, but I'm pretty sure that very few houses are sold without someone actually seeing the property in person. The more in-person visits a property has, the more likely you are to actually sell the house, right?

With that as a goal, it seems to make sense to me that agents take a little extra time developing the listing for the property, including both pictures and descriptive text that are going to want to make visit in person. I understand it may be challenging to develop a few paragraphs that draw my attention to the unique characteristics a single house offers when you have forty or fifty listings on your plate. However, I'm also sure that if you don't, I'm not going to pay any attention to your repetitively bland and uninspired drivel. Maybe I'm too harsh, but hey, I'm the buyer. Maybe I'm in the minority, but in this market, are you willing to take that risk?

So how do you do it?
Well, that all depends. It depends on the identity of the target market you're trying to reach, the characteristics of the house and the resources you can tap to help bring it all together. At the very least, you should be able to talk to the seller and interpret their likes about the property into your spiel. At the very least, you should have a high-quality digital camera that will allow you to take a comprehensive set of pictures of the property. What's comprehensive? Well, it depends on the property, but I'd offer that at least two photos per interior room with five or six of the exterior is the bare minimum. Please don't post a listing with only one photo. That's just insulting.

If you don't know what you're doing and can't read a book to learn some basics, hire someone. Obviously, I'm not expecting professional quality photos, but I am expecting that you offer me quantity in return. Don't post a blurry photo or shrink photos to microscopic sizes. Remember, there's no film in digital cameras, take a few hundred pictures of the property while you're there, then sort through them and post the best 20 or 30 you can find. The more pictures you take, the higher the odds are that you'll get some decent photos that accurately represent the character of the property you're listing.  Any argument that includes the fact that you can't show that many pictures for a single listing is simply pathetic. Throw a link to Flickr (or any other online photo sharing website) into your description of the property and let me look at everything you'd like me to see.

Also, move closer. If you're trying to highlight woodworking detail in a charming Victorian home, don't take a shot from across the room and expect me to believe you that the woodwork is simply incredible. Move closer and prove it to me. Yeah, that fireplace looks nice, but quite honestly, I can't tell anything about it when the only shot showing it is taken from the kitchen looking through the dining room into the living room where the fireplace is. Really? You mention that as a selling point in your text, but you can't show it to me as well? Great view? Would've been nice if I could have seen it too before driving my ass out to your listing only to find that you're definition of a great view is a view of a cornfield and power lines.

Maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe the goal has nothing to do with trying to bring a potential buyer to see the house in person. Even if that's the case, when I'm going to sell my house, I'm going to ask to see a portfolio of your prior listings...and I'm going to be looking for how well you were able draw potential buyers in, both in writing and images, by describing the uniqueness of the properties you're selling. I don't want my home described as a "must see" or "unbelievable bargain" - 'cause I don't think that's going to help me sell my it.

Now, as I've alluded to, I'm not a real estate agent, nor do I play one on TV. I do however like looking at houses and my increasing frustration is not encouraging me to buy a house. Its encouraging me to keep the one I have. At least then, I don't have to drive somewhere to see what it looks like.