Category Archives for "Listing Tips"

7 Concrete Steps to Improve Your Local Search Results

It’s old news that 84% of buyer’s start there search online [wink wink, nudge nudge], that offline advertising places are losing revenue that, that real estate blogging is hot as ever.

All of this begs the question of managing your online presence, winning the local search engine results war.

But it requires a proactive strategy.

What exactly is your marketing strategy for local search?

What Is Local Real Estate Search? And Why Should I Care?

If you live in Nashua, New Hampshire, for instance, and someone types in “Real estate Nashua New Hampshire,” that’s a local search.It doesn’t matter if they live in South Florida or West Washington or smack dab in Nashua. You want to dominate the search engine results page for those “local” keywords.

Here are seven concrete steps you can take to improve your local organic search results.

1. Make sure that you have a crawler friendly web site

The first step in improving your business performance in local search engines is to make sure that the search engines can easily crawl your site, and identify your business keywords.

This means you minimize the use of tables, and avoid deeply nested tables. Make sure that your business name and address are featured prominently on the page as text [in fact, make sure your business appears twice on every page] and not hidden from the crawlers in an image file.

Your page title should include your business name, address and key words. Place an “H1” header near the top of the page that also has your business name, address, and key words.

2. Add 10 pages of content to your website.
Any website that adds 10 pages of relevant content will get a boost in search engine visibility. It’s one of the easiest steps in an SEO campaign. Search engines love content. The more tightly focused, keyword rich [read: focused on your local market or markets] content you have on your website, the easier it is for search engines to understand what your website is about and categorize it appropriately.

A blog is a great way to add content to your site.

3. Use videos to supplement your search engine rankings

Great to see agents already seeing real world success with this strategy.

4. Take charge of your local listings

Yahoo! local search will give you a free 5-page Web site just for listing your company with their service.

Google’s local search service is more like a classified directory, but you still have direct control over how your listing appears.

But don’t stop with their Web listings. Take charge of the Yahoo! Mobile and Google Mobile services, too. People are increasingly using their cell phones to search the Internet.

5. Check out your competition

Do a local search for your business keywords (for example: houses, San Francisco, CA) and see who your competition is.

Find out who is linking to your competitors and investigate whether you can get the same sites to link to your business.

The links can be determined by going to Yahoo and typing “linkdomain:” and then your competitor’s web site (i.e. Click on “inlinks” in the results page.

Check inlinks for your site as well, and see who is linking to you. Make sure that the information on those sites is correct, and contact them if it isn’t.

6. Get your business rated

Ask your satisfied customers to write reviews and rate your business at Google, Yahoo, and MSN. More importantly, try to get them to use the same keywords that you use in the business description and on your web site as part of their review. Don’t add too many reviews over a short period of time, and make sure that the reviews are unique.

7. Solicit local links

Find the web directories that are local to your area, and ask them to link to your web site. Contact your local chambers of commerce and ask them to link to your business from their web site.


Of course there is much more you can do. And this only includes your organic search: I didn’t touch on paid online searches. But this is a great way to boost your local rankings if you haven’t done so yet.

I’d love to hear what you think.

2 Lethal Mistakes Realtors Make When Prospecting Foreclosures

In the past I’ve written on approaching foreclosures and preforeclosures.

Since then I’ve heard a couple of alarming stories about agents approaching foreclosures aggressively. Like face to face…on the first time they met.

Seems pretty straightforeward, but you just don’t approach foreclosures this way. That is if you want to have any hope of working with them.

People who are going foreclosures are very sensitive about what they are going through.

Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel?

This ranks up there as the deadliest and most common mistake:

One: Agressively approach foreclosures, face to face.

The other mistake is kind of the opposite.

Two: Passively approach foreclosures.

Remember, foreclosures have a whole lot at stake here. And some foreclosures are reaching out [and getting burned]…but mostly they are remaining quiet, trying to protect their pride and dignity.

So, we know the thing for them to do is to let down their pride, but we don’t get in their face. But neither do you back away and give up after one rejection.

In fact, for the best results, you want to approach foreclosures weekly, or every other week, with original letters.

Totally avoid form letters or postcards. They’ll see through that big time.

And each letter should reference the previous letter and always be different in some way.

And remember this: letters should appeal to the emotions of the preforeclosure homeowner because this is a difficult time for them. Your stance should be one of wanting to help. Make it clear how you can assist them, including offering cash for their equity, finding them a new place to live and keeping them from having a foreclosure on their credit history — something that could make it extremely difficult to qualify for a home loan for up to seven years.

In a nutshell, help them avoid a nightmare. And this takes some kid glove treatment. Persistant, sensitive treatment.

How about you? Have you heard any horror preforeclosure stories?

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Eliminate Competition at Your Next Listing Appointment Before You Even Arrive

Sounds alomost impossible, doesn’t it: eliminating competition at your next listing appointment before you even set foot in the door ? Well, it’s not. In fact, it’s rather easy…if you’re willing to be different.

How can you be different? Here are some ways:

Pre-Presentation Seller Briefing

  • Insist on being the last in a line of presentations,
  • Find out when all of the other presentations are
    (keep a note of this).
  • Call the sellers every day there is a listing presentation.
  • Ask them if your appointment is still on.
  • Ask them to promise not to decide on an agent until all presentations are done.

Pre-Presentation Research

  • Print a quick summary of market activity for the home’s neighborhood.
  • Look for identical matches in Actives, Solds, Under
    Contract, Pending, Withdrawn and Expireds. (This summary will help you familiarize yourself with the neighborhood, which you can reference during the presentation.)
  • Take digital photos of the property, comparable properties and the subdivision entrance. (This portfolio of photos will allow you to view the condition of the property and make positive and negative notes.)

Pre-Presentation Questions

  • Look at the seller’s home and ask yourself these questions: What are the negatives? Does it back to a major road? Is it under power lines? Does it need paint? How does this compare to other homes in the neighborhood?

Pre-Presentation Materials

  • Create the CMA from your MLS as a Web or PowerPoint presentation. Have a color print copy, too. (Everyone else will do a black-and-white CMA.)
  • Personalize the print presentation on a color-bound material with “Especially prepared for <their name>.” (It’s easy to create a template in MS Word, MS Publisher, HP Real Estate Software or IMPREV.)

Pre-Presentation Recording

Bottomline, when you are thoroughly prepared, you immediately distance yourself from every average agent (Pareto Rule: two agents out of ten are above average. The rest: barely average).

And when you arrive it’s only a matter of moments before your sellers recognize you were the only rational choice the whole time.

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How This Insect Is Connected to Selling Homes

Did you know this: a particular insect native to all 50 states could easily get any home, in any market, in any season sold in record time…even if we’re experiencing the worst drop in home sales in 18 years?

And no, I’m not talking about a termite. Or carpenter ant. Or even lice.

What insect am I talking about?

Nothing greater than the common household fly.

I realize that may sound like a ridiculous, tabloid-worthy assertion, but think about it…

If you were a fly on the wall you could easily hear every word that comes out of a buyer’s mouth. Then you could share it with the seller verbatim. And price reductions and needed fix ups (two pieces needed to selling stagnant homes)…are a near guarantee.

Or are they?

I first picked up this concept from a popular television program, tweaked it a bit, and now will share with you my version…

Are you familiar with this story?

A real estate agent tours a listing with her client’s. The family walks from the living room to the bedrooms to bathrooms. During this time the buyer’s discuss with what they see, frankly, openly and honestly…and then they walk out.

No offer. No suggestions. Nothing.

As the selling agent, all you know is that they were there. You don’t even get a whiff of their impression of the home. Your seller thinks they were just the wrong people. You, having previously pointed out potential problems, know better.

Now…what if you did have access to the buyer’s impression of the home? Would it even make a difference?

Are sellers so embedded in their current hope that their home appreciation is going to continue to multiply despite the fact that there isn’t anyone available to buy it?

What do you think? Do you think sharing frank, uncensored comments about the home can change the sellers mind? Will this help seller’s see their misconceptions? Is the current buyer attitude “wait-and-see” an attitude that you can really change simply by reducing the price or updating the home? What do you think the current consumer in today’s market is looking for?  Or can even afford?

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Monday Mashup: Productivity, Listings and Eeyore

Michael Wright, Executive Editor of Agent Inner Circle, shares an ingenious listing agreement submitted by reader David Rake to close more listings. See the agreement that gets the whole family involved in selling the property.

One reader claimed that giving up prospects is an insane idea in the current falling market. I disagree. But you be the judge.

Time management professional Dr. Donald E. Wetmore shares five techniques to recapture a wasted hour or two every week.

In the March 1, 2006 article “Automating Showing Feedback” Michael Russer (aka Mr. Internet) demonstrated “a far better way to get valuable comments from showing agents without wasting time on the phone or cranking out reports.”

In May of this year we showed you how to automate showing feedback for free.

The Future of Real Estateblogger Joel Burelsom explains “anyone who gets into blogging quickly finds out – Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds are an indispensable way to keep on top of a tidal wave of information that exists out there.” But far from just simply keeping tabs on the industry, he shares five ways you can expand your blog habit, take it to the next level, better your day and improve your productivity .

All you can really expect when using Microsoft’s new Vista operating platform is an incremental improvement in productivity. Or so says David Berlind. In the meantime, stick with XP until 2009. Or 2014. Or buy that Mac.

And finally, Lifehacker Dustin Mix shares six ideas on how to kill that vile and despicable enemy of productivity: Eeyore.

How to Open the Vault of Anyone’s Mind

You ever been to a networking event trying to engage a prospect event and when that person takes their eyeglasses off and sets them on the table?

Do you realize what that means?

How about when you are at a listing appointment and the seller leans forward and puts his chin in his hand?

Do you know what that means?

Ever see a master locksmith at work? It looks like magic, doesn’t it? He plays with the lock, listens, hears things you don’t see, feels things you don’t feel. And opens the lock. Effortlessly.

Master communicators are the same way. They see things, hear things, feel things that helps them unlock the combination to anyone’s mind. And if you do that elegantly and attentively, you can do the same.

According to NLP techniques like I’ve discussed in the past, body language, eye movement and voice tonality give us cues about people’s thoughts, mental strategies and desires.

Did you know visual people speak in quick bursts, usually high-pitched, nasal or strained. Did you know feelers speak in low, deep and slow speech? Did you know an even, clear speaker is someone who responds to audio clues?

Auditory people tend to respond to you when you speak slowly, more rhythmic and measured. Words mean a lot to them. They respond to things like “That sounds right to me” or ” I can hear what you’re saying” or “Everything clicks.”

Visual people see the world in pictures. And because they are trying to keep up with the pictures in their mind, they speak rapidly. They don’t care how they get it out. They appreciate visual metaphors. Explanations on how things look to a person, patterns and whether something looks bright or dark.

A person who feels, or is kinesthetic, tend to speak even slower than audio people. They respond to voices that are deep. They appreciate hearing metaphors like “grasping for something concrete.” Things are “heavy” and “intense” and they need to “get in touch” with things. They say things like ” I’m reaching for an answer, but I haven’t got a hold of it yet.”

Body language also gives us clues about a person.

When a person breathes high in their chest, their visual. Even breathing in the whole chest, audio. Deep breathing low in the stomach means they are feelers, kinesthetic.

You can also read skin tone and head position.

Visual thinkers tend to have paler faces. A flushed face indicates a feeler. When someone’s head is up, they are thinking visually. If it is cocked or balanced, he’s audio. If the head is down or relaxed, he’s a feeler.

Eye movement is another indicator of how a person thinks.

Someone looking down and to the right is typically a feeler. Audio people tend to look straight to the right with half a smile or to the left with a full smile or down to the left with a frown. Visual’s do it a little bit differently. They may look directly at you and smile, eyes wide. Or up to the left with a  smirk.

When speaking to a prospect, observe their voices, their pacing, their tonality, skin color, head position and eye movement. Use the technique of complimenting or grab and pass to break the ice. Then ask general, open-ended questions to get them to talk about themselves.

If you can get them to talk about themselves, you will have no problem figuring out whether they are audio, visual or kinesthetic. And when you figure this out, start to respond in like manner. If you do this, people will start to like you and open up even further and your next step (getting permission to give them something of value) is an easy step away.

So even with minimal communication you can get a clear unmistakable cue about how a person’s mind works and what sort of messages he uses and, most importantly, responds to.

[By the way: when someone takes off their eyeglasses and sets them on the table means they have stopped listening to you. You need to stop and listen to them to find out what you need to do to get them back on track. But if someone leans forward and puts their chin in their palm means they want to hear more.]

I know this may be a lot to process, but take it one step at a time and practice. And let me know if these things work for you. Or if you have something else I missed. I’m always very interested in hearing from you.

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Why Go Short Sale If the Seller Makes* Zero Money?

Okay, if a seller doesn’t make money but 13 other people do* (see note at bottom) on a short sale, where’s the benefit to the seller?

Short sales happen when a lender agrees to accept less than the amount owed against the home because there is not enough equity to sell and pay all costs of sale.

Not all lenders will negotiate a short sale, and that is why a real estate agent or a lawyer can be a tremendous help by contacting the lender’s loss mitigation department to find out.

A seller can’t just wake up one morning and decide they’re going to sell their home at a loss by asking for a short sale. Typically, lenders won’t even consider a short sale if payments are current. Lenders will be more agreeable to negotiation if your payments are in arrears. Plus, if the seller has cash assets, the lender might try to tap those accounts. Doing a short sale is not for the faint of heart.

The only reason to do a short sale is if the seller’s credit is at risk.

How is the seller’s credit affected?

According to David Steep, division manager at Vitek Mortgage, sellers will take a bigger hit on their credit report by going through foreclosure or giving the lender a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.

The affect of a short sale on a seller’s credit report is much less damaging. The ding on credit will show up as a pre-foreclosure in redemption status, Steep says.

Also, a seller who wants to buy another home after foreclosure will end up waiting about 36 months before a lender will offer any kind of interest rate that makes sense.

The good news for short sale sellers is the wait is much shorter before buying another home: about 18 months at a good interest rate.

If you’re going after seller’s trying to decide whether to let a home go through foreclosure versus attempting a short sale, salvaging their credit is the main advantage to doing a short sale.

*Note: In a recent post Ruby Zuniga commented: “I believe that this [preforeclosures aren’t selling] is going on everywhere. I’m in the Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside County Area. I have a listing in the S.B County and a listing in the L.A county. The Homes pre-foreclosures are not moving? Why? Agents don’t want to waste their time. They will rather take buyers to a Normal Home where their commission is guaranteed.”

Is this the case? I mean, if an agent helps his client buy a preforeclosure home, won’t he get a commission? Why isn’t it guaranteed? Granted, the agents may take a hit on the commission because the lender will insist on a fee reduction, but the bottom line is the agents and their brokers get paid for selling the property. I’m very curious.

The Most Common Cause for Preforeclosure Failure

The 2007 List Issue printed by REALTOR magazine had this to say about pre-foreclosures:

If keeping the home isn’t an option, alternatives include Sale. The lender will usually agree to a specific amount of time to find a purchaser and pay off the total amount owed. The borrower will be expected to obtain the services of a real estate professional to market the property aggressively.

This is pre-foreclosure sale, short payoff or short sale.

If the property’s sales value isn’t enough to pay the loan in full, the lender might accept less than the full amount owed to cut its losses. This option can also include a period of time to allow the borrower’s real estate professional to find a qualified buyer. A pre-foreclosure sale could provide additional funds to pay other lien holders and a few moving costs, which in turn helps out a struggling human being.

But short selling appointments have to be handled very carefully. Once you’ve made contact, be mindful of these next steps. And keep in mind, as Thomas Lucier warns, don’t contact pre-foreclosures in person.

“When on a listing appointment the agent first suspects a preforeclosure scenario, and quite possibly an indicated short sale scenario… it is essential to provide the homeowner accurate information and quickly displace and reign in the seller’s unrealistic expectations with cold hard facts,” says David Petrovick.

The agent’s task is to tell the seller what it needs to hear, not necessarily what it wants to hear.  This is Honesty.

At this critical moment, however, as psychology has it, the seller will hear what it wants to hear, and remember what it wants to remember. Most sellers are in denial up to even the 11th hour. So, Petrovick points out, great care and attention must be paid to detail, both in the collection of information from the seller, and in providing information to the seller. Only this way can you avoid making mistakes like overfixing the home or misinterpreting the value of the home or giving the seller’s false hope.

Otherwise you could fail.

Though some may be put off by the predatory stereotype of the coldhearted foreclosure vulture, the reality is far from heartless., quoting Thomas Lucier, says it best:

“Bad things happen to good people. A lot of times, things happen to people that are completely out of their control. I’ve seen it happen, especially with medical bills or companies like Enron that run off with their pension.”

Avoid an Expired Home–and Damaged Reputation–with These 4 Textbook Steps

“The number one complaint I hear from expired listings is the lack of communication from the agent who listed the property.”

This was a comment we received back in 2005 from an agent who specialized in expired listings. It intrigued us.

Interested in learning more, as we’ve mentioned before, back in early 2006 we ran a survey on expired listings.

One of the questions we asked 406 real estate agents was “How many listings have expired in your career?” The average answer was six. With an agent being in the business for an average 11 years, we concluded that a typical client had a listing expire approximately every other year.

It is interesting to note that the average number of homes expired didn’t present a huge impact on an agent’s income. In fact, it would be safe to say that from a purely financial stand point, losing an expired doesn’t mean you are going to eat from the horse’s trough.

However, there’s something else about an expired. Something more damaging. Once your home expires, it will take a ton of time, money, and effort to repair the damage to your reputation.

Following you’ll find four key steps to help you avoid an expired home so you can earn a commission and keep your reputation in one piece.

1. CONSTANT communication

Staying in touch with the seller is the most popular method to keeping a home from expiring. According to Greg Herder, protecting your reputation from expired homes is all about setting expectations. Some agents insist it is important to express concerns and show what they’ve been doing to market the home. Furthermore, educating the seller up front as to price and condition is also important.

But stay in front of the seller with updates and feedback. Stay in contact with the seller, do not be afraid to call them, even if it’s just to say there has been no activity on their home that week. This also improves their confidence in you.

2. SCHEDULE price reductions

Here is a solid piece of advice: learn to write in the original listing that if the house doesn’t have a contract within the first 30 days then the price needs to be adjusted. Make sure you tell your sellers that a price reduction can trigger multiple offers. There might be buyers waiting in the wings for the home to hit a certain price.

Sacramento Broker Elizabeth Weitraub says that figuring price reductions requires you know when the time is right to reduce the price.

If the seller won’t reduce the price, and it is overpriced, then don’t take the listing to begin with. A key fundamental to real estate is to know the market and price accordingly. And yes, be tough with the seller on price up front.

3. TOUGH with seller on price

I think it is paramount to avoid the temptation to allow the seller to have control and set the price…but equally important is that an agent should never prostitute themselves by reducing their commission and having the notion that they can just stick a sign on the lawn and POOF, a sale.

Certainly we heard that an agent must not sweet talk the seller at every opportunity (they must exercise Howard Briton’s Tough Love scripts), so it’s apparent that everyone should start with the unblemished truth about the property, the price and the market.

And that starts with tough communication.

4. INNOVATE with technology and marketing

Jim Crawford tells us that houses sitting on the market are no surprise to other agents. They know the listing agent is asleep at the wheel. They’re missing even the basics of marketing a home.

Once you’ve got the marketing down, use innovative technology to maintain constant communication between you and your client. If you do this, your time, stress and pitfalls in the business will be cut in half, enabling you to list and sell even more.

More importantly, Michael J. Russer says you need an automated mechanism that allows you to communicate with your client the various methods that you are using to sell their home. In other words, you want them to see you working hard to sell their home.

However, if this can be accomplished without you really working any harder (in fact cutting out traditional manual tasks, like fishing for feedback from stodgy, “it’s all about me” agents or even removing the gut-wrenching difficult task of telling the seller, who doesn’t want to hear from you to begin with, that their “crusty, shag carpet has to go”) then you are in a better position.

And what would be sublime is if you could do it for free.

Any other interesting steps I’ve missed? Drop them in the comments.

3 Conflict-Free Steps to Scheduling Price Reductions

Somewhere on the East coast, towards the Canadian border, a homeowner calls an agent for a price on her home. The agent evaluates the home and gives the seller a price. The seller wants to sell her home but thinks the price is too low. The agent, needing the listing, allows the seller to talk her into listing it too high.

Six months later, even after minor price reductions, it expires.

A second agent takes it, beats the homeowner up on price and finally sells it for what the original agent had told the seller in the first place.

Three thousand miles away on the East coast, an agent’s client wondered if she cared about their listing when it expired. They said she didn’t make a big pitch to keep it active. The agent explained that the house was unfinished, over-priced and as a result everyone’s time was being wasted. On that advice, the homeowner finished the interior, reduced the price and within a few weeks there was action—and a legitimate offer on the home.

Uncommon Advice

Another agent in Chicago explains “Once you determine that the seller is unreasonable and overpriced fire them before they fire you. A cancelled listing is easier to explain and you will feel better walking away.”


Dump a potential commission check in a cut-throat business like real estate? Have real estate agents gone bananas?

No, not quite.

In the interest of exploring this topic further, not long ago I decided to find out if overpriced homes are the leading cause of expired homes. I polled 406 real estate agents from across the country and asked them eleven questions. The question that this article will deal with was “What do you think is the number one reason a homes expires? Why?”

The response confirmed my hunch (and will probably confirm your hunch too): plain and simple, three-hundred and sixty-nine agents said a home expires because it is overpriced.

Fatal Causes

Equally interesting answers that made up the balance of the survey, and would prove entertaining and a mistake not to share with you at this point, are as follow.

I commonly saw this thread throughout the results: an agent does not ask for a long enough listing. The length of the listing is important. A short listing, say 2 months, could prove fatal. I agree.

Another answer that cropped up occasionally was the “agent lacks skill to properly educate the consumer about market times and handle the consumer’s objections.”

Makes sense.

The lack of skills and courage to speak up could make a huge difference. That’s why proper skills in sales and negotiations is critical to your success as a real estate agent.

Another answer that I saw quite a bit was communication—lack of communication to be more precise. Most agents agreed that expireds (in fact, all things real estate) can usually be fixed with consistent open dialogue with the client from the beginning.

Like one agent said, “Too many agents avoid the client in order to avoid the inevitable…an expired listing.” Bottom line, failing to communicate with the seller spells trouble.

The condition of the home also proved to be a fairly popular reason why a home expires. Poor advertising, no advertising, procrastination, lack of dedication to the listing and low-self agent esteem will also kill a sale.

One Sound Strategy to Deal with Overpriced Homes

So, what are you to do when faced with a seller who wants to list at a high price?

A lot of real estate agents said, “Don’t take the listing unless it’s priced right from the start.”

This is a sound strategy. In fact, many agreed that accepting an overpriced listing begins with the agent: your first job is to educate the seller on the market so the seller can have a realistic expectation of the market—and you can get control of the seller, bringing their expectations back to reality.

Surprising Twist

But there was an equal share who didn’t have a problem accepting an overpriced listing. What these agents had in common was a solid 3-step process for controlling the seller and her expectations.

Here the steps that they used:

1. Get a commitment from the sellers to lower the price within 14-30 days of listing if no offers have come in.

2. Get the commitment from sellers to do the things required to give the home its maximum market appeal (cosmetics).

3. Adjust price on a schedule.

These 3-steps can be built into the contract, providing an important opportunity for you to explain the importance of scheduling price reductions during the listing presentation.

You could say:

“We aren’t going to automatically do price reductions, unless your home doesn’t sell by a specific time. And the reason we want to do it this way is because we want to protect your home from any stigma that will build if it sits on the market for too long. You probably already know this, but when a house with a sign in the yard sits for 60 days or longer people start to think that there is something wrong with it—termites, foundation cracks or overpriced—which hurts your chances of selling the home, and may even suck in bottom feeders who know you are anxious to sell your home. And you don’t want to sell your home to bottom feeders, do you? No, I didn’t think so. We don’t want that to happen to your house.”

Using these three steps could give you shock-proof protection from the harmful affects of listing an overpriced home, namely, protecting you from a listing expiring.

What are your thoughts on expired listings? Accepting over priced homes? Scheduled price reductions? Do you agree or disagree?