I was recently asked to do an online interview (they asked questions and I wrote a response!) for Property AdGuru on the subject of online real estate marketing. Whilst the focus of my response was addressed to the customers of realestate.co.nz – real estate agents and companies, I was conscious that the responses might well resonate with buyers, sellers and those who have a general interest in real estate.
Here are the full written responses.
What are the top three things you think agents need to include in their listing to get it noticed?
Seems so simple, but in NZ as in so many countries the art of taking / commissioning photos of a property seems to be forgotten at best and completely ignored at worst. I still to my horror, see listings with no photos or photos of the bathroom or the couch as the first photo. So little time taken to make such a major impact. It really frustrates me to see the abdication of responsibility. I often see better and more insightful photos taken for a $20 item on e-bay than I see for a $300,000 property.
Having said all of that we do see the average number of photos per listing growing all the time, back in 2006 it was less than 4, by 2008 it was just under 10 and today it is over 16. Many are taking advantage of our policy of no restrictions and we have many listings with in excess of 80 photos for a single listing.
Not only that, the property and thereby the agent’s client is being poorly represented, but the agent is doing themselves such a disservice – a smart vendor checking out the capabilities of prospective agents will make fast work out of eliminating agents that fail at this very first huddle. The sad truth is these agents get away with it because they will spend proportionally more time composing, reviewing and proofing a single half page advert in the newspaper – an advert potentially seen by a fraction of the audience of the online advert.
It’s a property they are trying to sell! – so why not share the most basic of information!
Only 60% of all listings on realestate.co.nz show the address on the website – often this omission by 4 out of 10 listings is not because the respective agents don’t want to display it, but rather as we found out the other day there are still offices and companies that have a policy that the default for upload of listing data is to not display the address (even though in the data file we have the address).
The history of this tactic has been shared with me, as I am sure all in this industry will know, in that no address is thought to encourage the prospective buyer to contact the agent to find out the details. Well the world has moved on, and the consumers of today have a higher threshold expectation of transparency and so feel that the address should be there. Just as in the case of the photos, a prospective buyer not seeing an address will undertake to identify the address using whatever online tools they can – mostly Google maps and StreetView; if they through this super sleuthing find the address – the question will be – how will that reflect on their estimation of the agent?? – not that good!
3. Community information
Agents are flush with a wealth of information and knowledge. They are by the very nature of this industry, local experts. Their niche is the very small geographical boundaries that define their business area. They know so much about the houses, the schools, the transportation, the shops, the cafes (they are certainly experts there!) and the local amenities. This information is so vital for prospective buyers. It is valued and respected if the agents can get it across in a compelling and transparent manner.
The best advice is for agents to include snippets of this info in listings as sound bites and morsels that attract buyers to check out richer information curated on a personal blog. With websites allowing embedded html in listing details for blog links, this opportunity is a gold mine for agents that is seldom utilised.
What is the biggest mistake agents tend to make when listing a property?
Simply put; ignoring these key three points above!
To be more specific the critical importance of the first photo for a listing cannot be underestimated. It is the hero shot and has to work hard to really sell the appeal of the listing. As with poor quality photos, insufficient photos or no photos, choosing the wrong photo for the 1st place can be, and is often the case is the criminal mistake agents all too often make.
I have seen some horrible examples – photos of toilets, kitchens, untidy bedroom, couches – you name it we have seen it. Even the use of an image of the landscape view from the property can be poor choice. The mindset of the searching buyers is typified in having a brain hardwired to be evaluating property design types and looks. To throw in a view from a property is confusing.
Some agents tell me that this disruption to the regular type of photo is very successful in getting people to be inquisitive and get them to check out more photos. I cannot deny the logic of their argument, but as a marketeer I disagree as intrusive, out-of-context images tend to allow the viewer to eliminate; as that is the core task of a search / refine process – people need to eliminate to refine down to a meaningful number of properties to evaluate in detail.
Another appalling error (which I am glad to see declining in incidence) is the tactic of posting a new listing with a heading “Just listed – too new to photograph”, often accompanied with insufficient or no information. The logic for this behaviour from those agents is the desire to “get the listing online” as fast as possible – of course not appreciating that no content means no value to the target audience and going back to an earlier comment – blows the credibility of the agent. Added to the negative impact on the searcher online is the fact that all new listings are featured in the daily email to hot prospects – this one time medium is so powerful to target the listing to the right audience. As I say to agents, miss that first day and you have almost blow the campaign.
We did research recently on a sample of over 1,000 listings and found that over 40% of viewing for a property occur in the first week with the majority of that on the first day. So it comes down again to “proofing” a listing with comprehensive information before posting it to the web.
Besides creating high-quality listings, what else should Australian and New Zealand real estate agents be doing to market themselves online?
Every agent has to have a profile page on the web. This page must be the #1 link on a Google search for their name (with or without the reference to real estate in the search term – depending on the uniqueness of the name). Every agent needs to own this space. This is their reference tool 24hrs a day. Ideally the profile should be hosted on their own domain name, if not then on the domain of their company or as in the case of our site we offer profile pages on our site. The benefit of a profile page on realestate.co.nz is that if the agent changes offices/ company, the day of that change the profile page on our site changes, and maintains the same Google search page ranking, whereas the old profile on the old company website will still be there until the new profile gains ranking.
Step 2 after the basic web page is a web site, this is the opportunity for richer information to profile the agent and feature all the success and unique proposition they offer prospective clients. A natural evolution to the website is a blog. Today the lines between blog and website have blurred to the extent that they are one of the same. The feature set of being able to add dynamic content to a website is critical for an agent to build a profile as a local expert – or as a subject matter expert. This is or rather should be the ambition of every agent, this is their calling card, their prospecting tool, their letterbox drop all rolled into one.
As ever building the website is only the beginning – it needs nurturing and growing to attract an audience, it needs referral links in both on an offline references. This requires work, the use of social media tool such as Facebook and Twitter as well as outreach to establish back links to other relevant and contextual sites in their community or business area. It take time, but as with anything the investment will pay back – and the beauty of the web is that it keeps paying back 24hrs a day.