Chapter 1: Get to Know Your Neighborhood the Way a Modern Buyer Would
Chapter 2: Know Your Buyers and Speak to Their Needs
Chapter 3: Use New Technology to Reach Buyers Where They Actually Are
Conclusion: Work with Your Agent to Take Advantage of this New Technology
Your Home Has a Virtual Profile In 2003 my parents decided to put their yellow San Francisco home on the market. They planted pansies in the flower beds, cleaned every inch, and put origami spheres on our bookshelves. The house sold after one showing despite the sidewalk construction that forced everyone to walk over a wooden plank to get in. 12 years ago, the process of selling a home was like clockwork — even mundane. A fire in the fireplace, a fresh lemon scent in the hallway, a good location, and a competitive price point was all my family needed. The real estate market is different now.
New technology makes the experience of shopping for a home fun; it’s all dynamic and online. How many times have you found yourself swiping through homes on Facebook or Pinterest during those I Love Lucy reruns? Shopping for a home has become part of everyday entertainment–the success of HGTV proves it. In response to this new kind of casual online househunting behavior, homeowners across the country are starting to use new technology to take a creative approach to market and sell their homes.
Have you ever seen the Zillow commercial where an expanding family of three looks for a new home with big trees in the backyard? There’s a series of shots where the mom flips through houses on the Zillow app. Later, we see the family (and their new baby) standing in the backyard with the oldest son up in a treehouse. They’ve landed their dream home thanks to a Zillow notification. Even though this is a Zillow ad, it captures how people search for homes online these days.
Your home exists as two-dimensional space on the internet as much as it exists as brick and mortar in the real world. Shoppers judge your house online before they even decide to visit. One home in San Francisco has been viewed over 20,000 times since it was listed on Zillow. Another had over 1,000 views after just one day on the site! Online house hunters can’t smell the fresh cookies you baked or feel the vibe of the neighborhood through a computer screen, so you have to understand how they see your virtual home and learn how to market it to them. Like your Facebook profile, business website, or LinkedIn Page, the way you present your virtual home should be curated in a way that shows it at its absolute best.
If your home doesn’t present well online you could lose a buyer who would have loved it in person. We’re here to walk you through the cutting edge home selling tools that 21st century homeowners and top real estate agents are excited about. This book shows you how to put together a digital first marketing plan to emphasize your home’s best features. You’ll learn the tools of the current market and understand how potential buyers look at your house.
- Why all of this new real estate technology matters
- How to compile only the most useful information to hand your real estate agent at your first meeting.
All of this work you’re about to put in to sell your house can only help you if you have an amazing real estate agent to back you up. Our data shows that top agents, because they know how to take advantage of all of the new technology in this book, can sell homes 28 days faster than the average agent and can command up to 9% more over the list price. No matter how well you execute on the sales tactics in this book, you stand to lose out if you don’t partner with a qualified and experienced real estate agent.
The best way to find that agent is with objective recommendations based on each agent’s actual performance with previous clients. Before you read any further, take a few minutes to find an agent who can show you how to take full advantage of all of the emerging internet technology, prepare your home for sale both online and off, and make you more money. Found your perfect real estate agent? Good, let’s begin.
Get To Know Your Neighborhood The Way A Modern Buyer Would Chapter 1
Now that you’ve found a great real estate agent, the two of you need to understand how potential buyers see your property. Before online house hunting became so ubiquitous, potential buyers went to open houses and worked with a real estate agent to get a first glimpse at a potential place. In 2016, according to the National Association of Realtors, 51% of buyers found their new house online. “Buyers are starting their search or even completing their search for a property on the web…A contemporary buyer who has anyaccess or knowledge is going to go to the internet.”
Your online listing is, most likely, your first point of contact with potential buyers. The way your home is perceived online could make buyers fall in love with the property or cause someone to lose interest. A top agent in Southern California, shared that prospective buyers look for information about your property online before they even walk through the door. “Buyers are data hungry, and they are very much ‘do it yourself,’ they are very independent…everyone is doing their own research….The majority of buyers today want to do their own hunting.”
It’s not just about curb appeal or number of bathrooms or granite kitchen counters. Those features matter but now buyers can go online and research the walkability of the neighborhood, noise pollution around your home, and the home’s exact proximity to great schools all before they even step foot in your neighborhood. Before you list your home for sale, you need to do your research to understand how your home and your neighborhood stack up against this new information.
After interviewing a handful of top real estate agents, scouring the internet, and reading up on the trends, we found that Walk Score, Soundscore, GreatSchools, and neighborhood demographic information are the most popular and accurate indicators of the best features of your neighborhood. If you understand your home’s score on each of these tools you’ll be able to walk into that first meeting with your real estate agent with a full picture of how potential buyers view your property online and get an edge over the competition. Internet savvy house hunters will look at these scores.
Walk Score: Location by the Numbers
Walk Score is one of the top criteria prospective buyers look for in a home. She says: Walk Score takes your address and generates a number from 1-100 where higher numbers mean it’s easier to get around the area without a car or bike. Your home’s Walk Score is based on accessibility to dining and drinking, groceries, shopping, errands, parks, schools, and culture and entertainment. “It’s very important to buyers today just to have access to the local coffee shop, but the other thing is that they have animals. More and more people have dogs and they want an area they can walk the dog in.”
Tom Vanderbilt, a journalist at Slate, observes: “More important than the technology, though, is the idea that Walk Score has quantified walkability, taken an abstract quality…and turned it into something that can be measured against other addresses, other neighborhoods, even other cities.”
Walk Score can even show you how a good location can increase your property value over time. In August 2016, Market Watch reported that in some cities every additional Walk Score point translated to a 1% increase on the home’s value. The study found that Walk Scores over 80 in San Francisco were valued approximately $188,000 more than homes with a Walk Score under 80. That’s great for homes with high Walk Scores, but what if your house has a low Walk Score? Some buyers might want a home with a lower Walk Score because they want a quiet, residential area where their kids can play out in the street. Here’s the good news:
“It’s important for buyers to have all the data whether it’s good or bad. If the Walk Score is terrible, we still have it there, because there’s going to be people who don’t care. They’re not going to walk anywhere because they have this killer backyard they never have to leave.” – The Walk Score is the one data point that can go into your home’s listing, but be careful not to use terms like “walking distance from.” Though your favorite takeout spot might be worth the one mile hike for you, that walk might be too strenuous for a potential buyer.
See what we did there? The Walk Score page also generates a transit score with a map that shows various options like Zipcar, Getaround, and the different bus lines and stops closest to your house. Walk Score rates any transit score over 50 “good transit,” so if you have a transit score over 50, tell buyers about it. Give this a try: “This sea blue bungalow has a Walk Score of 90, which means that the best taco truck in town is close by. You’ll have to hop in your car to get to Target, but the best boutique shopping and the juiciest burger place with to-die-for truffle fries is just off the beach and right around the corner.” Take your Walk Score, grab your favorite restaurant or shop, and let the buyer imagine walking their kids to get bubble gum ice cream at the parlor steps away from your front door.
Soundscore: Noise Pollution Quantified
Enter an address and Soundscore produces a heat map that lays out the noise pollution of the area. Scores range from 100 (you can hear a pin drop) to 50 (frat party), and the heat map gives buyers a visual understanding of how sound radiates around your neighborhood. Low noise levels attract families who crave peace and quiet. High noise levels can be a warning for people who need a home in a silent spot. That’s where you come in. If you have a Soundscore above 70, your real estate agent should call out the score in your listing.
“with a Soundscore of 88, the area is pretty quiet. You’ll be able to sip your morning green tea and listen to blue jays chirp off the cherry wood balcony.” Try this for your listing description:
If you live in a busy area with a Soundscore below 70 (aka you hear traffic or crazy college kids at 3am), you can still put the actual number in your listing but make sure to play up the walkability and upbeat action of the place. A low score could mean that, though you hear that group of ladies screaming about their online dating apps at midnight en route to the bars, you’re next to the best restaurants and shops in town.
Or maybe something like this: “The location of this turn of the century loft is even better than the original hardwood floors throughout and the stained glass on the stairwell. Michelin star restaurants sit next to designer boutiques and trendy bars with cocktail lounges line the streets.” “The town’s main watering hole and grocery store is just a short walk from the house. You’ll have quick access to the freeway if you’re a busy downtown commuter–just hop on the 1 and you’ll be at the office.” Your listing could read like this: Soundscore’s number isn’t in those two descriptors but you’ve influenced the prospective buyer before they’ve done their research.
Now, when the buyer hops on to Soundscore and looks up your address, they automatically associate the “Active” rating with good times, dinners with family friends, errands at the local market, or an easy commute. Sure, it’s loud where you live, but location is everything. Bring your real estate agent your Soundscore number and a description to make the number come to life for the prospective buyer. The more specific you get, the better. When a little spin won’t work, another strategy for a home with a ton of sound pollution is to fix the problem from the inside out. Put in double paned windows for rooms that face the street. Then, in the listing you can talk about the double pane windows as a positive feature of the house that keeps the sound out and the rooms quiet.
GreatSchools: Rate Schools with Objective Insights
Families are drawn to homes in school districts with top performing schools. No matter how many azaleas, rosebushes, and orange trees are in the backyard, and no matter how beautiful the crown molding details are, parents will always care most about a great education for their kids. They want their children to get the best possible education, it’s as simple as that. GreatSchools rates schools on a scale from 1-10. 1-3 is considered “below average,” 4-7 is “average,” and 8-10 is “above average.” The website takes student performance on standardized tests, college prep, and quantity of material learned per year into account.
While all states rank schools on standardized test data, some states (such as Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan) have more information listed on the site. These states have information on the number of different classes schools have and rank schools based on “student growth” and “college readiness” in addition to standardized test scores. You can look up ratings on GreatSchools by school district or by school.
Information about private schools in the GreatSchools network is limited. While you can see parent reviews of the schools, no other data is available. Due to legal restrictions, you can’t include any GreatSchools data or school suggestions in the actual listing but you should be aware of how your home stacks up. Zillow allows you to search for homes near “Great Elementary Schools,” high schools, and middle schools, so we know that even though you can’t put the GS data in your listing, buyers are paying attention. A few caveats about GreatSchools Data:
Know Your Buyers and Speak to Their Needs Chapter 2
For example, young millennial buyers might be more interested in nightlife and Walkability while older buyers may crave quiet, safe streets. Once you look into your county’s demographics you can point out small details that might be relevant to your area’s specific type of buyer, which can make a big difference in your home’s marketing. Granted, don’t pander entirely to one specific group in the whole listing blurb–you don’t want to alienate any buyers. Small targeted statements can go a long way to appeal to the largest market of potential buyers in your area. Now that you’ve learned what buyers are looking for in your home, you need to know who those buyers actually are. Your neighborhood’s demographic data tells you who lives in your area and the kinds of amenities they’re looking for.
The National Association of Realtors pulled together research in June of 2016 on The Best Purchase Markets for Aspiring Millennial Homebuyers. You can also find the data for the demographics in your area from the US Census interactive population map, a comprehensive resource that lays out the median age, sex, family size, and more of your county. Go through these 2 simple steps to determine your ideal buyer’s characteristics and craft the best pitch: How do you find the demographics in your area? Step 1: Pull up the interactive U S Population map. Step 2: Zoom in and find your county on the map.
Using the “Family and Housing” map you can look at the average family size in your area. Are you marketing to empty nesters/young couples who haven’t started their families yet? Big families with four kids who need access to great schools? With the “Age and Sex” map you can see the average age of people who live in your county. You’ll know whether to play up the slow-paced life of the place or the active nightlife and great restaurants nearby. Step 1: Pull up the interactive US Population map.
To show you how to use the tool we’ll walk you through the “Age and Sex” map but you can give the “Family and Housing” map a try too. On “Choose Data Theme” select “Age and Sex” 1 This setting will give us visibility into the traits and characteristics of our ideal buyer.
For “Choose a data table,” select “Median Age” 2 We’re trying to get an idea of how old the house hunters are in your area so that we can tailor our marketing to their tastes.
Pick whatever color palette strikes your fancy, and make sure the number of classes is 5. This will break down the data into small chunks so that you get a more accurate spread.
Make sure the classification type is set to “Equal Interval” so that the range between each age is equal. Hit the Make Your Map Button!
Step 2: Zoom in to find your county on the map. What’s most important about the demographics of your neighborhood is the research you do beforehand.
The numbers you come up with will influence the way you write your listing description, but for legal reasons you can’t actually write percentages in. For example, 43.4% of residents are over 65 in Sumter County, FL. We figured that out with the “percent of residents over 65” filter on our demographic map.
“People pay attention to the sunset and sunrise here, where the pace of life is relaxed, enjoyable, and slow. There is a wide selection of golf courses and parks are nearby.” If you find that there is a high saturation of older residents in your county like in Sumter, consider adding in a snippet like this:
“Step out for a drink on Dirty Sixth or stuff your face with barbecue at Franklin. Tap into the underground music scene at nearby bars where you can hear incredible sounds from top musicians in the area every single night.” You might live in a place like Austin, Texas where 31.9 is the median age. NAR actually ranked the city as the top area for millennials looking to purchase a home. You can use that formula for any millennialheavy city. Just take the most popular restaurant in the area and play up nightlife and location. In Austin, the “millennial pitch” might sound a little something like this:
As you use these new tools, try and appeal to the largest group of buyers you can. Grace Miranda sums it up well: “When you’re listing…you want broadest reach and appeal possible. Say you have 100 buyers for a specific property. For 25 of them the Walk Score is going to be important. 10 of them are going to want a big backyard…you just have to appeal to all of them. It’s just about putting as much data out there. Then let them decide.”
Use New Technology to Reach Buyers Where They Actually Are Chapter 3
The last 10 years have changed the way homeowners reach potential buyers. Word of mouth, private showings, and open houses used to be the first time a house hunter came in contact with your home. Now, with internet savvy buyers who like to do their research, you need your home to show up on the websites and mobile apps they’re browsing if you’re going to get any face time at all. A home is listed on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) by the seller’s agent and the listing is distributed to hundreds of third-party websites. Home buyers can see your home in search results on property listing sites like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com. Here’s what happens now:
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) cited the median age of first-time buyers as 32. NAR found the median age of repeat buyers to be 52. Facebook reports that people aged 25-34 makeup 51.1% of Facebook users and people aged 45-54 make up 31.5% of Facebook users. Your potential buyers make up a huge chunk of the people who use Facebook every day. Facebook ads get your home out in front of all of these people. In September 2016, Facebook had 1.18 billion active daily users. A good real estate agent can take that one step further by getting your home on Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and Google.
Imagine that you gave a flyer for your home to every single one of your friends. They see it once, and then it ends up on the bottom of their recycling bin with the remnants of wilted spinach. Not a great place to advertise, right?
Now, picture your home on a prominent billboard in your neighborhood. You already did your demographic research and learned that residents in your area are around the age of median first-time or secondtime buyers. Potential buyers walk to grab coffee or run an errand and see your billboard front and center– and now they’re thinking about your home. That’s how Facebook ads work.
When your ad runs, it pops up on the sidebar and acts as an online billboard. You’ll reach buyers beyond your real estate agent’s immediate network. Rather than blasting out your home to just your network (or your real estate agent’s network) once, Facebook ads target a localized and age-specific group while they’re browsing through their newsfeed or other pages.
Pinterest, like Facebook, has a huge user base with 110 million active people browsing the site per month. 28% of Pinterest users are 30-49 years old, so the platform gets a good chunk of eyes from your target age range. With the average user spending 98 minutes on the platform per month, placing a “billboard” on the site is a good time investment. Speaking of which, you should throw a “billboard” up on YouTube, too.
“The nice thing about YouTube is… if you optimize it well and somebody searches by address it will almost always appear in the first page of Google.” If a buyer Googles your home address, a video of the property on YouTube will show up in the search results, and they can take an immediate virtual tour of the place. Google acts as an online resume where you can present your home across multiple channels. Over 1 billion people use YouTube, there are more people in your target demographic who watch YouTube videos than any cable TV network. That’s a pretty big deal. 53 Get Your Home in Front of Potential Buyers with Facebook Ads
Let’s start with the Facebook ad campaign first as that platform has the largest potential audience and the best targeting capabilities. You and your real estate agent need to make sure you are taking full advantage of Facebook’s features.
Here’s how to use Facebook ads for real estate:
1. Have your real estate agent go to their business page and ads manager. Then, click “create an ad.”
2. Set your “Marketing Objective” as local awareness so that your home reaches people in the area looking to move. 56
3. You can set the radius as far as 50 miles, and you should target people 32 and above, since NAR says the median age for new home buyers is 32 and the median age for repeat buyers is 52. FYI: Promote your agent’s Facebook business page.
4. Select how you want your ad to look. We recommend the photo carousel format so that you can put all of the listing photos for buyers to scroll through right in the ad. 5. Title the ad: “Home for Sale: (Your Address)”
6. Start uploading those listing photos! Pro Tip: Hire a Professional Real Estate Photographer for the Best Results!
Use Pinterest to Give Virtual Home Tours
Pinterest is a different platform style than Facebook–and it’s a positive difference for you. On Facebook you post an article, a photo, or a status, and it goes out to all of your friends once. Then, after it sits on their “News Feed” for a few days (the place on the site where you scroll through all new posts), you won’t see likes or comments on your post anymore because it’s too old. On Pinterest, the pictures you save (or, in Pinterest lingo, the “pins” you “pin”) have a much longer lifespan. Your “pins” show up in search results, on your followers’ home pages, and within relevant categories. A “pin” from two or three years ago could pop up while you’re browsing because it has had so many likes, “re-pins” (where someone saved the pin to their page), or because it’s relevant to things you’ve liked in the past.
The “billboard” strategy you need Facebook ads for just happens naturally on Pinterest. That’s why we’re going to teach you how to build your listing into a Pinterest board and add words with “hashtags” so that pictures of your home pop up when people search for homes for sale in your area or while they browse around the site. You can also choose to do Pinterest ads (their ads go by “Promoted Pins,”) if you want to absolutely make sure your Pins reach the right demographic–but why pay for pins you can create for free yourself? We’ve created an example home listing on our own Pinterest board so that you can visualize the process and see how we put our board together.
Here’s how to get started:
1. First, you’ll need to make sure that your real estate agent has a Pinterest account. Though you could post your listing on your own Pinterest, your real estate agent has a network of other agents to whom they can send your listing.
2. Every folder of pictures and ideas (“pins”) you create on your own Pinterest account is called a “board.” Click on the circle icon of your profile picture in the upper right hand corner and click “My Profile” in the dropdown menu.
3. Click the red plus sign to “Create Board.”
4. Title your board: “Home for Sale: (Your Address).”
5. As you create your board, make sure to save it in the “home decor” category. Under board description, take a short summary from your listing blurb and copy and paste it in.
This 1907 house has a Walk Score of 96, and it’s just around the block from a Michelin star restaurant, popular bars, and the neighborhood’s main drag of boutiques and eateries. The area is extremely walkable with many activities and animal-walking friendly streets. Listed at [Your List Price] #homes #forsale #[yourcity] #[yourstate] #realestate Notice those words in bold? Those are the “hashtags.” Hashtags are words that tell people what your photo or Pinterest board is about. They are short and sweet and are designed to place your pin into a category. Think of them like color-coded file folders. These relevant hashtags like your city name, “real estate,” your state, “homes” and “for sale” will make your Pins more likely show up in search and browsing results. Need an example?
6. Now you’re going to “save” your first “pin!” To make the “Save Pin” button appear, search for anything within Pinterest and pin it to your new “Home for Sale” board. Don’t worry, you’ll delete this “test pin” later.
7. All of your listing photos should be up on your real estate agent’s website. Go to the website and find your property. Copy the listing URL.
8. Then, go back into your new Pinterest board. Click the “save pin” button and then “save from the web.”
9. Pinterest might prompt you at this point to download the “Pin It” button. Download it! The button will pop up in your toolbar (the top right hand corner of your internet browser). Next time you go to your Realtor’s website to save a listing photo, just hit that button and all of the pictures should pop up to save.
10.Now’s the time to create the pin! Under “Tell Us About This Pin,” you’ll copy and paste the part of the amazing listing blurb your real estate agent wrote for you that references that specific room.
For example, for our living room pin, we put: “The living room has built-in shelves, crown molding, and a fireplace for toasty winter evenings. #livingroom #brightlivingroom #chiclivingroom #trendy #homes #forsale #[yourcity] #[yourstate] ” The hashtags help your photo show up in Pinterest search results when people search for those terms.
Go through this process until you’ve created a pin for every room/listing photo you have. When all’s said and done, your home’s virtual tour board should look something like this: Home for Sale: An Example Pinterest Board for Your House Check it out:
Present a Video Walkthrough of Your Home With YouTube
Virtual tours on YouTube will actually show up on Google when prospective buyers search for your address. Buyers don’t even have to click through the real estate agent’s website or go through Trulia or Zillow. They Google your address, see the video pop up in search results, and click play. It’s as easy as that–and they didn’t even have to get up off the couch. Bill Gassett gets a good response from buyers who watch his listing video tours on the site. “One of the things that I did a few years ago was that I created…signs that say, ‘Google this address’ so when somebody’s driving by, they see that and they say, ‘Oh yeah, I can do that!’ And they Google the address. What happens is: they’ll see the video, they’ll see the website, and then they’ll see all the places that I’ve enhanced my listing, like…Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com. I just know when they do that they’re going to get a great presentation.”
Don’t be overwhelmed trying to find a professional videographer to come over and take a video of your place. Bill uses a company called “Real Estate Shows” that combines your listing photos with music and makes the still images feel like a live video. Some Realtors might already work with a professional videographer as part of their marketing strategy and are prepared to work with them. Ask your agent what they prefer. If your real estate agent is not planning on videoing your place? Opt for a software like iPhoto or iMovie where you can plop your amazing listing photos in, add a classical tune, and ship it to YouTube. When Bill talks about “optimizing” the video on YouTube, he’s talking about a similar process to what we did for Facebook and Pinterest. The name of your video should be your address, city and then “Real Estate and Homes for Sale.” Then, your listing goes in the description with a link to the listing on your real estate agent’s website.
Here’s how to upload your home’s video walkthrough to YouTube:
1. Go to https://www.youtube.com/ and click the “Upload” arrow
2. Create a YouTube Channel
3. Drag and drop your listing video into YouTube
4. Create your title and description
5. Voila! You’re all set! Quick heads up: It may take a few days to show up in Google search as it takes some time for them to find the video and add it to their index.
Work with Your Realtor to Take Advantage of this New Technology Conclusion
The process of searching for homes is so different than it was ten years ago. In 2016, 51% of people bought a home they found online and now buyers even reach out to listing agents directly after seeing a place they like on the internet. As a top 1% Atlanta real estate agent once said: When prospective buyers swipe left and right through homes on their iPhones or click through listings online, you need to know how your home stacks up against all of the other comparable homes for sale in your neighborhood. “Back in the old days [buyers] couldn’t find out even who the listing agent was unless they drove by a house and wrote down the information. But now they can find out in a second and immediately get in touch.”
Walk Score and Soundscore can help you influence your listing and make it stronger with actual data that proves your house is amazing. Demographic data helps you understand who you’re marketing to, and Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest are new, creative, social, and inventive ways to reach them. If my parents sold their little yellow house today, I would hook them up with Facebook ads, a Pinterest strategy, their Walk Score and Soundscore, and data about GreatSchools in the area. We would still set fresh lemons in a bowl in the kitchen, light candles and clean and stage the home, but I would also help them create a strong virtual presence for their house online. Take these new tools to your real estate agent, have a conversation about them, and give modern real estate technology a try. Your home is in for a whole new real estate experience–and now you’re ready for it.
For most of us, our homes are one of our biggest investments in life. When it’s the right time, get the value you deserve with the help of a professional real estate team that genuinely cares. Call Mike & Alena Smith today