A few months ago, I decided to give online dating a shot. I had written it off as a fad and something that I had really no interest in ever attempting. However, after realizing that my hectic work schedule left me little time to actually meet people that I didn’t work with, I decided to give it a shot…and found some pretty amazing parallels to real estate.
The Profile Picture
The key to every online dating site is an attractive profile picture. Often, one can be spoiled for choice having thousands of profiles to look through at a time. You certainly can’t stop and read every one, so the profile picture really is one of the most important pictures. The same holds true on the multiple listing service and the other real estate websites.
A good profile picture of a home should give you an accurate representation of what you’re buying. The yard should be manicured, any faded paint should be touched up, and cars always removed from the driveway. Pictures should always be taken on a bright sunny day (discerning buyers can tell when a fake sky has been added) and if the seasons have changed (for example, there’s snow on the ground in the picture and it’s almost June), it’s time to retake exterior pictures.
While your Instagram selfie may have worked to produce profile views on your online dating site, it has no place in real estate. If you’re selling your home, ask your real estate agent about the type of camera they intend to use to take pictures of your house. The correct answer should be that they are hiring a professional unless they have professional equipment and know how to use it. If they whip out their iPhone or other smartphone, politely show them the door.
The Gallery of Other Pictures
These other pictures were often very revealing. The typical online dating profile had around 4 or 5 additional pictures that told the story of the individual that you might be interested in. The sequence went selfie, girl with friends, girl having a drink with friends, girl with a dog, followed by a driving selfie. My profile was never this robust because it would be Jonathan, Jonathan working, Jonathan working again, Jonathan is still working, and geez this guy is boring.
The same is true for a real estate listing. I am a very visual person so I love to look at the listing photo gallery before I’ll read the listing description. Usually, a professionally photographed home can do a better job in selling than the limited MLS description. According to the annual NAR Survey of Buyers and Sellers, home buyers rank real estate photos as the most important part of any listing. So with that being said, taking extra steps to ensure that your home shows its very best online is absolutely critical. This is where staging comes in.
Staging converts your house into a home. For all the hours I’ve wasted on Pinterest and Houzz looking at interior design ideas, I very rarely see a highly rated room that is just bare and vacant. Virtual staging can be an option for some, however, when the home buyer arrives at the house and sees that it’s vacant. It will take some adjusting on their part.
If a home is vacant, focus on staging the important rooms (Master Suite, Bath, Kitchen, Living Room). If the home is occupied, allow the home stager to use your existing items to create a warm and inviting space. That may include repainting, packing, or even a larger project – however, it really does work when it is embraced and fully executed.
For a great example, take our recently sold listing in the Stewart Park neighborhood in Monroe. The owner met with our home staging professional, Barbi MacKinnon with The Staging Girl, to get some advice on how they can show their 2,500 sq. ft. ranch better because they absolutely needed to get top dollar. Barbi made a number of key recommendations which the homeowners took to heart and implemented. After we had our photographer shoot the house, I listed it for sale with my fingers crossed for an offer. I know my marketing plan works, but the stats for that neighborhood weren’t too promising. Over the last year, the average time that a home was on the market was 226 days and one home had been on the market for 816 days. That’s 2.23 years!
That property sold and it is the highest sale in the neighborhood since 2009 and the fastest recorded sale since 2007. So yes, staging works.
What Do You Have to Say For Yourself
After looking at the pictures, you read the profile, and this is where you learn if the person you’re considering contacting can spell or form a sentence. I always appreciated the ones that were sarcastic because I’m sarcastic and that’s usually a good mix. The listing descriptions too should highlight the benefits of the property. Highlight the improvements, location, unique features, and the neighborhood. Don’t focus on re-stating the obvious (this is a 3 bed 2 bath 2 story house that has a dining room, yard…). Instead, talk about the flooring types, improvements like the glass tiled backsplash or the new shower in the master bathroom.
While all of the exposure in the world is great, it means nothing if what you’re putting out there isn’t showing your home (or yourself) in the best light. At the same time, if you are marketing an unreal image of your home or yourself, be prepared for a lot of disappointment…kinda like meeting someone who told you they were 28 but when you meet them, they look more like they’re closer to 58.
When a buyer is shown your home in person, what they experience first hand should be more of a confirmation of what you’ve already presented to them online – not a completely different house. In the instances where it is, offers happen quickly and usually for top dollar because everything was honest and genuine. In the cases where it isn’t, be prepared for your listing to sit and sit and sit.