Fame is proof that people are gullible – Ralph Waldo Emerson


On the one hand, image matters. On the other hand, it doesn’t. I am constantly shaking my head in disbelief at the way in which agents go about marketing their clients’ properties and themselves. And they seem to get away with it.


It is Memorial Day weekend, and we once again schlepped five-sixths of the family to our little cabin in Lake Arrowhead in a weak attempt to steal a little relaxation time. Steve and I, our two high school-aged daughters (who will only be seen with us in Public when they are certain that a particular Public will not recognize them), and Simon the Wonder Dog (dumb as a box of rocks) are all in attendance. Only the Cat-Who-Hates-Steve remains behind in San Diego. With a clean litter box and a full bowl of dog food (the cat food will remain untouched), and absent “that guy”, she is undoubtedly much happier.

So Steve and I spend the twilight hours each evening huddled around the local Homes and Land magazine. From a Realtor’s perspective, Lake Arrowhead is in a technological time warp and, by all accounts, Homes and Land remains the centerpiece, the crown jewel of local marketing.

Careful. We don’t want to learn from this.
Bill Watterson, “Calvin and Hobbes”

The Lake Arrowhead Homes and Land is so brimming with “material”, that I don’t even know where to start. Over the course of many years performing our slam-the-ads Happy Hour ritual, we have come to know these agents. They feel like family. We have always particularly enjoyed the company ads for the Red Team and the Blue Team, with each roster of agents photographed in the respective (red or blue) polo shirts. We were saddened this trip to find that the blue team is gone; they presumably changed shirts or lost the League Bowling finals, we aren’t sure which. Gone, too, is the lady with the Big Hair, styled with a blow torch in the Alfalfa fashion. Even this resort community, it seems, has been affected by the market downturn.

Stay the Course.
President George Bush

So many continue to flourish, however. Could it be that their survival is attributable to their stellar marketing campaigns? Judging from their tag lines (catchy mottos, we all know, are a Board of Realtors requirement), I would venture a guess – Nah. Following are just a few of the gems that are intended to inspire the unfamiliar to enlist their services, and inspirational their words are!

“My Favorite Word is Sold” (Creativity oozes from my pores).
“Honesty, Integrity & Reliability are My Guidelines” (Guidelines? When I see it in Venn Diagram Format, I might believe it).
“Down to Earth and Down to Business” (I used the word “down” twice, which makes me clever).
“Real Estate From a Different Perspective – Yours!” (What the heck is that supposed to mean?)
“The Realtor Who Never Sleeps” (Sadly, her photo supports this statement).
“Representing Exceptional Properties” (With a few People thrown in, I am hoping).
“Driven to Serve You” (She’s a Race Car Driver, according to her photo standing by the Race Car on the Race Track in her Race Car Driver uniform. That is enough for me to hire her to sell my home!)
“Hello, I’m Elkie the Wonder Dog. I wonder why anyone would consider using anyone but ‘my people’ to buy or sell their homes”. (Yeah, I wonder).
“Figure it Out With <agent name>” (The agent’s last name is Figueroa, but she also expanded on this frisky play on words by using a full side-body, modeling pose).
“The <agent surname> Brothers – We’re Serious About Your Money” (The photo, showing them in outlaw garb holding money bags, tells me that a hold-up has taken place. Hmm…)

The amazing thing is that these agents, if you believe their full or even multi-page spreads, have A LOT of business! In an old Saturday Night Live skit portraying a Dukakis/Bush presidential debate, “Dukakis” looks to the camera and says, “I can’t believe I am losing to this guy”. Yeah, that.

The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas … then throw away the bad ones! 
Linus Pauling

San Diego is no better, of course. Sure, we have our bad tag lines and bad photos and bad personal ad copy. What continues to baffle me, however, is that so many agents seem to earn and keep the business of so many sellers while offering so little. Competition is fierce among agents, so how are we losing to these guys? And I’m not talking about losing in the listing appointment; If I get the opportunity and don’t earn the business, that is my fault. I am talking about the dozens upon dozens of listings where the seller seemingly picked their agent using a dart board and a blindfold.

We are constantly, and I mean, every day, trying and testing new and (we hope) better ways to market our clients’ properties. So (long sentence is coming), why is it that we sell a home in four days for a record price with a lighted yard sign carrying a distinct property URL and multi-page full-color brochures with photos taken by a professional photographer which were also mailed to 8,000 area residents, a home that has been included in virtually every on-line portal we can find, a home that was professionally staged on my nickel, a home that enjoyed a visual tour and 40-tour photo gallery and floor plan link, and yet the home three doors down expires and relists with an agent who has only a yard sign and MLS entry, and sells maybe two homes a year? No personal website, no flyers of any kind, no on-line presence, nothing. Did they not know they had choices, or did they think less was more?

This is just one example of the “huh?” moments I have every day. Bad photos, no photos, misspelled and poorly crafted ad copy, no ads, agent email addresses ending in @aol.com, no agent email, and the list goes on.

I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out.
Anne Frank

There are many, many consumers who “get it”, but many more that seem to cling to the notion that they owe it to Uncle Clarence or their friend from the Bunko group or their father’s friend from work who has his license to give them a shot. There are many who presumably have the notion that all of that stupid marketing stuff is, well, stupid, particularly when their cousin used a guy who charged a twelve dollar flat fee in 1989 and sold their home in two hours.

Why didn’t he just give him the drum?
My then four-year-old daughter, trying to solve the mysteries of the Christmas classic, Little Drummer Boy

Sometimes, people just miss the obvious.

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