Free Real Estate Advice

Free Advice
Creative Commons License photo credit: Solo, with others

There is a lot of free real estate advice out there, and sometimes you get what you pay for.

It’s becoming more commonplace for our clients to turn to the Google God throughout the process to either seek elusive answers (“My home has been on the market for seven hours. Why hasn’t it sold?”), or to just make sure we are doing our jobs.  I’m all for checks and balances, but trust is becoming a four-letter word.

The problem is, you can’t always trust the search box. There is some very good information out there, to be sure, but there is just as much horse doodie being spewed that ranges from silly, to wrong, to outright dangerous. My Golden Retriever, the one with one functioning brain cell who eats rocks, could publish a real estate how-to article if he had opposable thumbs, and someone, somewhere would be waving it around as the smoking gun of his own agent’s incompetence.

I found myself again shaking my head when I heard that a client had latched onto this helpful article penned in 2008 and published on as the final authority on how to “dump” a house “fast.”

Granted, the article dates back a few years, but not much has changed when it comes to marketing a home. Certainly, the general vibe of the market is not measurably different. So, I thought it would be fun to revisit this little public service checklist of yore (“yore” being 2008-ish), particularly given that we were bopped over our heads with it this week, and offer my own annotations.

Let’s start with the Five Biggest Mistakes.

Making small price reductions again and again. I’ll agree with this one. But, the article goes on to say, Find out what your house is worth by looking at similar properties in the neighborhood and price it 10% below them.” 10%? Why not 7 or 12%? How about this for a novel idea? Find out what similar properties have sold for, determine a probable market value and sale price, and price your home very close to that probable price. If it’s priced right to begin with, we wouldn’t even be talking about reductions.

Hiring the wrong broker. No argument here. But the author goes on to say, Personal recommendations from friends and colleagues are often the best way to go. If someone outside the real estate business with nothing to gain is bringing up a broker, you can be pretty sure you’re on to a winner.” (Emphasis added.)

A “winner?” Maybe, but not necessarily. Take those recommendations, and then conduct your own interviews and due diligence. Different folks have different personalities and unique expectations. I like my friends very much, but some of their friends, people they really like, are nut jobs.

Waiting it out. This is mostly correct. But, again, I must offer a big old maybe, maybe not. It depends on your particular circumstances. The one thing I can say with relative certainty where today’s market is concerned is that, if you are waiting for prices to be measurably higher, you need to be prepared to hunker down for a long time.

Showing your house before you get rid of your clutter. Duh. I’ll concede this one.

Not taking the first quick bid. The first offer is often the best, but not always. I suppose it depends on what the offer is, no?

Now here’s the fun part – the tactics for luring more buyers. I’ll focus on my favorites.

Rent a wide-angle lens ($24 to rent for three days). Forgetting for a minute that we don’t rent anything (except Eric, a professional photographer who knows far more about this stuff then we do), we are told that a wide-angle lens will make your home look “larger.” The problem is that buyers get really testy when they walk into a cracker box yet, based on the photos, were expecting a scale model of the Capitol rotunda.

Sell your house on eBay. Oh, yeah. That works. And on Craigslist and in the PennySaver.

Organize a neighborhood open house.  Include a latte cart or a giant inflatable house in the backyard for kids to jump on.” I can’t tell you how many clients have said, “We would have bought that home if they had only had Venti Mochas!” As for the inflatable, that’s fun. Just don’t forget to renew the umbrella policy.

Include a financial goody bag for the buyer. You can… pay for a year of landscaping, pool cleaning or maid service. Be creative and see what kind of incentives you think would entice a buyer.”

I’ve got one! What about setting a reasonable price? It’s so crazy, it just might work. “I know we are priced 40% higher than other homes in the neighborhood, but we have lattes and a bouncy thing. And we’ll pay for your next oil change!” doesn’t seem overly compelling to me, but I could be wrong.

Offer a big broker incentive. Consider offering your broker a weekend in Paris or a luxurious day at the spa.” Hey, now we’re talking! Because I might not do my job just for the promise of, say, our agreed-upon compensation.

Rent a local billboard in your neighborhood. Uh, yeah. That makes sense in suburban San Diego.

The author continues, You could also create magnets for your car to advertise your home (with house picture and contact information). Or dress your kids and their friends in “Buy My House” T-shirts and send them to town. Sometimes whacky tactics like these pay off.” Trust me, do these things and you will not only find yourself friendless, but childless. If you can get your children and their friends to wear “Buy My House” T-shirts, I want pictures, and rest assured you won’t be buying any prom dresses. And if you find yourself toodling around town with promotional car magnets on your minivan, call me. You are dangerously close to an exciting career in real estate.

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