Trash Talk

I was revisiting some of the many “gems” we have posted here during the past three years when I stumbled on a good, healthy rant I enjoyed back in May, 2006 about real estate agent marketing — the kind found in your bushes. If you are someone who has a front door, you know what I am talking about. Leaflets, flyers, brochures, and door hangers which during a brisk market number so many, you can’t find the pizza guy.

I know what you’re thinking. Why were you reading your own blog? Somebody has to. But that’s not the point. What struck me is this: Where did all the marketing trash go?

The answer is fairly obvious. Times got tough.

Back in 2003, a real estate license was the new, flirty must-have accessory.

“You are a Realtor?” the nice man ringing up my purchase at Home Depot asked. “I’m a Realtor!”

“Yeah. What are the chances?” I thought.

That was then, back in the days of the bountiful harvest. Everyone seemingly had a license, but it worked. That’s because everyone was buying homes, and selling homes, often at a clip of three a day. There was enough to go around and, like the all-you-can-eat buffet, we all over-consumed.

So, the agent numbers have dwindled. It’s a supply and demand thing. And not so surprisingly, it is largely the agents who were successful before the heady boom years we see continuing to survive and even thrive. Is this a cosmic coincidence? Of course not.

There are as many crappy roofers as there are good ones, but during a downpour, all of them are busy.  So it goes with real estate agents.

In some strange way, I am missing the marketing trash, not because I enjoy playing Count the Neighborhood Specialists while I am cleaning up the mess on my welcome mat, but because of what it symbolizes. Even the old guard, the veteran agents who have always seen real estate as a career and not scratch-off ticket, have gotten cheap. If it was just about value-engineering their own self-promotional strategy, that would be forgivable. The problem I am seeing is that these same agents are cutting costs where it matters – in marketing their clients’ homes.

Too many homes are showing up in the MLS now with point-and-shoot photos, homes represented by agents who used to only use professional photography.


If you are a seller, you should whack your agent (ironically, one who wears stripes well) with that can of air freshener, just after you finish brushing. If you are an agent, this is not OK, and I don’t care what price range the home is in or how little you stand to make. Marketing is marketing; if it helps expose, promote and sell a million dollar baby, so it will an entry-level condominium.

Unfortunately, sloppy marketing is equal-opportunity. I see as many bad photos taken of high-end homes as I do lower-priced ones. And don’t even get me started on some of the stuff I see passing for brochures in the flyer boxes.

There is so much more to seller representation than pictures and flyers of course, but it is the attitude that these familiar marketing strategies, not to mention my now-tidy front porch, symbolize which I find telling. Just because your agent’s business may not be as brisk as it was a few years ago nor his bank account as impressive, that doesn’t mean the costs of doing business have also gone south. If anything, it takes far more time and money to successfully promote a home in today’s environment.

When selecting your listing agent, be sure you are clear on at least this one point. Is your agent willing to do what it takes for as long as it takes to maximize your return, or is he just concerned with maximizing his?

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