What is the first thing a buyer will look at when seeking homes on the Internet? The pictures. High-quality photography is essential to gain more eyes on the home, translating into more visits to the home.
There are only two options to taking photographs of a home for the purpose of listing: 1) Professional photography; 2) Realtor's Photography. Sure, a seller can take pictures themselves, but that is like bringing your car to the mechanic and changing the oil yourself. The Realtor is there to provide value, and if they cannot take high-quality pictures themselves (as a minimum), what else will they neglect during the sales process?
Your first alternative is to request that a Realtor hire a professional. If they cannot prove the efficacy of their photographs, or show why their photos are better, then it is in your best interest to have them pay for someone to do it. This could run the Realtor $100-$500 depending on the home. Make sure to determine this BEFORE you sign a contract with the listing agent.
During my years in this business, I have won listings numerous times because of my photography. As a Realtor, it is essential to use a high-quality camera, preferably a mid-to-high end Canon or Nikon ($500-$2000). It is also a MUST to use a wide-angle lens (not to be mistaken for a fish-eye lens). Finally, if you want to spend further, some lighting equipment might be a nice touch, but is not essential. A good flash would be sufficient to replace the stock flash on these cameras.
Once you have the equipment, experience is the next step. If you get enough listings, and take enough pictures, eventually you get into a groove that provides the highest quality one can expect.
The process of taking the pictures is the easy part. This is something any Realtor can and should do. A professional takes this a step further, and I believe ALL Realtors should also go further. The final step to taking pictures, is the touch-up process that brings those pictures to the next level.
Using a program such as Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop allows a Realtor to adjust the important aspects of the photos, to make them Internet ready.
NOTE: Adobe has become the Creative Cloud, meaning that there is no longer a physical Suite to purchase, but a monthly subscription for these services. If you want to use it, you might have to pay the monthly payments.
Once you have chosen the 20-30 photos you want to use for the listing, put them all in Photoshop, and get started with the necessary editing and alterations to the pictures. This is no tutorial for Photoshop, but you should determine how best to change settings such as exposure, brightness, contrast, saturation, and vibrancy. Get familiar with these adjustments.
You might also need to reduce the size of the photos. With a high-quality camera, the raw photos tend to be too big to load in some places on the Internet. Using the Resize functionality in Photoshop, or paint.net, you can easily reduce it to 50% of its size, making it small enough for most of the Internet.
With these tools and tips, getting the best photography is within reach. If you have further questions about these processes, or want more in-depth details, just let me know!
Despite this being after the staging section of our Game Plan, the most essential aspect of ‘staging’ a home is the de-cluttering that is required to make a home show better. Clutter eats equity – this is the best way to think about clutter. Here are some rules of thumb that will help you as a Realtor or a seller:
The goal of de-cluttering is to remove the distractions that are common in every home. A buyer needs to have the best opportunity to look at the home, and not the stuff. Considering this is a zero-cost solution to help a home sell, every homeowner should do their utmost to take these tips to heart.
Hand-in-hand with de-cluttering is the last step before photography - cleaning. It is essential that for every showing, that the home is picked up in advance. You might make a habit of cleaning every morning before going to work, to avoid any issues here. But it is also a good idea to do a deep clean prior to listing, especially if it has never been done before. Hire a company, as it makes it so much easier for you. You can find someone for $30-$50 per hour, which is well-worth the money. You should also have all carpets cleaned – for a vacant home, I have a carpet cleaner that does one ‘zone’ for $50, basically any room is considered a zone. Make sure to clean inside and outside of windows as well.
For a seller, the de-cluttering and cleaning processes are infinitely low cost solutions to making the home smell and feel livable for a new buyer.
It amazes me how quickly technology is progressing. Less than half a century later, these fax machines are completely obsolete in a modern real estate market. This does not mean that this equipment is completely missing from the workplace, but it is likely that those agents still using it are FAR behind the times. Scanners are still relevant, though they require a physical machine, limiting their capabilities.
This brings me to the tool of the year for 2015, TurboScan (by Piksoft Inc.). In this case, I specifically mention this app that costs between $2 and $4 on an iPhone, likely the best investment for a Realtor or his/her client going through a transaction.
This app is a scanner, plain and simple, without those physical restrictions I first mentioned fax machines, because they began a wave of new technology used to send documents, which evolved into the proliferation of scanners, skipping quickly to apps that allow you to scan documentation, quickly, and easily, from anywhere.
How does the App work?
All you have to do is to take a picture of the file, and then it automatically crops the document to white space, and you can immediately add pages, if necessary.
What is amazing about this tool is the ability to send files directly to your email, or an email. But, if used correctly with your Dropbox (Tool of the Year in 2010-2014 for me), the impact is greater. Read about Dropbox so you can understand my next point.
This app completely eliminates the need for physical storage of any paper documentation. You can scan anything directly from your hand into your Dropbox making it immediately accessible to you on any computer or device in the world (with Internet connectivity), or to those that are connected to your Dropbox...again...IMMEDIATELY.
You can also instantly send these documents (as JPEG OR PDF) in a text message to someone else. Or immediately open these files in any app that supports PDF files, on your device, such as Evernote, Google Drive, iBooks, or Notes App (iPhone).
I have had buyers use this app to scan documents quickly and effectively to their mortgage broker, in a timely fashion. The testimonial from my mortgage broker was incredibly positive, and he immediately adopted this technology into his business, advising clients to utilize its powerful and quick interface.
So, whether you are working with a mortgage broker on obtaining financing, are a Realtor trying to modernize your business, or really anyone that has too much physical paper, check this App out. If you don't have an iPhone, there are certainly going to be alternatives on the market, for your purposes - just look for something that had some of these features, and you are in good shape.
Here is a basic Tutorial:
Enjoy this App, and hopefully it is as powerful and useful in 2016 as it was in 2015 for me!
As always, feel free to contact me with additional questions, comments, or testimonials (or just comment below).
In a digital age, the prevalence of new technology makes it difficult to keep up unless you are dedicating yourself to it full time. If you are a real estate salesperson; your time is better spent prospecting and meeting with clients. (If you are in any business, this tool is essential)
My main focus when I entered the real estate business was to enable my business to be run from anywhere that I might be at any given time, with the exception of the valuable face-to-face time with clients. Otherwise, I wanted to be able to do everything and anything I needed on the run.
With that said, let’s talk about Dropbox , the most useful tool I have used in this business.
What is Dropbox?
In the past few years, the ‘Cloud’ has become a common term in the world of technology. This ‘Cloud’ may seem like an overwhelming concept, but all it really is, is a bunch of computers that are connected in a warehouse somewhere, that allow you to store your files as you would on your computer. The key is that you can access it from any computer or device. Dropbox was the first ‘Cloud’ system I came into contact with, and my favorite.
How do I make the most of Dropbox?
Dropbox offers a free level of service, where you are given 2GB of data, or hundreds of thousands of files depending on their size. You are also given multiple methods to increase this space significantly. For the more advanced, those that use this product regularly as I do, for $99 a year, you get 1TB, which is all the space you will need.
I use this tool to store all of my files, those from all of my clients, so I have everything I need at any given time:
For example, I am on the road and get a phone call that a possible seller client would like to meet, I can pop into my office and print everything I have organized for a listing presentation (‘Listing Presentation Material’ in the example above). No need to go back home and collect yourself, it is already all organized in one place.
A step beyond that, are the sharing capabilities of this program. For a team of real estate salespeople, you might want to share a folder, or a file, or your whole Dropbox, and doing so is as easy as inviting your colleagues on the Dropbox website. This powerful aspect of Dropbox can turn an office of real estate agents into a cohesive salesforce, with access to all the same files in order to compete with those other offices in town.
The most useful aspect of this tool for me is for contracts and paperwork. I am able to directly input files into the Dropbox through email, from any device, from anywhere. As more and more aspects of business go online, we find that saving paper and having clients scan and fax documents (or use something like TurboScan), leads to a comprehensive folder of all clients and their important documents.
Why Dropbox and not some other Cloud service?
There are many new services that are trying to enter this Cloud space including Internet behemoths such as Amazon, Apple, IBM, and Google. However, Dropbox is still the best, for my use. The price is competitive, and the usability and flexibility make it a worthwhile product. Their goal was to make Dropbox as non-intrusive as possible, and it surely feels that way.
Sometimes I don’t even recognize that I am saving my files in Dropbox. I use it ten times daily and much more, because it has become ubiquitous for me.
How accessible is Dropbox?
Dropbox can be used in multiple ways:
The bottom line: Dropbox can be used anywhere from any device at any time.
This application is incredibly easy to use - think of it as the same usability for the folders that you have directly on your computer. There is a hierarchy, or folder structure, so you can create personal and work-related folders, and share them independently; you then avoid mixing and mingling these folders.
If I were to rate every tool I use as a real estate professional with 1 to 5 stars, this product would get a 5 star rating every time. I have never had any qualms with the software, and find that it is the most updated and perfect piece of software I have used.
For what it is worth, this blog post was created in Word, then saved in my Dropbox folder under Real Estate (private) > ~BLOG Content
It is the way I keep myself organized. Test the free version of this, and let me know what you think through Facebook.
Staging is essential. I don’t mean hiring a professional stager and spending thousands on new furniture from said stager (though this might be more effective in getting the home sold at a higher price). But sellers don’t want to, or might not have that much money to spend, in addition to the cosmetic work they might do. Also, frankly, sellers are skeptical to spend ANY money at this stage of the transaction. I would rather spend that money on the cosmetic updates that are necessary.
What do I mean by staging advice? I have taken classes, and listened to many staging consultations, giving advice for what to do prior to listing. This includes helping choose what colors to paint with, where to move things, and ultimately, the de-cluttering and cleaning necessary to get it sold.
Here are some great tips for staging:
This list is concise, including the most important aspects of staging, but not all-inclusive. There are hundreds of tips for listing a home optimally, so if you would like a full staging list, leave a comment or go to the contact form and ask!
Note: Consultation with a stager is a service offered by my go-to stager in CT. She charges $275, and sometimes I use this as a tool to get a listing. In other words, I offer to pay to have her come give a written consultation prior to listing, for things that can be done to improve value. This gives the stager the opportunity to come in and meet the client, and establish expertise, but also to give the best suggestions to improve sales price.
It is amazing what a seller (or Realtor) can do to a home without spending much money. Put on your buyer hat and get started on these immediately!
The first step to bringing a home to Showing Quality (SQ) is to address the minor (and major) cosmetic issues that need addressing with the home. Every seller has a budget, and there is a level of experience required to determine which changes/fixes make the most sense given that budget. Make sure to realize that this is not a one-size-fits-all approach because each scenario is different.
To the benefit of my sellers, I have managed to keep the cost of cosmetic updates below $5000 for homes up to 3000 square feet. I achieve this with the assistance of a handyman that does high-quality work, at prices that are severely lower than the regular competition in your location. Doug and his team have been invaluable to my business; it is advisable to find your own ‘Doug’, as a seller OR a Realtor in your particular market.
With that said, what is the order of operations to get to SQ by way of cosmetic updates? Here is how I rank the important issues in ROI for a seller (in Fairfield County CT, and Norwalk specifically):
For all six items above, my handyman does a great job of itemizing the list, line-by-line so my seller clients know exactly where their dollars are being spent. This also enables the seller to know the total scope of what I might recommend (thus giving them full transparency on what to do), but can pick and choose despite your advice, based on their budget.
Disclaimer: These lists of ROI are intended for homes under $1,500,000 in Fairfield County. Local real estate is different, so consult a Realtor if you are reading this and are not located in Connecticut.
There are issues such as termite treatment, non-functioning mechanicals, and other blatantly obvious items that may need addressing. If your roof is leaking, fix it! If the roof is 30 years old, manage your expectations by knowing the buyer might ask for a credit. The key here is to know what is coming, and to not be surprised by it.
If your heating system, cooling system, hot water heater, or any other major mechanical is not working, it must be fixed or the buyers will look for a steep discount in price.
A special note here: if the heating system doesn’t work, the buyer may not be able to get financing for the property. If the electric panel is fuse-based (instead of breakers), it is possible the buyer won’t be able to get insurance, and therefore won’t finish qualifying for a mortgage.
So, if you are a seller or a Realtor with a listing, these tips should have been useful. Unless the budget is actually $0, don't be complacent in this category. A little goes a long way.
There are literally thousands of different sources for news, content, and real estate-related content. Here are some noteworthy options:
Most major news networks have a real estate-specific section, like the NYT, CNN, MSN, FOX, or CNBC. There is huge variety on these sites, and all are news that tends to be macro, or on a large scale, discussing national real estate news.
Sometimes, news around the world or in the United States is worth reposting, for example content from Business Insider tends to be interesting. This business-geared news site delivers interesting, relevant content that might stray from specifically real estate news. For example, posting an article about mortgage rates, or the stock market might lend some variety.
Inman News tends to be a great source for news about real estate. This website is a great source for content geared towards Realtors and as content generator for them.
Here is another real estate specific website: Rismedia.
Of course, realtor.com has plenty of great information about the market. We all know Realtor.com as the major player in the real estate world on the Internet.
Zillow and Trulia Blogs
Didn't I mention that blogging is essential: Zillow Blog and Trulia Blog. Trulia and Zillow Blogs tend to have great content written by Realtors out there working the market. Content written by your peers helps give perspective for clients that might not understand the industry well.
You can also follow many of these news sources on Twitter for useful, re-postable content. A small time commitment up front will create lasting value as you look for content that is fun, interesting, and varied. The same goes for most major social networks. This is the age of content, and I am sure you will find plenty!
PROTIP: Most of these news sites should have an RSS feed to provide syndication directly to you. An RSS feed is a tool that allows content creators to publish their material to interested readers. There are tools you can download, such as the Chrome Extension that will enable all of your favorite content to be fed into one central location. This will make your life a whole lot easier.
Let's remember that becoming a real estate content champion requires reading. it is essential you continue to learn and keep up-to-date with the market. With all of these working together, plus so many more websites out there, creating content will be easy.
There are plenty of avenues that can be used in real estate to get your name out there. Each of those networks has a place and a purpose. Some will be around for many years, others might be just a blip on the radar. In any case, it is important to understand each of their purposes and uses, but also to understand the big picture and how to keep users coming back for you. Here are some general tips that will help you manage all this social content:
Read on, Content 103 gives further, useful information about social networks and content!
In the real estate industry, there are many misconceptions when it comes to social networking and the value of these tools. Understanding each tool is essential in leveraging it effectively. The same statement is true with regards to a Realtor's personal business website. If you take one tip from all the information in these posts, take this: The most value you can bring to your sphere of influence, friends, family and coworkers, is by creating unique, useful content.
Content is key!
Many of the following tips and tricks come directly from a sales book, The Ultimate Sales Machine. This book demonstrates and describes the best ways to market yourself in any sales position. As a real estate salesperson, you are in sales. You should embrace this, and then store it in your memory for every moment when you are interacting with anyone and everyone.
One of the most dominant themes in this book is the concept of 'education-based marketing'. This can be loosely described as a salesperson positioning his/herself as the expert in the market through education. This concept is imperative as you learn to market yourself on the Internet effectively. The bottom line: it is essential to show yourself as the expert in your local market.
How to be the expert?
Across all of the major social networks, specifically Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn, educating your followers is essential to keeping them interested and growing your base. Of course, many socialites have taken the leveraging of these networks to a whole other level, but we will start from square one.
From Realtor to Realtor, having a combination of news, market information, and interesting articles will help you establish yourself as an expert, and a human-being at the same time. Variety is important, but straying from real estate often might turn off the followers that expect you to have your finger on the pulse, so-to-speak. So, we have created a simple plan to help you get consistent and show the variety that your followers would expect. We will also introduce you to the tools that help get you there and save you time.
Types of Content:
There are four major types of content:
Let's talk about each of these individually (and shallowly), both regarding your listings and activity, and other. As time progresses, we will go in depth into each of these so you can get more understanding of how they work in your business.
As social sites such as Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and many others become prominent and fade in and out, pictures becomes an essential way to convey feelings, activities, and data. For every article or link you can post, there is a picture that can be associated with it. Pictures are an easy, effective way to quickly give piece of information to an interested follower. The cliche, 'A picture is worth 1000 words', will never be more true. If you can create unique content, graphs, data, charts, about the local real estate market, your user base will grow. There is nobody creating the same content in your area, I guarantee that. You might think to post a picture of yourself at a charity event, on a nice day out with friends, or of your listing. The possibilities are endless.
Posting a link from an article that resonates with you is a great value-added way to provide content to your followers. When they see you posting articles that are relevant to real estate, they will associate you and your business with quality and intelligence. Beyond this, there are thousands of other reasons a link might be posted on your social networks. For example, you might post a link to your listings through Trulia, Zillow, or some other site.
Video is another prominent source of information. YouTube remains dominant as the second biggest social network, and of course, the biggest source for video. Just like you may find an interesting article that relates to real estate, the same can be true of videos. Word of caution: Make sure that if you are posting videos, that they are applicable content. The last thing you want is your follower finding your video boring and irrelevant to why they are on your page. Additionally, videos that excess a couple of minutes (unless they are incredible videos) will tend to lose follower interest quickly; a rule of thumb, 30 second videos will mostly get watched all the way through, but anything under 2 minutes, “ you should strive to make your content as short and punchy as possible to guarantee the highest engagement.” Wistia Blog
This type of post encompasses all other types of posting. It would not include any type of media, links, videos, or pictures. This type of post is text only. Get creative here, because if you post a lot without any links/videos/pictures, the content must be valuable to your followers.
On a general level, these types of content will be present in all aspects of your marketing, including your blog. There are many different ways to promote yourself and your listings, but if we stay inline with the concept behind content, then a robust and varied blog might be the most useful tool you can use to keep top-of-mind awareness. Your blog can be incorporated into your marketing in a number of ways:
It can be the foundation of your website. In other words, when your website needs to be displayed, or you are giving your personal website to others, directing them to your blog is a perfect alternative. Not only do you give them the general information, but you centralize your marketing in one place. From here, your social networking profiles, contact information, and even listings can be displayed.
This is a shallow explanation of content, but certainly hits on many major parts of marketing yourself on the Internet. Stay tuned to learn more about social networks, blogs, and marketing yourself on the Internet.
Read on, Content 102 gives further, useful information about social networks and content!
My experience in listing and selling client’s homes has led me to create a more effective game-plan for sellers than other Realtors in the business. This post is intended to aid those Realtors with their clients, or for sellers that want to try to list their home on their own. Of course, there is so much more to listing a home than these things, but they will get you started!
As a Realtor, I do believe that transparency is essential between client and agent. A nuance that I also use to get more trust from my clients is a full-education approach – in other words, giving the client all the information allows for more informed decisions. This contributes to a more pleasant selling experience, and one with less hurdles down the line. This goes hand-in-hand with running an honest business, real estate or otherwise, but is essential to my sales approach.
Here is The Game Plan:
Each item in this list pertains to another blog post. There is too much information to put it all into one place.
As you read through this information, remember that every detail is conveyed from the experiences of a Realtor located in a specific region, with market conditions that vary greatly from you. I have made those disclosures throughout the posts, but it is still worth mentioning here.
If you are the seller, you can try to take these tips and implement them yourselves. But, you might find that 'economies of scale' of a Realtor, i.e. the equipment and experience, allow them to do these things more cost and time-effectively. I am a Realtor, so I can see the value I provide, so make sure to find a Realtor that provides value besides with the information I have given. Also feel free to use these posts as a 'contract' that will put some accountability on your Realtor - if there is a written plan that you would want followed, show it to them and have them agree to use it (if you think it is relevant to your situation).
Realtors, please use this information to educate your clients. You provide more value than 80% of listing agents by following this game-plan. You biggest value will be in providing the resources, and more specifically, the handyman, to get this job done inexpensively. Do yourself a favor and start reading about staging, photography, and other essential topics that enhance your value to your clients.
Check out the About Page to read more about my experience in this business.
We (Joe and Chris Balestriere) are Realtors in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Our blog is meant to educate buyers and sellers and equip them with tools to get the most out of their Realtor, whether it is us or someone else. We focus on technology and how it enhances the work we do for our clients--we are not top CT Realtors by accident.