Now For The Marketing

Later today I’ll be doing a walk-through of the old house to see how the reno contractors performed. Then the realtor and I will formulate a marketing strategy to get the house shown in its best light — by “the realtor and I” I mean of course “the realtor”, because this is their métier and I’ve always believed in letting the pros do their job unmolested. She’s going to tell me what she’s going to do, and I’m going to nod sagely and say, “Excellent idea.” I’ve sold maybe two houses in my time, and not locally; she does that every week. Who do you think has the better idea of what sells in our market?

On that topic, by the way, there’s a good rule of thumb that whenever you see a totally shit ad on TV, the chances are excellent that it was either created by, influenced by or produced by the client, and not the ad agency.

I was once responsible for a marketing department which had three ad agencies working on different aspects of the company’s business — one handled all the fresh items (produce, fruit, bakery, floral etc), another did the grocery “dailies” — the everyday ads such as seen in the newspapers and flyers — while the third agency handled hard goods (furniture, clothing, appliances and housewares). Each agency was picked because they specialized in that particular area, all tried ceaselessly to poach parts of each other’s business, and all had their pee-pees whacked (by me) for straying into areas outside their own expertise.

“Leave it to the professionals!” should be every manager’s motto, but sadly, few follow that simple rule. Most think they know better than the pros — like I could perform a laparoscopy on myself better than a doctor simply because it’s my body and I know it better than they do. But businessmen — especially company owners — think they understand the marketing of their business or product better than the pros in marketing- and ad agencies. Without exception, they don’t. Even I, who had once worked at a couple of ad agencies and actually understood the process, generally deferred to the agency because — wait for it — it’s their job to know more about it than the client. The one time I exercised the Client Veto was because they’d misinterpreted the brief, which was — ta-da! — my fault in that I hadn’t communicated the brief properly (a.k.a. GIGO — garbage in, garbage out, as the old pros know).

Likewise, my brief to the contractors (flooring and painting) was simple: “Do what you think is best, make the place look amazing, but stay within the budget — unless I specifically authorize otherwise, because otherwise, you’re going to eat the overage.” I also told them before we started that I am the world’s most understanding client and will leave them alone — right up until somebody fucks up or breaks their word to me, and then I’ll be their worst nightmare. We’ll see how well they did, later in the day.

I love Linda, the realtor, by the way. Consummate professional, very experienced, no-nonsense and smart as hell. Took no shit from me, explained everything fully, brooked no argument; but when I told her why I was selling the place, she teared up. “You must really have loved your wife,” she commented; and when I asked why she said that, she replied, “Because every time you talk about her, what she said and what she did, you have a smile on your face.”

Guilty as charged. Damn, I miss her still more, every day.


  1. Ok, I rarely disagree with you, but in this case…..

    Realtors are a complete waste of oxygen. completely. They don’t even understand their own job. Because it’s a protected racket and you pretty much need MLS to sell your home, you have to pay them, but they are worth like $1000, not the 6% you’re going to get charged.

    A realtor has no fiduciary duty to you. Their only duty is to the deal. (and of course they only get paid if the deal gets done), so selling broker will underprice it (because they only lose 3% of the price, you lose 94%), the buyers broker will have you overbid it (because again, they only get paid on the deal), and they’ll still let the deal fall thru because they don’t even do or understand their own job, market and housing. How many people do you know who are so happy because they got multiple offers above their asking price? Lots right, but really what it tells you is that they left money on the table and the realtor underpriced the house.

    pay a realtor to list it on MLS (like $500 to $1000), think of it as a gateway fee. Do your own research in addition to the realtors to get some comparables. If the house doesn’t sell, it’s priced too high, but if you get offers the first day, it’s priced too low.
    Pay a lawyer to do your paperwork (because again, realtors have no fiduciary responsibility to you while a lawyer does), probably $1000 to $1500
    save thousands, get the house sold for more with fewer issues and more protections.

    Why the realty industry even still exists in this age of the internet is beyond me.

    Remember (because your agent won’t tell you this), nothing matters in real estate unless it’s written. (verbal promises mean nothing) and a counter offer is not a modification of an initial offer, it’s an entirely new offer. READ EVERYTHING, every damn line of every damn document. I have never failed to find mistakes with every single closing and most offers. (despite the fact that everyone is getting paid to do their damn job). Set your dates tight and negotiate hard. But don’t just not respond. It’s not personal, it’s just business. If you’re talking you’re making progress.

  2. Realtors often don’t know a lot about marketing, and don’t have time to do a great job at it because their time is limited. They focus on where they can make the most money, and marketing is usually not a huge strength. The 80/20, or more like 95/5 rule applies to their abilities. When my wife and I sold our last house, we interviewed a lot of realtors. Looked at their collateral, and when we selected one, had her redo her flyer. Our house sold in a day for our asking price.

    What we did:
    1. Fresh coat of paint.
    2. Added some flowers in the front.
    3. Collected other flyers, and looked at what was done right, and wrong. This was pre Internet marketing.
    4. Had the realtor revise the flyer. It started as a C+ flyer, and with better pictures etc. got it to an A level.
    5. We also did a bit of staging. Having a 100% empty house is not a best practice.
    6. Pricing was done by looking at what other houses sold for, looking at our features, etc.

    I have been dabbling with apartment marketing for my family, and very similar ideas for getting tenants. I have been amazed by how lousy most marketing is for apartments.

    People are going to buy your house based on emotion. They are looking for a home. Smells, such as scented candles help. Offering food or bottled water is a good psychological technique. Having A+ pictures is key. Understanding your local market, which applies even to what colors to use for painting is important. Now days, a walk through video helps. People are now doing a huge amount of searches on the Internet, such as Zillow, and then will visit your house. The headache is what works in Internet marketing depends on your market. There is a lot of free advertising available. Writing out key benefits helps. The headache is many sites just focus on price, and not features.

    1. LoneCowboy and Ray,
      Everything you say makes sense. However, this is Plano, TX — where people expect, and get, top-class service because the market demands it. I screened the realtors closely, and went with the pro who offered me the most service for the commission. The last thing I wanted was to have to do all the shit involved in a FSBO (owner’s sale), and end up not making a decent profit on the house. The house needed extensive work, and I wasn’t capable of being my own general contractor, nor did I wish to do that because I have no experience in that field. For the commission, I got professional staging and photography, access to both residential customers and investors — the latter being especially important because I also need a quick close, and investors have that.

      The walk-through was fine; the work was done as requested, the extras few, and the final tab will be within a couple hundred of the quote. The realtor loved the “new” place, and revised her original estimated ask upwards by $10,000 — and we expect competitive bids even at that price.

      Most of all, I was in no emotional state to deal with all this. The top three societal stress conditions are: death of a spouse or child, selling your house, and starting a new job (which isn’t relevant now, but soon will be). Given my family medical history and existing hypertension, I wanted to eliminate at least one of the three, and the house sale was the only one which I could actually control. So I did that. Yeah, it might cost me a little more money. But it will also lessen the chances of a stress-induced heart attack, and I’m going with those odds over money.

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