We know how tempting it can be. There are all those resale listings out there, and the photos of those resale homes in MLS have window treatments and painted walls. And when you walk out on the deck, the patio furniture looks perfectly staged, and you can just imagine some future homeowners entertaining their friends and family members out on the deck. And that little voice in the back of your head says, “C’mon, it’s not going to hurt anybody. Just take some photos from your model home and use them. I mean, really, don’t you want people to call you?”
Well, we’re here to tell you “Be Careful!” And in this article, we plan to share with you some of the reasons why it’s important to keep your listings “real”. But it’s not just that your listings should be real; they should also be complete. This is just as true for a “to be built” as it is for a home already under construction.
Builders today are beginning to realize that MLS listings are not just about being in MLS. MLS listings are a strategic element of a builder’s sales and marketing plan. That’s because MLS listings can be a major driver of critical, high quality leads. In this market of reduced traffic and increased competition from resales, capturing more of this high quality traffic is taking on greater urgency.
PUNCH UP YOUR LISTINGS AND MAKE THEM REAL!
Remember, you have a lot of competition in MLS, and many builders underutilize the power of their MLS listings. How does this happen?
- Builders sometimes leave important fields blank. Does your listing have a fireplace? Does the kitchen have a pantry or an island? Does the HOA include a pool or playground? Then say so! Different elements are important to different buyers. If it’s not in the listing, the Realtor can’t search on that feature.
- Use the marketing description to speak to your unique selling propositions. Don’t repeat the content already contained in the listing detail. In other words, don’t highlight that it has 4 bedrooms and 2 ½ baths. That’s already noted in the listing details. Tell the Realtor and the buyer about the green space outside the backyard or the community walking paths. Remember, you’re selling a home, not just a house.
The power of your listing is to make the phone ring. With all the homes, both new and resale, on the market, what Realtors are trying to do is eliminate the competition. They need to figure out how to whittle down the number of properties they are going to show their clients. The natural inclination is to show and tell the Realtor everything in the listing because that will be sure to capture their interest. So what happens?
- The builder has $10,000 in financing assistance if the buyer goes with a preferred lender so that gets put in the special financing section.
- The builder decides to offer a $500 Realtor gift card as an incentive on this home so that gets put in the agent remarks.
As the builder reps, we’re all excited. We think that no one can pass up these incentives and so we sit back and wait for the phone to ring. The problem is, however, that what we think is a deal maker could be a deal breaker. How do you know that the $10,000 financing assistance is enough to entice the client’s Realtor? The other problem is that if you do get the call, the Realtor and his or her client may end up using the $10,000 as the new starting point for negotiations. A better solution is to simply let the Realtor know that “$$ available if preferred lender is used.” Create interest without giving away all your candy.
IT’S NOT NICE TO FOOL THE REALTOR
Unlike builder sales counselors who represent the builder’s product, Realtors represent themselves. What they “sell” is their reputation. They are not obligated to any particular piece of property. Their job is to match clients to potential properties and help the customer decide on the best option. Because clients come to them based upon their professional reputation, Realtors don’t want to be “surprised” in front of their clients.
And because most Realtors spend the bulk of their time working with resale properties, many are unfamiliar with the new construction process. Resale properties are complete. The property is what it is, and it’s easy for the Realtor and his or her client to see what they are getting. When they consider showing new construction, Realtors aren’t always sure what they’re showing. What does it mean when a home is in dry wall or under roof? Will my client be able to see it, touch it, and visualize it? What will the community look like when it’s complete?
Enter the builder sales rep that has a prepared listing, new to be built, or a property just at foundation stage. The temptation might be to use photos of a similar plan built earlier or photos from the model as a way to make the phone ring or to help make it real. Or maybe we’ll add some marketing remarks that might get the Realtor to think the home might be ready. I mean if I don’t do something, how will I compete with the resales?
As tempting as this might be, be careful about playing these games, and here’s why.
1. In many MLS systems, you MUST use actual photos of the ACTUAL property. While someone may tell you it is okay to turn a blind eye to that requirement, it is a fineable offense.
2. Realtors don’t always get a chance to preview the showings they want to show their clients. You might be thinking that you’ll have a chance to set “the record straight” when the Realtor calls before everyone shows up, but that doesn’t always happen. And now they can’t find the house.
3. A surprised Realtor, who already does limited new construction showings, is tempted to do even less because he or she didn’t like what happened.
4. A surprised Realtor is often your worst enemy because now he or she looks bad in front of the client. Thought you had a possible sale? Well, maybe not.
5. You get enough surprised Realtors and you might find that they’ll start approaching the local board of Realtors to implement MLS changes that will teach those builders a thing or two. This ends up restricting how builders can present their listings. Don’t laugh; it’s starting to happen in some of the regions we serve.
DO THE RIGHT THING
Realtors and their clients are attracted to a particular piece of property for a variety of reasons. From area to price to community amenities to features of the home, numerous elements can impact a showing or buying decision. And while photos play a part, don’t give up just because your home hasn’t started or is a prepared listing. As we shared above, make sure your listing is complete and focus on how you present your home in the marketing remarks. Leverage your company’s reputation in your listing remarks. Highlight your company name, your product, and your community. Lastly, just because your home isn’t built doesn’t mean you can’t use photos. Look around your home site. What about the treed rear yard? In addition, look around your community. In many of the MLS regions that we serve, you can add photos of the community or community amenities. What about the community entryway? Do you have walking trails or a green space? Those photos and others can be added to your listing.
Realtors can be a great source of high quality leads and in today’s market place, high quality leads are more critical than ever. Use your listings to help draw them in, not push them away.