High-tech real estate marketing in the 21st century

By Mark Pruner

The world of home marketing is getting more and more complicated, but if you know what you’re doing, it’s better. Real estate agents can now contact potential buyers they weren’t able to reach before and do it faster, but necessarily cheaper.

ECB real estate

Not so long ago, real estate agents had the “book”, and you could be fined for losing it or giving it to a buyer. In the book, there was a small, grainy black and white photo of the front of each house listed and maybe a dozen pieces of information about the house. Today, anyone with an Internet connection has 10 times more information. This information doesn’t just show up, it was put together by realtors and other professionals to put the home in its best light without violating NAR regulations, Connecticut laws, and the Federal Fair Housing Act.

While Realtor.com, Trulia, Compass.com and hundreds of other websites have made lots of information available. Most are boring. What makes the list jump off the screen are photos, aerials, and video. A traditional photographer is great, but a lot more is done for the photo before it hits your computer screen or mobile phone.

Graphics are not instantaneous

To begin, the real estate agent should review with the photographer the important elements of the interior, exterior and neighborhood that should be highlighted and choose a time when the weather, sun and tide are helpful. Once captured, photos need to be polished. The grass is green; the sky is lit and the photos are cropped to emphasize the good features of the property. What is not done or should not be done is removing poles and telephone lines to improve the view. Also, you can’t change the Earth’s axis like an LA did by photoshopping a sun setting over the southern horizon. Virtual staging of furniture in rooms and photos from previous listings that are no longer representative should be identified.

Drones have added major impact to photos and are now de rigueur for high-end properties. The other thing, which has become commonplace, are floor plans. If you don’t put them in place, potential buyers will call you and ask for them. Floor plans go both ways because some buyers who might otherwise come to see the home won’t come if the current floor plan doesn’t work for them. The real estate agent never manages to explain how the floor plan can be improved. The question for many of these prospects is whether they could be persuaded to make an offer, that is, if these buyers were really buyers. Floor plans can save everyone a lot of time.

The rise of video

Videos are also increasingly common. You have what a videographer calls the Ken Burns videos and then you have the custom videos where the sky is the limit of bells and whistles and cost. Ken Burns has done a masterful job of zooming in and moving between photos to give a static subject a sense of movement and presence. That’s what you get with a lot of “virtual tours” and these virtual tours also usually come with generic copyright-free music. These generic tours are generated automatically but have a surprising online viewing time.

Once you have the photos, a careful selection in a specific order is uploaded to the MLS along with extensive textual information, surveys, maps, deeds and other documents. This information is then encoded with special codes identifying each type of data and distributed using an Internet Data Exchange (IDX) formatted fee. This feed is sent to every MLS broker and a company called Listhub in Arizona. Listhub then sends the IDX to hundreds of sites, including their News Corp sister company, Realtor.com.

Marketing Automation

In today’s real estate market, it’s just the bet to get in the game. Then the real estate agent has to post it to their Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter feeds, create a postcard and search for a listing of dissemination. Postcards seem simple, but behind the scenes there is a lot of technology. At Compass, we have a drag-and-drop media production system, which means we can do in minutes what used to take hours and require the help of a graphic designer. (Other brokers have it too, but ours is pretty nifty. 🙂

What has really changed is who these postcards go to. In the old days, and it is still common, they went to the nearest 100 neighbors, whether they had just moved there or were likely to live there for another 20 years. Now big data services can slice and dice hundreds of factors about a person to focus on who is most likely to be interested in your particular ad.

Online marketing ads and SEO and podcasts

Estate agents also paid for online advertising to market each property. Before 2018, online companies like Facebook gave a real estate agent a hundred or more parameters to narrow the focus. In 2018, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a set of regulations prohibiting the use of any parameter that could be discriminatory, such as marital status, children, age, religious affiliation, etc. There are still many ways to slice and dice the data that make it much more likely that the ad will reach a potential buyer.

Search engine optimization is also a great way to reach buyers. Both Russ and I have blogs on GreenwichStreets.com and RussellPruner.com that rank highly in search engines, often in the top ten depending on the search term. Public relations can also be very effective, and we just launched a radio show on WGCH at 10 a.m. on Monday. This show is distributed not only via local airwaves, but also via live streaming on WGCH.com and on podcasts on Spotify, Amazon, Apple and Google that people can subscribe to. Our local agents have a wide range of websites, some of which are quite famous.

Make a plan and work the plan

Realtors have a lot of tools that just get more features that allow us to market a house. However, without a carefully designed campaign integrating all these options with a progressive marketing approach, these tools lose much of their effectiveness. In a market as hot as this, a well-priced home will sell, but it will be for the best price and on any other terms the seller wants.

Russ and I recently had a roster that cost the roster the most dollars of any roster so far this year. The marketing plan for this property was three pages long and took weeks of work before the listing went live. Once live, new parts of the plan are released every day. The end buyer came from a hundred miles away and never saw the advertisements in the Greenwich Sentinel or the other local marketing, but several of the other bidders did.

We are not unique, each agent and brokerage company brings their own marketing plans and systems. There are a wide variety of ways to create a marketing program that works as all these successful agents show, but every year the requirement of making a great marketing program gets more complex.

But if it was easy, it wouldn’t be fun.

About William G.

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