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List ’em Right, Dog!

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It’s a Dog Eat Dog World Out There

I had a buyer in town for the last three days looking at homes. She’s pretty motivated so we saw all 25-ish homes she honed in on online. We did see some very nice ones and found a few for her to bring her other half to see next week, but many of the listings were dogs. Hopefully the four legged dogs out there won’t be offended by this characterization.

But seriously, talk about overpriced, under-staged garbage listings. Dirty, cluttered, poorly maintained homes with prices that are extremely optimistic made up about a third of the inventory we looked at. And that doesn’t even count the four listings that we could not get access to for various reasons, including a newly installed tenant, a seller who doesn’t return showing request calls, a busted pipe, and a fire in the bedroom. The worst part of the whole ordeal was the unrealistic picture that the listing agents painted with their descriptions and photos on the MLS and other marketing media. Wonderful! Beautiful! Don’t Pass This One By! Do they really think they can trick someone in to buying this junk?

Your Listings Reflect Your Brand – Are They Saying ‘Woof’?

I was not the only one who was disappointed though. My client was also miffed, and she stated that she felt like our time was being wasted because of misrepresented listings. We drove many miles out of our way to see some of these homes only to find that they did not measure up, either the description was not realistic or, in some cases, the photos were taken in 1992 and don’t even closely resemble the house in its current, pre-foreclosure state. My client and I discussed the fact that one or two of them may be a good fit for a certain kind of buyer, but that the advertisement did nothing to target the people who might be interested.

The most interesting thing she said – and this was unsolicited and un-prompted – is really worth mulling over. After a couple of bad showings in a row that happened to have the same familiar real estate sign in front of it, she turned and said to me ‘This XYZ Real Estate company is not very professional, is it?’ And when we pulled up to another home with the same sign out front she said ‘Uh oh, this should be fun.’

So she left from her visit with a very bad impression of a certain Brand, based solely on their listings that she was looking at.  I say brand because these homes were not, in fact, even listed with the same company. They were listed by several different offices which happened to be the same franchise. A franchise that, until recently, had a reputation of hiring only the most experienced agents. What happened to that? Did they lose track of their goals and loosen their standards in order to compete? Is this new strategy working for them? I’m guessing not, but I could be wrong.

Are You a Mangy Mutt or a Purebred?

Your listing inventory is a reflection of your business and, like it or not, buyers and sellers and agents judge your professionalism based on the listings you take and how you market them. Are you using this to your advantage? What do your listings say about you, your business and your brand?

Lisa sells residential real estate in the Pocono Mountains of Northeastern PA, and authors The Poconos Real Estate Blog. Being a strong believer in community participation, she currently serves as President of a 1700 home Property Owners' Association and Secretary of the Board of the local REALTOR Association for 2009. Her most challenging and fulfilling role, though, is that of Mom to two teenage girls, and her main hope for them is that they learn to appreciate the abundant joys of a life lived with a positive attitude. You can connect with Lisa on Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn.

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18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. BawldGuy

    October 6, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    What you’ve described is a living poster of why the public holds real estate agents in such distain. How smart do you have to be to figure some of this stuff out?

  2. Steve Simon

    October 6, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Mangy Mutts need love too:)
    If a property is badly priced most often it can be assessed as such without a visit.
    I think the amazing thing about your post is this:
    You showed 25 homes in three days (that is a years labor in my mind).
    Sanderson must be likeable, cause the buyer stayed with you for all that time you were showing her “curs”.
    Just my thoughts, God I am glad i don’t have to anything I don’t want to in order to survive (played 18 this morning) 🙂

  3. Pam Buda

    October 6, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Great post–when I tour poorly prepared listings I get grumpy. I also get peeved when I see bad grammar and spelling on MLS copy (never mind bad photography or non-existent photos). Is it too much trouble for an agent to proof-read their copy blocks before uploading a listing? Or run a spell-check?

    One of my favorites was for a $3,900,000 vineyard listing in the wine country of Sonoma County, California where I am based. The agent had about 2 sentences of copy and had mis-spelled vineyard, “vinyard”. I don’t care if it was a $200,000 condo, is it too much to ask to double-check what you post?

  4. Linsey

    October 6, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Not only does it make the listing agent look like they are blowing smoke in their descriptions, they are missing their target market.

    This weekend I showed a home that was a ‘cosmetic fixer’. It also said ‘renovations needed’. Interesting because I didn’t see a kitchen or baths that needed ‘renovations’. I didn’t see a kitchen or baths AT ALL. There were no kitchen cabinets, so counters, no fixtures, no interior doors, no sinks – well you get the picture. My client was looking for a ‘fixer’ not a full construction project. Why not direct the marketing to the audience that this home would appeal to most – like buyers with construction background?

    Just be honest. I’d rather have 3 well targeted showings than 10 showings with the wrong audience.

  5. Vicki Moore

    October 6, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    You are so right. We laugh about that in my office all the time: “John just listed a new one – you know it’s a piece of crap.” On the other hand, I drove by a listing with a particular agent’s sign out front and thought: Oh, I’ve got to see that one. Carol listed it – it’s got to be good.

    Btw – I had to read your post first just because of that picture!

    Excellent writing. Thanks for the humor.

  6. Lisa Sanderson

    October 6, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    BawldGuy: It ain’t rocket science, that’s fer sure!

    Steve: You’re so awesome.

    Pam: I get pretty frickin’ grumpy too! 😉 And yes thank you for bringing it up, spelling counts. EVERYTHING counts. It’s all a reflection of one’s professionalism & credibility.

    Linsey: YES! Get the *right* people in the door and the property will sell. Easy peasy.

    Vickie: Compliments will get you everywhere! Thanks for reading and for honing in on the point. We do get a reputation based on the kinds of listings we get. And that will affect how consumers see us AND the showing traffic we get from other agents.

  7. Jason Sandquist

    October 6, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    I have been showing homes to Canadian buyers the past couple of days (yes they come to Minnesota too and not just Phoenix), but anyways they were quick to point out the misconception of photos online. These homes were upper bracket and I was a little ashamed, why because most were from my own company that definitely prides itself on being the leader distinctive homes.

  8. Brampton Realtor

    October 6, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    I guess that client had a ruff time?
    Oh, i should be shot for that one.

    But on a serious note what you are saying its totaly true.
    Its not about volume of people passing though your open house.
    But a properly targeted market segment.

  9. Missy Caulk

    October 6, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    Lisa, I once showed a single guy a house advertised like this. ” gorgeous home, blah, blah, blah.

    We went in and a bar was hanging over the stair banister. It got worse, but this is a blog so won’t post how much worse here.

    When you have been in the business long you learn which agents over price, and over state the condition of the home.

  10. Missy Caulk

    October 6, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    opps bra….

  11. Ben Goheen

    October 6, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    Dear fellow agents,
    NEVER, I repeat, NEVER use the phrase “won’t last long” in the description. It’s a curse, your listing will then be on the market much longer then all the competition. I laugh whenever I see this phrase on a sold listing that has 100+ days on the market. I’m sure I can search my MLS right now and find at least 10 examples, so just don’t do it.

    PS – go Vikings!

  12. Helene

    October 7, 2008 at 5:50 am

    I’m Lisa’s buyer and I’m sure glad Steve is not my broker and that she is. 🙂 Since I travel almost 2 hours to get to the area where I am looking, I truly appreciate the fact that Lisa spends all that time with me! I wish the ads were honest so as not to waste my time. I have made 3 trips since June and I am truly disappointed that my search is not over yet. The houses I chose to see looked so good on paper. Unfortunately, so many of them had been miserably misrepresented and an insult to a serious buyer. By “embellishing” your ads you may get me to your listing but after I see the house I realize that I have been duped and don’t ever want to see another one of your listings!

  13. Pocono Real Estate

    October 7, 2008 at 7:57 am

    Hi Lisa,

    My biggest pet peeve is crappy photos on listings, especially when it’s the high end of the price range.

    Another one is when the listing agent doesn’t take the time to make sure they get the directions right. There were TWO mistakes in one the other day and it was a top of the market house. A few years ago we went miles out of our way up in one of the big developments because the roads were renamed and he left out one of the roads.

  14. Lisa Sanderson

    October 7, 2008 at 9:58 am

    Jason: So you’ll be forwarding this article to everyone in your office then? lol

    BR: ‘a properly targeted market segment’ Bingo!

    Missy: You don’t have to go in to detail. I’m sure we all have stories to tell. What I can’t figure out is, what are these people thinking? Ya put your dang bars away if you have ANYONE coming over let alone a potential buyer. 😉

    Ben: Good one. PS-What is this Viking reference?

    Helene: Thanks for being my inspiration and for chiming in here. You are going to have an awesome home in the Pokies very soon. I can feel it!

    Malcolm: Welcome to AG! As you can read from comments here, it is not just the Poconos that has these issues. At least there’s that. 😉

  15. StraightDave

    December 2, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    All: Identification as a foreclosure is a big clue… most effs have lots of stuff ripped out. So, buyer expectations should be in line. It may take 25 “dogs” to find a neat pooch… the price one pays in this market.

    Perhaps, the MLS should have an agents (only) “rate this house” for each listing, or “rate this listing for accuracy.”

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Business Marketing

Restaurant chains are using COVID to masquerade as indie food pop ups

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Applebee’s and Chuck E. Cheese appear on delivery apps under aliases. Is this a shifty marketing scheme or a legitimate practice?

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chuck e cheese pizza

Restaurants have pivoted hard to stay alive during dine-in shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some are selling grocery items like eggs, flour, and yeast (check out the pantry section at the Brewtorium!) while others have created meal kits so families can cook up their restaurant favorites at home.

Meanwhile, a few large chains have been busted for re-branding their kitchens to sell more meals. A reddit user in Philadelphia reported that they ordered pizza from Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings thinking it was a local business they had yet to try, only to learn it shared a kitchen with Chuck E. Cheese. As it turns out, Pasqually is a member of Munch’s Make Believe Band, the terrifying mascot band led by murine bad body Chuck E. Cheese. Pasqually is the confusingly human drummer (and Italian pizza chef?), joined by lead canine guitarist Jasper T. Jowls, sweetheart chicken Helen Henny on the tambourine and vocals, and the dinosaur? Closet monster? D-list muppet? Mr. Munch on the keys.

Though this inter-species band should be disturbing enough for us all to rethink our childhood memories of Chuck E. Cheese (let’s be honest, Disney World should be the only place allowed to have adults parading around in giant mouse costumes) what’s more upsetting is the competition it creates with locally owned restaurants. In West Philadelphia, there is another restaurant called Pasqually’s Pizza.

Chuck E. Cheese is not the only restaurant re-branding to save their hides. Applebee’s has launched a “brand extension” called Neighborhood Wings. Customers can order larger quantities of wings (up to 60!) from Neighborhood Wings, but not Applebee’s. You know, for all of the large parties people have been hosting lately (thanks COVID-19).

This restaurant run-around is further evidence of the noise created by third party delivery apps. GrubHub, Postmates, and others have been criticized for taking huge commissions from already low-margin restaurants, and providing little added value to profitability and industry worker wages. Using these platforms as a means to build shell restaurants for large national chains is just another example of third party apps doing a disservice to both its clients and customers.

Of course, Applebee’s and Chuck E. Cheese are franchises. If one wanted to go out on a limb for these brands, it could be argued that they are indeed ‘local’ businesses if their owners are local franchisees. The third party apps are simply another platform for businesses to gain a competitive edge against one another within a specific customer segment. Furthermore, consumers should hold themselves accountable for their patronage choices and doing their due diligence when investigating new pizza and wings options.

Nonetheless, it behooves all of us in this pandemic to get to know our neighbors, and build relationships with the small businesses that are the lifeblood of a community. Restaurants exist thanks to local customers. Try placing your order directly on their website, or give them a call. I am a restaurant worker, and I truly am happy to take your order.

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Business Marketing

Restaurants might actually lose money through Grubhub and similar services

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Restaurant owners are asking themselves if third-party food delivery apps are nothing more than a good, old-fashioned shakedown.

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If you haven’t seen the GrubHub receipt that has everyone outraged, you probably should. It exposed the food delivery apps for their unreasonably high commissions and excessive charges to the restaurants (on top of the changes to the consumer).

Many people, in an honest attempt to support local restaurants while staying home and safe these days, have started ordering out from their favorite small, local eateries. And they should! This could be the lifeline that allows those restaurants to survive being closed for upwards of a month. However, if they order through a third-party food delivery service, they need to know that a good chunk of their money goes to the service, not the local business. Plus they are paying extra for the service.

It’s a big bummer, to say the least, a bamboozle some might say. Why would restaurants agree to use these services at all, then, if they aren’t beneficial? Well, they initially served the purpose of helping smaller restaurants and food trucks sell to a wider customer base without having to incur the cost and manage the logistics of offering delivery. Not all of the charges are immediately apparent, either, although I am sure they are in the business agreement.

GrubHub, DoorDash, Postmates, UberEats all charge eateries a commission between 15%-30% to even work with them. This is for the most basic level of service. When GrubHub, for example, wants to stimulate more sales, they may offer a deal to consumers. This could be a dollar amount or percentage off of a customer’s order or free delivery.

Everybody loves a deal, so these promotions are effective. They drive more sales, yay. The restaurants, however, incur the full cost of the promotion. You would imagine GrubHub would share that cost, but no, they don’t. If that weren’t unscrupulous enough, GrubHub then charges the business the commission on the full, not discounted, price of the order. Unctuous, right?

Sure, restaurants have to opt in for these specials and other promotions the third-party apps are marketing, so they know there’s a fee. Yet, if they don’t opt in, they won’t appear as an option for the deal in the app. It’s deceptive, feels like a bit of extortion to me. All of these delivery apps have some sort of similar way to rack up fees. For a mom-and-pop food truck or restaurant, the commissions and fees soon eat away at the already small profit margins restaurants usually have.

It’s simply wrong, so wrong. But wait, there’s more! Another nasty, duplicitous practice GrubHub (specifically GrubHub) has implemented, with Yelp’s help, is to hijack the restaurant’s phone number on Yelp. This means if you look up your favorite restaurant on Yelp, and call in an order from the Yelp platform, your call will actually go to GrubHub instead. And get this–they charge the restaurant even if you pick up the order yourself, not only for delivery.

These third-party companies have even started buying up domain names similar to the restaurants to further fool patrons into ordering through them. They also have added restaurants to their platforms, even if the restaurants haven’t agreed to work with them. They seem willing to do anything to get a cut of restaurants’ hard earned dough (and ours). Loathsome! How are these scams even legal?

It happened to me recently. I kept trying to order for pickup at the restaurant, but somehow the order kept going through GrubHub. Bamboozled!

RVB bamboozled

This boils my blood and breaks my heart for these restaurants. In my other life, I am a blogger for a hyperlocal blog whose sole purpose is to highlight, celebrate, and promote local everything. I’m also the internal marketing chair for the Austin Food Blogger Alliance, where we work with local restaurants, distilleries, breweries, and such to promote them and help raise their visibility in the community.

I only bring this up, because I’ve sat with these restaurant and food truck owners, listened to their stories, seen the fire in their eyes as they talk about their recipes. They’ve regaled me with stories of how they got started, what inspires them, and when they had their first successful day. It’s delightful to see the intensity of their enthusiasm for sharing good food with people and how much of themselves they put into their restaurants.

In the original post that lifted the curtain on this shady practice, the Chicago Pizza Boss food truck owner Giuseppe Badalamenti, says the money he got from his GrubHub orders was “almost enough to pay for the food.” Badalamenti had participated in some promotions, which admittedly reduced his cut dramatically, yet the whole premise came as a shock to customers who have been spending their dollars to keep these local businesses afloat. Then here comes the third-party apps, poking a hole in the floaties.

It comes across as downright predatory. Thousands of people have sworn off these apps in favor of calling the restaurant directly for pickup if you are able. This way, you ensure the business you want to support gets the full bill amount. You can get the restaurant’s number directly from Google Maps or the business’s social media or website. This is the best way to help your favorite places stay in business.

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Business Marketing

TikToks new augmented reality ads seeks new audiences

(BUSINESS MARKETING) TikTok product developers hustle to roll out a new augmented reality brand effect to compete with Snapchat and Instagram.

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TikTok is getting ready to launch a new ad feature to level the playing field with Snapchat and Instagram. The unofficially named “AR brand effect” will allow TikTok users to incorporate augmented reality brand advertisements in their videos. The ads will create visual effects that interact with the filmmakers’ physical environment as if it exists in real life. The ads will include music that can be played over the film.

TikTok also offers an ad product called Brand Effect, a 2D advertisement filter that users can add to their videos. The in-house product development team at TikTok created this feature for a reported cost of $100,000 according to Digiday.

Snapchat already has its AR brand experiences called the Sponsored Lens and Word Lens, which allow brands to create augmented reality filters to advertise via Snapchat’s users and their interactions with friends.

Snapchat charges anywhere from $50 to $500,000 for augmented reality advertisements. The lower tier starts with a 10-second ad between videos that users can choose to “swipe up” and interact with. The higher tiers get advertisers a day-long spot with a Sponsored Lens.

Though the efficacy of this advertising strategy appears to be hit-or-miss, the creative opportunities for advertising to a wide audience is attractive enough to keep this product development relevant. TikTok and its Chinese counterpart Douyin clocked in two billion downloads in the month of March. Its users skew young with 41% between the ages of 16 and 24, and its global following boasts 800 million users worldwide.

TikTok is moving with adept agility to roll out new products to keep its increasingly large user base engaged. “They are doing it a lot quicker [than competitor social media platforms],” media agency Starcom told Digiday. “Their ability to scale and move forward is frightening, really. If they get it right they’re going to be a huge player in the next six months to a year.”

TikTok is also working on new ad products that allow advertisers to connect with prominent influencers. With the future of stay-at-home orders looking to turn into an interminable cycle, it will be telling to understand how these advertising strategies will effect e-commerce and digital brand experiences.

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