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Why Your Local MLS is Sinking to #2 in Home Searches

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A Study

Case Study: Okay, not really and “official” case study, but get this

Derek and I go to take a listing. It is a referral from another one of our sellers. It is a home that was previously on the market for 9 months at $250,000. Adorable home in great condition, beautiful lot, etc. However, it has minimal online marketing and just a couple pictures. These folks got about 4 showings in the entire 9 months they were listed … and they were listed during the hoppin’ Spring and Summer months, too!

Before we commit to list it, we attack the #1 culprit as to why the home did not sell: PRICE. However, after thorough research, we find that the home was actually priced perfectly. … Interesting.

We take the listing and price it at the previously listed price of $250,000. From there, we launch our internet marketing program. And then … We get 14 showings in 2 weeks.

We called some other listing agents in the area to see if maybe the area activity was just picking up.

No. Just us.

So, we call the agents who were showing our listing. We really wanted to know what was driving all these Buyers to our listing. They weren’t too much help. (Go figure.)

We branched out and started taking a closer look at our other listings. Guess what? SAME STORY! ALL of our listings are getting more showings than their respective competition.

We then ask our Buyer Agents questions about how their Buyer clients are picking homes to go see … and finally, we start seeing a pattern …

Home buyers are finding homes they like ONLINE…

…telling their agents about them, who then look for that specific home on the MLS and set the showing. … and (side note) they are picking the homes with the MOST and BEST pictures.

Buyers MUST be understanding the FULL benefits of being represented by a real estate agent … and MORE than just as a “person to find a home for them” … Because it looks like the Buyers are finding the homes ONLINE first.

The local MLS has now become more of a secondary “What are the 3rd bedroom’s dimensions? and How can I set an appointment?” portal.

Making a Point

Now, there is a standard that the local MLS has, regarding validity of information, that no other online site can promise. So, I’m not yelling “Kill the MLS!” … I am just making a point that the MLS is losing ground on being the “place to start” in home searches.

It appears to me that there is a direct correlation between how much a home is advertised online and how many showings it will get. In this market, getting more showings is CRUCIAL, right?

Which lead me to this: If an agent is NOT advertising their listings all over the internet, are they really fulling their fiduciary commitment to their Seller clients?

Mariana is a real estate agent and co-owner of the Wagner iTeam with her husband, Derek. She maintains the Colorado Springs Real Estate Connection Blog and is also a real estate technology trainer and coach. Mariana really enjoys helping real estate agents boost their businesses and increase their productivity through effective use of technology. Outside of real estate, blogging and training, she loves spending time with her husband and 2 sons, reading, re-watching Sci-Fi movies and ... long walks on the beach?

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29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Paula Henry

    September 7, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Mariana – I am making this a part of my listing presentation – well, actually, I already do. Buyers ARE finding the homes online first – it is up to us, the listing agent, to make sure our clients home stands out – great pictures and lots of them.

    There are many IDX solutions which give much more detail than our local boards site. Online clients want information.

    I laugh at agents with the “Old School Rules” attitude, who say to me, you don’t need all those pictures; buyers will find homes on the MLS or through their agent. Or, the really old ones – you have to advertise in the paper and have to do open houses. Oh well, those who are ahead now, will be ahead next year and the next.

  2. Matt Wilkins

    September 7, 2008 at 11:58 am

    I agree that today’s buyers want as much information as they can get BEFORE they ever step foot in the property.

    With regard to inteiror photos, I belive that a lack of them either shows laziness on the agen’ts part of an embarrassment of the agent and/or seller as to the condition/decor of the property. I have the attitude that buyers want to see extra photos NO MATTER what the condition is. Many buyers can overlook minor details or will offer accordingly.

  3. Todd Carpenter

    September 7, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Just to play Devil’s advocate, are your listings getting offers, or just more showings? I ask because I’ve talked to a few buyers agents who kind of resent online shoppers because they find homes they want to look at, but those homes rarely become the homes they make offers on.

  4. Jim W

    September 7, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    if a picture is worth a 1000 words. I hope to have at least 10 to 20 pictures, and a quick video. People will watch a ok made video if there is a chance to see more and get a better feeling of the house.

  5. Laurie Manny

    September 7, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Great post Mariana! And so very true. Buyers are involving themselves online in the search for their next home even after they begin working with an agent. They are calling their agents and telling them which homes they want to see rather than waiting for the agent to suggest which properties might suit their needs. Driving buyer traffic is critical, somewhere in that gaggle may be the right buyer.

    Todd, real estate has always been a numbers game. The more traffic that can be driven to a listing the higher the likelihood of finding the right buyer. Just because a buyer doesn’t write an offer doesn’t mean they aren’t interested. Buyers are eyeballing properties on line, viewing them, then sitting and waiting for the inevitable price reduction before they write their offer. Sometimes they lose the property to another buyer, sometimes the reduction doesn’t happen, but when it does, they write. Without the marketing and without the traffic, as Mariana has stated, it just ain’t gonna sell.

  6. Ben K

    September 7, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Nicely written, but I’m not necessarily understanding the point of the post in respects to the title. It’s pretty much an accepted fact that the overwhelming number of buyers are looking online to find a home. And, local MLS’ feed the agent, broker and Realtor.com websites for which the buyers are finding those home. Most buyers don’t differentiate the “MLS” from agent, broker or third-party websites, either. I do agree that agents need to utilize various online resources to promote their listings, I just don’t see the point where the MLS’ are losing ground.

  7. Mariana

    September 7, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Paula – I believe that those of us who are ahead of the curve NOW, will be near-impossible to catch up with later…

    Matt – In this market, we cal ALL afford to be picky. I am not going to take a listing (for the most part) where the Sellers do not work with us regarding price and condition.

    Todd – Thank you for bringing this up. Most of our listings are selling faster than our competition. Is it due to the fact that they are all online? Maybe … So far, most of the buyers looking at our listings are qualified and ready to write (based off of the multiple conversations that we have had with showing agents). This particular home has been #2 on people’s lists and it has only been on the market a few weeks. Average DOM is almost 3-4 months. … And like Laurie mentioned, a lot of real estate is a numbers game. The more eyeballs that see our home, the more likely we will get an offer.

    Laurie – Thank you for your insight! Excellent: “The more traffic that can be driven to a listing the higher the likelihood of finding the right buyer.”

    A great phone call i got the other day was from an unrepresented online buyer who said, “When can you show me [property x]? No matter WHAT site I go to, THIS home always winds up being my #1 house. It is everywhere.” (We showed the home, but she got beat out by another buyer who wrote an accepted offer first…)

  8. Mariana

    September 7, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Ben – I linked the title to my post about halfway through the post: “The local MLS has now become more of a secondary “What are the 3rd bedroom’s dimensions? and How can I set an appointment?” portal. … I am just making a point that the MLS is losing ground on being the “place to start” in home searches.”

  9. Ben K

    September 7, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Mariana – thanks for the response. Maybe it’s a regional thing. Buyers don’t have access to the MLS so it was never a primary place to start, unless you referring to agents being the first one to notify buyers of new listings rather than buyers seeing it online first. The time difference between a new listing entering the MLS database and aggregating to broker websites is 15-20 minutes and it’s very likely buyers will know of it sooner than their agent will (if they have alerts set up).

    I bought my house before becoming an agent and I found the property online before my buyer’s agent knew it was available…and that was 5 years ago. So, I guess, I’m still not seeing the connection between widespread online promotion and MLS’ losing ground/becoming secondary.

  10. Mariana

    September 7, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Ben – Our Buyers don’t have access to the MLS here either, unless we set them up on a “prospect”.

    What I meant by it being a primary place to start is that home buyers would tell their agents what they wanted, the agent would look for that home in the MLS and provide the search results to their Buyer client. Now, the Buyers are finding homes online, telling their agents the addresses or MLS numbers, the agent verifies that it is still for sale on the MLS and then sets the showing.

    The MLS appears to be taking a backseat when it comes to finding a property initially.

  11. Jim Little

    September 7, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Mariana,
    Are you Posting to all of the usual suspects, or blogging the listings? Inquiring minds want to know.
    Thanks,
    Jim

  12. Mariana Wagner

    September 7, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Jim – Both. I just wrote about Blogging Your Listings here a few days ago.

  13. Carolyn Gjerde-Tu

    September 7, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    There are so many times that a pro photographer can make the house look “better” on the screen than in real life, but at least it gets buyers excited to see the house. I definitely have clients who want to see things based on what they see online.

  14. Jim Duncan

    September 7, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Mariana – re: this:

    The MLS appears to be taking a backseat when it comes to finding a property initially.

    I see it a bit differently – with buyers/consumers doing more of the searching online, the MLS is actually poised (if they can possibly seize the opportunity) to be market leaders – with one big difference – the buyers are doing the finding and the Realtors are doing the representing. I’ve said it and seen it said many time before – there is a shift underway where Realtors are not finding the homes for the buyers; they are representing the buyers in their purchases. And this is a good thing, I think.

  15. Mariana Wagner

    September 7, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    Jim – That was one of my points. Buyer Agents are seen more for their powerful representation than for their abilities to find homes. This rocks.

  16. Matt Wilkins

    September 7, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    My MLS offers a relatively new feature where once a search is saved it can email new/updated listings to the clients real time. This has been a service that my clients absolute LOVE and many now no longer bother with other sites instead relying on my constant email to be in the know about available homes.

  17. Louis Cammarosano

    September 7, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    Marianna
    There are a few counter arguments to posting your listings everywhere.

    This topic was explored in great detail over on Sarah Bonert’s (of Zillow) Active Rain site earlier this year

    Sarah raised the breach of fiduciary argument, which if it did not seem as a pitch to list on Zillow, might have received greater credence.

    https://activerain.com/blogsview/512312/Violation-Of-Fiduciary-Responsibility

  18. Benn Rosales

    September 7, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    As an agent, we’re pretty enlightened to the idea of being blackmailed into using products because it’s in the best interest of someone, somewhere. The simple truth is that the broker does answer to the call to market on the internet, and he does so on the MLS, and I suppose that if Zillow would like to show buyers homes on the MLS and collect a commission on the transaction, the person from zillow would only need a license in the selling state.

    I have all the respect in the world for Sara, I just happen to believe that it was never in the best interest of consumers to confuse them with incorrect property valuations that cannot be removed nor corrected- It’s a pretty website though.

  19. Michelle

    September 8, 2008 at 9:40 am

    I’ve been marketing online for years now, and manage the online property marketing for several agents in my office. The ones that have their pricing totally dialed in are selling their homes much faster than the competition that is not marketing online, the ones that don’t, aren’t. And that’s the deal with marketing your properties online, you have to really get your pricing methodology down pat. Online marketing alone will not sell your listing. Online marketing combined with the right price (especially from day #1), will sell your listings much faster. I only use online marketing that provides tracking, and having done it long enough now, I know within a matter of 2-3 days if a price needs adjusting, based on the number of hits. Often the agents I work for don’t always agree…but you can only lead a horse to water. Most “old(est) school” agents are still getting their heads around the whole internets thingy for property marketing. Some enough so that they hire me ; ).

  20. Matt Stigliano

    September 8, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Marianna – Brilliant post (again). I think San Antonio isn’t the most tech-minded city in the world when it comes to real estate based on what I see online (bad photos, lack of photos, not listed in even some of the major online services, etc.), yet we’ve got some big tech companies here in town (and those people must live somewhere, right?). Its one of the things I think that sets me apart and one of the things that I’m working on in order to stand out in the crowd.

    I am finding much more of the “I found this on the internet” type calls rather than the “can you find me a house” type calls.

  21. Vicki Moore

    September 8, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    I get frustrated by my local MLS because there are so many other sites that are superior – they offer me the opportunity to post more photos, more language in better format, ability to make quick flyers with html for craigslist, flexible ability to create statistics, on and on. Basically the local MLS is far behind the competition before anyone even gets on the site.

  22. Judy Peterson

    September 14, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    I’m syndicating listings out to more than 30 sites between my Blog, Visual Tours, Postlets and my Brokers marketing. Our MLS recently upgraded to 12 photos and some agents don’t even use all 12 spots! Whereas I can showcase up to 50 photos and panoramas in my Visual Tours. Every Seller in every price range deserves to have the best presentation of their property.

  23. Eric- New Orleans Condos and Lofts

    September 17, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    The local MLS are most likely set in their ways. Our MLS does not let agents have IDX that they can use. The large Brokers in New Orleans want to get the leads themselves. Since its a monoply no one strives to keep the latest technology intergrated in the on line searches. In the end this opens up the door to their demise.

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Business Marketing

Use the ‘Blemish Effect’ to skyrocket your sales

(MARKETING) The Blemish Effect dictates that small, adjacent flaws in a product can make it that much more interesting—is perfection out?

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blemish effect

Presenting a product or service in its most immaculate, polished state has been the strategy for virtually all organizations, and overselling items with known flaws is a practice as old as time. According to marketing researchers, however, this approach may not be the only way to achieve optimal results due to something known as the “Blemish Effect.”

The Blemish Effect isn’t quite the inverse of the perfectionist product pitch; rather, it builds on the theory that small problems with a product or service can actually throw into relief its good qualities. For example, a small scratch on the back of an otherwise pristine iPhone might draw one’s eye to the glossy finish, while an objectively perfect housing might not be appreciated in the same way.

The same goes for mildly bad press or a customer’s pros and cons list. If someone has absolutely no complaints or desires for whatever you’re marketing, the end result can look flat and lacking in nuance. Having the slightest bit of longing associated with an aspect (or lack thereof) of your business means that you have room to grow, which can be tantalizing for the eager consumer.

A Stanford study indicates that small doses of mildly negative information may actually strengthen a consumer’s positive impression of a product or service. Interesting.

Another beneficial aspect of the Blemish Effect is that it helps consumers focus their negativity. “Too good to be true” often means exactly that, and we’re eager to criticize where possible. If your product or service has a noticeable flaw which doesn’t harm the item’s use, your audience might settle for lamenting the minor flaw and favoring the rest of the product rather than looking for problems which don’t exist.

This concept also applies to expectation management. Absent an obvious blemish, it can be all to easy for consumers to envision your product or service on an unattainable level.

When they’re invariably disappointed that their unrealistic expectations weren’t fulfilled, your reputation might take a hit, or consumers might lose interest after the initial wave.

The takeaway is that consumers trust transparency, so in describing your offering, tossing in a negative boosts the perception that you’re being honest and transparent, so a graphic artist could note that while their skills are superior and their pricing reasonable, they take their time with intricate projects. The time expectation is a potentially negative aspect of their service, but expressing anything negative improves sales as it builds trust.

It should be noted that the Blemish Effect applies to minor impairments in cosmetic or adjacent qualities, not in the product or service itself. Delivering an item which is inherently flawed won’t make anyone happy.

In an age where less truly is more, the Blemish Effect stands to dictate a new wave of honesty in marketing.

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Business Marketing

Google Chrome will no longer allow premium extensions

(MARKETING) In banning extension payments through their own platform, Google addresses a compelling, if self-created, issue on Chrome.

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Google Chrome open on a laptop on a organized desk.

Google has cracked down on various practices over the past couple of years, but their most recent target—the Google Chrome extensions store—has a few folks scratching their heads.
Over the span of the next few months, Google will phase out paid extensions completely, thus ending a bizarre and relatively negligible corner of internet economy.

This decision comes on the heels of a “temporary” ban on the publication of new premium extensions back in March. According to Engadget, all aspects of paid extension use—including free trials and in-app purchases—will be gone come February 2021.

To be clear, Google’s decision won’t prohibit extension developers from charging customers to use their products; instead, extension developers will be required to find alternative methods of requesting payment. We’ve seen this model work on a donation basis with extensions like AdBlock. But shifting to something similar on a comprehensive scale will be something else entirely.

Interestingly, Google’s angle appears to be in increasing user safety. The Verge reports that their initial suspension of paid extensions was put into place as a response to products that included “fraudulent transactions”, and Google’s subsequent responses since then have comprised more user-facing actions such as removing extensions published by different parties that accomplish replica tasks.

Review manipulation, use of hefty notifications as a part of an extension’s operation, and generally spammy techniques were also eyeballed by Google as problem points in their ongoing suspension leading up to the ban.

In banning extension payments through their own platform, Google addresses a compelling, if self-created, issue. The extension store was a relatively free market in a sense—something that, given the number of parameters being enforced as of now, is less true for the time being.

Similarly, one can only wonder about which avenues vendors will choose when seeking payment for their services in the future. It’s entirely possible that, after Google Chrome shuts down payments in February, the paid section of the extension market will crumble into oblivion, the side effects of which we can’t necessarily picture.

For now, it’s probably best to hold off on buying any premium extensions; after all, there’s at least a fighting chance that they’ll all be free come February—if we make it that far.

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Business Marketing

Bite-sized retail: Macy’s plans to move out of malls

(BUSINESS MARKETING) While Macy’s shares have recently climbed, the department store chain is making a change in regards to big retail shopping malls.

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Macy's retail storefront, which may look different as they scale to smaller stores.

I was recently listening to a podcast on Barstool Sports, and was surprised to hear that their presenting sponsor was Macy’s. This struck me as odd considering the demographic for the show is women in their twenties to thirties, and Macy’s typically doesn’t cater to that crowd. Furthermore, department retail stores are becoming a bit antiquated as is.

The sponsorship made more sense once I learned that Macy’s is restructuring their operation, and now allowing their brand to go the way of the ghost. They feel that while malls will remain in operation, only the best (AKA the malls with the most foot traffic) will stand the test of changes in the shopping experience.

As we’ve seen a gigantic rise this year in online shopping, stores like Macy’s and JC Penney are working hard to keep themselves afloat. There is so much changing in brick and mortar retail that major shifts need to be made.

So, what is Macy’s proposing to do?

The upscale department store chain is going to be testing smaller stores in locations outside of major shopping malls. Bloomingdale’s stores will be doing the same. “We continue to believe that the best malls in the country will thrive,” CEO Jeff Gennette told CNBC analysts. “However, we also know that Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have high potential [off]-mall and in smaller formats.”

While the pandemic assuredly plays a role in this, the need for change came even before the hit in March. Macy’s had announced in February their plans to close 125 stores in the next three years. This is in conjunction with Macy’s expansion of Macy’s Backstage, which offers more affordable options.

Gennette also stated that while those original plans are still in place, Macy’s has been closely monitoring the competition in the event that they need to adjust the store closure timeline. At the end of the second quarter, Macy’s had 771 stores, including Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury.

Last week, Macy’s shares climbed 3 percent, after the retailer reported a more narrow loss than originally expected, along with stronger sales due to an uptick in their online business. So they’re already doing well in that regard. But will smaller stores be the change they need to survive?

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