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



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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  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 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

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

  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

    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.

  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

How Instagram’s latest redesign is more sinister than it seems

(MARKETING) Instagram’s latest updates have all but repurposed the app into an online mall – one that tracks everything you see, say, and buy on it.



Woman in hijab taking photo on her smartphone for Instagram, affected by the redesign.

Instagram started the new year off with a makeover in their latest redesign. The notifications button teleported to the top of the screen in the app’s new design, and now the “Shopping” button is in its place.

It’s a subtle yet insidious switch. You’re much more likely to select the marketplace out of habit, by accident, when searching your next dose of online validation.

The app has always been a vital tool for artists, craftspeople, and small businesses to promote their work — including myself. And the new redesign is intended to boost the visibility of those groups. At least, that’s Instagram’s argument.

In an article for The Conversation, Nazanin Andalibi of the University of Michigan School of Information provides a glimpse of what’s going on behind the scenes.

“By choosing to make the Shop tab central to its platform,” she writes, “Instagram is sending its users a message: This platform is a business, and interactions on this platform are going to be commodified.”

As an advertiser, Instagram’s popularity has exploded in the last decade. Even big pharma is in on the surge, with seventy pharmaceutical companies purchasing ads on the app in 2020. (That made it the fastest growing pharma advertiser of the year.)

As we know, Instagram not only runs ads, but also uses user information to filter who sees what advertisements. Now, shopping is explicitly a central function of the app. It sometimes feels like a digital mall… And that’s not really what people signed up for.

I’ve had my account for since I was a teenager, and the experience I have using the app today is totally different from what it once was. For one, it’s increasingly difficult to differentiate paid ads from regular user content on Instagram.

And second, I use Instagram to promote my work, but I don’t feel comfortable sharing personal details about myself anymore.

Because, to use Anadalibi’s words: “Sharing or seeking information about a difficult, personal experience on a social media platform and then having the platform capitalize on an algorithmic understanding of the experience–which might or might not be accurate–is problematic.”

That goes doubly so for youth, who may not be fully aware of that engineering.

For instance, a teenager searching for body positive posts might receive personalized ad results for weight loss programs. A human would probably realize that’s an inappropriate, even triggering suggestion. But algorithms don’t think that way.

Alongside the redesign update, Instagram has also faces recent criticism for their Community Guidelines, which prevent suggestive and explicit images and speech.

And whether you agree with the guidelines or not, don’t be fooled. Instagram isn’t concerned with uplifting its creators, or protecting its young users. Their only goal is protecting their new bottom line, and staying as ad-friendly as possible.

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Business Marketing

Ghost Reply has us asking: Should you shame a recruiter who ghosted you?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Ghost Reply will send an anonymous “kind reminder” to recruiters who ghost job candidates, but is the sweet taste of temporary catharsis worth it?



Stressed woman at a laptop with hands on head, considering if she should send a Ghost Reply.

People hate to get “ghosted” in any situation, personal or professional. But for job seekers who may already be struggling with self-esteem, it can be particularly devastating. Ghost Reply is a new online service that will help you compose and send an email nudge to the ghoster, sending a “kind reminder” telling them how unprofessional it is to leave someone hanging like that.

Ghost Reply wants to help you reach catharsis in all of this stressful mess of finding a job. Almost all of the problems and feelings are compounded by this confounded pandemic that has decimated areas of the workforce and taken jobs and threatened people’s financial security. It is understandable to want to lash out at those in power, and sending a Ghost Reply email to the recruiter or HR person may make you feel better in the short term.

In the long run, though, will it solve anything? Ghost Reply suggests it may make the HR person or recruiter reevaluate their hiring processes, indicating this type of email may help them see the error of their ways and start replying to all potential candidates. If it helps them reassess and be more considerate in the future and helps you find closure in the application/interview process, that would be the ideal outcome on all fronts. It is not likely this will happen, though.

The Ghost Reply sample email has the subject line “You have a message from a candidate!” Then it begins, “Hi, (name), You’re receiving this email because a past candidate feels like you ghosted them unfairly.” It then has a space for said candidate to add on any personal notes regarding the recruiter or process while remaining anonymous.

I get it. It’s upsetting to have someone disappear after you’ve spent time and energy applying, possibly even interviewing, only to hear nothing but crickets back from the recruiter or HR person you interacted with. It’s happened to me more than once, and it’s no bueno. We all want to be seen. We all want to be valued. Ghosting is hurtful. The frustration and disappointment, even anger, that you feel is certainly relatable. According to several sources, being ghosted after applying for a job is one of the top complaints from job seekers on the market today.

Will an anonymous, passive-aggressive email achieve your end? Will the chastened company representative suddenly have a lightbulb go off over their heads, creating a wave of change in company policy? I don’t see it. The first sentence of the sample email, in fact, is not going to be well received by HR.

When you start talking about what’s “unfair,” most HR people will tune out immediately. That kind of language in itself is unprofessional and is a red flag to many people. Once you work at a company and know its culture and have built relationships, then, maybe, just maybe, can you start talking about your work-related feelings. I believe in talking about our feelings, but rarely is a work scenario the best place to do so (I speak from experience). Calling it unprofessional is better, less about you and more about the other person’s behavior.

However, it’s unclear how productive Ghost Reply actually is. Or how anonymous, frankly. By process of deduction, the recipient of the email may be able to figure out who sent it, if it even makes it through the company’s spam filters. Even if they cannot pinpoint the exact person, it may cast doubts on several applicants or leave a bad taste in the recruiter’s mouth. It sounds like sour grapes, which is never a good thing.

There may be any number of reasons you didn’t get the job offer or interview, and they may or may not have something to do with you. Recruiters answer your burning questions, including why you may have been ghosted in this recent article in The American Genius.

Ultimately, you will never know why they ghosted you. If it makes you feel better or at least see the issue from both sides, the amount of job candidates ghosting recruiters after applying and even interviewing is equally high. Some people simply either have awful time management skills or awful manners, and at the end of the day, there’s not much you can do about that.

Focus on your own survival while job hunting, instead of these disappointing moments or the person who ghosts you. It will serve you better in the long run than some anonymous revenge email. There are other ways to deal with your frustration and anger when you do get ghosted, though. Try the classic punching your pillow. Try taking a walk around the block. If it helps to put your frustration into words, and it very well may, then do so. Write it on a piece of paper, then burn it. Or type it all in an email and delete it. For your own sake, do NOT put their email address in the “To” line, lest you accidentally hit “Send.”

The sooner you can let it go, the sooner you can move on to finding a better job fit for you.

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Business Marketing

Free shipping is everywhere… how can small businesses keep up?

[BUSINESS MARKETING] Would you rather pay less but still pay for shipping, or pay more with free shipping? They may cost the same, but one appeals more than the other.



Person standing over pacakge, sealing with masking tape.

When it comes to competing with huge corporations like Amazon, there are plenty of hurdles that smaller businesses have to cross. Corporations can (and do) undercut the competition, not to mention garner a much larger marketing reach than most small businesses could ever dream of achieving. But this time, we want to focus on something that most people have probably chosen recently: Free shipping.

How important is free shipping to consumers? Well, in a 2018 survey, Internet Retailer discovered that over 50% of respondents said that free shipping was the most important part of online shopping. In fact, when given a choice between fast or costless shipping, a whopping 88% of those surveyed chose the latter option.

Part of this has to do with the fact that shipping costs are often perceived as additional fees, not unlike taxes or a processing fee. In fact, according to Ravi Dhar, director of Yale’s Center for Customer Insights, if it’s between a discounted item with a shipping fee or a marked up item with free shipping, individuals are more likely to choose the latter – even if both options cost exactly the same amount.

If you’re interested in learning more, Dhar refers to the economic principle of “pain of paying,” but the short answer is simply that humans are weird.

So, how do you recapture the business of an audience that’s obsessed with free shipping?

The knee jerk reaction is to simply provide better products that the competition. And sure, that works… to some extent. Unfortunately, in a world where algorithms can have a large effect on business, making quality products might not always cut it. For instance, Etsy recently implemented a change in algorithm to prioritize sellers that offer free shipping.

Another solution is to eat the costs and offer free shipping, but unless that creates a massive increase in products sold, you’re going to end up with lower profits. This might work if it’s between lower profits and none, but it’s certainly not ideal. That’s why many sellers have started to include shipping prices in the product’s overall price – instead of a $20 necklace with $5 shipping, a seller would offer a $25 necklace with free shipping.

This is a tactic that the big businesses use and it works. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right?

That said, not everyone can join in. Maybe, for instance, a product is too big to reasonably merge shipping and product prices. If, for whatever reason, you can’t join in, it’s also worth finding a niche audience and pushing a marketing campaign. What do you offer that might be more attractive than the alluring free shipping? Are you eco-friendly? Do you provide handmade goods? Whatever it is that makes your business special, capitalize on it.

Finally, if you’re feeling down about the free shipping predicament, remember that corporations have access to other tricks. Amazon’s “free” prime shipping comes at an annual cost. Wal-Mart can take a hit when item pricing doesn’t work out. Even if your business isn’t doing as well as you hoped, take heart: You’re facing giants.

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