Sunday, March 1, 2009

How not to sell a house

A few months ago I was selling my house. I listed it just before the market took a nose dive. I didn't end up selling it and just let the real estate listing expire. Four months on the market and only a half dozen interested people - only one real estate agent (other than my own) showed my house.

A week after my house was off the market I got a call. It was a real estate agent. He wanted to know if I was still interested in selling my house. He had a list of potential buyers who were really excited about seeing it. Wondering why he never brought anyone through over the previous four months, I asked when would they like to see it. He responded he could probably get some of them through my house in the about 30-45 days. Yes, you heard right. His "extremely motivated" buyers were about 45 days from even being interested enough to look at my house. That was my first hint that this call was far from credible. My next hint was a little more obvious. The agent said "So if I sell this house I'll get full commission right?" Done. This agents credibility dissapeared. He was a bottom feeder. He looks through the real estate listing for expiring contracts, then hops on them looking for the easy sell. He probably makes good money doing that.

But it's this type of marketing and sales that hurts the real estate industry. The same thing happened to the lawyers that chase ambulances, to that used car salesmen that sold you a 'newly upholstered' car that just happened have been submerged in a river, or the insurance agent who convinced your grandmother that she needed that extra premium just in case. (industries mentioned were easy targets - sorry)

Advertisers make the same mistake. That keyword ad on Google that sent me to a irrelevant site (just type "Buy" followed by a product of your choice and look at the ads). The Facebook ads that fish for your cell number are breaking trust in an environment that is struggling to establish. The seven lines of legal type on the bottom of that car ad in the newspaper, regardless of what it says, just shows you that $295 a month is just too good to be true. Then there's that "Starting at $9.99" advertisement followed by "when you spend $150 dollars on our premium service". You've seen it a million times - it probably doesn't even effect you now. But that's the problem. We can't ask consumers for time when we continuosly waste it.

The first step is to be authentic and honest.

The real estate agent that called me would have been better to just ask if I was unhappy with my last agent and willing to talk about the benefits he could bring.

The car company with the legal type might be better using messages that provide clarity and break the standard - especially now. Why use a cool photo of the European fully-loaded vehicle, and just show the one that I'll get when I pay the advertised price (the answer is they want to upsell from the advertised price - but you get the point).

These examples are everywhere. Common sense solutions are often the least common used.