Falling Off the Dinosaur

Falling Off the Dinosaur

I’m sure some of you would rather save your aging eyes from od’ing on 600 words of my tiny type. Or skip the tough task of following the muddled meanderings of my Real Estate of Mind. So, I’m going to give you the take away message of today’s story up front. To-go dessert before dinner.

Here it is: The biggest mistake Sellers make these days? They think too much like Sellers and not enough like Buyers. Since they invariably love to see their own image reflected back to them in the mirror of their marketing, they mistakenly assume that buyers look in the same places they look when admiring themselves.

The end result? Sellers get way too hung up worrying about WHERE their homes are being advertised. And they pay far too little attention to WHAT is being flung out there to the far corners of the globe.

Almost everything has changed in Real Estate in the last fifteen years. But some old myths die hard. Cultural imprints once stubbornly established can be exceedingly hard to shake – even when there are dazzling displays of special effects at everyone’s fingertips, just begging to differ with our prevailing stereotypes and mess with our heads.

Fact is: Attitudes about selling are still largely shaped by old, left-over notions from a buy-gone era when Realtors owned the monopoly on real estate information and controlled most of what circulated in the public domain.

Back in 1995, we (Realtors) still managed all the information. We edited it for our clients. We picked and we chose what our clients saw on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.

I still remember waiting for the new MLS Books to come out every two weeks. Cheapo newsprint. Nine little black and white listings to a page. One grainy photo each. A few property details.

I’d pour through those home pages – searching for anything that seemed vaguely like what my clients were looking for. I’d Xerox individual pages. Manually cut out listings with scissors. Put them back on the machine, zoom to 150 % and spit out separate tear sheets. By this time the pixels were so far apart, there was barely a discernible outline of a house left. I’d hop in the car, drive by each place. Call listing agents. Preview a few. And set up a tour for my buyers.

Xerox?! Cut and paste with actual scissors?! Compared to today, it sounds almost stone age. Like we were peddling prehistoric property Flintstone-style. Plenty of fancy footwork in fancy cars. Showing ten homes. Rushing back to the office to chisel out purchase contracts on stone tablets. Delivering them by courier-pterodactyl-pigeon.

The primary purpose of advertising in the old days? Convince Sellers that their listings weren’t getting lost in those MLS books. Or bogarded by Realtors. They really were being seen by a larger audience of potential Buyers. Big Ads. Open Houses. For Sale Signs. The works.

When MLS information first became available on the web, even in rudimentary fashion, Realtors noticed a shift. Suddenly Buyers weren’t waiting for us to do the editing and tell them what to look at. They started telling us what they wanted to see.

They got the addresses. They did their own drive-bys. They decided which ones had enough curb appeal to merit a visit.

Then, when even more information became available in the form of high-quality photos, satellite images, sales and tax information, google street views, Realtors saw the next stage in the evolution of their buyers.

Instead of doing actual live drive-bys, more and more prospective buyers began choosing what they wanted to see based on virtual drive-bys. Lap top or smart phone appeal became synonymous wtih curb appeal.

Most Sellers would be shocked by the number of people who reject properties based on an initial virtual drive-by. Yet, if they thought about how they actually search the internet as Buyers themselves – they wouldn’t be shocked at all. There’s an odd double standard and strange disconnect in all this.

One we’ll explore next week.

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