What Do Home Sellers Want?

2008 National Association of Realtors® Home Seller Profile Review


The National Association of Realtors has graciously offered all Realtors a free download of their 2008 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, and I've spent a great deal of time reviewing the information and merging it with my own experiences from the past year. Below are some great highlights from the NAR Profile, along with my thoughts and suggestions.

In the section regarding sellers there were three major themes in 2008:

  • 1. When it comes to home marketing methods, the "basics" are being turned upside down. What are the "new basics"?
  • 2. What sellers want most: the four "biggies" you have to focus on.
  • 3. 33% of sellers contacted more than one agent. How can you beat the increasing competition?


Home Marketing Methods: The New Basics

2008 NAR websites sellers bar chart

Image Source: My Single Property Websites Data Source: 2008 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

As recently as a couple of years ago, if you were a new agent and asked your broker about home selling basics, aside from the obvious MLS entry they might have suggested:

  • - Put a sign in the yard
  • - Put an ad in the paper
  • - Mail out some postcards or flyers
  • - If it's a higher end listing, put an ad in the local glossy RE magazine

Now look at the chart above. Amazingly, newspaper ads and RE magazines don't even make the top three anymore. Instead, the number one method for marketing a home is the internet, more popular than even our tried and true friend, the yard sign. Rounding out the top three is open houses.

The biggest reason for this is straightforward: the internet is becoming a larger and larger part of every facet of our lives, and real estate is no exception. Another more subtle reason, and perhaps why the internet is now even more popular than yard signs, is the continuing shift to city and condo living. I've tried, and can tell you that yard signs don't stick in a concrete sidewalk :). Add to this the huge costs of print and magazine advertising, plus a slow market, and the reason for the trend towards online and lower cost marketing is clear.

Ok, so we know the internet is #1, but the word "internet" is a bit broad, to say the least. Specifically, what are the new basics in an online world?

The New Basics:

  • - Multiple high quality photos
  • - Detailed, proofread marketing copy for MLS Posting
  • - Syndication to the biggies: Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, Google Base
  • - Posting to Craigslist, twice a week
  • - Single property site and/or virtual tour
  • - Email/ Twitter/ Facebook/ to your network

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the new basics is the cost: doing everything mentioned above usually costs less than just three weeks of newspaper ads. Even better, they let you leverage your time by creating the content (photos and description) once and leveraging it multiple times.

What sellers want most: the four "biggies" you have to focus on.

2008 NAR home sellers pie chart

Image Source: My Single Property Websites Data Source: 2008 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

The pie chart above shows what sellers most want from real estate agents. There are four nearly perfectly equal "biggies" that were picked by over 80% of sellers, with everything else picked first by less than 20% of sellers. The four things sellers wanted most:

  • - Help price the home competitively
  • - Help sell the home within specific timeframe
  • - Help find a buyer for home
  • - Help seller market home to potential buyers

  • Notice that these four things are nearly perfectly equal, at 20% each except for pricing help at 21%. That means if you want to give 80% of your sellers the #1 thing they desire from a real estate agent, you need to hit all four of these nails on the head.

    First two are up to you.

    I can't help you much with the first two: pricing a home competitively is up to you and your local experience and research, and selling the home within a specific timeframe is based in large part on your pricing and the expectations you've set up with your seller.

    With the second two, however, there are several concrete steps you can take to show your seller you take their needs seriously. Sellers may forgive you if you fail to sell their home in a timely manner due to market conditions or a deal falling through. But they definitely won't forgive you if they don't feel you're doing the work and taking all the steps to find them a buyer and help them market their home.

    Give them tangible evidence of your hard work.

    The good news is that it's easier than ever to provide your seller with tangible evidence of your hard work. The beauty of the internet is that you can track everything in real time, from number of times your listing pops up in a search to number of times people clicked on it. One of the best ways to present this to your client is in an email report, with links to all sites where the listing is displayed and with attached reports. Many sites such as Trulia will even create a free listing report for you automatically.

    If your listing isn't selling, you can make sure your sellers understand it's because of the market by showing them how many times it's appeared in search results. Low numbers mean there simply aren't many buyers in that price segment of the market. In addition, many MLS's provide data about agent and public views; don't forget to cut and paste that into your email report.

    33% of sellers contacted more than one agent. How can you beat the competition?


    1 out of 3 sellers are also calling your competition. How do you beat them? When it comes to listing presentations (and most things in life, for that matter), remember this: you only get what you give. GIVE your sellers a detailed marketing plan that you've customized to their home. GIVE your sellers pre-prepared single property websites or virtual tours, even if you only have placeholder pictures. GIVE your sellers a detailed and well written marketing description of the property. By showing them their home already displayed online with great marketing copy, you'll go from one of several competitors to the default option.

    Most people don't actually want to go through the hassle of interviewing several agents. When you work like you've already won the listing and give them something tangible to look at, they may not even bother interviewing anyone else. In the long run, it's actually less work to fully prepare and win one listing than it is to half prepare for several and lose them all.


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