The Best Response

I got a great lesson in a Coaching Group yesterday. We were talking about Lead Capture landing pages, how to market them and respond to resulting leads. Mike Bowling, our Help-U-Sell Broker in Yuma, Az, had me go to his company Facebook Business Page. There, I found this post:

When I clicked on the post, I was taken to this Landing Page:

This is a RealBird landing page. Ken Hazelet in Pine Grove, CA introduced me to a year ago and if you haven’t explored it yet, you should! For something like $200 a year, every listing you take gets a single property website, a landing page like this, help with social media posting and more.

The Landing Page features a grayed-out photo of the actual listing in the background and a Lead Capture form. When I entered my name, email and phone, I immediately got this message in my inbox:

When I clicked the link, I was taken to the RealBird single property website for this home, which looks like this:

At the same time, my phone started to ding with incoming messages. First, I got this email:

I also got a text with the same message. Yes, it is an automated response, but it sounds somewhat personal. Mike uses FiveStreet to route leads to himself and his team. It automates the process, makes lead tracking easy and keeps things from falling through the cracks. The next ding on my phone produced this voice message from Monica Black, one of the buyer agents in Mike’s office:

(By the way, the incorrect Help-U-Sell usage is the result of Google translating the voice message into text – not an oversight on Monica’s part)

And a moment later I got this text message:

All of this happened almost instantly. Within a minute or two, I’d had five responses to my completion of the Lead Capture form – each one a little more personal than the one before.

Each part of this process took a little thought and setup but, with the exception of Monica’s personal voice message, it’s all pretty much set-it-and-forget-it. Most important, the response produced an impression of value and professionalism from this team. What could be better?

Through the years, I’ve been able to consistently increase a real estate company’s bottom line by tightening up the lead capture, response and tracking process. This is the place where all of your marketing is converted into income opportunities. Phone inquiries are easy: it’s just a matter of knowing your business and your inventory, and working on a little scripting (and using the Buyer and Seller Data Sheets). Internet leads present a bigger challenge, but I think Mike Bowling has shown us the most powerful way to respond to them. Thanks, Mike!

The Truth About Purple Bricks

What does $2.7 million marketing budget buy you in half a year? It buys you a ‘dent,’ I suppose.

That’s what Purple Bricks spent during their first 7 months in the US and a lot of people – ok: most of them were Realtors – took note.

At Help-U-Sell we are (as always) a little flattered that a ‘new’ competitor tries to mimic something we’ve been doing for more than 40 years: Set Fee Pricing.  At the same time we chuckle when it becomes clear that the marketable part of the Set Fee is all that was copied.  The spirit behind the fee – the passion for saving consumers tons of money while delivering exceptional service -always seems to be left behind.

Set Fee pricing – where everybody in a local market pretty much pays the same thing to sell their houses – makes perfect sense.  It is logical; which means that the % nonsense the other guys are doing, whether 6% or 5% or even 1%, makes no sense at all! So, good for Purple Bricks for (kinda) adopting that pricing structure.  A little digging on the company website reveals that their Set Fee is mostly smoke and marketing mirrors.

Here is one of my favorite passages on (it is on their FAQ page, in answer to the question, ‘When do I pay my fees and how do I make payment? ‘):

You can either pay the Sell Side fee on the sale of your home, after 6 months from appointing us as your Broker or when you withdraw the Property from the market, whichever happens sooner – so you can ‘pay later’ or you can just pay on appointment ‘pay now’. The choice is yours. . .

Did you catch that?  The fee is due and payable at one of 3 junctures:

  • At closing
  • Or at the six-month anniversary of your listing date
  • Or when you withdraw the listing or it expires

Whichever comes first.  In other words, you pay the $3,600 fee* no matter what.  Even if your Purple Bricks home selling project sinks like the Titanic, you’re going to pay the fee.  The Help-U-Sell Set Fee is payable only at closing.

The part that is not so obvious is that buy-side fees are always paid in Purple Bricks transactions. You don’t have the option to find your own buyer and then pay less. It’s not in the verbiage because that’s pretty standard in the industry.  To my knowledge, Help-U-Sell Real Estate is the only brand that makes this feature part of our offering.  We unbundle commissions so that your Listing Fee (the Set Fee) is paid at closing and if you find your own buyer, say through your network of friends or by holding an open house, that’s all you pay.  Buy side fees are only paid when an agent – ours or somebody else’s – brings the buyer. Like I said, it’s logical.

Another gem hidden in the fine print of the Purple Bricks website is their complaint procedure. I can’t copy/paste it here because it’s sooo long! Eleven points in all!  But you can read it here.  I don’t know how many complaints they get, but you have to wonder why a real estate company would publish an elaborate procedure like this on their website.  I don’t find a similar page on any other real estate website – so this must be one of Purple Bricks’ unique features!

Purple Bricks, like most of the new real estate companies emerging today, is a corporate entity. The people you work with are often employees, empowered to do very specific tasks, usually for very specific fees.  Any higher level arrangements or negotiations are handled by someone else, usually faceless and located miles away.  At Purple Bricks, an agent comes to your house and takes your listing (it is rumored that they get paid about $800 for doing that), and then turns you over to their corporate office in New York or Southern California. From that point on, your home selling project is managed by phone and internet.

At Help-U-Sell Real Estate, we see things differently. We believe that a transaction involving the biggst financial asset most of us have (our homes), deserves the knowledgable assistance of a trusted advisor: a Help-U-Sell Broker or Agent. Sure, we market the heck out of our listings, online and everywhere else; but we also stay with you every step of the way, answering your questions, advising, negotiating when an offer appears, and managing the transaction from beginning to end.  We are not a machine, not some nebulous, faceless entity in the cloud. We are real people who care very much for our business and our customers. We are local and our success depends on how well we take care of our local buyers and sellers.

We have a Tag Line at Help-U-Sell:  Sell Fast – Save Thousands.  I think we should add another imperative to that:  Be Delighted. Because, that’s what our home sellers and buyers generally are at closing: Delighted.

*Changes seem to be coming fast and swift at Purple Bricks! When they arrived in the US, their listing fee, proudly proclaimed at the top of their website home page, was $3,200.  A few months later, it was $3,600.  Today, the word ‘From’ has been instered before the fee:  ‘From $3,600.’ To determine your fee, you first have to input your Zip Code – so the fee varies by marketplace. In 10001, New York City, for example, it’s $5,900.

Video You Should Be Doing

There’s no denying it:  Video Works!  Use of video in email will more than double your click-thru rate.  Webpages with video have a much better retention rate than those with just text and graphics. It’s clear we have become a video dependent culture.

So why arent you using video in your business? Let me count the reasons:

  • I don’t have the equipment (yes, you do)
  • I don’t know what to say (yes, you do)
  • I don’t know how to set it up (it’s easy)
  • I’m not a tekkie – I don’t know how to edit a video (it’s easier than you think)

Truth is, the kind of video that will help you build trust and confidence in your local market IS EASY TO DO.  Here – let’s take a look at an example:

Yep, that’s  Help-U-Sell Greensboro’s Jack Bailey doing a great job.  And notice:

  • He’s got a great homemade logo and title for his video series:  <2 with Jack Bailey.  That’s less-than-2 minutes – the length of each video.
  • He’s using a simple office background.  It’s uncluttered, and does not distract.
  • He’s using natural lighting.  In other words – not using special lighting.
  • He’s not using a microphone.  Although the sound would be cleaner if he was using an exernal mic, he certainly can be heard and understood without.
  • I know you can’t see it, but Jack is using a Cannon digital SLR camera on a tripod to record. Almost any digital camera you buy today will have video capability.
  • Probably most important: he’s not reading a script. He’s simply presenting something he knows very well.

You absolutely CAN do this.  Some pointers:

  • Keep it short!  Two minutes or less ensures that most people will stick with it to the end.  Exceeding three minutes will greatly decrease the number.
  • Be educational. Yes, there are times when you probably should tell your story, sell your system.  But information (without obligation) is an item of value.  The educational approach will build credibilty and recognition for you and your company.
  • Plan what you are going to say, but don’t script it.  Trust yourself!  You talk about this stuff every day – you know it backwards and forwards.  If you are going to get into something detailed, write it on a piece of paper taped to the tripod.
  • Forget being slick and polished.  That will actually work against you! Be natural. Be less than perfect. You’ll be communicating a genuine sincerity that will pay off big time.
  • Don’t buy a lot of equipment.  Stage your videos near a window so you can take advantage of natural light.  Get a tripod.  A whiteboard is great if you are going to use it. Any digital camera will do – even a good smartphone can be used to record.  If you want to splurge somewhere, find an inexpensive lavalier microphone with enough cord to plug into your camera or phone.
  • Do a little light editing.  You will probably want to trim off the dead space at the beginning and end of the video.  Adding a title on the front and contact information (and a logo) at the end is essential.  Once you’ve worked with editing software a bit, you might want to put some words or numbers on the screen to emphasize what you’re saying.
  • A good basic editor is Microsoft Movie Maker.  It’s free and can be gotten here.  There are lots of more sophisticated – and more expensive – programs available but Movie Maker will serve your needs for awhile.  If you are an Apple person, IMovie works well.

Jack tells me he spends about 15 minutes setting up and recording his videos.  His assistant, Kay, will spend about twice that editing.  Once the video is done, she uploads to Jack’s YouTube Channel (It’s a free and easy thing to set up) and then Boosts them on his Help-U-Sell Greensboro Facebook Business Page.  $20 – $30 in boosting to a well defined target will produce thousands of impressions and hundreds of views.

So, quit telling yourself you can’t do this!  It’s not difficult.  And it can make a big difference in our business!

By the way, you can study Jack’s approach on his YouTube Channel.

Whiney Home Sellers

I had a very interesting call with a Help-U-Sell Broker today.  She was talking about her preference for working with Buyers, which is fine.  Buyers are great.

However, the Help-U-Sell edge, our identity, is our low set fee offer to home sellers.  It’s great to love buyers but your primary marketing thrust should be to find and list sellers.  It is our LISTINGS that create the buyer leads that flow through the office.

‘What is it about the listing process you don’t like?’ I asked. ‘Is it the presentation and dealing with pricing issues or is it the followup and the communication?’

She prefaced her answer by saying, ‘Oh gee . . . this is going to sound really bad, but . . . what I really don’t like is . . . the whining!’

Sellers whine because they want a higher price or they want more or better marketing or they don’t think there’s enough activity or they don’t know what you’re doing and on and on.  It’s just what they do.

Because that’s how ordinary Realtors pre-frame the relationship.

Think about it.  In the ordinary real estate world, every company has the same tools.  Every company has the same consumer offer (6%).  There is no difference between companies beyond the color of their signs. In that world, sellers make their choice of listing agent based on personality.  The key question becomes, ‘Do I like and trust you? Are you warm, friendly and accessible.’  Being the listing agent begins to look like becoming a friend.

An there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that . . . except that it erodes your power as a business professional.  If the basis of your business relationship is personality and accessibility, people are going to be comfortable whining to you . . . which is to say they don’t really believe in what you’re doing and think if they will get better results by putting pressure on you.

Help-U-Sell is different.  We charge less and we charge differently because we have marketing and back office systems that get the job done quickly and efficiently.  While we all have wonderful personalities, that’s not what we sell on the listing consultation.  We sell our step-one, step-two systems.  A business relationship based on systems is much more business-like.

Here’s an example:

I have a financial adviser who manages my paltry retirement account.  He’s a friend and was for years before I moved my account to his firm.  He’s a delightful guy and he clearly knows his business backwards and forwards, but . . . when I went to his office for our first meeting, he quickly introduced me to his two assistants, each of whom has specific functions and then excused himself.

The message was clear:  we are a business based on systems.  We don’t make it up as we go along.  I have competent personnel who manage my accounts with my supervision.  This frees me to focus on creating more business and making sure the system works as designed.

Here’s the thing:  I still talk with my friend who happens to be my financial adviser, but I would never ask him about the details of my account.  He trained me during that first meeting that my questions can all be handled by his team, and that’s the way they do business.  (It was helpful that the assistants were knowledgeable and impressive.)

That’s how you need to behave on the Listing Consultation.  It’s not about you (although they’re going to love you).  It’s about your systems.  You’re not a loosey goosey real estate person, running around like a chicken with your head cut off, available 24/7 to handle every issue that may arise (real or imagined).

I’m suggesting that you become more business-like when you do a listing consultation.  Yes, be warm and friendly, but stay focused and on track.  Your Help-U-Sell office is a machine based on systems.  When we plug a properly priced listing into this machine it spits out successful sales and happy sellers!  Your sparkling personality is nice but it’s not what gets the job done.

So:  start having your sellers come into your professional place of business for the listing consultation.  Fine tune your consultation so that you can get through it in 30 minutes (+/-). Take a few minutes explaining the process and how things will go – and maybe create a graphic to illustrate it.  Pre-frame your listing relationship as a business relationship.  Let all of those ordinary Realtors sow personality and reap the whinies!


How to Price Your Home to Sell

Robbie has asked me to look at creating a consumer video about pricing.  It would be something Help-U-Sell brokers and agents could use to emphasize the importance of proper pricing and to describe the process.  I started reworking the script I used for the longer broker/agent training piece we did for Help-U-Sell Pro-Coach Univeristy and have shared what I have done so far below.  Please take a look and give me some pointers.  Bearing in mind that we want to be a brief as possible, what other things ought to be included in such a video?  Is the price trend information too complex for public consumption?  Your help is appreciated!

Pricing to Sell

I’ll let you in on a little secret:   pricing is the single most important thing you’ll do to ensure the salability of your home.  All the marketing in the world can’t cause an overpriced home to sell.  An army of top salespeople can’t cause an overpriced listing to sell.  Overpricing means your home sits and sits until either the market catches up to it or you reduce it back to where it should have been from the start.  Unfortunately, if you start out too high, you’ll miss the most important marketing period for your home.  Here’s why.

At any given time, there are a certain number of people looking for a home like yours in a neighborhood like the one in which your home is located.  Let’s  call them your ‘Best Buyers’ –  these are the ones who will recognize the value of what you have and will be willing and able to pay top dollar for it.  It might be a few people or dozens of them.  The moment your property hits the market you have the opportunity to be in front of the largest number of these ‘Best Buyers’ you will have during the course of the listing.  Yes, more will trickle in as time goes by, but the initial weeks of your time on the market present the greatest opportunity to reach that larger pool of buyers who are already looking.

Now think about those people out there looking for a house just like yours.  They’ve already looked at dozens, even hundreds of houses on paper and they are probably a little tired of the process. What they want to do when they look at new listings (like yours) is to quickly narrow the field, eliminate anything that does not meet their basic needs,  and then investigate the few that might work for them.  This narrowing and eliminating process usually involves three things:

  1. Location – is the house in an area they’d consider
  2. Beds and Baths – are there enough
  3. Price – is it within a range they would consider

If any one of these three items does not match the buyers criteria, the home is eliminated from the list of possibles.  Now you can’t do anything about the location and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms is pretty well set. The one thing you can control is price.  And you want to hit the market with a price that is within the range of market value so that you end up on the list of possibles for the largest number of ‘Best Buyers’ who are in the market at that moment.

There are three things to consider when setting a price:  the price of similar properties in the area that have recently sold, the trend in prices, and the current competition.  The data is readily available, however, you are wise to rely on the information provided by your Help-U-Sell broker.  What’s available to the general public is often confusing and sometimes inaccurate.  We use the most up-to-date and accurate database in existence.

Sometimes, there are enough sales of similar properties in the previous six months to give an indication of value.  At other times, we may have to look back a little further.  But it is always important to remember that you are looking back in time at prices.

For example, assume you have a comparable property that sold six weeks ago. That’s the date the sale closed.  The actual date the buyer and seller agreed on a price was probably earlier – at least a month and most often two months or more earlier.  So when you look at comparable sales, remember that you are looking back in time three to twelve months.  To arrive at a proper price for today you must anticipate and adjust for the trend in prices.

Are prices rising in your neighborhood?  How much?  How rapidly?  Or are they declining?  And how does this information factor into your decision about pricing?  If prices are rising rapidly and you base your price on recent sales, you could be underpriced from day one . . . or the opposite could be true!  These are the things your Help-U-Sell broker will help you weigh as you establish a range of value for your neighborhood and then a proper price for your home within that range.

So far we’ve been fairly scientific in our discussion of pricing; but there is another side to this process and it is not scientific at all; it’s emotional.  We love our homes.  We work hard to make them comfortable and welcoming.  We decorate and improve them to reflect who we are.  Even if we’ve outgrown them, even if they no longer meet our needs, the value we place on our homes can still get strangely tangled up with the value we place on ourselves.  While self-esteem is a marvelous thing . . . it really has nothing to do with the price and salability of your property.   It is very important that you understand the moment you put a for sale sign in your yard your house stops being a home that reflects who you are and starts being something very different:  a product.  A product that has to compete with similar products for the attention of buyers in the marketplace.  I know that sounds cold, but it is the right attitude for a home seller – as opposed to a home owner.

Please, don’t go fishing outside the range of value for just a few thousand dollars more thinking you can always come down.  You’ll miss that pool of buyers in the marketplace looking for a home like yours right now!  And please don’t cling to an unsupportable price because your house has been so special for you and your family.  It’s a product now. It has to compete on every level including price.