Preparing for the Future

I don’t anticipate a downturn, market adjustment or recession anytime soon . . . but I do expect one to come eventually. It always does! It’s the nature of our business; it’s cyclical.

The question is: what can you do today to be in position for the next tight market? Of course, I have a few ideas:

Start making contact with Asset Managers at companies that manage REOs. A dozen years ago, that meant attending seminars and conventions and crawling over dozens of other agents to schmooze elusive decision makers. It’s very different today. Making contact usually means going online and completing an application; and then responding when a request for a BPO is issued. It’s a lot easier! And, trust me: your peers are not even thinking about this right now. Beverly Sonnier is in our Friday Coaching Group and it is remarkable that she usually has one or more REO listings in inventory most of the time. So start doing those applications now – and if you need to know which companies to go after, let me know. I have a list.

Decide now how you’ll handle Short Sales going forward. There are probably very few or none in your market at the moment, which makes this the perfect time to consider that process. You may have been an absolute ACE at processing Short Sales during the last downturn. I knew a few Brokers who insisted they loved Short Sales! But do you really want to go through the frustration and aggravation of negotiating with a lender again? I sure wouldn’t! I believe the best course is to form a relationship with a company that specializes in processing Short Sales. You take the listing, you make the sale and then they take over, dealing with the lender and getting to closing. There are a number of companies that do this and it usually costs you nothing. Their fees are generally paid by the lender. I’ll remind you that David Bartels of Help-U-Sell Full Service Realty in Westlake Village, CA has had another company for years that processes Short Sales for other brokers. During the 2007-2012 time frame it wasn’t unusual for him to have more than 90 Short Sales working at once. His team is professional, knowledgeable and this is all they do. Why not reach out and find out about his program – or one of the other ones out there – today.

Start focusing on how buyers are served in your company. They will become the sought after parties in our business when the market shifts. So, how are you marketing to them today? And more important: what are you doing with them once you are in contact with them? Incubation is essential today. Most are taking three months or more after an initial contact before they are ready, willing and able to purchase. So what system do you have for staying in touch in a meaningful way? By the way, typical Realtor blather is usually not meaningful and probably won’t help you cement a relationship. So skip the newsletters, recipes and promotional pieces about how wonderful you are! Instead, put your incubating people on a hot list to be notified any time you take or come across a listing they might like. Touch base once a month with a market update emphasizing things like days on market, months of inventory and appreciation rates. Start paying attention to what’s happening to the buyer leads coming into your office now. What are your conversion rates and how could you improve them?

And, reach out to some of your competitors to find out if they have a referral process. I know that sounds a little odd. But Redfin takes on referral agents in areas where they don’t have a physical presence (and sometimes where they do). Maria Powell at Help-U-Sell Galleria Realty in Tucson is completely buried in buyer leads to the point that she really can’t get to them all! And the lion’s share are from Redfin. There is a detailed process you must go through to become a Redfin partner, but Maria will gladly share her experience with you. Mike Bowling in Yuma just got an invitation from PurpleBricks (of all people!) to become a referral agent for them. Like Redfin, they are looking for people in areas they don’t serve. So who are you hearing about on a National level that doesn’t have a presence in your local market? This would be a great time to reach out and see if you can solve a problem for them!

Your preparation will make a big difference when the market eventually turns and now is a great time to start. Smart sailors mend their canvas when the sun is out . . . so they will be ready when the storm hits.

Overheard at the Kitchen Table

It’s been nice visiting with you and learning about your move. I understand: we have about 90 days to get this done; and, Dan, you’ll start working in the new location in 2 months. That’s a tight time frame, but I believe we can get the job done.

Now, we have just three things to talk about:  the Price, the Product (that’s the house) and Promotion (what I’m going to do to get it sold). What would you like to talk about first?

(Well let’s talk about what you’re going to do and why we should go with you)

Great. We are a different kind of real estate company. We’re different because we make sense. At the core of our program is the Low Set Fee we charge for our service.  It saves sellers thousands of dollars over what they might otherwise pay.  My office charges a Set Fee of $5,950 and that’s what we charge everyone, regardless of what the home is listed or sold for. After all, it takes no more time, money or effort to sell a properly priced $400,000 house than it does a $300,000 house – so why should the people in the $400,000 house pay more?

Here’s an example based on the 6% commission many ordinary brokers charge: the guy in the $400,000 house pays $6,000 more!  And what does he get for that additional $6,000? (Pause) I’ll tell you – he gets absolutely nothing!

We don’t do it that way. With us, both of these home sellers would pay the same thing:  $5,950. 

See? I told you we make sense! But it’s more than that. We also charge you based on how the home actually sells.  If there is no outside broker or agent involved in the sale – you don’t pay for one.  

Here’s the truth about ordinary real estate commissions.  When you sign up to pay that big commission you’re actually signing up to compensate four different individuals: the Listing Agent, Listing Broker, Selling Agent and Selling Broker. But in ordinary real estate, you pay that full percentage based commission even if there is no outside agent or broker involved in the sale; even if you find your own buyer; even if your listing agent finds the buyer. It makes no sense.

With us it’s very different.  You’re listing with ME.  I am the broker. This is my company.  I’m not having to pay a listing agent because I’m your agent. So I’m going to save you one of those four commissions automatically.  Also, If no outside broker is involved, you don’t pay for one, and there go two more commissions.  Now, if one of the Buyers Agents in my office comes in with a buyer, we do have to compensate them.  But it’s not the 2 ½% or 3% the other guys might charge. In my office we charge the same thing when we bring in a buyer as we do when we list a property:  a Set Fee of $5,950.

Bottom line: you’re going to save thousands of dollars with us no matter how your home sells. 

Here’s a chart that illustrates that.  Here, at the top line is our Set Fee of $5,950 – and it doesn’t change no matter how your home sells.  Over here on the right is what you’d pay if an outside agent and broker brought the buyer.  We have to pay them too, and they charge a lot!  I’m recommending 2 ½%. But even if we have to pay them, you’ll still save thousands.

Here’s what happens if one of the buyers agents in my office comes in with the buyer. You pay your Set Fee, $5,950, and also pay the buyer agent fee, which is also $5,950 – and you save even more. 

Finally, this is what happens when you find your own buyer – and it happens more often than you’d think. You save the most. That savings looks pretty good, doesn’t it?

The key to saving the most is seller participation. We’re the only company that’s going to encourage you to talk to your friends, neighbors and co-workers about your house, to show it to them or anyone they know who might be interested. And if they ultimately buy, all you pay is the Low Set Fee. We’re going teach you how to use your social media accounts to further promote your house and perhaps find a buyer. But best of all – if you’re up for it – we’ll teach you how to hold your own open houses so that you can be open whenever you want – not just when I’m available. We find that sellers who participate like this have a good shot at saving the most amount of money – and that’s what we all want, isn’t it? (Nodding)

I want you to save the most, because the more I can save you the happier you’ll be and the more you’ll talk me up to your friends and neighbors!  Seller Savings is my Marketing Plan!

(That sounds great. But how are you going to sell my house?)

I’ll let you in on a little secret: with the maturation of the Internet, the real estate marketing playing field has become somewhat level.  We all have the same tools – and they are good tools – and we all pretty much do the same things:  MLS – Zillow – – Website – Facebook – advertising and so on.

But I go several steps farther.

I use short code marketing so that consumers can get information on your home instantly – and also, so I have a way to get back to them immediately to further develop their interest.  Let me show you how that works. This is a photo of a sign in front of my listing in the next neighborhood.  See that small sign at the bottom?  Text 7980 to 209-395-1945?  Go ahead and do that on your phone.

Ok, so you got all the information on the house, right? But look what I get! (shows his own phone) I get the phone number so I can call you back immediately, answer questions and hopefully set up a showing. Pretty cool, huh? Technology is only as good as your ability to use it!

In addition, when I start marketing, I get the neighborhood involved. I’ll be sending postcards about your listing to the 100 homes closest to you. 

I’m also going to walk and hand deliver flyers on the property to your immediate neighbors.  You’d be surprised how often one of them knows someone who might be interested.

I mentioned Facebook.  I use it in a fairly sophisticated way.  I’ll create a post about your listing and boost it so that thousands of people in the local market who have expressed an interest in real estate see it.  When they click on the ad, they’re going to go to a special website I’ll set up with all of the details on the listing – that also captures their contact information so I can get back to them.

I’m also going to create a post for you to use in your own Facebook and other social media.  I’m going to ask you to put it out to all of your friends and ask them to share it with theirs.

I think you’re getting the picture that marketing is a very active process for me.  And it works, too.  Look at this:  this year, according to the MLS, average days on market is 63.  My average is 37. That’s almost a whole month faster.

Now, let’s talk a little bit about strategy.  I use the MLS is a very specific way.  First, understand that the MLS is just a tool.  It’s a great tool, but it is expensive.  I use it to expose your home to thousands of local agents and to tell them they’ll get a nice commission if they can sell it to one of their buyers. 

But we’re all about saving you money on commissions, remember! What I’m going to recommend is that we first price your home properly – which I don’t think will be a problem – then let’s NOT go into the MLS for 3 weeks.

During that 3 week period, I’ll be marketing your home exclusively to buyers without agents – and of course, if we can sell to one of them, you don’t have to pay that outside agent and broker!  And to take full advantage of that 3 week period, you could hold an open house or two yourself.  I’ll coach you and it will be fun – I promise.

If, after 3 weeks, we don’t have a contract, we’ll go into the MLS, but we’ll do it with pizazz!  That first weekend we’ll hold a Grand Open House. I’ll be using Zillow,, the MLS and dozens of signs to announce the event. We’ll invite the neighbors and I’ll have flyers delivered to that big apartment complex down the road.

When I’ve used this strategy in the past, I’ve often had a sale before the house goes public – again, saving the sellers a lot of money. And if not, we usually have offers at the end of the Grand Open weekend.

You know I could go on and on about this because it’s what I love; but let’s stop for a minute. You seem to get it. I mean, Dan, you’re over there nodding like a bobble head on a dashboard! Why don’t we move on and talk about Price?  Sound good? Great.

How to Build Open House Traffic

Short and sweet:

Use lots of directional signs; say 10 or 12 or more. And get them out a day before, showing the date and time of the coming open house. Remember: you’re not just directing people to your open house, you’re establishing a powerful visual presence in the neighborhood that will help you get another listing and another listing and another listing.

Get your open house information into the MLS in advance. If the event is this weekend, get it in by Tuesday so that the outgoing feed can get it on the various real estate portals in time. Impromptu or seller held open houses can be entered manually into Zillow as late as the day before.

Have your seller claim their home on Zillow. It is an easy process that starts with finding their listing on the site and clicking on the Owner’s View. Have them add a paragraph to your listing about ‘What I Love About This House.’ Also, once claimed, they can add their own open houses to the listing.

Have your seller post the open house on their Facebook page and ask their friends to share it. They can link to their Zillow or listing in the post.

Make a personal invitation to the neighbors. You WANT to meet them, either at the event or on their doorstep prior to it. Plan to walk your flyer/invitation to the 20 closest households. Those homeowners will have real estate questions for you and you may uncover your next neighborhood listing in the process.

Use an open house log to gather contact information. has a great one that enables you or your seller to gather information and save it online where you can access it from anywhere. Visitors are more likely to type their information into a tablet or laptop than they are to scribble it out long-hand. There are a lot of other great tools at Realbird and you should check it out! 

How do you build traffic for your open houses? Leave us a tip in the comment section below.

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.

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