Imagine that you have a Bentley you want to sell. The car has been parked for a year, kid stuff on the back seat. Cleats, some dirt, coloring pens and paper, and fast food wrappings. In the front, some used up tissue paper still sits in the console area, the sun glasses nearby and the phone charger dangles. Before you advertise it online, you walk into your garage with a your iPhone, and in the shade of the walls, the car having gathered decent amounts of dust and mud from the last few rides she had been on, you take a couple of photos. One of the inside, the other of the outside.
Back at your computer you upload that photograph and make your posting on your preferred sites.
Now help me understand how you’d expect a buyer to get excited about your car, with all this negligence put in to showing it off? If the concern is not the condition of the car, it is the upkeep of the car. That is if any of the images look clear enough, to begin with. Remember lighting was dim at best when you walked in.
Next to your car posting there are another 3 Bentleys, all sparkling clean, enticing. Each comes with 25 shiny photos of a polished, well cared gem, interior even cleaner. The prospective buyers get this uplifting feeling just flipping through the photos, zooming in to view things in detail, enabled through the well lit, high resolution shots. A video of the vehicle is also set up, to make things even more appealing. The buyers then get set to make a call to inquire further or come down for a test drive.
Meanwhile you sit for days or months wondering why your car isn’t selling. And, if you get the adhoc call, you get frustrated with wholesale agents only calling and trying to low ball you.
Well you answer that one yourself. This morning right on ListedBy I came across a 1.2 million dollar asset listing, with a single photo of the entire project, taken off of a another photo print sitting on the kitchen counter. You could easily tell, because part of the counter was showing in the posted image.
The description of the project was weak at best, yet the seller’s agent expects people to hound them with offers.
This is not the only listing on a real estate website with a single, bad photo, and worse descriptions and details. You see them all over the place on the Web.
Folks, this complacency simply does not work in the world of sales, never mind one that involved assets worth hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars and where the competition is, at best, fierce. Even if you’re marketing REO Auctions or public real estate auctions, marketing an asset adequately is the difference between selling it or not, the ultimate asset value, and your commissions.
We have posted research about the importance of photos several times in this Forum and on the ListedBy Blog. It’s a no brainer. Why I won’t link to these articles to make it easy for some, is for good reason.
For those feeling guilty right now, it’s time to get that camera out, and do your work like a professional. Things will change faster than you think. The effort will always prove to be worthwhile.
In fact right now, I feel a smidgen embarrassed to release an article such as this one. But it just feels like all else has failed and it’s time to tell it like it is. The actions, and non actions of every agent affect not only their sales and business, but the reputation of our industry. Everyone must pull their weight to move us forward. Professional representation is a mandatory step.
We’re undeniably making great strides towards a paperless environment in real estate. With investors snapping up REO auctions and traditional listings, even sight unseen, the last thing high volume or frequent buyers and sellers want is to get bogged down with paperwork and unnecessary back and forth. These investors view this as a complete waste of time. Lost sheets, missing signatures, requests for additional forms, scanning, faxing and so on. It just seems endless. It’s frustrating and technically so not 21st century.
From a broker and agent perspective, cutting out the paper hassle has many positive implications on business that process improvement gurus would slot under the ‘increased efficiencies’ benefit category.
In a relatively high speed market, it literally means higher revenue, because an agent can simply process more deals more efficiently, all online.
In a slow market, it’s a way to stand out and open up time to prospect and generate business instead of the hustle and ‘busyness’ of going through paperwork that takes up half the day.
Virtually all paperless transaction solutions have to date concentrated on the back end of the process, meaning the mid to final stages of processing an offer and signing documents. A significant opportunity however still exists at the very front end of the equation. The initial tender offer and negotiation stage. The stage where a buyer chases shadows for days to reach the actual listing real estate agent, and where the latter needs to go through hoops to bridge buyer and seller minds on price and coordinate back and forth communication. Often days go by for a buyer to get an answer to a simple question. A complete waste of time for everyone involved.
This stage, tackled the traditional way, is unnecessarily counter productive when the entire phase can be shrunk down to hours or even minutes.
Combine a more efficient, one hundred percent online auction and buy now/best offer negotiation process of a site such as ListedBy.com, with cloud-based document signing capability on the back end, and you end up with the ultimate paperless real estate process that is bound to catapult our industry to an entirely new level.
It just seems like the natural next step in the industry’s growth.
It seems that there is a little bit of competition heating up in the online real estate auction sites battle for the top spot, according to www.compete.com stats. Newcomer ListedBy.com entered the race for the top spot with site record Web traffic for February 2013 with more than 50,000 visitors coming to the site during the month, putting it slightly behind direct competing online real estate auction site www.bid4assets.com and ahead of other similar real estate sites such as realtown.com and others.
The month also saw industry leader www.auction.com remain at the top of the pack with nearly 800,000 visitors for the month according to the site but the strong display of traffic for ListedBy.com is a great thing for a site that has still only been around less than a year and has little resources by comparison to the billion dollar entity such as auction.com.
In other news for real estate auction sites, Hubzu.com, formerly gohoming.com, has presented itself as a major competitor in the sector with more than 200,000 visitors.
The ListedBy.com brand that went live no more than 11 months ago on May 2nd 2012 has quickly shown the industry that there is a new way to present the online real estate model to users with all of the users being able to use the site and the marketplace completely free unlike all of the competing auction sites noted here which charge insertion fees and commissions after the transaction.
Below are the official numbers that were reported by compete.com for traffic in February 2013 including all the major sites in the real estate auction segment. As always, thank you to all the loyal users that are helping ListedBy.com grow as the first completely free online real estate marketplace and social network with live bidding auctions.
- WWW.TRULIA.COM – 11,000,000 VISITORS
- WWW.AUCTION.COM – 790,000 VISITORS
- WWW.HUBZU.COM – 298,000 VISITORS
- WWW.BID4ASSETS.COM – 64,000 VISITORS
- WWW.LISTEDBY.COM – 52,000 VISITORS
- WWW.REALTOWN.COM – 27,000 VISITORS
These figures are off of projections and estimates based off of compete.com stats.
We’re quite excited to release the ListedBy Service Provider star and feedback ratings system. To those who excel in their profession, such systems put in the hands of the consumer is a welcome event and a new path to more business.
For those who do not desire such systems, it’s a path to challenging and boosting current practices.
As an industry as a whole, such systems will bring new levels of transparency that can only help further enhance public perception and professionalism.
Here is the full announcement issued to the press earlier today, for our readers’ convenience:
ListedBy Launches Real Estate Service Provider and Agent Ratings
ListedBy (www.ListedBy.com), the first free online real estate marketplace and social network with live bidding public real estate auctions and ‘Buy Now/Best Offer’ functionality now enables members to publish and share feedback, recommendations and rate service providers listed on ListedBy.com, in real time.
The system reflects ListedBy’s goal to provide its members with everything they need to be successful in real estate both before, and after the transaction. Registered users on ListedBy.com can use the site’s Service Providers area to research services and related companies by state, and now rate providers including real estate brokers and agents using a five star rating system.
Users can also offer detailed feedback and recommendations on the same page, and share their feedback through email and social media with a single click, including on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and many others.
“From free access to rental and for sale property data, REO auctions and traditional listings, to clearly identifying the true listing agent and their contact information, to publicly displaying bids, bid history and bidders, to now agent and real estate related service provider ratings and feedback, ListedBy continues to move towards accelerating the real estate process through transparency and better access to information,” said Stephan Piscano, CEO and Founder, ListedBy.
“The time currently wasted at any stage of real estate buying and selling is unacceptable, as is the level of transparency on many real estate auction and traditional property portals, especially in this day and age. Everything that we do at ListedBy is designed to move the industry towards a higher level of efficiency,” added Piscano.
Concluded Piscano: “People who get exceptional service are always happy to spread the word. We’re introducing tools that make it easy for ListedBy members to share their experience and opinion, which benefits their service provider and works to drive higher levels of service in the industry.”
Service Provider pages on ListedBy have also been upgraded as virtual miniature Web sites, to further enhance service provider exposure and branding to ListedBy’s growing audience.
ListedBy launched its Service Providers module in January. The self-managed, self-populated free directory is designed to give ListedBy.com users convenient access to information on local real estate related services across the United States.
Traffic on ListedBy.com is expected to surpass 60,000 unique visitors for March 2013, with visitors spending an average of over five minutes on the site.
While the figure indicated above may not be statistically valid, it should nonetheless worry brokers and raise some flags. Mainly because it is based on a real, recent experience a close business partner of mine had when attempting to purchase investment properties.
Another reason for concern is that responsiveness has been an ongoing issue in the industry. Considering it is well known that one of every four consumers will do business with the first real estate agent they connect with, one would think agents across the board would have by now figured ways to bank on the statistic.
The story I’m about to share is actually scary.
This cash-ready investor was out to make several property acquisitions about four weeks ago, in different parts of the United States. During one morning, he called one hundred real estate agents (yes, ONE HUNDRED) to inquire about one or more of their active listings. The intent was in fact to place offers on the properties, not just ask questions.
The shock came when most of the calls went unanswered. You’d think that 75 percent of calls in any sales oriented business would be picked up. If that was your guess, you were wrong. In fact not 50, 40, 30 and not even 10 percent of the calls were answered. Only ONE out of the one hundred agents contacted that morning actually picked up the phone!
Now if that shouldn’t sound the alarm, not sure what will.
It gets worse though.
This buyer left messages to all 99 remaining agents clearly stating his wish to place an offer on a property. I repeat. He told the agents to call him back because he wanted to BUY their listing. Most were traditional for sale listings, others were REO auctions or regular residential real estate auctions.
Not to belabor the point, only five agents returned the call at some point that day.
This puts six percent of agents at a clear advantage over the remaining 94 percent, with only one percent set to truly clean up.
The difficulty in answering the phone in real estate remains a mystery and obviously an insurmountable challenge. But if the industry is to edge forward, someone has to figure this out.
Maybe it’s time brokers took a closer look at the issue – and perhaps a more active role addressing it.
One thing is certain though. Sites like ListedBy that allow buyers to instantly place offers online are a breath of fresh air and great time savers. But even these would only be of real value if agents are more click than phone friendly.
You know a site is hot when advertisers try to push the envelope. They run the same property ad multiple times so they’re always at the top of the views. Many also hire inexpensive overseas labour to stay on top of their listings and ensure they flood each site with their properties each day. Mainly those that generate the best and most leads.
New York got a special treatment from Craigslist a few years back, if you recall. It became the first city where Craigslist real estate posters would have to pay to advertise their listings. A reasonable and smart play by Craigslist, since listing duplication in New York got unbearable.
While the practice spoke tons to Craigslist’s power to generate leads, it affected user experience and annoyed honest brokers and agent – and consumers. Well, that happily turned into a new revenue stream for Craigslist. A nice turn of events indeed.
ListedBy.com today turned on a new tool that enables its admin staff to not only halt user accounts that push the envelope on the site, but also to delete all previously added listings by the entity. REO auctions, public real estate auctions and otherwise.
Since ListedBy is a free site, we opted to go this route to neutralize all the effort and expense the user goes through to create their account and post and re-post listings, than to start charging honest users for posting.
That’s how we chose to go about it and it seems to be working.
Shrewd advertiser #1 down, a few others to go. Thanks for the compliments anyhow.
Traffic to ListedBy hit 35,000 unique visitors in February and is on track to hit nearly 50,000 this month. Anyone can and is invited to add their listings for free. Just start a free profile then click on Sell on the blue menu bar at the top of the page to add listings.
On behalf of our management team, I want to take this opportunity to thank all our loyal users and industry followers for their support as we too push the envelope in real estate. But in a good way.
An interesting conversation with the owner of a well established property management and turnkey investment property firm in Indiana struck a cord with me earlier today.
Not that his question was earth shattering or novel, but that it came from someone with that much experience in his market.
This gentleman said, happy to have recently managed to acquire one more property: “What is it that is turning the market into a seller’s market? Could it be the hedge funds scooping up inventory, or bank and government agency strategies manufacturing a supply / demand imbalance to drive prices higher?”
It could be both of course, his next thought was. Mine as well, like everyone else.
What is difficult to determine though is which of the two is the primary catalyst.
Add to those a sustained Federal reserve strategy of low interest rates, to ensure that this part of the equation poses no obstacle to what seems to many to be a structured recovery.
How long these low rates can be maintained before something awry happens is anyone’s guess. The Feds said till 2015, for now. Any solid indication of an improving economy, fundamentally, can change that. After all, the Fed’s only chance of raking it in on the billions and trillions of extra liquidity and asset purchases would be through a rise in interest rates.
Until the market can sustain a rate increase on its own, the Fed is stuck. It can’t increase rates because players would default. It would not only lose its profit potential, but its initial loans too. It can’t keep rates this low forever either, because inflation will gain further momentum, with potentially extreme repercussions and lasting, undesirable effects.
As long as the current rates strategy is maintained, inflation will drive real estate prices higher. Investors know this and are scooping everything they can get their hands on.
For the banks and large distressed asset holders, it’s a dream come true, as they slowly release inventory at more advantageous prices.
Whether it’s one or the other, all catalysts that seem to be driving the market also seem to be here to stay. For now. Keep it going for a while longer and we’d clearly be in a full fledged seller’s market.
For those looking to chime in and acquire assets, tough as it may be, there are still some out there, and the market remains relatively attractive. I suggest a quick drive by ListedBy.com for starters, or other similar sites, and look for REO auctions and other public real estate auctions. Even a few $1 starting bid deals, while harder to come by, still do come by.
You eat an elephant one bite at a time.
Often, having a clear vision and the courage to start working towards an opportunity is what stands between man and his or her ultimate goal. With a little bit of study and appetite for some risk, the goal may in fact be closer than one might think.
The first order of business is to spot the opportunity. The next order of business is to remove anyone from sight who’s job seems to discourage us from moving forward. This is frequently the reason why most people freeze. In his famous The Law of Success in 16 Lessons book, the success bible, Napoleon Hill specifically discusses how you must keep your chief aim shielded from others who are likely to challenge or resist it. Even your spouse. Take this as law in achieving the success that you want, even though it is contrary to all the modern guru teachings that you must publish your goals far and wide so you may be more committed to achieving them.
In real estate, an opportunity of a lifetime came to those who saw a buying window when everyone ran the other way in 2008, 2009 and even up until last year. Those who made the move and acquired as much property as they could, boarded or not, with spouse approval or not, are on a different plane now. We all know where these investments stand today. Up some 20-25 percent in the past year alone, in many states and cities across the US. They hopped on the Web and onto online auction sites to grab REO auctions, government real estate auctions, residential real estate auctions, commercial real estate auctions, you name it. Some flipped them right away while others rehabbed and held the assets for rental income with high annual cash on cash returns unlike we’ve seen for decades.
The biggest complaint circling the sector today is lack of inventory, especially distressed assets. Whether that’s in Detroit, Las Vegas or any other market.
The next time I come across a hot deal in Detroit or otherwise, boarded or not, shabby or not, I’m jumping on it. That’s just what I did earlier today, when opportunity presented itself. I bid on five residential properties in Detroit on ListedBy.com, going for just tens or mere hundreds of dollars to anyone willing to take on just a few thousand dollars of back dues taxes. A great deal if you ask me. At worst, the land will always be there for me or my kids to farm someday. Each will have their profiting strategy. Some will resell the assets immediately for a bit of profit, taxes still unpaid. Others will hold till values increase, then sell at that time, still passing due taxes to the next investor. Yet others might pay due taxes in order to obtain title insurance, rehab the properties and rent them for regular cash flow. That is, if the neighborhood and overall conditions are adequate, an insurance provider is willing to provide the service in the area, and the risk of another round of vandalism of the property has been well considered. Risks are out there and professional advice and due diligence on any investment is always necessary.
But first I must win those bids. Some astute investors seem to have spotted the same properties. Until then, I’ll keep scouting the site for more. Here great deals still do come by.
I also like it here not just because of my obvious bias towards ListedBy, but because I also don’t need to pay registration and technology fees like on most other auction sites. Nor do I have to contend with buyer premiums like most everywhere else. Here it’s all free. So each bite I take at my goal, goes further. In English? More dollars in my pocket to go towards buying more assets (with or without spousal approval), instead of handing them to the auctioneer.
There you have it. That’s one of my paths. I’m pulling ahead in the game of real estate just one small bite at a time, until the elephant is in the bag.
What is mind boggling is that we as an industry have struggled for years trying to figure how to move distressed inventory. Mind boggling because we have consistently hid the data behind cumbersome registration pages and access fees, and charged huge buyer premiums at auctions. To think that these are all strategies designed to move inventory is somewhat hard to believe. Open access rather, should be the path.
To top it all, many consumer portals and sites have made it tough for buyers to connect with listing agents or sellers, by giving preferred placement to their own internal agents next to the listing, if that’s their business model. Others featured and continue to feature alternative agents based on a paid advertising model, in the process keeping the true representing agent who knows the seller and the property best, and can answer questions more swiftly and accurately, at bay and harder to reach.
Such and other practices have either delayed or outright derailed potential transactions, and to this day continue to hinder wider, more efficient buyer participation so the assimilation of inventory may proceed at a more healthy pace.
We’re excited to announce that we have unlocked access to all listings on ListedBy, specifically because giving real estate buyers and sellers immediate and open access to listings and to each others’ contact information is core to ListedBy’s vision for the site and the industry as a whole. We see this as becoming the norm for all real estate property portals and real estate auction companies.
As always, we appreciate our users’ feedback and suggestions. Giving everyone instant access to all listings on ListedBy.com once again is the results of your valued input. Now anyone can research MLS listings across the country, residential and commercial. The same goes for all distressed properties including REO auctions, government real estate auctions, residential real estate auctions, commercial real estate auctions and all other public real estate auctions and Buy Now/Best Offer listings that are active on ListedBy.com.