MASTERFUL DECEPTION: Are real estate agents masters of marketing properties? Or are they simply masters of deceiving people into thinking that?

Marketing. When listing your property for sale, what does it mean to you? More importantly, what does it mean to your agent? Will they diagnose and implement strategies that work to get your home sold? Or will the listing be exploited for additional leads and business to the agent?

If you’ve bought and sold real estate, whether that’s a single home, or dozens of investment properties, you undoubtedly have heard the promises that agents make.

“Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner, the reason you should work with me, and that I can sell your home faster, for more money, is because of my marketing arsenal and proven 113 point marketing plan.” Of course, I can’t know your gut reaction. Maybe you’re impressed by the “113 point marketing plan”.

Or, maybe you’re not.

Maybe your B.S. detector is firing off, so loud it sounds like a howler monkey, causing a ringing in your ears that can be heard all around you. Maybe you say to yourself “Really? You have a marketing arsenal?” or if your more vocal, you demand to see this “113 point unicorn” to be able to scrutinize it’s legitimacy for yourself.

And, upon doing so, you might see things that have nothing to do with marketing or tasks like “have photos taken”, “feature home on websites”, “make a flyer”, “post home on social media”, “ promote home with an email blast”, “hold an open house” “feature home in newspaper ad”. Every little task is itemized… “Put sign in ground”, “Install lockbox” etc.

Aren’t these more like administrative tasks that should be the basics of every agent’s “system?” At this point, you may begin to question if any special skills or expertise is required for all of this, or if someone is guilty of exaggeration to make themselves look and sound [more] important?

Regardless, when it comes to the marketing/advertising of your home; don’t ever forget—whether your home sells or not, the listing helps the agent generate more business.

Think about it.. on the “For Sale” sign, on the flyers, on the social media posts and online exposure.. who’s name and contact information is being advertised? Theirs, theris and theirs. Whether you like it or not, your property listing acts as a giant billboard for that agent, helping generate more leads for them.

And, as a crucial side note, this is the very reason why some agents will tell the homeowner anything and everything they want to hear, in an effort to “buy the listing”… whatever it takes to get that sign in the ground. As a word of caution; if the agent is overly in love with what you’ve done to your home, if they agree with absolutely everything you say, constantly paying compliments—BEWARE.

If the agent seems to be trying too hard to justify a higher value than you expected, or panders to how right you are for thinking your home is worth more. BEWARE.

Hey— Maybe it’s true. Maybe your home is worth more, BUT – don’t be so quick to dismiss the possibility that you’re being fast-talked by a salesman with a silver tongue.

Again, I can’t know your response (or anyone else’s) to the promises that agents make. I can only share with folks some unfortunately common scenarios to beware of and ways to separate fact from fiction, truth from deception.
Like when agents glamorize and exaggerate relatively basic actions as elaborate marketing systems.

For example, let’s take what is considered by many as the “holy grail” of today’s real estate marketing:
Internet/Website Syndication. Look, there’s no doubt that your property listing’s online exposure is absolutely critical. You’ll hear just about every Realtor® mention the statistic of “ ninety__ percent of home buyers begin their search online” because it’s absolutely true. So yes, by all means — take heed to that. But how is that syndication created, exactly? I’m not sure what all you’ve been told about this process. Maybe the truth. Or maybe something along the lines of “I will then work hard to get the listing to appear on approximately 50 of the most popular real estate search sites in the world” or “ I will then put my systems in place to propagate your home across the internet.” And perhaps some take that at face value, mesmerized like the audience of a magic show, while others might wish to know more details and see the mechanical room of this web based spectacle.

Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but what it all boils down to is simply entering data into the MLS. To be fair, this process does take some time. They’ll upload pictures of the property and select pre-defined fields like number of bedrooms, heat source, etc. Once that is done, they’ll add a description of the property (which should be appealing and accurate) then, with a push of a button—shazaam!—your home is live all across the internet.

All of this is either done personally by the agent or their assistant. Either way, the MLS system is solely responsible for getting the listing to appear on numerous real estate sites/search engines across the web. So really, at the end of the day, it’s not so much a part of the agent’s brilliant marketing system, but more so their access to the MLS.

Another common scenario, and perhaps the most neglecting and deceitful to homeowners is when the extent of an agent’s “marketing plan” is to simply advertise the home and generate leads. Now wait a minute… you might be thinking “what’s the big deal? How else are you going to find a buyer?” True, but it’s a disservice to just stop there.

Advertising/ Lead generation is not marketing. Anyone can generate leads. Lead generation, like media choice, is but one component in the framework of many moving pieces. Lead generation has an objective; to generate leads. Marketing has a different objective;To return positive or maximum ROI… ideally, by attracting the right buyers in a compelling manner that justifies your home as the only home, or best home for them.

Take ‘open houses’ for example. A couple years ago there was an article originally posted on Realtor.com titled “The Dirty Secret About Open Houses: They’re Not About Selling Houses”. As you might imagine, this ruffled a lot of feathers in the real estate community. To me, and perhaps to you, this “dirty little secret” has never been a secret. The sham of the open house is a topic I’ve written about before in a separate article (miss it? email me for a copy). It even occupies a section in my book, in Chapter 6, titled, “Fundamental Mistake #4: if it sounds like hot air and b.s…”

In the article, the author supports his point;

“The real reason agents line up to do open houses is: to recruit clients. Open houses are training and recruiting platforms for new agents, or agents who do not yet have listings of their own… Yes, they exist to sell homes, but they also exist to sell brokers… Your house is the agent’s best free marketing platform around.”

Obviously this doesn’t come as a surprise to you. Or does it? The author continues;

“I spent 10 years as a real estate agent in Chicago, and weekend open houses were my rookie agent boot camp.”

That sentence, I should point out, is indicative of any real estate agent who insists that an open house is a brilliant marketing tool. Most likely, they are just getting started, or simply don’t know (or care) of any better ways to promote clients’ homes. So, they work to convince homeowners (you) that open houses are a “must use” real estate tool. Even when accredited/savvy agents hold open houses,“it,” to them, is more an opportunity to demonstrate (to you) that they’re “working for you,” than to actually sell a home.

As stated in that article, the bottom line is;

“Real estate websites have replaced them [open houses]. Most buyers find houses online in the middle of the night, when the kids are asleep, comparing one listing site to the next, clicking through slideshows, and scanning every angle of every photo. Websites, virtual tours, and virtually furnished floor plans are all used to find houses buyers deem worthy of actually visiting. Qualified buyers simply won’t waste time visiting houses they haven’t already checked out online.”

How about social media promotions? They can certainly be an effective form of property marketing, but have you taken the time to really analyze them— the content, the message, how they are presented and the overall structure?
In the post, is it simply an announcement of the listing/call to action with a link to the agent’s website? Or does it incorporate more detail, like a preview of your home’s story?

Maybe it is a video of the agent at your house. Now it takes some courage to hold a phone up to your face and record yourself, but what is being said? Are they walking the property, showcasing distinct features in order to provoke and intrigue the right buyers to come see for themselves? Or does the agent have the camera centered on them the whole time as they merely ramble about the property, with one call to action after another… “you have to come see it”… “don’t wait”… “Call me today” etc.? Then simply ask yourself… how was my home presented? What was specifically said or shown in an effort to help people feel the need to get their feet on the ground?

With text based/print ads; what is the focal point—your home, or the agent? Really, take a second to size up the amount of space used for the agent’s head shot, their contact info, and their call to action vs. the space used to promote your property.

What do you see more of; appealing photo(s) of your home along with an intriguing description—or—a photo and bleak sentence or two along with a giant headshot of the agent followed by a call to action in size 48 font that say that says “Contact ______ for more info”, “Search the
MLS on my website”, etc. ?

For the record, it is required by the state real estate commission that any listing ad must disclose the agent/ brokerage name. But when a substantial part of the ads are consumed by an agent’s self-promotion and perhaps distracts from showcasing the home(s), you must ask… is that fair to me? Is the agent working for me or themselves?
Of course, some ad space doesn’t allow for much detail. And sure, someone might very well inquire about your home and end up buying it all stemming from an ad. However, there is another strategy to beware of for the majority of the time that doesn’t happen.

This is when the agent will knowingly leave out important information and details in the advertising of the home, thus positioning them as “gatekeepers” of said information, essentially forcing people to contact them. That way, even if your home lacks in must have criteria for certain buyers, the agent will still pick up those leads for other deals.
The conversation goes like this:
Buyer:“ Hi, I’m calling about the house at 123 main street… does it have 3 bedrooms? My wife and I have two kids so we need at least 3.”
Agent: “It does not, but let me show you a few that do”

You should watch for important details left out in the listing description for your property as well. For example, let’s say your property has fishing rights and in the description your agent writes… “be sure to ask me about fishing rights!”. Ok, that works, but how about… “ right out the back door, you and your guests can enjoy exclusive fishing rights on a ½ mile of gold-medal water”. Either way, it is made known that there are fishing rights, but really, is leaving out the details necessary? Why make obtaining the listing information difficult? Exactly how does that do you any favors? I’ll let you be the judge.

To be clear, the problem is not that agents gain additional business from their listings. In some cases, that’s just a function of knowing what you’re doing, treating people right, and running a successful business.
The problem is when advertising/lead generation is the extent of the “marketing efforts”, thus failing to implement additional strategies tailored specifically to get your home sold.

Even though the industry norm and status quo might label certain tasks as “marketing”; the mere act of doing them doesn’t necessarily mean it is, but rather how they are done.

If the agent has provided you with an outline of what they do, but nothing else, you should ask for more. Ask for the details behind their approach and case studies to verify how it has helped create success for clients. Request copies of their advertising and marketing content/pieces, then test it all with a series of questions like…. exactly how does this promote my property in the best light? How is my home’s story being told? Is it communicated as a solution to buyers’ needs/concerns in a compelling manner?

Many people confuse marketing with advertising/ lead generation. Online listing views don’t grow hands, write up an offer, then give you money at the closing table. Newspaper ads alone don’t sell your home either. You could hang the listing flyer on the door of every single home in America, but when people come to see it and there’s no components of value supporting the asking price, or even worse, critical flaws left unattended that greatly deter from perceived value; that just equates to more people thinking it’s a bad investment.

From my experience, and my clients’ results, when it comes to real estate marketing, it’s not all about how to simply make more people aware that your home is for sale, or the persuasiveness of a silver- tongued salesman, but rather; knowing what your market wants to buy. And no ‘113 point plan’, open house, Facebook post, real estate search site, or flyer is going to solve that for you.

It is an ever-evolving process and exactly why I’ll always consider myself a student of real estate markets. How do we enhance the property in the minds of prospective buyers in addition to all the advertising, fancy websites and other shiny objects?
These aren’t just things to hmmm and ha over, but rather critical elements that create the very foundation for an effective real estate marketing approach [in addition to getting your home sold and maximizing ROI]