There is no shortage of ways to get in trouble with consumers. Trust is always an issue between consumers and salespeople. We make money by selling a house, and that causes buyers to question our motives when we say the home is a great property or "now is the best time to buy real estate."
A couple of years ago, a reporter called because she was working on a big story. The story was about homes being listed on the multiple listing service and then taken off and relisted. I have been known to take my listings off the MLS and put them back on again, but the reporter was looking for a dishonest real estate agent — and that isn’t me.
After I declined the interview, she found another agent. The article seemed to make the agent out to be a bad guy, and I am sure that publicity did not help his career. I am a marketer, not a dishonest agent, and there is a difference.
My job is not to deceive buyers, but to present the homes I have listed in the best possible light. Even in today’s market, once a listing has been on the market for more than three months, buyers become suspicious that there is something wrong with it.
Buyers have little awareness of what market times should be, or what they once were. First-time homebuyers, in particular, have a negative reaction to homes that have been on the market six months or more.
As an agent, I would love to know: What is wrong with buying a home that has been on the market for six months or two years? There are so many other factors to consider. Where is the home located? How many times has the price been reduced? Has the home had repairs or improvements made to it since it was first listed?
Sometimes sellers will take less money for a home that has been on the market for months or years, and that could be a good thing for a homebuyer.
I admit that I have taken old listings off of the MLS and then put them back on again — with the seller’s permission, of course. I don’t consider it at all deceitful. New listings rise to the top when buyers search, and they trigger alerts. All of that is good for my sellers.
If a consumer asks me how long a home has been on the market, I give them a complete history. If they ask me the date that it was listed, I give it to them. I provide that information for my buyers on any home they are interested in.
There are other ways to make an older listing look fresh. One thing I like to do is put in a new picture of the front of the house when the season changes. That way it looks like a new listing.
Sometimes just moving the photographs around so that a new one comes up first will make a difference, and buyers will notice a home that has been on the market for months.
If a home is priced right and is located in the buyers’ preferred neighborhood and has the amenities and features that the buyer is looking for, it should not matter how long the home has been on the market.
If I am representing the sellers, it is my job to market the home and to make it look as appealing to buyers as possible.
If I have to make it look like a new listing to accomplish that, then that is what I will do.
Some homebuyers do not like my marketing techniques, but the sellers I work with like what I do and they expect me to do everything I can to sell their home.
I like to make the photographs of the home look better than the home does. Buyers are sometimes surprised when the rooms seem smaller than they appear in photographs. I provide accurate room dimensions in the MLS, so they should not be surprised by rooms that look larger in the photos.
With each room I take care to photograph it so that it looks good. Most everything that is sold over the Internet or marketed on the Internet relies on photography. Food always looks better on websites or in magazines than it does on my plate, yet not all people who create such magazine ads are considered deceptive marketers.
Eventually, consumers will have all of the information about homes on the market that agents have. I think that will be a good thing. Consumers really should not have to ask how long a home has been on the market, and I shouldn’t have to explain to a reporter why "relisting" a home is not dishonest.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.
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