‘Coming soon’ listing strategies are so last year

Broker Notebook

I know I am supposed to be all excited about Zillow’s “Coming Soon” feature, but I am not.

For the past two years the inventory of homes for sale was tight, and “coming soon” listings created some excitement. But now times are changing, at least in my local market.

Salesman image via Shutterstock.
Salesman image via Shutterstock.

As the inventory of homes continues to grow, coming soon is starting to sound like a sleazy sales pitch.

Hello, 2013 just called and they want their marketing strategy back.

A couple of years before Zillow introduced the new “Coming Soon” feature, real estate agents were putting out lawn signs indicating that the home would soon be on the market. Those agents were able to tap into the group of desperate homebuyers competing with one another over too few homes for sale.

The agents told the homeowners that they were providing this amazing service by prelisting the home. At the same time, the calls that came in from interested buyers either became new leads or buyers the listing agent could work with so he or she could get both sides of the sale.

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Informal pre-MLS groups formed in Facebook. For a while pre-MLS listings were so common that we were worried that someone would decide to start a pre-pre-MLS.

For a while pre-MLS listings were so common that we were worried that someone would decide to start a pre-pre-MLS."

Those of us who are with small companies are concerned that some big brokerages may be controlling the inventory and helping to keep inventory off the market. We don’t see how keeping deals “in house” can benefit sellers or buyers, and we kind of resent the big company and their private, in-house listings and market.

When the local market was hot and homes were selling with multiple offers the day they hit the market, “coming soon” listings attracted buyers like crazy and helped agents get both sides of the sale.

It was a lot of fun. The market was white hot with pent-up demand, and buyers who were in a hurry to take advantage of the lowest interest rates ever.

Now that the market is shifting a bit, the prelisting system is still out there. But the rest of us no longer see it as a threat — more like an agent or client recruiting tool, or just a sleazy marketing tactic.

Real estate is local and the national websites just cannot keep up with the local trends in each market. In some markets, “coming soon” is a big deal.

But I think it is safe to predict that eventually something else will become the next big thing in real estate marketing.

The national websites may seem relevant and important to potential homebuyers, and maybe they are. But it’s hard for me to see a relationship between my real estate business and the national websites. Most days I cannot find a pattern, probably because I don’t capture leads.

When other agents ask me what I think about Zillow’s latest move, I have to be honest. Most days I am so busy working with my clients that I don’t really have time to notice what is happening on the third-party websites. It all seems so far removed from selling homes.

The logic is that homebuyers, in particular, use the Internet to find homes for sale. If I advertise on third-party websites, that somehow translates into business. But no one can tell me how many of the people who use sites like Zillow are going to buy a home in my market — or any home at all, ever.

Other real estate agents and people in the industry can worry about buying ZIP codes and premium accounts and attending webinars on how to do most anything, even if it won’t help them sell real estate. I will focus on my clients and my non-third-party website marketing.

There are plenty of homebuyers and sellers who like to use the third-party sites, but they choose me as their agent instead of one of the faces with the stars and the reviews next to the real estate listings. I have never considered any website a competitor, because I provide a completely different set of services than any of the websites provide.

I am sure I can be replaced, but I know it won’t be by a third-party real estate portal that cannot survive without agent dollars.

Real estate is local, but in my market the whole “coming soon” thing was over several months ago. I hope as more homeowners have enough equity to sell, we continue to see a strong real estate market, but one that is more in balance between buyers and sellers.

Our real estate market is strong, but “coming soon” is no longer a clever marketing strategy. I can’t wait to see what the next big thing will be.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.


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