What do owners of expired listings really want to know about you and your real estate services? The answer may surprise you.

Barb Van Stensel, an agent for Keller Williams in Chicago, shared an interesting piece of data about what she is hearing from the owners of expired listings these days. The first question is not, "Why didn’t my house sell?" or "What are you going to do that will get my house sold?" Instead, the question that Barb is hearing repeatedly is, "Do you have a second job?"

What do owners of expired listings really want to know about you and your real estate services? The answer may surprise you.

Barb Van Stensel, an agent for Keller Williams in Chicago, shared an interesting piece of data about what she is hearing from the owners of expired listings these days. The first question is not, "Why didn’t my house sell?" or "What are you going to do that will get my house sold?" Instead, the question that Barb is hearing repeatedly is, "Do you have a second job?" These sellers, whose properties have been on the market and have not sold, are justifiably concerned about their agent’s ability to help them close their sale.

When a seller asks whether an agent is part time or full time, the real issue is whether the agent has the necessary skill set to close the sale. Just being "full time" doesn’t address this issue. Across the country, managers are struggling with how to inspire their full-time agents to "get out of bed and come to the office in the morning." In contrast, there are plenty of agents who are having their best year ever. What makes successful agents in this market different?

1. They have a positive mindset
Most sellers realize how tough it is to sell a property in today’s environment. They want an agent who is optimistic and upbeat while also being realistic about market conditions. The agents who are succeeding have a "bring it on" attitude towards the market.

2. They use market statistics to help sellers correctly price their properties
Agents who are succeeding in today’s market know how to use the inventory statistics, days on market, and other key indicators to help sellers understand what will be required if they want to sell now.

3. They use holding costs to illustrate the perils of overpricing a listing
When prices are declining, estimating property values using comparable sales data is difficult. The reason for this is simple: Today’s comparable sales represent what the prices were 60 to 90 days ago. If the market is declining, then the property is actually worth less than the comparable sales suggest. The result can be an overpriced listing. For example, assume a $300,000 property is in an area where property values are declining at a rate of 6 percent per year. Monthly payments including principal, interest, taxes and insurance (PITI) are $3,000 per month. To calculate actual holding costs, you must add the loss of value to the PITI. In the example above, that would be $3,000 for PITI and another $1,500 due to decline in value. Each month the property does not sell means that the seller is out an additional $4,500. If the property stays on the market for six months, that’s an additional $27,000 in holding costs. Successful agents also use this powerful tool to obtain price reductions.

4. They target-market high-probability buyers
While price drives virtually every sale, understanding who the high-probability buyers are for a listing will help you sell it more quickly. For example, if you are representing a first-time-buyer property, your largest pool of buyers will be in the more expensive apartment buildings in the area. To reach these buyers by mailing, you will need a strong marketing message, such as, "Tired of rent increases? Lock in the ‘rent’ you pay for the next 30 years." You could also ask a provocative question such as, "Did you pay your landlord’s mortgage payment again this month? Contact me to learn how to start building your wealth — not your landlord’s!"

5. They know how to obtain maximum marketing exposure for their listings
In order to gain maximum exposure to the market, today’s most successful agents use both traditional and Web 2.0 strategies. They use their print advertising to drive buyers and sellers to their Web site. They have compelling copy on their site that motivates visitors to contact the agent about their listings. These agents also include plenty of pictures, video, blogging, links to various community services, plus an IDX feed so visitors can obtain everything they need in a single stop.

6. They have standards
In today’s market, it is a waste of time and money to work with buyers or sellers who are unwilling to address the realities of the market. If sellers are unrealistic, these agents refuse to take the listing. If the buyers are unwilling to be pre-approved, they don’t represent them.

7. They monitor results and eliminate what is not working
Today, more than ever, real estate sales success results when you focus on what’s working in your business. Failure to track where your leads originate or to follow up on every lead generated is a costly mistake. Today’s successful agents use Web 2.0 strategies to track where leads originate and concentrate their efforts there. They also are aggressive about eliminating any marketing activity that doesn’t produce results.

If you’re struggling with your business, applying the strategies above can be your route to business success regardless of what the market does.

Bernice Ross, national speaker and CEO of Realestatecoach.com, is the author of "Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters" and "Who’s the Best Person to Sell My House?" Both are available online. She can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com or visit her blog at LuxuryClues.com.

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