Buyers seem to be out in force lately, which has again thrust my husband and me into warp-speed search-and-show mode. We are mostly focusing on the search part. Inventory remains low in our area, and with more than a half-dozen buyers with their fingers on the trigger, we have reached that idling stage with each. Having exhausted and eliminated all of the current offerings, our clients are waiting for new blood, and it is up to us to find it.

So, as I was scouring the MLS for some unturned stone this week, I came across another one of those listings. "Unbelievable," I giggled. "What’s unbelievable?" Steve asked. "They took a picture of the toilet."

Buyers seem to be out in force lately, which has again thrust my husband and me into warp-speed search-and-show mode. We are mostly focusing on the search part. Inventory remains low in our area, and with more than a half-dozen buyers with their fingers on the trigger, we have reached that idling stage with each. Having exhausted and eliminated all of the current offerings, our clients are waiting for new blood, and it is up to us to find it.

So, as I was scouring the MLS for some unturned stone this week, I came across another one of those listings. "Unbelievable," I giggled. "What’s unbelievable?" Steve asked. "They took a picture of the toilet." And this wasn’t just any commode photo, but a grainy, tilted, aerial shot of a toilet bowl in all of its glory, lid raised high in a most welcoming fashion. "That’s a really nice toilet," I conceded, though in all fairness most of the fixture itself was outside of the frame, so I was only speculating.

And that’s when it hit me. One of us was probably going to show this home anyway. The price was compelling. You see, buyers may say they want granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and a view of the Caspian Sea, and they may in fact really want those things, but what they really care about boils down to one thing — a great price. The rest is, shall we say, pepperoni on the pizza.

My dog, Simon, is similarly focused — his primarily concern is with food. Granted, he is not Scooby-Doo smart. I’ve long held the belief that he was dropped on his puppy head one too many times by his first owner. But then maybe he is smarter than I give him credit for. He generally spends his days in the prone position by the front door. Son of Sam could be flipping burgers in our backyard, but he would never leave his station near the door.

This is because he thinks that at any minute there might be a pizza on the other side. And it’s probably a good call, given the time the nice man tried to bring us our neighbor’s pizza. "I saw the street name," he apologized, gazing in wonderment at his dispatch instructions. "I just assumed." But, the point is, my dog is very focused, and so are today’s buyers. This is starting to cause me to rethink my marketing strategy.

My marketing strategy is a little like my dog’s other obsession in life: a certain bush. When he does abandon his pizza-readiness position, it is only to venture outside on a brief "mission." And once our mission is accomplished, every time, every day for the past eight years he has set the land speed record for one random bush among bushes down the street. He sniffs, he lingers, and not even the arrival of the pizza man can shatter his focus or call him home. There is nothing special about this one bush as far as I can tell, but the smell that must have initially attracted him is now familiar and comforting, so he keeps going back.

Which brings me back to my marketing plan. It was not too long ago that we were all proudly mounting our bonus, add-on sign riders. "I’m Special Inside!" they taunted. "Highly Upgraded!" they proclaimed. This approach is not only silly today, but I am starting to think it is defeating. I used to say that this market does not reward mediocrity, but I was speaking in terms of the quality of marketing and the condition of the property. Mediocrity is still a curse, but now it is the pricing middle ground that seems to be getting throttled.

Remember, buyers are concerned with one thing: price. If the price appears too low (think short sales and foreclosures), the home will fly off of the shelf with multiple offers and settle somewhere above full price. If the price appears too high or even on the money, offers will come in significantly below asking price. Ten percent seems to be this week’s magic number. Too low is good; too high is good. Priced right is feeling like a losing proposition.

So where does that leave me, one who has made a habit over the years of pricing based on what market data and not my Ouija board tells me? And what’s the point of all that costly marketing for our listings? I am starting to wonder if I am just revisiting that same familiar bush.

Do photos really matter? What about quality marketing? Does that matter? I tell you it matters when you interview me to sell your home, but maybe it just serves to market me, and not your property. I suspect a new sign-rider campaign, one that trash-talks the home, might be more effective. "This house is REALLY ugly!" I can almost smell the feeding frenzy. I could even secure the unique URL, ReallyUglyHouse.com, and pack it with pictures of a sink of unwashed dishes, the HVAC intake vent, and an old pair of sneakers. I could add a bunch of curious remarks like the ones I saw in the MLS this morning. "No repairs, no termite, no home warranty. No appliances are included. This is a major fixer. Backyard faces the freeway." If this doesn’t scream "buy me," I don’t know what does.

Now, to be fair, I know that buyers do consider more than just the price tag. For instance, we currently have a listing with a pool. Everyone who sees it doesn’t want a pool. They consider pools the work of the devil, in fact, while everyone who sees our listing around the corner without one considers pool-less status an insurmountable deficiency. But I know that for the right price, a lot of objections are overcome. In my case, one contingent would be racing home to fetch their excavation backhoe while the other would be signing up for swim lessons. So, I really am beginning to rethink our efforts on behalf of our clients.

Recently I have been toying with the idea of adding text-messaging cues to our signs and other marketing materials. Now I wonder if this latest advertising add-on isn’t just a waste, a marketing topping intended to tempt buyers who really only want the crust.

Still, I continue to forge blindly ahead trying to expand and enhance the exposure of our listings. Do more, spend more, try harder. This is what I have learned over the years. It is my bush. But then, I am showing a toilet this week, so what do I know?

Maybe I need to get out the weed whacker, plant some new seeds, and change my way of looking at my world. Or, I can sit back and wait for the return of the familiar.

If I hang out long enough, it will eventually be pizza night.

Kris Berg is broker-owner of San Diego Castles Realty. She also writes a consumer-focused real estate blog, The San Diego Home Blog.

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