Homebuyers ask for pictures and they want lots of them. They want great photographs that they can look at on their computer screens, tablets or smartphones.
The way buyers look for homes has really changed now that everything is on the Internet. Marketing homes on the Internet is old news for real estate agents and for homebuyers, but home sellers have not caught on.
Homeowners who purchased their last home in the 1980s, ’90s or the early ’00s remember going to open houses and looking at newspaper advertisements. For many homeowners, the process of selling a home hasn’t changed since then.
As a result, they may not even be asking their real estate agent the right questions. Instead of asking us how many open houses we plan on doing, they should be asking us if we plan to hire a professional photographer.
Those same homeowners don’t really pay much attention or even notice the poor photographs of their home on the Internet. You know, the ones with the dimly lit rooms and the bright yellow date stamps across the bottom of the photograph.
Technology really has changed the way homes are marketed. Effective marketing happens on multiple websites with photography and words. Each picture is seen by thousands of people instead of the two to 10 people who show up at the open house.
There isn’t anything wrong with having an open house. Many agents use open houses as a way to prospect, and real estate companies like it when agents put out all of those open house signs with the real estate company logo on them. It’s good for business.
Open houses are also a great way for agents to represent both the buyer and the seller, which means more money for the real estate agent.
Homeowners believe the open house is going to sell their house. They don’t understand that there is actually a much bigger pool of qualified buyers out there — including people who cannot got to open houses on Sunday afternoons.
Home sellers don’t really see us working unless we are holding an open house. Marketing on the Internet is still an abstract concept for most, and it doesn’t really seem like the kind of work a seller wants to pay thousands of dollars for.
Some home sellers will act all impressed when I talk about photography and the kind of visual marketing experience I need to create to get the attention of homebuyers. But if I asked them to choose between digital marketing and having open houses, many would choose the open house because they understand it.
If photography was important to home sellers, they would insist on better pictures. They would ask agents for samples of how they market homes on the Internet, rather than asking them if they will do an open house every weekend and if they will pay for print advertising.
As an industry, if we really want to improve the homebuying process, we need to start working on the home selling process. We need to educate homeowners on how today’s homebuyers will shop for their next home. We need to help them understand that things may have changed since they purchased their home.
Superb interior photographs displayed on the Internet will get more qualified buyers into a home than an open house. We need to get home sellers up to speed on how the Internet has changed the homebuying process — even though it is probably easier and less expensive for real estate agents to just do open houses.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.