Interesting case study from the North Jersey Record, profiling a homeowner’s attempt to sell their house online.
Six months ago, an appraiser put the value of the house at $419,000. Tina had the Web site up and running by the beginning of November. She included loads of pictures, room dimensions, amenities in the Ringwood area and links to the local public school site.
She advertises the house in The Record, The New York Times Real Estate section online, and ForSaleByOwner.com, and has signs around her home noting the Web site. She also does something that worked well for her in promoting the inn: She pays $1 a click to yahoo.com to direct to her Web site searchers who type in the keywords “North Jersey real estate” or “New Jersey real estate.” She has a limit of $10 a day so that she doesn’t go broke with clickers.
You can see the site the owner created here: Ringwood, New Jersey, House for Sale
While it doesn’t blow me away design-wise, it is functional and they have done a lot of interesting things here, such as using PPC advertising. But there are a few missteps that I think can be highlighted from their example.
1. Make Sure You Code to Standards
Without getting too deep into the geek-speak, make sure your web site validates properly. Basically that means that you’re using the right syntax and formal grammar in your HTML code so that your site renders nicely.
I am using Firefox and the site is broken on a couple of pages. Photos on some of the secondary pages blow out all over the page and it looks pretty ugly. Thankfully the home page is pretty much intact.
The take away here. Test your site in as many browsers as possible, at the very least Internet Explorer and Firefox.
Consider installing a WordPress blog and using a template to alleviate many of these problems.
2. Remember The Internet is a Global Audience
Write your web site copy with a global audience in mind. Don’t assume I know where Cupsaw corner store is or even why Cupsaw Drive is a desirable place to live. Providing local context is great but remember, an Internet buyer might not be coming from the same city or even the same state. Which leads me to my next point…
3. Show Me a Map
At the very least you should provide some Google Maps links to the property so I can see a map of where you are. Better yet, embed a Google Map right in your web site, GMapEZ can help get you started. If you’re slightly more web savvy and can handle a couple lines of PHP, try Phoogle Maps 2.0
But why stop at mapping your geographical location? MapLib.net lets you upload your own photographs and superimpose the great Google Map interface, including map markers. You could use this to add greater detail to a floor plan, for example.
4. Use All Available Advertising Options
They’ve got the listing on craigslist, but what about edgeio, vast, oodle, Google Base and all the others? Overwhelmed? Remember, tools like vFlyer and Postlets can help you deal with marketplace overload.
Also, nothing from the home owner on Zillow right now. Granted their Make Me Move and Post For Sale tools are still very new, so some people may still be (shockingly!) unaware of their existence. But they are great way to potentially get some new eyeballs on your listings.
5. Make your own virtual tour
Lots of talk about this these days – how you can use Youtube to host a virtual tour of your property. I still like Microsoft Photo Story 3 as a quick and easy (and free!) way to stitch together a slideshow of your home. You can take the WMV file it cranks out and host it with Youtube or any of the alternatives that exist (see Video Hosting Alternatives to Youtube).
Putting any of these options on your site is usually just a matter of cutting and pasting some HTML code onto your page.
Do all of the above and you’ll have a decent shot of marketing your home successfully online.