Creating a real estate listing and uploading it to your MLS is a fairly routine operation. With so much of the real estate world focused online, though, agents should spend more time strategically looking at the way their listings are formatted. Creating an MLS listing isn’t just a mundane task for your assistant, and seemingly innocuous habits that you may have fallen into over time might actually be undermining your ability to sell the property.

Don’t “99” your way out of a sale

Real estate agents have used the old $9.99 marketing gimmick forever. Newspapers, magazine ads and fliers theoretically enticed more buyers by listing a $500,000 house at $499,999 or some other similarly insignificant lesser price.

That same home, listed online, is actually losing buyer traffic because of its pricing gimmick. The reason is simple, and it should be an obvious reason to never use the “99” pricing model again.

Online buyers search in zeros. Buyer A searches for homes from $400,000 to $500,000. Buyer B searches for homes from $500,000 to $600,000. That’s the way MLSs, portals and agents’ websites have set up the pricing parameters. With a listing priced at $500,000, both Buyer A and Buyer B will see the home. Priced at $499,999, Buyer B won’t see it.

It’s tempting to believe that you’d miss out on only a small percentage of buyers or that most buyers won’t set a “lowest price” in their search, but it’s simply wrong. Our company has a database of around 10,000 users, and we track their searches on our websites. While there are a few “bargain hunters,” the vast majority of users set a fairly tight price range in their searches. They know what they can afford and don’t want to waste time looking in a price range that they know won’t fit their needs.

Don’t let your listing miss out with a $1 gimmick. Ninety percent of buyers are searching online. Price the home the way buyers search.

More photos just might mean fewer buyers

We’re inundated with advice on how to get more exposure for our listings online. Having as many photos as possible will supposedly increase the quality of our listings. MLSs are expanding the number of photos allowed in listings, often to 25 or more.

Creating the most breadth of digital media for your listing might be a good goal if you worked for a portal. They need more content to drive traffic. Your job, on the other hand, is to sell the home.

If nine great photos are the best way to entice a buyer to visit the home, why upload 25? There are 3.5 bathrooms in the home. You’ve input that data, but why add a photo of the unattractive basement bath? If a potential buyer gets a warm fuzzy feeling when viewing a half dozen photos of the home’s best features, why let that feeling die in the dregs of utility rooms and garages?

It might sound cynical, but you’re not in the business of creating the wikipedia of real estate images. You’re working for your bottom line and your sellers’ satisfaction. Any agent with experience will tell you that a buyer’s list of 20 “must-haves” can be cut in half when they walk into the home that just feels right. Creating an inaccurate presentation of the home wouldn’t be ethical, but choosing not to focus on a home’s less-than-optimal features is just logical.

Limiting the photo presentation you create in your MLS listing allows you to curate the visual experience potential buyers will have online. If you’ve got 25 great photos, post them. If not, put on your marketing hat, and be strategic with which photos you publish.

Don’t give away the virtual tour link

Many MLSs allow agents to include a link to a virtual tour, video tour, or some other digital media that markets the home and doesn’t reside within the MLS. This link is pure gold, and often overlooked.

Your MLS is granting you an opportunity to link out from their website, other agents’ websites and even some portals to wherever you’d like. It’s a chance for you to direct a buyer on someone else’s site to your own personal marketing. This link should never be left blank.

Where you direct that link is important. Each MLS will have its own rules, but there’s often some flexibility in terms of what kind of content must be linked to. Agents will often link to a virtual tour on a third-party provider’s website. There may be some marketing and contact information on that site, but the potential buyer is landing on a virtual tour company’s website, not yours.

Placing your videos, virtual tours and any other digital media on a single page on your own website gives you the opportunity to direct the MLS link back to that page. Search engines will notice all of those links pointing back to your website regarding that listing. Potential buyers visiting any number of other sites will land on your website when they click the virtual tour link.

When these buyers land on your website, you control the message, and create a much higher chance of direct contact. You’ll be recognized as the primary source of information for this home. Even if this ends up not being their dream home, the buyers may just continue to search for other homes on your site. Either way, the virtual tour link has a lot of value. Don’t let it go to waste.

Sam DeBord is managing broker of Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth, and a state director for Washington Realtors. You can find his team at and

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