6 Steps to Marketing Your Home

By Steve Flanagan

It’s a simple concept: The more people who are interested in your home the greater the likelihood your home will sell quickly and for a fair price. Just like any business, marketing your home is all about creating an interested audience from which your ideal buyer emerges.

In the past, anyone opting to sell without an agent lost out on crucial exposure. As the leading by owner website, ForSaleByOwner.com has leveled this playing field with a range of choices intended to generate maximum exposure and, at the same time, ensure sellers have complete control of their marketing dollars.

How long will it take to create a marketing plan, put it into action and prepare a home for showing? We wish there were a simple answer, but the truth is it depends. All houses and home sellers are different.

By the time you’re ready to roll out your marketing campaign you’ll need to be 100 percent ready to show your home, so the time required to complete your marketing phase is highly dependent on how much time is needed to get everything just right. Here’s how to estimate how much time it will take for you to get your marketing materials together.

1. Create a Marketing Timeline
First, build time into your schedule as appropriate to complete your preparations for showing including cleaning and decluttering your home. That part of the equation will depend heavily on how in-depth your efforts need to be. If the necessary decluttering and cleaning are minimal, you might only need a week or two of additional time to complete those chores. If you need to re-paint rooms, fix doors or windows that don’t work properly, or move a significant amount of furniture and personal items out of your home, that process might take a month.

Next, estimate the time it will take to decide upon the elements of your marketing plan and create/order/receive the materials you need. Include time to:

• Choose your marketing tools
• Write a listing ad
• Take and edit photos
• Post listing live on the Internet

Estimated time: 2 weeks (3 weeks if your plan is complicated)

The key is to make your timeline realistic. If it seems tight, add a few days or a week just to be sure you’re ready to show so when your first visitor arrives your house is your greatest marketing asset.

2. Write a Great Listing Ad
Nothing entices potential buyers more than how you describe and display your home. According to NAR, in 2013 nearly 80 percent of buyers rated photos and detailed information about properties for sale the most useful website features. (See Step 4 regarding photos).

Typically a listing sheet will include all the basics such as price, location, age of the home and the number of rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms. It highlights the most important features of your home and it’s the place to play up aspects of the property that might not be obvious, such as an idyllic backyard or the potential to house multiple generations.

The listing description is also the heart of your marketing both online and off. You might have to shorten it for some uses but the description will play into every marketing effort from the listing sheet you will hand out at showings to online descriptions to property brochures and flyers.

Once you have a good property description, you will find it easy to create any of these marketing tools since you’ve already done the hard work. So spending time to come up with the best property description you can devise is worth the effort. Play up the best features of the house. Also be sure to emphasize recent upgrades and improvements. If you have a unique location, make sure to note that as well.

The number one rule of writing a great ad is to be direct and to-the-point. Leading with the home’s selling price will immediately attract serious buyers to your ad. In addition to the selling price and terms, this first line should include the home’s location since many home buyers only skim through property listings looking for homes in areas of their liking. Include terms that will appeal to both search engines and knowledgeable neighbors: the zip code; a nearby well-known street or intersection; the nickname of the neighborhood; the name of the historic district, if your house is in one.

The next phase of writing your ad is describing the qualities of the house itself. First, mention the number of bedrooms in your house, then dive into the attributes that make your house stand out. And really focus in on features (e.g., a large updated kitchen that leads into a backyard deck) rather than positive maintenance factors (new roof, newly painted bedrooms, etc.). An appraiser will acknowledge your positive maintenance record. Your listing needs to sell buyers on how terrific the home is at its heart.

When you are finished, step away from your computer for a while, then come back and review what you wrote with a critical eye. Edit your ad in ways that you feel make it stronger, then enlist a relative, neighbor or friend to look over the ad and give you feedback. Hint: it might be especially effective to have someone who has recently bought a new home review your ad.

You’re now ready to tell the world about your home by posting your listing ad on ForSalebyOwner.com, social media sites and the Multiple Listing Service. (See related articles for advice about listing online and using the MLS).

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Review our listing packages, including MLS options, and decide which one is right for you.

3. Select Your Additional Marketing Tools
Our site is chock-full of marketing ideas you can put to use in your selling process. Check out our Marketing Toolkit to get started, then choose the marketing and options that are a fit for you. For a very small investment, we’ll get you the signs, brochures and other visible marketing tools you’ll need to put your best foot forward with potential buyers.

4. Take Photos, Inside and Out
As you build a marketing plan that will put your home front and center in buyers’ eyes, there’s no substitute for taking great photos of your home, inside and out. When a home buyer first makes contact with your home (online, no doubt), if your price, location and features are attractive, displaying your home in its best light will go a long way toward sealing that buyer’s desire to visit your home.

Here’s the most important Do: Take Photos. And the most important Don’t: Include family members and pets in your photos. It’s about your home, not how your family fits into your home. Before you start, review our preparing how-to guide to be certain you’ve covered all your bases in preparing your home inside and out before taking photos.

Unless you are a solid amateur photographer consider hiring a pro, it’s well worth spending a few hundred dollars to have photos taken by a professional who has experience photographing homes. If hiring a pro is not in your budget, maybe you have a friend who’s good at taking photos who’ll do you a favor.

If you handle your own photography, before you shoot view photos from featured homes on ForSaleByOwner.com to get ideas for the types of photos that appeal to buyers. And don’t skimp on the number of photos you take. Set aside several hours to do a thorough job taking photos from many angles inside and out, and fill your camera’s photo gallery with lots of options for you to choose from when you select photos to include with your listing. For more guidance, read “Great Photos Make Buyers Respond,” and review our photography checklist and gallery.

5. Choose Your Routes to Get Online
Your journey starts online, no surprise in this day and age. But would it surprise you to find out that more than half of home buyers begin their home search online and 89 percent use the Internet in their home search? As a result of viewing a home online, 66 percent took the next step and toured the property. Of all the different sources of information regarding homes, the Internet was the one buyers relied upon most frequently.

Start with ForSaleByOwner, of course. Our listing page will take you step by step through the process and help you choose the listing/marketing package that is right for you. ForSaleByOwner.com is the #1 ranked self-seller website in the world, based on traffic, and one of the nation’s top real estate sites.

All ForSaleByOwner packages Include:

• High-quality online property listing placed on ForSaleByOwner.com, with nearly 2 million visitors per month
• Ability to post 6 color photos and add a virtual tour link
• Online guidance for writing a property description up to 1,000 words
• Access to our new interactive tools that guide you through the sale by owner process
• Additional options and guidance

Consider an MLS Listing
Here’s a statistic you should know: More than 80 percent of homes are sold through the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). You could be among the one in five sellers who don’t sell through the MLS, but if you decide not to go this route you are decreasing your odds of a successful sale within a desirable time frame.

When you choose ForSaleByOwner’s MLS listing service for a flat fee your home will be listed on our site and you gain access to the predominant real estate listing system while still saving thousands of dollars through selling by owner. What does listing on the MLS bring you? More exposure. And not just a little more exposure. A lot more exposure. Many buyers use real estate agents, and these agents use the MLS as their main tool to find homes for their buyers.

In addition to ForSaleByOwner and the MLS, your property then will be listed on Realtor.com through their affiliation with the Multiple Listing Service. The combined number of potential buyers who visit this group of websites is estimated at over 10 million per month.

After you upgrade, ForSaleByOwner.com refers your property to a member of our network who handles your local area. The agent does not charge a commission and will not accept a commission for the service (we pay our network real estate agents a flat fee to list your property). With the listing agent’s commission out of the picture only the buyer’s agent is left to pay, obligating you to pay only 2-3 percent when the property sells.

For an investment that is less than one half of one percent of the median price of homes sold in the U.S. in 2013 ($210,000 according to the National Association of Realtors), ForSaleByOwner customers can reap the benefits of not paying a seller’s agent commission while exposing their listing to a vast audience. And, of course, if a buyer contacts you through ForSaleByOwner you don’t have to pay any commission whatsoever.

Use Social Media
Once your listing is live on ForSaleByOwner (and the MLS if you choose), broaden your reach even further by taking advantage of various social media sites with high visibility and volume. Consider Facebook, Craigslist and other on-line services to spread the word about your listing. Let people know via Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Someone you know may know someone else who’d be a great fit for your home, so spread the word far and wide.

6. Keep It Fresh (the care and feeding of your marketing plan)
You’re ready to put your marketing plan into action. But that doesn’t mean you become passive once it’s live.

Once your home listing is posted on ForSalebyOwner.com and the Internet sites you feel will work best for you, monitor visitor traffic to your online listing and update your ad as circumstances change. A static listing ad becomes stale quickly. Update often as you move through the selling journey, particularly as you get feedback directly from buyers during showings and through ForSaleByOwner.com’s Buyer Feedback tool.

Good luck on your selling journey. We’re confident our tools and guidance will help make it a success.