The two primary factors that determine if and when your home will sell are exposure and price. Exposure that counts is exposure that reaches buyers who are the most willing, ready, and able to buy.
Setting the right price is crucial because under-pricing is like giving money away, and over-pricing is just a waste of time because nobody buys over-priced homes.
The best possible exposure is MLS and websites that display MLS listings. This is where the vast majority of buyers are looking for homes, and where the buyers are the most ready, willing, and able to buy. MLS and public MLS websites ARE the real estate market. FSBO websites tend to attract investors looking for a steal and buyers looking for owner financing.
Real Estate Market - How homes are listed for sale, nationwide
All homes available for sale on MLS and Public MLS Websites
All "For-Sale-By-Owner" homes for sale, including all listings from all FSBO websites combined.
MLS MLS (Multiple Listing Service) is the network that Realtors belong to that gives them access to show and sell each others listings, and comprises 90% all homes on the market nationally. There are over a thousand individual MLSs across the country, each with their own local databases that are accessible only by local member agents. Only licensed Realtors have access to MLS.
Public MLS Websites All the individual local MLSs make their property listings available to literally thousands of websites that display MLS listings. Listings for public display omit certain information that Realtors can see in their local MLS, such as owner contact information, commission amount offered, and showing instructions.
The internet has become the primary search tool for most homebuyers today, and over 80% of all homebuyers use the internet in their search for a home. Among younger buyers, the number is over 90%. Of all online shoppers, 98% browse local or national MLS information websites.
Where home-shoppers do most of their searching for homes
84% Search primarily on national MLS websites
14% Search primarily on local MLS listing websites
2% Search primarily on non-MLS websites, such as FSBO websites
Importance of Photos
The most critical ingredient in marketing a home is providing great photos for buyers to see online. (See Photo Guide) Buyers browse hundreds of listings and pay the most attention to those with multiple photos. Most local and national MLS websites display the photos that are on the local MLS. Realtor.com only displays multiple photos if the listing Realtor pays for it, which is why many listings in Realtor.com only display one photo. Unfortunately, what Realtor.com charges has become cost prohibitive for many Realtors, but they have been getting away with it because they are still the highest traffic national MLS website.
We include at least 9 photos on our standard Realtor.com listing packages and up to 25 on our Showcase listing packages (See Realtor.com Listings). A Virtual Tour is available at a slight additional charge. (See Virtual Tours)
Where recent homebuyers heard about the home they bought
74% Real estate agents and MLS information websites
10% Yard signs
8% Newspaper ads
3% Friends & Relatives
Comparison of Marketing Alternatives
MLS & Public Websites that display MLS Listings The majority of buyers still use real estate agents when buying a home, and 99.99% of all real estate agents use MLS. What is changing is that over 80% of all buyers today are using public MLS websites in their search process. Most buyers today search online and provide a list of properties for their agent to schedule showings. Many search online and call listing agents for more information and showings. The bottom line is that the MLS is the real estate market, and listing in MLS is essential for selling a property for the best price in the shortest timeframe.
Yard Signs A simple sign on the front lawn is a cheap and effective advertising tool, and should be part of any home marketing plan. If you have time and are patient enough, you can sell your home eventually by doing nothing more than putting a sign in the yard. The average time period for a house to sell using only a yard sign is 6-9 months, and will vary based the amount of traffic on the street and the price of the home.
Newspaper ads Newspaper ads can get expensive, and sellers who are not interested in owner financing will have to weed out unqualified buyers. The majority of homes sold with newspaper ads are by professional investors. Newspaper classified ad columns tend to be filled with investor ads with headings like "$0 down", "Owner financing", "Lease Option", "Bad credit ok", "$3000 down, $900/mo.", etc. Investors typically inflate the home prices and give the buyer/tenant (who can't qualify for a loan) a lease option. Credit challenged buyers gravitate towards newspapers because of the prevalence of these kinds of ads, and because they know they would be expected to qualify for a loan if they dealt with a Realtor and MLS listed homes.
Open house The value of holding an open house is vastly over-rated. The first people to go to an open house are the neighbors who are thinking about listing their house, and the Realtors want to meet them in the hope of getting another listing. Buyers who go to open houses are typically just looking. Serious buyers would have seen the yard sign and called the phone number anyway. Realtors like to meet prospective buyers who may be in the market to buy at some point in the future. Holding an open house is also a great way for Realtors to give their clients the impression that they are actively marketing the home when they are actually just promoting their own business. If you are convinced that holding an open house will make a difference, you can do it yourself. It can't hurt, and it doesn't require any special knowledge.
Free Real Estate Magazines Commonly found on racks in supermarkets and convenience stores, these publications exist to either promote a real estate company or sell advertising. They contain very little useful information for buyers, and due to the time lag between printing to actually being picked up and read (minimum 6 weeks), the listings are already out of date before they are ever seen.
FSBO Websites For-Sale-By-Owner websites get an insignificant amount of traffic from buyers. Buyers who do take a look get discouraged quickly by the limited selection and from the lack of a response from sellers when they try to make contact. Many of the ads are outdated and the homes are off the market, so sellers often don't respond.
Miscellaneous There are various things Realtors will tell potential listing clients to get a listing. Some of these things sound good, but accomplish nothing more than promote the real estate company. Example: "We'll send out 300 mail pieces to all the homes in your neighborhood!" This is a way for the real estate company to advertise their company and generate listings. Neighbors are more likely to become sellers than buyers, and if a neighbor or somebody they knew were interested in buying your home, the yard sign would let them know.
Another unproductive method some agents like to tell their clients about (as though it had value) is mass emails to agents informing them of a house for sale. Agents have access to MLS, and don't need to be spammed with such information – it's just an annoyance. The first thing the typical agent does when checking emails is delete the "House for sale" spam emails from other agents.