Thursday, 13 June 2013

What's the Most Important Part of a Real Estate Listing?

I know you're out there. You busy folks who spend your spare moments cruising the MLS and to see what's new and what's coming on the market in your favourite neighbourhood. You may not even be buying a house or condo. Maybe you're just curious what price your neighbours are listing their home.  But now you have become hooked on looking at properties at lunch, on your break, during dinner.  Maybe you're a binge MLSer who plans to look at a listing or two after dinner, and by midnight you're still online. Well, I'm not here to help you with your problem, but I have come across some info that may put your search into perspective. And if you are planning to sell your home, it may give you a sense what's important and not so important to marketing your home in a listing. 

According to a University of Norfolk study lengthily entitled "Toward an Understanding of Real Estate Home Buyer Internet Search Behaviour: An Application of Ocular Tracking Technology", those who look at real estate on the internet tend to favour some parts of the listing over other parts.  In fact, Professor Seiler and his researchers have tracked subjects who look at online listings, and found that first impressions make a big difference, like dating or a job interview. This study may not be the most definitely thing I have ever read, and I'm not sure I agree with it entirely, but there are some interesting findings.

The study finds that photos do make a huge difference to your listing. But what photo does the average viewer of real estate listings gravitate to first? Is it the stunning open concept living/dining areas?  The huge bedroom with a walk-in closet? Nope, they go to the exterior shot of the property, whether it's the exterior of a condo building or a house. In fact, 95% of viewers, according to this study, went to the exterior of the home first and dwelled on it for 20 seconds. So, the lesson here, if you are selling you house or condo, get an excellent shot of the exterior, because that is what's going to matter most. 

Following the exterior, kitchens are the second most viewed photo, followed by the living room and the master bedroom. The backyard receives the fewest views. 

As for the remarks online, people tend to prefer short descriptions. It appears that real estate online viewers grow bored when you rattle off name brands and appliances. They respond more to lifestyle and neighbourhood information. 

All in all, the study indicates that pretty pictures are looked at first, followed by the description of the property, location and price, and lastly were the remarks added by the real estate agent. 

But what does this mean to you? Well, maybe nothing at all. But if you are selling your house, you may want to put a bit more attention into the photos. Personally, I'm not convinced that a condo exterior will have as much of an impact as a house exterior. The condo's appeal really does rely on what lies in the interior.

I know when I'm looking at properties for my buyers, if I see a listing that shows the exterior of the building and all the amenities, and no photos inside, I feel that the seller or the salesperson in hiding some thing. Same goes for houses that show the exterior from 3 or 4 different angles accompanied by a photo of the yard.  With no interior shots, a viewer's mind will start to wander...  Why did they not include any indoor pics? What is going on inside? Decades of neglect, horders, devil worshippers, a portal to a magical kingdom?  Your imagination can go wild. Even if it's bad, I say put am inside pic in the listing. 

And let this study be a wake up call to those sellers and/or agents who take their own unprofessional photos with a lousy camera or their phone. As someone who knows a thing or two about lighting, I say it is the most important thing, next to a good camera. If you pick a discount agent, you may get photos that just don't stack up against the other listings.

And since so many people go online first to start their property purchase, it's worth spending some time staging and taking the right photos to draw in those MLSers out there. That's not from any study, but I think it's a pretty good opinion based on my experience.

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