Tom here (co-founder of Home Bay). I have over a billion dollars in sales experience, and I’m frequently asked by home sellers what can be done to improve their real estate listing. Today, I spoke with a land owner who has a listed for sale by owner section of Zillow. He was looking for guidance on how to improve his listing. My feedback is summarized below. If you’ve listed a land lot or have a property FSBO on Zillow, these suggestions will help you too, so please follow along.
How to Market Your Listing on Zillow
Before you even start to list a house for sale on Zillow or any other site, make sure it’s market-ready. Invest in a deep, clean, look at comps in your area and proactively get the property appraised to help you decide a fair market price. Consider staging your interior so your house is uncluttered and inviting during showings. Little details can make a huge impact on a potential buyer’s impression of your home.
Next, make sure that your listing is complete before you post it. Write a compelling description, upload photos and fill out every section available. When buyers click on a Zillow for sale by owner listing, they usually know an agent isn’t involved. Instead, they’ll call you directly – which means you want to answer as many of their questions in advance as you can so you’re not inundated with basic questions over and over.
Optimize Your Listing for Zillow Search
Zillow sorts listings by newest first, which means your listing is likely to get the most views right after it goes live. Unfortunately, most houses don’t sell immediately. Potential buyers need time to find your listing, decide they’re interested, contact their agent to schedule a viewing… and they have to do all that before they can even consider making an offer. In that time, your house could be dropping further and further in Zillow’s search results every day.
Luckily, making even just a small change to your listing often moves it higher in the search results. The first way to do this is to adjust your listing price. Lowering the price by an amount as low as $100 won’t just refresh your listing; it’ll also send a notification to anyone who has favorited your house.
However, beware: lowering your price too often can send the wrong message to buyers. Another effective technique is scheduling an open house. Like price changes, open house notifications go out to anyone who has clicked “favorite” on your house; but unlike price changes, you can hold open houses all the time without sending any sense of desperation warnings or red flags to potential buyers. Always post about an open house a few days to a week in advance so buyers and agents can plan to be there.
Write a Winning Home Description
The quickest way to improve a listing description is to be specific. Focus on owner contact information, the location of your land or property and any benefits of the area, like buildability, great shopping nearby or good schools. Provide specific information on any noteworthy nearby schools or parks, access to work spaces and any local hot spots or restaurants. Remember your goal: paint a picture with your words of what it would be like for the new owner to live in the area.
The whole point of your listing description is to get potential buyers excited. If you use language with a negative connotation like “dead end” (even if you really are just describing a street), you risk leaving a subconscious bad impression. Instead, think about the aspects of your house that made you excited to live there, and try to convey that feeling in your description. Buyers want a home they can see themselves falling in love with.
As an example, check out the changes I suggested for this listing below.
Before: Parcel owned in family for 40 years now for sale, west of Skyline Blvd. near dead end of Native Sons Rd. (see map). The lot (5.29 Acres ) has a new drilled well without pump, has passed county perk tests, and is legally buildable with several potential house sites. It is adjacent to a parcel owned by an open space trust that will never be built upon. The area is a quiet, very secluded, serene area, with very little auto traffic, filled with tall Redwoods, ferns, trails and wildlife.
Notes: Always start your description by providing your contact information and skip unnecessary details. Be sure to avoid negative words like dead end (use cul-de-sac instead). In the meat of your description, focus on specific positives: explain why the land is great for building, call out the privacy and beauty of the area and highlight easy access to nearby metro areas.
After: Please contact owner directly at (###) ###-####. Buildable, gentle sloped 5.29 acres near end of cul-de-sac on Native Sons Road. Live in a forest of redwoods, yet have an easy commute to Silicon Valley. Great access to Skyline Blvd. and highways 89, 92 and 280. Top-rated Woodside schools and an area where homes sell for multi-millions. Newly drilled well on property has passed county perk tests. Utilities are nearby. Adjacent to open space trust that will never be built upon. Live the dream.
Invest in Professional Photos
When buyers browse Zillow’s for sale by owner listings, they’re likely to look at pictures first and read descriptions second. Professional pictures, which cost around $150, can instantly upgrade your listing. This area of California is gorgeous – convey that beauty in your listing. A professional real estate photographer knows the right angles, time of day and eye-catching aspects of homes and properties that will emphasize the beauty of a property inside and out – a big factor in terms of buildability. A parcel map, if you have one, is another great addition to include in your listing.
When you list a house for sale on Zillow, you have access to many different data fields. Pay careful attention to the section marked “Home Details.” Information in this section is shown directly in search results, so it’s a great place to specify whether you’re selling, say, a condo or a loft.
Avoiding Losing Buyer Leads to Zillow Agent Ads
Do you see how the “Get More Information” section on the right side of the screenshot below puts the owner at the bottom of a contact list, beneath three real estate agents? Do you also see how the default check is next to an agent, not the homeowner, even though it’s a for sale by owner listing? Why does that happen?
Zillow encourages buyers to contact agents, not owners, because Zillow makes money by selling advertising space to realtors. The problem is, the owner’s best interest isn’t t have random agents connected to their for sale by owner listing. These agents are in the business of promoting their listings, not necessarily yours.
The solution is to put your contact information at the top of your Zillow listing. Start with something simple, like “Please contact owner directly at (###) ### – ###.” If your phone number is the first thing a buyer sees, they’ll want to save those commissions and fees that would normally go to an agent, and call you instead.
Don’t Limit Yourself to Zillow
Most people don’t know that while Zillow is massive, its traffic actually represents just 21% of buyer searches. Also, land/lots typically don’t get nearly as many searches as houses or condos. To increase exposure, be sure your home or lot is also listed on the MLS, Realtor.com, Trulia, Redfin and local agent sites. Remember: you can list with Home Bay for free and only pay if your property sells. The total cost to you is only $250 at closing, so taking this step will get you broad exposure with no risk.
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