The best way to get potential buyers through the door and interested in your home is with a stellar online listing. Photos of the house and a description of the property are standard fare, but not all listings do what they’re supposed to do. In fact, some might actually do more harm than good.
In many ways, trying to sell your home is like applying for a job, and your online listing is the resume or cover letter. If it’s not polished, you’ll never even get to the next phase.
So, what are the parts of a listing that can turn buyers off? Below are some of the worst offenses.
1. Lackluster (or non-existent) description
It can be hard to sum up your home in a couple of paragraphs. However, if you want to attract buyers, you’ll need to paint an inviting picture of the property.
“If it is a lakefront home, highlight the best parts of living on the lake; if it is an urban town, mention that you are within walking distance of top-rated restaurants,” says Cynthia Emerling, listing specialist at Finger Lakes Premier Properties in Canandaigua, NY.
Work with your real estate agent to pinpoint what buyers are looking for in your area, so you can mention it as early as possible in the listing description.
For example, Emerling’s company specializes in lakefront vacation homes, so “the views, the dock, and the topography of the land are all features that we highlight prominently.”
Also keep in mind that the online listing might initially show just a couple of lines of text, so make sure the most eye-catching information appears first.
2. Too much (or the wrong type of) information
Colorful listing photos or descriptions are sure to entice, but you have to be objective. Your favorite aspects of the home might not have the same effect on buyers.
“I had one seller that wanted to include photos of bunnies that lived in the backyard,” says Kris Lippi, real estate broker and owner of Get Listed Realty in Hartford, CT.
However, Lippi didn’t think that would necessarily be a selling point—and buyers might actually be concerned that the rabbits were destroying the lawn.
3. Amateur photographs
Your smartphone takes some really good photos, but that doesn’t mean they’re good enough to be used in your online listing.
“Everyone thinks they can take quality pictures with their smartphones and save a few dollars, but you only get one chance to impress potential buyers online,” says Robert Taylor, owner of The Real Estate Solutions Guy, a house-flipping company in Sacramento, CA.
That’s why it’s important to feature high-quality photographs shot by someone who has experience taking photos for online listings.
“A professional photographer will have the correct camera lenses, lighting, and angles to allow the entire room to be seen in a single photo,” Taylor says.
Jim Stevenson, a real estate agent at Realty One Group in Doylestown, PA, agrees that pictures taken by camera phone are no match for high-quality professional photos.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the infamous ‘real estate agent in a mirror’ shot,” Stevenson says. “When the photo quality is lacking, it sends a message that your home is low quality, too.”
4. Not staging your home
While many buyers like to think of a new house as a blank canvas for their own furniture and design tastes, leaving the rooms completely devoid of furniture and art in the listing photos can hurt you in the long run. Buyers like to see the potential of the home, so staging is highly recommended.
“When a house is staged, you can get the sense of use and purpose for each space,” says Matt Morgus, a San Francisco-based real estate agent.
That’s especially important for houses with open floor plans.
“Open floor plans are extremely popular to home buyers in today’s market, but sometimes it’s hard to differentiate a space with no furniture,” Morgus says.
5. Too many days on the market
Buyers look closely at the listing price and days on the market (DOM) because this information can help them determine whether the house is priced too low or too high—and how much they should offer if they’re interested.
Because every real estate market is different, there isn’t a hard and fast number of days it takes for a listing to be considered stale. However, most real estate agents agree that it takes about 30 days on the market for a listing to lose its luster.
So how can you revive a stale listing? Additional marketing efforts like new photos or an added incentive (free tacos with purchase, anyone?) may help. But the most effective way to generate more buzz about your property is with a price adjustment.
“If you have been on the market for a while and activity has stalled, you should consider reducing the price,” Lippi advises. “Even if you reduce it by a small amount, it will show up in buyers’ emails again and appear online as a price correction, and this gets eyes on your listing.”
The best tactic, ultimately, is to price the house correctly the first time, so it doesn’t end up languishing on the market for a couple of weeks.
“An overpriced home will force a seller to drop the price of their home numerous times to reach the ‘sweet spot’ where buyers become interested in the listing,” says Shawn Breyer, owner of Atlanta-based Breyer Home Buyers.
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