Real Insight - How to sell a home, plain and simple
by Craig Levine 

When Chris Ballard, Century 21's number one agent in Georgia (1991-1993), received a call to go list a typical single family home, he had no idea that it would take just an hour to sell. Upon arriving at the property, he met the owner, toured the home, described his marketing program, and helped them arrive at a competitive price. Additionally, he let the seller know that another client of his was looking for a home with the same features that this new listing had and that he would like to bring him by right away. An hour later, Chris showed up with his buyer, who needless to say, fell in love with the home. They wrote up a contract and closed it in three weeks.

In a perfect world, I would be able to sell all of my listings in a day for list price. Life would be swell. Not just for me, but for my clients, too, because I could eliminate a lot of the expenses and pass those savings on to them. As it so happens, though, home sales usually take a bit longer because we don't always have that perfect buyer in-hand, we need to find him/her. As far as I'm concerned, it takes two factors to find that perfect buyer fast: comprehensive marketing and competitive pricing. The rest of this column deals with how to market a home effectively and get a contract on it. In upcoming issues, we will explore the other 3 steps (inspection, appraisal, closing) usually involved in a successful sale. 

The purpose of marketing a home is to find a buyer who loves your home so much that they want to give you full price, take the home as-is, and close on it in a week. Actually, the realistic purpose of marketing is to find a suitable buyer, that will give you a fair price, who won't expect the home to be rebuilt, and who has a viable means of funding the transaction. Some sellers will be tempted to try and sell their home "By Owner" to try and avoid additional expenses and net as much money as possible. In order to sell a home, though, you need exposure. The more people who are aware that your property is on the market, the more potential buyers you have for it. Real estate, to me, is a number's game. If you get enough people through a property, chances are you will get an offer on it, no matter what condition the property is in. There is a buyer for every home on the market, just as you bought your home. If you have ample traffic through the property, you might even see multiple offers come in. That's when you know you are in the driver's seat. The problem with selling your home "By Owner" is that there are only limited channels through which you can market the property. If you do not generate adequate traffic, the chances of a good offer diminish substantially. 
"By Owner" methods, which include classified advertising, are only marginally effective and for the most part are used by real estate agents just to make the phone ring. 90% of the time, someone that calls in reference to a specific ad will buy something else. Open houses are tedious, require a lot of time, and like classified advertising, bring more "lookers" than buyers. Finally, a "For Sale By Owner" sign is only as effective as the amount of drive-by traffic that you have on your street. Homes located in cul-de-sacs suffer unless it is a hot subdivision. As you can see, it's tough to sell a home without additional avenues of marketing, which for the most part, are unavailable to the general public. Establishing a below-market price for the property will always help but you'll soon see that this is not necessary.

I'm not saying that it is impossible to sell your home "By Owner". The chances of getting a good offer in a brief period of time, however, increase dramatically when you market the property through a professional real estate agent. Most homeowners will move every 5-7 years, which means they are not familiar with all of the latest cutting-edge marketing techniques that are available. In addition, Georgia real estate law is ever changing, posing new considerations for buyers and sellers. Just as each homeowner might have a job that they do day-in and day-out, real estate agents sell homes 365 days a year, or so it seems. 

You need to look at the listing agent as a marketing specialist, one that could potentially work for an advertising firm writing commercials or advertisements. Just as advertising agencies attract buyers for different products, successful listing agents have a well thought out marketing strategy that attracts buyers to your home. The advertising channels available to a competent listing agent are practically limitless, left only to the imagination. Print advertising in niche publications as well as flyers and mail-outs to a targeted audience can be very effective when done correctly. Showcasing properties on the Internet, not just on one web sight, but many, has increasingly become important in the real estate industry today. A year ago, the World Wide Web was ineffective for marketing real estate. Primarily, listing agents to sound savvy used it. "I'll put your home on the Internet," they would say. Today, however, with more and more buyers taking a hands-on approach to buying real estate, the World Wide Web is a viable factor for attracting distant, out-of-town buyers. 

By far the most effective way to sell a home is to have it listed in one of the Metro area's listing services. Most agents' companies will belong to one of these listing services, the First Multiple Listing Service (FMLS) or the Metro Listing Service (MLS), but some companies will belong to both. These are competing entities that allow agents to network their listings to other agents that are working with potential buyers for your home. If you've ever seen a multiple listing sheet before, that is the end result of the listing input form that your agent fills out when he tours your property. These listing services are so effective, that 90-95% of homes sold in Atlanta are sold through one or both of them. If you can find an agent that belongs to both services, your chances of selling naturally increase.

There are several other means of marketing property. Television advertising puts tangible information in front of hundreds of thousands of people. Not only do you have pertinent information about your home's characteristics, but also, you have a picture to go along with it. You won't believe how many people call me about my ads on the ad channel. Additionally, canvass calling to neighbors in the subdivision makes them aware of your property and gives them the opportunity to pick out their new neighbors if they should know of someone that might be interested in the home. Several other nuances like "The Talking House" and sending out homes on videotape or disk adds to your market exposure. Significantly important is hiring an agent with a cellular phone and a reliable pager. Remember that a pager is only as efficient as the person wearing it is. Nowadays, with cellular rates as inexpensive as they are, there is no excuse for a real estate agent not to have one. A slow response to an agent that has a buyer for your home can be a deal breaker.

Rapping it up, if you decide to sell your home, set a competitive price and make sure a comprehensive marketing program is in place. A professional real estate agent specializes in selling homes on a daily basis and can usually create substantial traffic through the property and negotiate a good deal for you as a seller. Look at it like this, if you were going to court, would you try to represent yourself? You'd probably have a competent lawyer represent you. Your home is likely to be the most significant investment you have. Put the marketing magic of a realtor to work for you and you'll see many returns.

Having been licensed since 1994, Craig Levine brings to your real estate deal a world of experience, cutting-edge technology, negotiating savvy, and exemplary service. With Century 21 in Atlanta, Craig was the #2 agent in the #1 office in Georgia in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001! He repeatedly received Century 21's highest honor, The Centurion Award, in each of these years. In 2002, Craig joined Re/Max Greater Atlanta, the Nation's #1 Re/Max office. Additionally, Craig got licensed in Florida to bring his arsenal of skills and resources into the Emerald Coast's 2nd Home and Investment market. Now, he wants to put his talents to work for you! Craig is an avid boater, golfer, traveler, biker, and reader. He has written for numerous print magazines including The Seasonal, The Gazette, Cobb Living, Cobbonline, The Cobb Times, Atlanta Nation, Cherokee Nation, North Fulton Nation, Gwinnett Nation, The Southeast Business Journal, Lake Lanier Herald, Revue and News, John's Creek Herald, Forsyth Herald, North Atlanta Business Post, as well as various online real estate related web sites. Craig is also frequently quoted in Georgia Realtor Magazine, Florida Realtor Magazine, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, and the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Please visit all of his award-winning web sites: CraigSellsHomes.com, MyDestinHome.com, AtlantaHomesAtlantaRealEstate.com, AtlantaForeclosures.net, EchoMill.com, and AtlantaMansions.net