Selling My Home via Social Media

How websites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are changing the way homeowners “go to market.”

I have a feeling the real estate industry is about to be transformed by the power of the Internet. The upside to property owners and property buyers is simply too great to ignore. For fun, as well as for practical reasons, I’ve decided to test this theory.

Around here, we use the web for everything. So, why not for selling our homes?  

For years, the tried-and-true approach to selling a home has been: fix up the place, hire an agent, list your home via the national Multiple Listing Service (MLS), hold an open house, find a buyer.

It’s a formula so familiar that most home/property owners don’t think twice about it.

The problem is, selling with MLS is like fishing in the ocean. Sure, you’re going to catch fish, but are they really the best fish for you? If you’re selling a property in Menlo Park, for example, are you really interested in attracting prospects in far-flung markets like Florida or Wisconsin?   

MLS has its benefits, but the system -- which is the primary tool used by realtors when selling your home -- simply can’t compete with the Internet in terms of targeted marketing. Yes, you want to cast a wide net when selling your home. But for precison, you can do better than MLS.

Social networks are fundamentally changing the way consumers go to market. Whatever we’re selling, we use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and similar web tools to alert our friends and connections. The reasons are simple: focus and trust.

Say, for example, I’m selling my car. Because I know my friends, including their likes and dislikes, I can quickly determine who is shopping for a car, who may want an older, used car (like my 1989 Toyota Land Cruiser), who lives close enough to test it out, etc. Then, better than even an ad on Craigslist, I can send a picture and description directly to the best candidates.  

Similarly, let’s say I want to alert technology companies in the Valley to the services offered by my marketing services firm. I can place an ad in the local paper -- or I can tweet about my firm on Twitter, so the entrepreneurs in my network are certain to get the info. That’s focus.

Back to the point of this column, maybe I’m trying to sell my home -- which, it so happens, I am. One option is to post the home on MLS, which alerts agents everywhere. Or, I can message my connections on LinkedIn, many of whom are employed, fiscally capable, and live locally -- a great combination for a prospective home buyer.  

It doesn’t hurt that some of my LinkedIn contacts work at fast-growing, venture-backed companies. Is there a better prospect for me than the Facebook employee who has been living with his family in San Carlos, has heard that Facebook is likely to go public next year, wants to move closer to the office, and may finally have the financial resources to make it happen?

I’d say that’s the perfect storm.  


MLS:  "The Kiss of Death"

Thus far it’s rare for consumers to sell their homes online, but the approach makes perfect sense. For one thing, it’s free and relatively easy to connect directly with potential buyers. Also, sellers can leverage the trust and confidence that comes from personal connections.

Most importantly, however, it enables homeowners to avoid MLS. Once a home is listed on MLS, it remains in the system until the status of the property is changed, whether to “sold” or some other distinction, such as the house being removed from the market.

Every day a home is listed on MLS, its value drops in the eyes of shoppers. House hunters know that a home on the market for more than a few weeks has been seen and passed up by many prospective buyers and agents for buyers. The seller gets more and more desperate with each passing day, which signals the astute buyer to make an offer that is below the asking price.

That’s when a listing on MLS can be the kiss of death. The last thing a homeowner needs is a running, daily notification that the value of his or her home is dropping.

Which is why, in my opinion, it’s best to avoid MLS for as long as possible.  

This isn’t to suggest that traditional homeowner/agent marketing tactics aren’t incredibly valuable. On the contrary, I believe the best approach is a hybrid model, which leverages online as well as offline tools. My wife and I have just begun the process of selling our home. We’ve hired an agent who we both think is fantastic.  He and his team have a stellar reputation, and I’m very confident that they’re going to find a buyer.  

But, for now at least, we’re staying off MLS. And, we’re going to augment our agent’s efforts with some of our own. Already we’ve posted a note to our Facebook friends that the home is for sale, and soon we'll have a home-specific fan page. I’ve tweeted about our house on Twitter, and I’ve posted info on LinkedIn. 

I even joined a pair of local real estate groups on LinkedIn, and shared our details with its members.

As we collect new content about the house, including photos and prospect feedback, we’ll share it via social media sites as well. And, just for fun, we’re having faux Twitter post t-shirts made up bearing the familiar #1715SantaCruzAvenue lingo.

Integrating social media into your "home for sale" plan is a no-brainer.  It’s easily the best way to ensure that a highly targeted group of people will know about your listing. Time will tell if the hybrid model is effective for us. But until further notice, we’re avoiding the scarlet letters: MLS.


Wells Comes Through

Brief aside: I recently wrote about the re-finance of our home. We had a horrible re-finance experience with Wells Fargo last year, and I was hesitant to try again with Wells this year. But unlike last year, the sales rep -- who looked young enough to have graduated college during the Obama administration -- did an absolutely outstanding job. Max Bottaro, I salute you!

Michael Talis July 26, 2011 at 06:18 PM
What is missing from the understanding of MLS is that it syndicates. The listing is blasted all across the web - from realtor.com and brokerage sites to individual agents' facebook pages and twitters. Being off MLS is to market your home to a miniscule fraction of potential buyers. I assume the the author is selling a common price range home in Menlo, not a $100M mention that was recently sold in Los Altos Hills. After all it's just another approach to "for sale by owner" that has been tried in so many ways.
Jim Somers July 27, 2011 at 04:28 PM
Without addressing the author's view of the MLS, he believes that open houses are unimportant, or a waste of time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here's why. By far, the largest percentage of buyers is that huge pool of young families with kids. No doubt the author is a member of this group himself. For most of these buyers, to buy a home on the peninsula requires two incomes. After work, these buyers head home, prepare dinner, get the kids into their homework and then into bed. If the kids are young, no agent is going to get the parents out of the house in the evening. So, when the kids are in bed, mom and dad get online and look for homes (yes, Mr. Wolf, they use the MLS). When they find something that looks interesting, they note it as a home to visit during the weekend open house. Without the MLS, and without the Open House, sellers miss the opportunity to broaden the demand base for their home. Demand drives price. Why damp it? Jim Somers Alain Pinel Realtors jim@at-home-redwoodcity.com
Cliff Keith July 27, 2011 at 05:30 PM
I agree with the author of this post. Being a Realtor for the past 36 years I have seen changes within the real estate community. Heck I have sold 2 homes on a hand shake and one on the back of a cocktail napkin. Those days are over and probably for the best too. One thing I have learn over the years is nothing stays the same and change is going to happen. Social networking is that change right now in real estate. The old way of doing business in real estate are cumbersome and non-efficient. I think it is an insult to the buyers and sellers for Realtors to try to convence the public their way of doing business is the only way, just because that is the way it has been done in the past. It's almost like telling your kids not to smoke while you sit there with a smoke hanging out of your mouth. Embrace the new ways of doing business and thank you Kevin Wolf for your insight. If you are looking for a no BS Realtor go to any of my social network sites: http://www.facebook.com/AboutRedwoodCity, http://www.SFBayHomes.com, http://www.twitter.com/cliffkeith, http://www.linkedin.com/cliffkeith
John Perkins July 29, 2011 at 12:05 AM
http://homevideotour.com/property/231 - Check out how I get record breaking Real Estate records with a 24 hour Open house. A normal Open House is a waste of a Sellers time for several reasons. In this market there are not the 20-50 couples rushing to an Open Home and creating that frenzy that helps housing price's rise and/or get sold. In fact, that's very rare and what Buyers see now are homes empty then say,... "Nobody wants it so I'll bid low". Video is the most competitive advantage because it allows those busy parents to see your home "Just like an Open House" any day/night and review it easily in their own home or at work. They also don't know who else is watching it but suppose that there are other Buyers watching. Think about it.... the Buyers are sitting at home watching over and over getting a better sense of the flow of your home, falling in love with it. "We have to see this home honey". Then they schedule an appt which is a classy manner of handling a visit and makes it "important". Open Homes sell less than 3% of homes according to the NAR. So why waste your time there rather than center in on technology. Social networking isn't proven to be the "New" sales technique; but video is. Advertising on a Social Network though is a great way to increase views and I'm the one who knows how to capture the attention of a facebook user as they look to the right and see my ad.... and must click to see that video. 18 days average sale time: John Perkins (510) 565-9537
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA July 29, 2011 at 12:26 AM
Here's a Link to a house of my design up here in Meadowdale/Edmonds- WA that was Realtor-sold with the help of a very good Video. If these are expertly done (house and video), they do the job very well indeed. http://knol.google.com/k/jerry-gropp-architect-aia/the-meadowdale-house-for-two-artists/246qxuxd260sm/51#


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