How to Sell a Home

Terri and Paul Guess' Marketing Program

I ( Paul ) Teach Real Estate Principles and Real Estate Practice at Mt. San Jacinto Community College.  Every semester I have students asking me for a copy of our marketing program on line.  So as a service to the students... and a primer for any For Sale By Owner here is all you have to do... in the order that you should do it.  Terri and I aren't too concerned about other agents copying this... it's too much work... and it costs too much money.  This is what every agent should do... for every client... Regardless of the price of the product.

  Do not expose the home to anybody... until it is ready to be exposed to everybody.  The day the property goes on the market... the on line presentations should be 100%.  Item's 1-7 below should be 100% within an hour of the listing being made "Active" in MLS.

1.  Shoot the Virtual tours.  Use it costs more... it takes a lot more time... you will get Better Results.  The views through the windows will be actual... not washed out.  You can have more scenes.  You can shoot local schools... parks... community features... you can add music... you have total control.  You can change and add scenes later.  You will need a good camera and lenses.  We recommend and use Nikon.  You will need a good tripod and a Pan Head with level.  You will need an excellent Flash or Speedlight .  It will take a couple of hours to shoot these.  At this time make a waypoint in your handheld GPS... we like Garmin.   This will provide driving distance and time to closest market... schools... mall... beach... and parks.  This will also give you the altitude... being 500' above a canyon floor in San Diego creates a different micro climate.  If you are not a good photographer... or don't want to take the time to shoot your own tours... the best people I've found that will shoot them for you... and do a great job is Jim Olson their local consultant is great.

2.  Shoot the Still Photography.  Shoot large format files at multiple exposures and 4 - 5 views of every room.  Inside you will need a Very Wide Angle Lens ...Outside you will need a couple of Telephoto Lenses and a portable ladder.  The Flash or Speedlight is just as important outside as in... sometimes more.  You will have to find ways to make the home as attractive as possible... sometimes shooting photos from blocks away with a telephoto... sometimes on top of your ladder in the middle of the street... and often from a Neighbors yard.  The average listing will (between tour and still) require 300 - 600 photos.

NOTE:  It's not just tools.  You need to be creative and passionate about these photos.  If you don't have the talent... Hire it Done... it is too important.

3.  Download all photos to your computer and do all adjustments (lighting... straightening... cropping) to the large files.  Process the virtual tours first.  Add comments... music... special effects... captions and links.  After making all adjustments (you will need a photo software program) to the still photos... resize them to images to 72 pixels per inch as this is the default for a computer screen and you will have smaller files when saved to a new name at this size.  This will help with the speed of pages opening on the internet.  Be careful of the photo size (dimension) preference of each online site.  They are all different so you often will have the same photo with five or six file names.  Pick out your best three photos of the front exterior of the home... these will be your primary photos.  Choose the best 12 photos for the San Diego MLS pick the best 20 photos for MRMLS.  Belonging to both MLS organizations will double the work you need to do... will double the cost and be worth both investments.  The duplicated listings will cause all of your properties to be exposed twice at every national data base that purchases MLS information.  Your exposure will be doubled at:, Yahoo, Google, MSN, Your Company's National Site,,,, all newspaper sites such as The San Diego Union, North County Times, Los Angeles Times and Press Enterprise... and at local TV station sites such as Channel 10 KGTV , Channel 8 KFMB, NBC 7/39, and FOX Channel 6.  And Last but not least... ask your potential realtor what a VOW is... if they don't know... Don't list with them.  In addition to the online benefit... the property will be exposed to 3-4 times as many licensed agents.  Any San Diego, Orange, LA, Riverside or San Bernardino seller should demand representation in both mls organizations.  This portion of the photo work will take in excess of five hours.

4.  Now you are ready to do the text portion of the MLS data.  The Sandicor (San Diego MLS) input form Is very important.  You should try to get as much data in every field as you are able to.  This data is more important than it has ever been... because that is the data the all of the online services work from.  Many fields (such as fireplace) have multiple choices... the agent should check every single one of them that apply.  More data... more ways to find the home... larger file... more space taken up on search pages.  The remarks lines will accommodate 325 characters of text.  Build the field in Microsoft word, delete unnecessary blank space, spell and grammar check it... and use sensory comments.  You should hear it, see it, smell it, taste it... or feel it.  These remarks are precious.  There is a supplemental text field where an additional 2,000 characters of text are available.  Again make the most of it.  Now do the same thing in MRMLS for Riverside, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Orange Counties.  Save these mls files as incomplete until all photography and links are ready to go.  Then make both listings active.   This will generate Multiple Listing file numbers for both listings.

5.  Now you have an MLS number.  Upload the twelve best photos to Sandicor... Upload the twenty best photos to MRMLS.  Sandicor allows 252 characters of text per photo and a larger photo than is shown by default.  Upload the largest photo they will take.  Make a note in each caption that a larger image is available... and create a 252 character caption for each photo.  Assign the best photo as the primary photo... use different primary in each mls.  Upload the Unbranded (Required by MLS) link to the Virtual tour and create a text caption.  Do the same at MRMLS... creating captions for all twenty photos and the virtual tour.  Email your client a copy of both mls files.

6.  Log onto your account at Visualtour.comadd the MLS number from Sandicor and submit the visual tour to Google Base,, Global Realty Office, Homeseekers,, Prudential Properties VOW, , Yahoo Real Estate, and Unique Global  Now change the MLS number to the MRMLS number and re-submit to all of these again.  The URL of the visualtour will be like a free standing web page... and submitting it from both MLS organizations will double your marketing world wide.  The visualtour system will email you links that you can use anywhere... and email to anyone.

7.  Now go to your Company Web Page ours of course is Prudential California Realty... open your editor and create a web page for each of the two mls files.  Use different Primary photos so that each file might look like a different property on line.  Add the link to the visual tour to each file. Create the text comments in Word, spell check, grammar check and proof read.  Upload your still photos 12 from Sandicor and 20 from MRMLS and Add text captions to all photos.  Advertise the planned broker caravan as a public open house.  Email your client a copy of the company web page for both mls files.

8.  You can't build the presentation until has uploaded the MLS files.  This takes 1 - 3 days maximum.  Once the MLS files are on you can turn on all the Bells and Whistles.  You will need not just the listing enhancements but the Showcase Listings and Enhancements.  This is billed based on how many listings you have and they make it easy for new agents... billing  you monthly ~$50.  The Showcase Listings will provide a Headline Banner... virtual tour linking, six photos and captions, custom text, and a scrolling banner.  When you can afford it... actually before you can afford it... buy the Featured Home for your target zips.  This is expensive... we own two and they cost $3,000 each per year.  You should have a web site... that will set you back $450 per year.  So buy the bells and whistles... then on each and every mls file create a headline that works... created a scrolling banner that sizzles... create custom text that is sensory... create photo captions that entice... be jealous of every character of text and always spell and grammar check everything.  Advertise the broker caravan as a public open house.  Every property presentation must have an email link to you, your primary web page, and phone numbers.  If an on line shopper cannot get immediate response... they won't work with you.  And don't waste any money advertising yourself... let the excellence you do for clients speak for itself.

9.  Now the real work.  You need a domain name and your own free standing web page.  You will need hosting, and broad band access for speed.  That will run about $1,600 per year.  You need to build a web site that is centered on featuring the properties of your clients.  I don't think anyone is looking for a realtor.  They are looking for homes.  Build a Free standing page for every listing you take.  Use excellent photos and large ones.  Resize them to 72 pixels per inch and don't use more that five or so per page... because there are a lot of home buyers out there... still on dial up access.  Link the virtual tour from every page.  Find out the names of trees , birds, and plants in the yard... link on line to those... find out your clients favorite restaurant... link to that... figure out the appropriate schools and link to those... it is all about creating the experience the home provides.  Link back to your primary page from every page and have an email link to you on every page.  Additionally the url for each page gives you another chance for a search engine spider to index something you didn't even think of.  Get passionate about the content of the property pages... linking to anything on the internet that you feel would help describe the experience ... sound...the sound of Red Tail Hawks... smell... the smell of Citrus Blossoms...taste... the taste of Kumquats...feel... the Cool Ocean Breeze... the experience of the property.  Don't use frames.  Don't require that buyers provide any data to get information.  When you have the page built... submit it to  Submit it to  Submit it to  Submit it to Google Base.  The submission to Google Base will have to be re-submitted every 14 days.  Submit the web site by email to ask.comwhich is also known as and provides data to the Lycos Search Engine.  To build the web page and submit it to all of these search engines will take more than a full day.  You are going to have to learn html.  You are going to need software to design and create the Web page.  When the property is sold... notate the web page and move it to a "Success or Results" area of your web site.  These web pages will accrue over time and help tremendously to bring traffic to your web site .   As soon as you have the web page complete... email a copy to the seller.  Every time someone calls on the sign... or an ad... or for an appointment...  send them the web page.

10.  Now go to and sign up.  Will cost $20 per month and worth it.  Create a file for each property.  Create a feedback questionnaire for each property.  Upload the photos for the questionnaire... upload the link to the virtual tour.  Send yourself the first one to make sure it is working correctly.  Set it up to notify your seller at the same time it notifies you... and give them access to the unaudited candid feedback.   Call your client to explain the first email it is going to send them.  Every single person that visits the property should be entered into this data base and sent a feedback inquiry... including Office Caravan... Broker Caravan... any open houses and all individual showings or previews.

11.  Search your local newspaper and television web  pages for places that will take ads with links... there are many.  Place every free ad you can find on line... Like the PennySaver for example.  Especially powerful are significant specialty markets such as ... Farm Ranch & (both of these are for horse and ranch properties) we have been able to find multiples of these for every specialty listing.  We listed a beautiful home in Bonsall a few years ago with a 50' Attached Motor Home Garage... joined FMCA as commercial members and linked our clients web page to the FMCA site... The buyer from Memphis wrote the offer off of the web site... and flew out to confirm his decision.  The Internet is an incredibly powerful way to reach target markets.  All you need to do is invest your time.

12.  Create your ad for Craigslist upload four photos... link that ad to your web page  for the property.  This will have to be redone weekly... as their ads only have a shelf life of 7 days.

13.  Create your ad for Live Deal... a national site that features local real estate offerings.  Upload your photo and contact information.  This must be re-done monthly as the listing has a shelf life of 30 days.

14.  Join Oodle.  Oodle is a free, online search engine that does not accept direct classified listings, but as an online aggregator, Oodle scours hundreds of online sources for classifieds in over 150 Real Estate Markets.

15.  Join Lycos.  Create a classified ad and submit this ad through Oodle above.  Upload four quality photos and the text may include the URL of the primary web site.

16.  Join Propsmart.  This search engine and online community "Crawls and Indexes" over 1 million homes for sale and other properties, then organizes and displays them on a slick Google Map.  Propsmart will drive traffic and motivated leads to your primary web site.  Propsmart provides RSS feeds for all of it's listings.

17.  Join Trulia.  This residential real estate search engine allows consumers to search for homes for sale, trends, neighborhood insights, and other real estate information directly from real estate broker Web Sites ... without having to submit a lead form, provide personal information, or wait to be contacted.  Trulia does take direct ads... so create one and upload photos with links to your primary web site.

18.  Your efforts in numbers 11-17 above will have created unique URL's for each and every one of these online ads.  Email these to your client and submit every one of them to,,, and

19.  You need several blogs.  Post your new listing with links to your web site... your Company web site... and your primary web site on every blog.  We use a company affiliate blog, a Blogspot blog... and even a Myspace Blog.  We don't care how we get traffic to our web site... we just care that our properties get the maximum exposure they can.  Our newest as of this writing is with Propsmart.  This is an ongoing project... adding ways to cause traffic constantly.  At every Blog... link your virtual tours.  Do whatever it takes to get people to subscribe to your blog... or leave comments.  The search engines love this stuff.   Join ping your blogs from there.  Go to Ipings and ping your blog everywhere.  Another one is ping-o-matic... ping your blogs at all of their sites too.  No less than weekly... post a new article to each blog.  Monthly... submit all of your blogs to all the search engines above.

20.  If you change the price on a property... every single one of these must be changed.

21.  If you are an agent with Prudential California Realty... then you have a Unique opportunity with Yahoo Real Estate.  Only Prudential has the On Line Sellers Advantage.  Set up both MLS files to give your property the "Featured Status" and notify your seller daily... or weekly... of all on line search results at Yahoo Real Estate.  This is an incredibly valuable tool... that no other company has... Yahoo reaches 65% of all internet users... and over 2,000,000 unique visitors a month use Yahoo Real Estate.  Prudential is spending $10,000,000 dollars on this partnership... and this is the way your commission split dollar should be invested... to benefit the clients.

22.  Set up your listing in your management data base... we use Top Producer and recommend it... expensive... yes.  Create your marketing plan... ours has 85 unique chores to complete in just the first week of the listing.  You must have some way to manage this... or steps will be missed.  This will cause you to send weekly to every seller... marketing results from your virtual tour visits... yahoo hits... your company web site visits... and your own web site statistics.  Sellers demand feedback... and deserve it.  In addition... call them often.

23.  Download your MLS files into your personal MLS Management System... we use Hillside Software.  There are many third party mls vendor programs available... this one is expensive and worth it.  With this software... prepare a color brochure for the sign post.  Prepare your showing package in advance.  Create a CMA report for all buyers.  Create an agent brochure for marketing.

24.  The Sign is incredibly important... it is still the best source of meeting potential buyers.  Use personal signs so that the call comes directly to you.  Do not let these sign calls go to voice mail... or recorded information... if you answer the phone and talk to the people... your clients home will be shown more.  Install a brochure box with your brochures... and a Custom sign topper to direct people to your web page.  Place the URL of the web page on every brochure and include it in all marketing.  Tell them in the brochure that a virtual tour is online.  Do not put the square footage or price of the home on the sign brochure... you want to talk to the people.  Use your Direct Phone line... and forward this to your cell when you are out.  Talking to every sign call is mandatory.  Never let this brochure box be empty... that says you are stupid and lazy!  Put 40 at a time into it... 10 to your seller... tell them to call you when the 10 go in the box.

25.   I'm creating this on November 18, 2006.  Sunrise is 6:21am and Sunset is 4:45pm... 10 hours and 24 minutes of daylight.  Buy a Listing Light... and install it one on every listing.  Today our listings will enjoy 5 extra hours of exposure... that's 48.08% more exposure (maybe this is a hint why so many of our clients historically have been engineers).  This device alone will set you aside from other agents.  This is extra expense, extra effort, extra maintenance as you'll have to set up a schedule to replace the batteries.  But... this works.  Nation wide the sign is still the source of most buyers!  You don't need years of experience to say in a listing appointment "I'm going to do one thing alone that will expose your home 40+% more time than the competition".   Take a picture of your sign with this light on at dusk... This picture can be the strongest listing tool you will ever have.  It says you go outside the lines... you care... and... how on earth would any agent answer the question.."why don't you use Listing Lights?".  Anybody reading this that has an answer other than "I'm to cheap and lazy" let me know.

26.  Place your property on your office caravan.  Take the agent brochures you created above to the office sales meeting... pitch your property... passionately... give everyone a brochure... and provide some perk (drawing... gift... etc.) to get them to look at your property.  Many agents are lazy... beg them to come.  Always go on office caravan... it is a good investment of your time... and in return for seeing your associates listings... more agents will look at yours.  It's all about footsteps in the property.  Have your associates fill out a review sheet while in the home.  Add them and send them a request for feedback.  Share with your client the review sheet feedback... they will receive the feedback by email.

26.  Schedule the Broker Caravan and add that as an open house to... both MLS systems... your company web site... your primary web site... all of your blogs... and any online Open House sites you can find... there are many.  Call Costco... order a nice food tray... and advertise that you will serve lunch.  Go to the Pitch session if there is one... with your agent brochures... and an attitude... you want every agent on caravan that day to see your home.  Put up directional signs... flag the driveway... make sure agents have gate codes.  When the brokers arrive... greet everyone and get a business card... they need to go into your data base and be entered into

27. Now that all of this is done... review the results every Monday... and every week find something extra to do for each and every listing.

Well this gets us to the point of "We are on the market".  Now "all you have to do" is service the listing by keeping in touch.... and continually update all of the above to stay at the top of Search Engines.  It is the most elusive four letter word in Real Estate "WORK".

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