When you are ready to sell your house, remember that the MLS listing is your home’s resume. If you wouldn’t send a resume to a prospective employer without your name, then you shouldn’t allow your MLS listing to be posted without a picture!
As I have searched through thousands of listings in order to assist my buyers find a home and my sellers research competition and comps, I have found so many foolish mistakes in the MLS. Any one of these mistakes could keep your home from selling. If you are a seller, take a good look at your MLS listing and make sure that your home doesn’t scare away buyers.
Here are the top 10 mistakes that I see much too often.
1. No Pictures!
Most buyers will eliminate a home without seeing it if they can’t see pictures on the internet. The assumption is that the house is so horrible that anyone seeing the pictures wouldn’t come out to take a look. With so many homes to choose from, and almost all of them having pictures, most buyers AND agents will just move on to homes that are likely to be worth the drive. Only when a buyer has exhausted their options will they give a home without pictures a try. Of course, buyers that have already eliminated everything else are some of the pickiest buyers out there. Do you really want these to be the only buyers coming to see your home???
2. Bad Pictures or no Interior Pictures
Just as bad as having no pictures is having bad pictures. You would be surprised at how many listings show homes with pets in the pictures. Do you really want to eliminate all buyers that would prefer to buy a pet-free home? If you have a water tower behind the house, get creative so that the exterior picture doesn’t show it in the background.
The goal is to get the potential buyers to come out and see the home. Once there, you are hoping that they will love your home so much that they can overlook the fact that you have 2 dogs and a cat or an eyesore just out your door.
Blurry and poorly lighted pictures are just as bad. Norm Fisher found some great examples of really bad listing pictures in the MLS and put together a virtual tour of what ‘not to do’ when you list your home. BTW, Norm takes great pictures for his listings. (Sorry Norm that this sentence was originally poorly worded…making it sound like you took all those bad pictures!)
In addition, the buyers I work with almost always eliminate a house that has only exterior shots. They assume that the house is dated and needs major work. If the house IS dated, go ahead and take pictures of the best rooms, and price the house accordingly. If it’s a good deal, buyers will still come.
3. No Marketing Remarks
The marketing remarks is the spot that you get to point out all the great things that make your house special. Even if your house doesn’t have any spectacular features, there should be something written into that space. Describe the rooms that you have. Talk about your schools or easy access to the city. Find something positive to describe. For creative marketing techniques for hard to sell homes, check out this article.
Offering limited or no marketing remarks would be the same as sending out your resume with just a list of previous employers and dates and not describing your accomplishments. A bad resume will keep you from getting the job, and a bad MLS description will keep your house from selling.
4. Incorrect School District
In the St. Louis area, every home is assigned an ‘area’. The area is the public high school for the home (except in St. Louis City which is divided up into 4 geographic areas). You can’t imagine how many homes that I’ve stumbled upon which were assigned the wrong area. A couple of years ago I discovered a house because my client was interested in another house in the subdivision. When I ran a search to evaluate the comps, I found this house that had been on the market for many many months. The home was in a prestigious Chesterfield subdivision and was priced fairly competitively. The home should have been assigned the area for Rockwood Marquette high school. Instead it was listed as Rockwood Summit high school, which serves the Fenton area. I guarantee that no one searching for Chesterfield homes found that listing, unless they happened to do a search on the subdivision.
I’ve also found the same problem throughout St. Charles County. Last year I was showing homes in an O’Fallon subdivision and drove by a home for sale that I hadn’t seen in the MLS. I wrote down the address and looked it up later. The home was listed as being in St. Charles High School rather than Fort Zumwalt North High School. Two different schools, in two different school districts, that happen to be located in completely different parts of St. Charles County.
If you advertised your sofa in the used car classifieds, do you think anyone would find it?
5. Zero Bathrooms
I just did a quick search in the MLS and found 35 homes priced over $150,000 that have ZERO bathrooms listed. A couple of these are probably tear down homes…but the rest are all homes that someone is living in and is hoping to sell as a residence. One of the homes on this list is actually listed at $1,750,000 with 5 bedrooms and 7300 square feet. It’s been on the market for 548 days…I wonder why!
My experience is that even the most open-minded buyers have a minimum number of bedrooms and bathrooms. My most basic searches include a price range, minimum bedrooms, minimum bathrooms and location. If your house is listed as having 0 bathrooms, no one will find it.
6. Other Careless Typos
Like the bathroom number being zero, you would be amazed at the other mistakes that I’ve found. Homes that are listed as having no bedrooms, basements or garages…when they actually do have them.
Last year I was working with a buyer that insisted upon a 3 car garage. In his price range there weren’t a lot of options, so he eventually started looking at homes with 2 car garages. Surprise surprise….we found a house listed as having a 2 car garage but it really had the desired 3 car garage. Yes, the picture showed the garage. But, most homes are sold by a real estate agents finding them through MLS searches. Agents don’t want to search through hundreds of listings, so we tend to refine our search as much as possible. If I know that a buyer wants a 3 car garage, it will be in my search criteria. If your agent forgot to list it, your home won’t make it onto my list.
Another typo that happens more often than you would believe is having the wrong price. Before I put together a contract for any of my buyer clients, I always check comps and the pricing history. You can’t believe how often I see a home that had a typo in the price, such as $325,000 being entered as $32,500, where it wasn’t corrected for weeks. Most buyers and agents set a minimum price for their home searches, so a mistake like this can keep your home from selling.
7. Not Advertising Popular Features
If you have hardwood floors under your carpeting, it needs to be in your listing. Even if you love your wall-to-wall carpeting, there are many buyers out there that really want wood floors. If they see that they can remove your carpeting and get the floors they want, they’ll come take a look at your home.
Other features that should be mentioned in your marketing remarks are finished basements, walk-out basements, lots that back to trees or woods, and recent updates.
Your agent should be mentioning anything that will appeal to buyers, even if it isn’t something you care about.
8. Not Listing Rooms Sizes and Flooring
There are 2 problems with not including the room sizes and flooring information in your listing. First, many buyers have specific requirements or preferences about the size of the rooms and flooring, and they will just skip a listing that doesn’t show them that it is worth a drive out. Remember that buyers have limited time available to go looking at homes, and they use the online listings to screen out homes that they don’t want to see. Do your best to keep your MLS listing from turning your home into one that is screened out.
Second, when I see a listing that doesn’t list any room dimensions, I assume that I’ll be working with an agent that doesn’t pay attention to details.
Why is this a problem….I want to know that the agent representing the seller is going to make sure that all of the contractual agreements are taken care of on time. There are so many things that can derail a contract when the listing agent isn’t on top of the details. If there isn’t anything else compelling about the listing, the one without room information will go to the bottom of the stack.
9. Selling a House AS-IS when it is in Good Condition
The vast majority of homes that are sold as-is are foreclosures and homes that are in terrible condition. Investors are looking for as-is homes, but these homes are almost always too much work for the typical buyer. Every year I run across a few buyers that start out saying that they are interested in a house that needs work and want to see as-is homes. After two or three, they almost always change their mind and eliminate all as-is homes.
After walking into a few homes that have unflushed toilets, walls with holes in them and gutted kitchens, most buyers will start eliminating ALL as-is homes. If your home is in good condition, and you have it listed as-is, you are missing out on a ton of potential buyers. Buyers will assume that the house has many needed repairs that the seller is not willing to do.
Instead, price the house for the market and make the necessary repairs. By appealing to the majority of potential buyers, you’ll come out ahead even after you make the repairs.
10. Don’t use the Words ‘Motivated Seller’
What do the words ‘motivated seller’ mean to you? For most buyers, it means desperate!
If you decide to use phrases like ‘motivated seller’ or ‘seller wants an offer’, don’t be surprised when the offers come in WAY below list price.
Rather than only dealing with lowball offers, consider lowering your price. Fair offers will come when a house is priced so that it is the best house available for the money.
I’m always amazed that these mistakes go unnoticed by sellers. The moral of the story is that sellers need to review the MLS printout that their agent has posted to the MLS. If your agent doesn’t offer to show it to you, ask for a copy! Make sure you ask for the agent version rather than simply going online and looking it up yourself. There is a section for agent remarks, and these remarks don’t show up when the general public pulls up a listing. You want to make sure that you are comfortable with everything your agent is advertising to other agents.
This post was inspired by an article I read by Jay Thompson, a well known agent in the Phoenix area. To read more about mistakes that can be found in MLS listings, read Jay’s article Listing of the Week.