The Five Things That Sell Homes Today


Anyone who has sold more than a couple homes has probably heard all the pitches from different agents, stories from neighbors, and maybe even read some books about selling a home. And all of those things probably have worked somewhere, sometime.

Once I took a listing, walked out to my car and as I was placing a “For Sale” sign in the front yard a buyer pulled up and wanted to see the house. They walked through it, loved it, bought it that night. Once I was sitting an “Open House” that was vacant and a couple walked in needing somewhere to move into the next week as the home they were buying caught fire and their apartment had been leased. My home was the best they saw that day that was also vacant and ready for immediate possession, so they bought it. Once I sent out “Just Listed” postcards in the neighborhood around a home I just put on the market and a neighbor called me. I showed her the home and she bought it for her son.

So does that mean that the best way to sell a house is a yard sign, open house, or postcard? Of course not. Usually selling a home (for top dollar) takes a lot of marketing, money and diligent effort.

And times have changed. Newspapers used to bring buyers, now they’re not nearly as popular unless you place full color (expensive) block ads, which we do. Open houses used to be a much bigger deal. Now, most people prefer to take a virtual tour of a home at their convenience. The internet didn’t exist in real estate ten years ago, now it’s the most powerful form of marketing available.

In my experience there are five things that  matter most when selling a home.

Accessibility is important because if people can’t see the home they won’t buy it. This is why it’s important to have keybox. And most MLS systems now support an electronic keybox that is much safer and allows greater access by the agents. These are much better than a combo keybox that anyone can get into if they know the code.

Condition is important to selling, but mostly it’s important to selling for top dollar. If your agent can help you stage your home it will help, or even better- call an interior designer and have them come out for a consultation. They will usually walk through your home with your and give you tips on making your home look it’s best for under $200. Money well spent if brings an offer for thousands more.

Price of course makes the biggest difference, and pricing your home effectively is a very important piece to selling. Over-price and you miss out on the first critical weeks on the market because buyers are comparing your home to homes that are actually worth that price. But nobody wants to leave money on the table, and pricing a home too low can leave a seller out $Thousands.

The MLS is where all the agents, and their buyers, are finding homes. And unless it’s a roaring hot sellers market, agents don’t usually show For Sale By Owner homes, so if you aren’t listed on the MLS you’re missing out on showing it to most all of the buyers. And just being on the MLS is not the end of the story- if you are with an entry-only or limited services broker that hurts, just like an MLS listing that has no information about the home hurts. You need to utilize the entire breadth of value from the MLS- photos and virtual tour, detailed home information, a good co-broker commission and well-written comments about the home that entice people to see it.

The Internet is where all the buyers are looking. To get on the biggest, and only relevant websites you need to be on the MLS because this is where the big sites all get their feeds and information. Being on the websites that have the traffic will expose a home to more buyers than all the other stuff combined. And there must be a virtual tour to have the best exposure. Buyers and agents look at the homes with tours first, and many only look at homes with tours.

Of these five things, a home seller is responsible for three of them. The seller determines how accessible a home is going to be. And they are responsible for the condition a home is in and for keeping it looking it’s best while it is for sale. And, regardless of what some agents will tell you, the seller is responsible for the price. It’s their home and their money. A professional Realtor will help with all three of these things.

And a professional Realtor will also be able to help market the property on the MLS correctly and place the property, with a virtual tour, on the relevant websites, as well as help you with the negotiations, paperwork, and coordination of the transaction.


19 thoughts on “The Five Things That Sell Homes Today

  1. I mostly agree on all points, although I’ve never used virtual tours. I believe that I will begin to do so next year. Do you know if there is an easy way to do VT’s without paying someone?? I’d like to control it if possible.

  2. We hire a professional photographer to do ours because they come out looking better, but even just getting a high resolution digital camera and learn a little bit about lighting and angles and then snap photos of the relevant rooms and features.

    Virtual tours don’t necessarily sell a house, but they help people decide which homes to go look at, which helps sell the house.

  3. Great blog.

    I just added to my blogroll at, a PR 4 blog.

    I linked to your category on “Utah Real Estate Market” since economics is the theme of my blog.

    Like Todd, I haven’t done virtual tours. I’ve taken much better than average still photos myself. However, I’m still not happy with the quality and have recently ordered an expensive Nikon so I can, hopefully, take great photos.

    If I can occasionally take a “Wow” photo, that should increase showings and sales. With so many homes on the market, I’m hoping good photography will set my clients’ homes apart.

    Here’s a great blog for real estate photographers, .


  4. Todd Tarson: I’m not in the real estate business but have been looking for a new home. I can tell you from experience that virtual tours are a must…but must be done correctly.
    1. Those 360 degree tours? Bad
    2. Pictures! And More Pictures? Good…no GREAT
    3. Pictures of the kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms, dining room, garage, back yard, any good views from the house and the neighborhood.

    This is not just my opinion. Add these to a brother who just bought a house 3 weeks ago. a sister who bought 1 year afo, a boos who bought in June and some co-workers who recently bought homes.

    I can also tell you that the real estate website that has the best pictures for their listings will get “our first look” over the agents who provide just a few pictures or those silly panaramic shows.

    If I was the king of real estate, I would make every agent do a complete blog on each house they list. I want to know why the current owners likes the house, what the best features are, some info on the neighborhood. Basically a story with lots of pictures to sell the house.

    Just my opinion and the opinion of some of my family and friends.

  5. Pingback: Brokerages Don’t Earn Commissions- Realtors Do « Blog

  6. Great post! I couldn’t agree more of how important lots and lots of photos are online. That’s a great idea about having a blog about a listing; I do a web site for each listing and will now incorporate a blog. Funny, in San Francisco our Open House section actually does drive foot traffic to a property. My philosophy is that the commission structure is part of your marketing strategy. It can differentiate your property from others on the market.

  7. When I was a broker for Prudential California in the San Fran area we ran newspaper ads and got some traffic to our open houses, but in my experience homes don’t usually sell because of the open house, but we do meet some good clients that way.

  8. 1. Todd: we shoot tours in hours via Visual, a staff peson does it for me and he does a nice job. while he is there, he measures, creates a floor plan, shoots the tour, does the regular still shots (30) then brings them back for my review. It’s much cheaper and much better quality control. The tours also have voice-over narration which is cool, and Visualtour.ccom loads them to a few extra websites for us.
    2. Greg: MLS is not always the “must have” answer for everyone.

  9. Mike,

    Without the MLS a home does not get the exposure to sell for top dollar- period. You cannot remove the largest part of the buyer-pool and expect to get top dollar.

    Of course it is not for everyone. Using a Realtor at all is not for everyone- if a home is in a very desirable neighborhood and the sellers want to price it low it may sell with little effort. Many times an attorney will handle the paperwork for a few hundred bucks (that’s much less than A2S).

  10. Mike and Vanessa
    Telling someone they save 3% is misleading. Very misleading. They might have saved 3% commision but how much did they save on the total sale? How do you know? Did they net more? Prove it. Fact is that more exposure gives increased chances of more net. Even if you dont’ like, even if you have percieved success from other models, even if your clients are happy and you are making a living, the fact is that the MLS sells more homes then any other source out there. The vast majority of internet websites would not have home listings if it was not for the MLS.

  11. Mike and Vanessa,
    What’s so cutting edge about saying you’ll charge less and do less? You both act like being the cheapest is the only thing people want. If that’s the case, why are there so many other brokers doing so much business with clients that are happy?

    You two are the ones who think you’re better because you’re cheap. That is not innovative- that’s being cheap (it’s been around for thousands of years).

    Cheap service = cheap results.

  12. Pingback: Blog "For Sale By Owner" Doesn't Always Pay «

  13. Hey – Put your flame throwers down, and step away. The post has great points. The opinions expressed here all seem relevant (well, the ones related to the actual post).

    Something I didn’t see mentioned is the use of video instead of the horrid 360 degree tours. I tend to believe videos will come to be expected by sellers as they see more and more agents providing them, and with the video editing software, and video sharing platforms being introduced almost daily, this should get easier and easier for us to provide.

    Just trying to get things back on topic.

  14. Shaun,

    Thanks for the reset. The challenge I have with video is the difficulty in creating and distributing a high-quality product. I’ll post about that soon. Are you using video?

  15. I would like to personally thank Greg for his blog website.

    I was having difficulty with my house being finished. I posted a comment here on Blueroof blog and now when you google the builder, my comment comes up number one on the search. He has since made every effort to complete it.

    I sought a lawyer, but this was, fortunately, a much cheaper way of handling it and I would like to thank Greg and Blueroof for helping me.

    It has been a relief. If this post should go in a different category, please cut and paste it.

    Thank you sincerely,


  16. Greg, I didn’t see your reply. Yes, I’m using video. I’ll admit, my first one was pathetic, but it was still a decent representation of the home. The videos that followed were better, but I’m still not real excited. The newer videos are really just glorified panoramics with pan and zoom effects (not really, but they appear that way).
    I receive a ton of feedback on this one:

    It actually ties in with why I came back to this post. Another huge reason people buy homes is Emotions. In the video above, there is a scene from the kitchen, zoomed out to the lake, where people are on a jet ski. I zoom out to show the room, and admit it was a really lucky shot. I have had 4 calls from people mentioning this video, and that scene in particular. Just made me realize how effective videos can be, and how much emotion people put into their buying decision.

  17. A lot of them do, we have a program for that too—and it is very inexpensive, much less than $3,000 (not that we charge that anyway, but still). Choices, choices, choices—gotta love ’em.

  18. We all think a picture here and there is fine, but the core data is critical. I rely on instant real estate records via They provide service in all 50 states and cover residential and commercial properties. Not only I get what I need, I also can do research on surrounding properties and find how much was paid for the house and other pertinent information.

  19. Thanks for these tips for selling a home. I’m glad that you explained that you should make sure that the condition of your home and how to make it more appealing. This seems like a good way to also try to determine what kinds of projects you should budget out for, in case something needs more focus than the others.

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