Listing Presentation: Get in Step With Consumers

See how the great ones strut their stuff to waltz away with more listings.

February 1, 2006

A great listing presentation is like a well-choreographed dance—each element gracefully flows into the next. And just as there are many different types of dance, real estate practitioners employ varied styles in their listing presentations. Determining which style is best is about as easy as saying who’s the better dancer, Mikhail Baryshnikov or Fred Astaire.

To help you develop a winning style, REALTOR® Magazine invited “power listers” from three areas of the country to do a mock listing presentation on a home in Chicago.

The seller: Christine, a professional considering a move from a single-family home to a downtown condo. The presenters: Teri Herrera, CRB, CRS®, of John L. Scott Real Estate in Bellevue, Wash.; Melody Rivera, CRS®, GRI, and her husband, Michael Rivera, of Nostalgic Homes in Denver; and Ron Rush of Long & Foster, REALTORS®, in Fairfax, Va.

Rush, Herrera, and the Riveras all received basic information—a brief description of the seller and surrounding neighborhood; data on the house, including the listing sheet from when the home was purchased in 1995; and comparables on 13 homes in the area that were active or under contract, or had closed within the past year. A local salesperson was available to provide more information. The presenters had just 30 minutes each, quite a challenge; later, the magazine invited a panel of eight consumers to watch a videotape of the presentations and give their feedback.

What the presenters knew about the seller: Christine is a 40-year-old senior executive at a national public relations firm. She makes a six-figure salary and is very comfortable with technology. She works a minimum of 50 hours per week and travels often for her job, sometimes at a moment’s notice, so she values convenience, simplicity, and dependability. When she’s not working, she places a premium on relaxation and stress-free activities. She also enjoys the finer things in life, even if it means paying a little extra.

Here, you'll find out how the presenters prepared for their 30 minutes in the spotlight, learn the seller’s reaction, and then get the surprising feedback of our consumer panel. And the next time you make a listing presentation, don’t just do the same old song and dance. Use what you learned here to put yourself in perfect step with consumers.

The Riveras: Niche marketing

Melody Rivera has been selling real estate in the Denver area for 15 years. Her husband Michael joined the business four years ago. Between them, they’ve handled more than $200 million in transactions. In addition, they’ve been active real estate investors for 22 years, and their investment strategies have been featured in Money magazine. Both are active in their local and state REALTOR® associations.

The Riveras specialize in homes built before 1960, and they emphasize that expertise with prospective sellers. To prepare for an appointment, they assess a home’s condition and look for value-added touches, such as exposed woodwork and updated kitchens and bathrooms. Although they’re familiar with Denver neighborhoods, for this presentation they used eNeighborhoods to get a feel for the area surrounding Christine’s home.

The presentation: Christine’s home was built in the mid-1940s, so the Riveras started their presentation by talking about their experience and success with selling older homes. They described their four-member team and their service-oriented approach. They also mentioned that all of Nostalgic Homes’ 50 associates would take a tour of the home during a two-day period.

Next, they described their marketing program and the different techniques they use to promote a home. In addition to Internet listings with virtual tours and color brochures, they use custom magazines and newsletters that showcase their niche. They also hold open houses and blanket the surrounding area with flyers, they said, since buyers often come from within the neighborhood.

Then they talked about price, going through the comps and drawing Christine’s attention to remodeling work and upgrades in comparable homes. Many of the comps had upgraded kitchens, Melody pointed out. Since Christine said she didn’t want to spend time remodeling, Melody said objections to the kitchen might be best handled with a price reduction.

The Riveras used a neat three-ring binder to take Christine through their presentation and ended by asking Christine for the listing. (Note: The videos will appear in a new window. Press the play button to begin viewing.)

Seller feedback: “Mike and Melody were very nice. And their niche was the one that was most suited to my house.”

Focus group reaction: The consumer panel agreed that the Riveras’ expertise in older homes was one of the strengths of their presentation. But they found it distracting that Mike and Melody took turns talking. And despite the classic sales training that says you need to ask for the business, they were put off by the Riveras’ request that Christine call them before listing with someone else.

Teri Herrera: High-tech maven

A consistent top producer and a specialist in luxury homes, Herrera has sold more than $300 million in real estate since entering the business in 1992. Before launching her real estate career, she was national sales manager for Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Herrera makes ample use of technology, both in her business and during listing presentations. To prepare for an appointment, she pulls tax records, scouts the neighborhood, and briefly meets the seller to determine what comps she wants to use in the competitive market analysis. Before her first meeting with the seller, her assistant sends, via e-mail, a PowerPoint presentation that covers Herrera’s background and credentials, her team members, and the marketing tools she uses.

The presentation: Herrera opened with a discussion of the four elements she says are important in selling a home—price, position, promotion, and profiling. She explained how she develops a profile of a home’s potential buyer and tailors her marketing accordingly. She said the buyer profile also helps her identify comps because she looks beyond the immediate geographic area to other homes that are likely to capture that buyer’s attention.

She then outlined her marketing program, which includes custom flyers, targeted print and online ads, and e-mail marketing. She took Christine online to show her an online listing, noting that she uses narrated video rather than virtual tours to make her Web site more dynamic and hold buyer interest.

Herrera told Christine that each of her listings is covered by a home warranty from the day it goes on the market until it’s sold. She also talked about her team and the role each plays in promoting the home. For sellers’ convenience, she said, she maintains an online transaction management site and burns a CD with all relevant documents after closing.

In discussing price, Herrera noted that the lack of recent activity in Christine’s neighborhood could signal pent-up demand among people wanting to move into the area. In her price suggestion, Herrera factored in market appreciation that had occurred since some of the comps had closed.

Seller feedback: “Teri did a great job with the buyer profile she compiled. She basically described me and why I bought this house in the first place. I liked her approach, and I liked that her preferred method of communicating was e-mail.”

Focus group reaction: The group was impressed with the amount of research Herrera did before her presentation and thought she clearly had established a connection with the seller. Panelists also liked her high-tech approach but said it might alienate some consumers. Herrera acknowledges that upfront, saying she pursues only tech-savvy clients.

Ron Rush: Organization man

Rush, a 38-year real estate veteran, has closed more than $1 billion in sales and 5,200 transactions during his career. He’s a recognized expert in real estate finance and negotiation and has been Long & Foster’s No. 1 salesperson in Virginia for 13 years. Today, he heads a team of 18. Before going into real estate, Rush spent more than 20 years in the Air Force.

He prepares for a listing presentation by checking tax records and recent home sales activity in the area. He uses that information and the walk-through to establish a price range, but he lets the seller pick the price.

The presentation: After briefly introducing himself and mentioning that he works with a team that includes his two sons, Rush got right into a discussion of how to establish the home’s listing price. His presentation was direct and low-key, reflecting his long career in real estate.

He asked Christine about her motivation for selling and explained how timing can affect price. He noted that recent interest rate jumps had cooled the pace of transactions somewhat and could also affect price. Then he went through the comps and discussed how the size, location, and features of those homes could be used to establish a price.

From there he moved into a description of his skills and experience, including his past national ranking (from REALTOR® Magazine, which used to rank sales associates). He walked Christine through a professionally designed four-color booklet, pointing out the members of his team and their areas of responsibility.

In the final part of Rush’s presentation, he showed the tools he uses to market homes, including a toll-free hotline and an Internet presence complete with virtual tours. He told Christine he’d give her a schedule of what’s happening with the home so that she could monitor the progress.

Seller feedback: “Ron was very straightforward with his facts and figures. I appreciated the way he explained how when I put my house on the market affects the price. It was obvious he’s been at this a long time.”

Focus group reaction: The panelists liked Rush’s upfront discussion of the market, and they gave Rush points for noting that his sons were part of his team and for mentioning his military background, which they said would appeal to many consumers. But, the panel thought he spoke too quickly and spent too much time on his qualifications—and not enough on building rapport with the seller.

The consumers: How they see it

REALTOR® Magazine asked eight Chicago-area home owners—five women and three men—for their take on our power listers’ presentations. The panelists had these suggestions:

Defend your commission. Most of the panelists didn’t realize commissions were negotiable—“I’m definitely going to negotiate hard next time,” said Faizal Jogee, a 36-year-old systems analyst—but they were surprisingly amenable to having salespeople stand up for their fee. “I’d much rather hear, ‘This is why I’m worth my commission’ and not ‘I’ll lower it if I have to,’ which would signal you weren’t secure in what you were asking,” said Monica Rhodes, a 37-year-old public health program consultant.

Focus on them. Panelists said if there was one thing that turned them off, it was too much crowing about past successes. They want to know about your expertise, they said, but only in relation to how it will help their sale. “I’d want to be sure that the person we hired was working in our best interest and that we were getting a fair value for our property,” said Tanya Jogee, a 34-year-old marketing analyst. Lisa Holton, a 47-year-old freelance writer and editor, added that she’d want a listing agent who brings more to the table than what she can find on the Internet. “It’s so easy now to research your neighborhood,” she said. “I’d want somebody to come into my house and tell me something I don’t know.”

Be ready for the FSBO question. During the presentations, Christine told each of the pros she was thinking of selling the home herself. All the presenters were well prepared—with three very distinct responses. Rush said the timing and interest rate environment could make it tough, but if she went that route, he’d be supportive. He asked that Christine consider him as a backup if the house didn’t sell. The Riveras discouraged Christine, emphasizing the amount of time she’d need to invest in the process. And Herrera talked about how listing a home with a professional would ensure broader exposure. The consumer panel saw merit in each response but cautioned that talking about the time commitment could backfire. “I’d say, ‘Well, I’ll make the time,’” said Michael Rhodes, a 38-year-old banker. Panelists said a combination of the three approaches would probably win them over: explaining the time and exposure a professional would give the listing but offering to provide support and backup to an avowed do-it-yourselfer.

Make a connection. When the panelists were asked what was most important to them in choosing a listing agent, there was a notable split along gender lines. The men expressed more interest in facts and figures: listing price, net proceeds, and expected days on the market. “I like to see the math behind things,” said Michael Rhodes. Most of the women, however, cited subjective issues, such as personality. “I tend to judge [the relationship] based on how the conversation goes, what kind of feeling I get,” said Debra Price, a 44-year-old consultant. Male or female, the panelists agreed on the importance of building rapport. They gave high marks to Herrera, who showed the most familiarity with Christine’s neighborhood and explained how she’d use technology to accommodate Christine’s schedule.

Save paper. Don’t leave prospective sellers drowning in a sea of marketing materials. The panelists said an ideal leave-behind would be a one- or two-page memo that summarized key points, such as listing price, marketing strategy, and contact information.

REALTOR® Magazine would like to thank Irene Yungerman of Baird & Warner in Chicago and Hatfield Productions in Chicago for their help in preparing this feature.

Chuck Paustian is a former REALTOR® Magazine senior editor.

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