Building a Strong Web Presence
The seller wanted an online marketing whiz to help sell her property. Jeannie Feenick, a Web savvy New Jersey practitioner, fit the bill.
August 1, 2009
Location: Martinsville, N.J.
Square footage: 2,800
Lot size: About 1 acre
Year built: 1969
Extras: Located on a cul-de-sac on a nice wooded lot; the home featured a pool, eat-in kitchen, pantry, and formal dining room.
THE CHALLENGE: By the time Diane Kimsey called Jeannie Feenick, a sales associate with Weichert Realtors in Warren, N.J., in June 2008, the home owner had already conducted an exhaustive search for a real estate practitioner to list her Martinsville, N.J., home.
“I looked at Web sites—the extensiveness of them and the testimonials and tips about buying and selling," says Kimsey, who used the Web to find her New Hampshire retirement home in 2007. "If the agent didn’t have a strong Web presence, I just bypassed them. Then, I made a list of the agents who had impressive online platforms and arranged interviews. I already shopped on the Internet, and this transaction was just an extension of that.”
Feenick says meeting Kimsey’s high expectations was the first obstacle to selling the four-bedroom colonial. To impress Kimsey, Feenick showcased her marketing system—a strategy that combined traditional and online channels, including interactive sites like Realtor.com, Zillow, and Redfin, as well as social networks like ActiveRain, Trulia, and Twitter.
Kimsey liked what she heard. “I wanted someone who could give me an edge in the tough market. And in my opinion, if a sales associate is going the extra mile by blogging and answering questions online, I think it shows that they will go the extra mile to sell my house,” she says.
But while Kimsey was sold on using Feenick as her agent, Feenick says the market conditions were dismal. “The house listed during a slow summer season, with a continued declining market forecast. And while the wooded landscape and park-like setting were strong selling points, the home lacked a sprinkler system. So we worried that the dry summer weather would negate the draw of the lush green lawn as it browned out,” Feenick says.
How did you take to overcome the challenge?
FEENICK: I went with an aggressive marketing campaign. I took high-quality photos and incorporated the maximum number of images in online listings. I posted the listing on Garden State MLS, Weichert.com, Realtor.com, Feenick.com, Trulia, Zillow, Craigslist, Postlets, and other major sites.
I broadcast a voicemail message announcing the new listing to the agents in my home office and surrounding offices and sent an e-mail blast with the listing information to more than 800 area agents too.
I signed up for the office caravan the Tuesday after our staff meeting to expose the listing to our own agents. I held a broker open house Wednesday to all area agents to increase exposure.
And by Friday, we had an offer in hand and were under contract shortly thereafter.
How long did the sale take?
FEENICK: I listed the property June 9, 2008, for $689,000. We sold it 11 days later for $685,000.
How much did you spend marketing the property?
FEENICK: I spent about $200.
How many times did you show the property?
FEENICK: The property was shown four times before the contract was received.
Can you tell me about the buyer?
FEENICK: The buyer had been in the market for months and knew the inventory well. When we came on the market, the buyer's agent and the buyer recognized the home as a desirable listing at a fair market price and jumped on it. He and the agent saw the listing online.
What do you attribute to closing the deal?
FEENICK: The speed of this sale is directly related to the fact that we got our pricing right, and our buyer recognized our price as very fair, having spent much time in the market already. Online buyers watch daily—just as agents do—for new listings. And as this case demonstrates, when an attractive listing hits and is priced right, buyers know what to do. So while we were new to the market, we were lucky that our buyer was not.
Do you have a specialty or niche?
FEENICK: Online marketing. The bricks-and-mortar real estate model is a dying breed. Diane Kimsey found her new retirement home in New Hampshire online in 2007. When it came to selecting a listing agent for her Martinsville, N.J., home, she headed to cyberspace and found me. So while sales practitioners man the phones or sit at the front desk for hours hoping that a Diane Kimsey will walk through the door, it just isn't happening there right now—it’s happening online. That’s where the action is.
What lessons did you learn from this transaction?
FEENICK: Overpricing during the first 60 days is a grave mistake, particularly in a declining market. Sellers who price correctly right out of the gate will do better. Price it right, and if you miss the mark, adjust quickly to capitalize on this initial period. But be aware that there may not be much wiggle room; online buyers are well educated and will overlook overpriced properties. And once you lose your audience, you may not get them back.