Realtors shifting strategies to market homes for sale

Pictures say a thousand words about a home — cleaning, staging, photography and drone footage help tell the story to a prospective buyer.

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Open houses are still an effective tool, but increasingly realtors’ marketing toolkit is expanding to include drones, professional videographers and professional staging, a new survey shows.

Royal LePage surveyed more than 600 realtors across Canada about what tools they use to help market client homes, and it found about 38 per cent use an open house for all or most listings.

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The fact the number is less than 50 per cent isn’t surprising to Doug Cabral, realtor with Royal LePage Benchmark in Calgary.

“An open house on opening weekend is great, but open houses do not really sell homes,” he says. “A lot of people who go to open houses are often not ready to buy.”

Royal LePage highlighted that nearly 50 per cent of those surveyed still believe open houses are as effective today as they were before the pandemic. Yet it also found 36 per cent rarely use the technique to stoke buyer interest compared with pre-pandemic.

That figure is in addition to 22 per cent who rarely used open houses as part of their strategy, ever.

“Buyers certainly enjoy the opportunity of going to open houses,” says Shawn Zigelstein, a broker and team leader at Royal LePage Your Community in Richmond Hill, Ont.

“We often encourage them to go to the open house and take as much time as they want, and if they really like it, we can book a private showing and go back again.”

Among the benefits is the casual nature of an open house where would-be buyers have more time than a private showing to explore the home.

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Yet does an open house stoke more interest?

It might generate more eyes on the property, Zigelstein adds.

But it’s unlikely that an open house will lead to a better price.

“If you’ve got your property out there to more people, then those people may be more interested in making an offer, but I don’t think you can say, ‘You will get X amount more’ holding an open house.”

What’s more, other marketing tools — which are often included as part of the realtor fee, as are open houses — are generally considered more useful.

The survey found most realtors — 61 per cent — use professional videography and photography for showing homes. As well, nearly one in two use drone footage in at least half their listings, and about 40 per cent use professional staging to show their home.

Most of these costs are borne by the realtor as part of the fees charged as a percentage of the home price, Cabral says.

“It’s widely accepted that realtors will pay for” professional photography, virtual tours, a layout plan and drone footage, he says.

He adds that these marketing tools offer true advantages to sellers, as they are digital assets that can be used on MLS (Multiple Listing Service), which provides data that can be used by other real estate marketing websites.

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“You need digital assets that are easily shareable,” Cabral says, adding good realtors increasingly use social media to market homes they represent.

While many realtors provide a staging consultation, offering advice to stage the home, covered among their fee for service, few include full-service staging, which often involves removing existing and bringing in new furniture and other items to make the home look its best.

Typically, full-staging services are only effective and cost-efficient for sellers of higher priced homes, he adds.

Instead, the best advice to market a home is often the least costly, though most time intensive: clean and declutter it thoroughly.

“It’s super important to have your home and yard look their best,” Cabral says. “Some people will say, ‘It’s a hot market, my home will sell anyway,’ but doing these may be the difference between receiving three offers or six.”

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