Buying & Selling Homes

3 Ways to Polish Your Online Real Estate Listing

“Curb appeal” is real estate jargon referring to the first impression your home makes on prospective buyers. With about 90% of house hunters sifting through online listings to narrow the field of choices, curb appeal now takes place in the digital domain. Here are three ways to ensure that your online listing isn't a drive-by:

1. Use an attractive exterior shot. Your listing's opening photo is the money shot. Michael Seiler, founding director of the Institute for Behavioral and Experimental Real Estate, has conducted eye-tracking tests to measure how viewers scan online listings. Results show that people linger longest over the exterior shot. Only briefly do people look at the kitchen, living room, master bedroom, master bath and backyard photos. And only 41% of a listing's viewers actually read the text description.

The implication is clear: Lead your listing with the best possible image of your home's exterior. If working with an agent, insist on a professional photographer and have shots taken at several times of day in order to capture the house in its most positive light.

2. Pay attention to the details. If you are selling 'by owner' or through a discount agency that requires you to do some of the legwork, take several digital photos and scrutinize them for details that are easily missed in real life. Spruce up the exterior for the camera-trim the bushes, touch up the trim, and paint the front door a bright or contrasting color that will pop in online photos. Then hire a pro for the glamour shots.

Apply the same strategy for cleaning up and staging interior shots. You will see things through the lens that you overlook in real life, such as the ubiquitous kitchen towel draped over the oven handle. Tidy up as much as possible, then take photos of each room from several angles. At that point, declutter, tidy, and clean again.

3. Keep the text short and specific. Finally, don't stress over text. A different study conducted by Seiler found that stereotypical agent 'happy talk' doesn't persuade buyers who want home data that can be verified.

Use specific evidence instead of generic terms. For example, write “windows replaced in 2011” and “Energy Star appliances installed in 2012” rather than “well maintained” and “new appliances.” Agents love to say that buyers purchase for emotional reasons, but Seiler's research indicates that the facts count, especially when house hunters are creating a short list of properties they are most likely to pursue.

For more on real estate, consider:

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