5 marketing skills to stand out
MAIN IMAGE: Jonathan Davies, director of Tyson Properties Gauteng; Adrian Goslett, regional director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa
Competition in the residential real estate market is fierce. The days are gone when this was an ‘easy’ way to make a living. Estate agents today need excellent offline and online marketing skills.
The South African housing market of today is far removed from the boom period of about a decade ago. According to the Global Property Guide during 2000-2006 national house prices rose by an average of 20% annually. In October 2004 house prices peaked with 35.7% annual growth (32.5% in real terms). The boom period in the local property market ground to a halt during the global financial crisis of 2008-9. Luckily, soon after sales in the South African housing market started picking up again from 2010 onwards up until 2017 when the country’s economy began to falter.
Since then house price growth have slowed down as well as sales, with the middle to luxury market hit the hardest (with some exceptions). Interestingly, by contrast, sales in the housing market below R1.5 million (R3 million in the upper income areas) have been good according to FNB economist Siphamandla Mkhwanazi.
Various factors are contributing to the lacklustre performance of the residential property market in general, such as the reintroduction of nationwide blackouts, continued uncertainty about the government’s commitment to root out corruption and their plans with land reform and the lack of real economic growth.
As a result, the local real estate sector has certainly felt the restraining effect. Sellers have also been feeling the pressure. Mkhwanazi reported last year that the number of properties on the market continue to exceed the demand and sellers in the middle to luxury market remain under pressure to drop their asking price to secure a sale for their home. For the last couple of years the housing market has been a buyer’s market and this scenario seems set to continue until the economy start to show signs of substantive recovery.
These are tough enough conditions for estate agents to secure listings and find buyers. Add to this a growing group of homebuyers that prefer to do their own research online before involving an expert and it follows naturally that to stand apart from the rest, today’s real estate agent needs expert online and offline marketing skills. As US veteran marketer Megan Marrs says, if you are not active and networking online, then you are missing out.
5 Marketing tips that work
American marketing expert Tara Jacobsen says there’s an old saying ‘buyers buy houses and sellers buy marketing’ that she thinks is true. You as the estate agent must sell your expertise during personal engagements, by email and with regularly updated and attractive social media pages.
1. Research, research, research
You need to be an expert on what is going on in the area where you want to secure listings. Know your property statistics such as the average selling and listing price and also the average time homes are on the market. Avoid having to answer “I don’t know, let me get back to you” to potential sellers or buyers.
Know where the best schools, restaurants, gyms, parks etc are in the neighbourhood. Stay informed about plans for new developments such as shopping malls, housing developments, retirement villages etc.
2. Stay in regular contact with your database
If you are a new agent, it can be daunting to find your first listing client. Jacobsen gives good suggestions on where to start. She started with the people she knows and/or were in regular contact with – this included friends and family, doctor, dentist, hairdresser AND husband’s work colleagues. She asked if she may add them to her database of people that receives a short weekly email from her with interesting information. Some said no, but many said yes and no-one was mean.
Make it easy for you to keep up the habit of sending a weekly email newsletter. Include interesting information that subscribers would want to know such as new homes coming up for sale or news about new developments coming to the area.
3. Marketing on social media
Jacobsen says Facebook and Instagram are two very effective marketing tools. She suggests streaming live video while you are doing an open house or sharing information about the area.
YouTube is another powerful and easily accessible marketing tool because research shows that people would rather watch a video than read a 300-word email. You can post videos on the homes that you are selling, highlighting their best selling points or videos about the area.
“In many ways, you’re not just selling a house, you’re selling a whole town or area. Showcase the best that your area has to offer, with high-quality, beautiful photos of local town landmarks and familiar sites,” says Marrs.
Daily update your social media profiles with interesting information and high-quality images.
4. Eye-catching listings
There are thousands of homes listed for sale on online platforms. It is therefore important to make sure that your listings will stand out to catch the attention of buyers. You have about three seconds to do that before they continue to scroll on to the next listing.
Jonathan Davies, director of Tyson Properties Gauteng, firmly believes in making a visual impact with your online listings. He explains that more products, including property, are being marketed online and as a result, consumers have become more visual. Pictures sell!
“When it comes to property it’s no different and you want your advert to be seen or stand out among the multitude of other properties that cohabit the property portals,” says Davies.
He gives the following advice on how to make your listings stand out:
- Make sure your photographs are good and present the home in the best way possible.
- Make use of a professional photographer or someone who can adequately capture the ambiance and feel of the home, the lifestyle it presents and its key features.
- Pay attention to what you write in the advert A dull and boring advert won’t emotionally capture the viewers’ attention. A punchy positive advert will go a long way and care should be taken to describe the features and selling points of the home. Mention the lifestyle, the PLUS features etc and this will go a long way to achieving a positive response.
- Make sure the property is correctly described and that you are ethical in how you describe the home. If it needs some work mention it as it gives the buyers some pre information about their decision to view the property.
- Take care when writing your adverts and create a picture in the reader’s mind. Try where possible to sell the emotional attributes of the home rather than just the bricks and mortar, paint the picture you want the buyer to feelg.:”A large patio with braai” sounds less appealing than “Enjoy a scrumptious braai with friends on this beautiful covered patio”.
- Manage your listings on property portals. As most homes are advertised on the digital property portals it’s important to look at your budget. An agent can pay to have their listing featured on a portal where more potential buyers will have access to the listing. An agent should strive to keep their listing fresh. Change the photographs from time to time, update the listing should the price drop and remember to tidy up any homes that may have sold or have been removed from the market. You need to keep your content up to date and relevant.
If you need to take your own photographs, find great tips here: How to take great listing photos
You should also consider having professional videos made that you can upload on social media where interested buyers can take virtual tours through the property. As mentioned videos are also a great way to market the area where you operate. Find out more here: Be the first to do a neighbourhood video
Take care to make your homes look attractive on photos and videos.
5. Networking and branding
Experienced estate agents will all tell you that nothing beats good old-fashioned face to face contact. You need to make yourself known in your area. Introduce yourself to fellow estate agents, a referral may just come as a result of that. Jacobsen says also target the businesses that work on homes such as painters, builders, carpenters and landscapers.
Always have business cards on hand to make it easy for people to contact you.
Branding is your friend says Marrs – people love freebies, so consider investing in some pens, water bottles and caps that you can hand out at local events. Consider partnering with local businesses to host community events such as fun runs and annual festivals.
In conclusion, Adrian Goslett, regional director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says it is important to remember that an appealing listing is just one component of an effective marketing plan. “A real estate professional will make use of multiple other avenues to attract buyers, such as social media advertising, email marketing and traditional advertising techniques such as show days, word of mouth networking and newspaper ads,” he ends.