Real Estate Marketing: How to Look Busy Without Accomplishing Anything

AvatarTo my mind, the darkest levels of hell resemble an office cubicle where there’s no actual work to be done. Instead, paper needs to be resorted from one stack to the next with no rhyme or reason in an effort to constantly look busy without completing any work.

Many of the traditional real estate marketing techniques are built under the same design template of how to look busy without accomplishing anything. Open houses, agent tours, special “broker” open houses, paper flyers – all do next to nothing to actually sell a home, but the expectation is we as agents will still do all of them so our sellers can see that we are “workin’ hard”, as my father-in-law would put it.

This morning I spent 15 minutes talking to a third-party relocation specialist who said a seller was concerned about the time it’s taking to sell his home – 19 days as of today – and that she feels multiple open houses will be the solution.

As I’ve said many, many times in the past, open houses largely are an effort in futility. First, you have to have a motivated buyer. Second, they need to be fully qualified to buy the home. Third, they have to be driving down the road at the moment the open house is taking place. Fourth, they have to take the time to follow the signs to see what home is for sale. Fifth, they have to decide this is the home for which they’ve been searching. Sixth, they have to make an offer on the home. Seventh, the offer has to be sufficiently strong that the seller would accept it or at least negotiate.

Throw out any one of those seven factors and there will not be a sale. And you have to have every one of those seven factors in order to get the house under contract. I’m not a statistician, but the odds seem remarkably long – easily long enough to bear out the NAR stats that less than 7 homes in 100 sell at an open house.

Internet marketing has negated the weekend open house. Buyers can scan hundreds of homes from the comfort of their own living room, selecting and eliminating homes from the photos and floorplans available on line. Only if a home survives the initial online cut will most buyers take the time to drive to the house to take a look. Store-bought cookies and maybe a bottled water aren’t incentive enough to drive in circles in hopes of the right home appearing.

When I mentioned that the primary visitors to open houses were the neighbors, the relo agent excitedly told me that’s the best source of buyers because neighbors will tell their friends that there’s a home for sale in their neighborhood. In reality, they’ll be telling their friends there are dozens of┬áhomes for sale in their neighborhood including seven of the exact same model. What’s one more?

Another suggestion made to me was the ubiquitous broker tour – a caravan of agents take a morning, usually at the urging of a title company, and view a series of homes in a given area over a three- or four-hour span.

Requirement number one to have the home on tour is to attend the tour. So already, the vast majority of agents on the tour are there not to search for homes for their buyers but to tout their own home. If you have eight agents, all with their own homes on tour and all intent solely on getting their house shown, what are the odds any one agent is going to be attentive enough to notice your home and also happen to have just the right buyer?

Since these tours work the same geographic areas, wouldn’t it stand to reason that if the listing agent had a buyer interested in homes in that area, their listing may no longer be for sale? And if their listing doesn’t meet their needs, is it more likely they’ll check the MLS to see what’s available or hope the perfect home happens to be on tour on any given day?

When hiring someone to sell your home, would you rather have someone spending their time looking busy without actually doing anything that would sell the home? Or would you rather they use the technological tools available – the Internet, single-property sites, 800 call-capture technology, e-mail house flyers – to provide more focused, more effective marketing?

Me too.

[tags]real estate marketing, real estate technology[/tags]

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at


  • Thomas Johnson 10 years ago

    Amazing- I bet when you took that listing, they said nothing about pricing for a 14 day sale, and I know your seller’s house is the lowest priced of the 7 identical models, right?

    May be the third party relo agent needs to start preparing the employer buyout package so his employer can get the employee relo’d.

    Maybe the 3rd party relo agent would like to sit in the house this weekend or drive the tour bus? They get a big chunk of your fee anyway…

    How badly does the employer need the employee at the new duty station?