Report#6 – Pre-marketing makes all the difference

In this report, I want to briefly touch on the concept of pre-marketing.  Of all the aspects of a home sale, I can honestly say that few are as vital to a top dollar sale as the actions you do in the weeks before we hit the market.  Here we are working together to come up with the most cost effect means of presenting the most pristine product to the public.  Many sellers over the years have looked with me at some of the deficiencies in the property and said, “we’ll just give the Buyer a credit for that,” but it just doesn’t work well.  Buyers have a tendency to deduct way more than the value of the repair, and often assume that if x has been neglected, there’s probably a lot more that needs to be done that they can’t see.

Lets start with some obvious things.  First comes de-cluttering the home, inside and out.  This doesn’t just mean getting rid of things you plan to throw away, but more so excess furniture that makes the property look that much smaller.  One home I was working on recently has now had two large dumpsters, a moving pod, and three family members that came to take furniture.  You know what, it STILL looks a bit more cluttered than I’d like.  Can you imagine what it was like before?  By the way, it was meticulously clean, just filled with lots and lots of things.

Now that we have it de-cluttered, we will address the two different phases of the pre-marketing preparations.   The first phase is correcting things that are deficient in some way, or in need of repair.   On the exterior, we want to look at any rotted window sills, for example.  It’s much easier to fix those now, when you can do it with filler and paint, than to do it post inspection, when someone wants the entire wooden frame replaced over a tiny piece of wood rot.  We want to look for any areas where clapboards have popped out or cracked, and anywhere that may need touch up paint.  I’ll likely have my painter there anyway, doing work on the inside, so it’s not a big deal for him to do some outside work.   One place to pay special attention is the front door area.  After all, it’s the very first thing a buyer will see when they walk up to the home.  Speaking of entrances, lets look at the plantings in front of the house.  Time to get those trimmed back and shaped, make sure the walkway looks nice, and if needed, swap out the two main lights on each side of the doorway, for something shiny and newer. As we go inside, we want to look at areas that need paint, worn or torn carpeting, search all ceilings, including in the closets, for signs of water leaks, check the furnace filters, and in fact, wipe the whole furnace, HW Heater, and oil tank if you have one, with some windex, so they look shiny and newer.  Lets patch up holes in any of the walls or door frames, and paint those, and on the topic of paint, lets look at each room individually and see what needs painting   I love paint…everything about it.   It’s got to be the cheapest bang for the buck of any home improvement.  It makes everything look so fresh, neutral and ready for the next buyers touch.   We also want to check windows and skylights for any that may have lost their seal, evidenced by a foggy appearance.  In the electrical box, we want to look for any double tapped circuit breakers, meaning that there are two wires leading into one breaker.  If you see that, get an electrician to come out and fix it.   Obviously there are many, many more things that fall into this category, and when you’re ready, I’ll walk through with you and point out anything I see.  Remember that the goal isn’t to just start dumping money into a home you’re not even going to be living in.  Rather the objective is to look at things that are going to come up later anyway, and do them in advance, when you can control how they’re done, in the hopes of getting a higher price.

As I mentioned, there were two phases of the pre-marketing work.  What I discussed above was fixing deficiencies, deferred maintenance items, etc.   The next group of items is about making added improvements to the home, replacing things that are perfectly fine, in the hopes of getting a bigger rate of return.  in this phase, the object is o find things you can do where you can get back a return or two, three, four or five times what you spent on the item.  While it’s hard to quantify such returns in a black and white fashion, I can tell you that qualitatively, these items are great for impressing the Buyers, which in turn results in a higher sales price. Some of the larger ones would involve kitchen updates, such as granite counters or new stainless steel appliances.  While those are obviously big ticket items, they are really helpful, especially when dealing with homes in the upper price ranges.   Now, lets look at some really affordable items that quickly upgrade the appearance of a home – light fixtures and window treatments.   If your home is over 15 years old, chances are that those light fixtures which were so in style when the home was new, are showing their age – especially the ones in the hallways.  Fortunately, new ones can be purchased so affordably, and the install process is very easy.   for a few hundred dollars you can probably replace them all.    With respect to window treatments, you want to get rid of any old blinds or pull down shades, because they usually look dated.  Instead, pop over to Walmart and just pick up some nice drapery shears, that are in the under $20 range, and some pretty rods to put them on.  They add a really nice touch to any room, and again are so incredibly affordable.  I would also recommend going through and swapping out all of those energy efficient light bulbs that you put in.  Instead, put in some really nice, bright lights that really make the place shine.  Outdoors, you may want to just add some nice shrubs on the front walkway, or anywhere else you feel they would look nice.  They’re so affordable, and you can obviously plant them yourself in a few hours

As you may surmise, so much of this is just common sense, of course.  The key is in knowing what items are worth doing, based on the market, the competition, the age and value of the property, and a host of other factors.   The second price of the puzzle is getting the right people in to do the work.   That’s harder than you think, as you’ve probably found from calling repair people in the past.   The folks I use are incredibly good, affordable, and because I send them a ton of work, they will drop other things to take care of my clients first.

If you have any questions on this or any of my other reports, please reach out anytime.  You can reach me by email


Report #4 – Establishing the Optimal Listing Price for a Top Dollar sale.

It’s amazing just how things have changed in the three decades since I entered the real estate field.   I can still recall that one of the first lessons we were all taught when getting our real estate sales licenses was how to accurately perform a “Comparable Market Analysis.” We were told to pull up all of the recent sales in the neighborhood of “comparable properties,” and do an analysis of the positive and negative features of each, to establish a listing price that we truly had confidence in as being the highest possible value we could attain for our sellers.


Well, all of that works fine in a market where the prices are stable, and the homes are identical, but once you deviate from those two parameters it becomes far more complicated to ensure that you’re getting every dollar out of the transaction that you possibly.   One issue that comes into play is the complex interaction of “fair market value” vs. “sales price.” Again, all things being equal, those two should be the same, yet that’s rarely the case. Ultimately, the fair market value is set by calculating the recent comparable sales, as mentioned above, but in a market with little or no inventory, people who really need to purchase and haven’t had any luck finding a property, may be willing to pay far more than a value dictated solely by recent sales. In the end, it’s all about supply and demand.   Those Red Sox World Series Tickets really only have a “value” of $100. After all, that’s what is printed right on the ticket itself.   Yet, if people right and left are willing to pay $2,000, the “value” really has little to do with anything at all.


Case in point…I had a recent listing for a modest, but gorgeous 1600sf home, in a neighborhood where all of the very recent comparables pointed to a value of about $360K, and a potential listing price of $375k. I was as sure of that as anyone could be, because the comparables were so straightforward…except for one thing. There was NOTHING for sale in the area and demand was at an all time high. I had a feeling that value or not, we could get over 400K for the home!   I had no clue how we were going to get it to appraise, but I felt I’d cross that bridge later. (Let me just I’ll skip to the end of the story, for a second and tell you that it sold in a day for $431,000.) My Seller agreed and, in fact, had also been thinking it would sell in the 400’s.   Here’s where strategy comes into play, and where the point of my story was heading.   There was no question that we were both on the same page, but rather how to get to that number.   The Seller wanted to list at $415,000. They didn’t expect to get that much for it, and figured that they could always negotiate it downward, but I really didn’t’ think that was the best idea. Rather, I told them I thought we could get much more, by actually asking less!


When pricing real estate, things commonly fall into certain striations in the market, usually based on increments of 25K, i.e. $299,900, $324,900, $349,900, 374,900, 399,900 etc.   I’ve never found it to be advantageous to list a home at $506,000, because at that point, the buyers that are looking at it are looking between 500-550k, and you’re never going to win that battle against larger and fancier homes. Instead, it’s always been more lucrative, to list properties just below the next lowest striation, so that to the Buyers that are looking at it, it seems like the best home they’ve seen all day.   My favorite analogy is that if you’re going to sell your used Lexus, you’re best to do it at a Honda dealership, not a Mercedes one. At the Honda dealership, your car will easily exceed the expectations of every person that views it.


In the case of the home I was just speaking of, the Seller and I decided after much discussion, that we would list the home at $399,900, still way above the comparable sales, and try and attract the $375-399k Buyers that would view it as the most amazing home of their tour, and then encourage them to want to stretch up to the next level to be able to purchase such a beautiful property, rather than price it into the $400’s and have that set of Buyers view it as the smallest home of the day.   Ultimately, the strategy proved successful, and we had around 10 offers on the home in the first two days. We finally narrowed it down to three Buyers in the $425-431k range, and then were able to hand select the specific Buyer we wanted to work with based on other factors like strength of financing.


Having the faith to use a price point a bit below the expected sales value may seem like a completely foreign concept in real estate, but if you think about it, that’s how so many other countless things are priced. After all, they don’t start the bidding price on Princess Diana’s earrings at $300k, right? If they did, nobody would attend the auction.   Instead they come up with a fair “estimate,” and then just leave it to the general market forces to decide what’s going to happen. Many of the time, the result is an item selling for far more than the estimated value..   The same is true for commodities, ipo stocks, and so many other things. By encouraging more views, but the right consumers, you sell for way more than you might otherwise have expected.


Another tool that comes into play when selecting the optimal list price is an in depth analysis of real time market forces, combined with something we were always told to not dwell on, namely the currently available homes. Those were always somewhat of a “trap.” You would hear things from a Seller like, “my neighbor is asking X for his home and it’s not nearly as nice as mine, so mine should be listed at Y.” Over and over we would tell potential Sellers that the price their neighbor is “asking” for their home is really irrelevant, because nobody is Buying it. However, in markets like this, it becomes somewhat imperative to consider these active listings as one of the best ways to establish somewhat of a ceiling in the market. Going back to the first home I spoke about, just as an example, when I looked at currently available homes going all the way up to $450k, there were none that I thought were any better than this one.   Alternatively, had a cursory look at those available listings shown several listings in the low to mid 400’s that were just as nice, or nicer, I would have immediately thrown out the idea that we were going to get those kinds of prices.


I know I tend to type way too much, but yet there are just so many factors in play here which you can use to your advantage in getting a higher sales price for your home.   In some cases it’s something as simple as reflecting the utility costs into the picture.   In the end, for example, a home with gas heat might cost a Buyer $1500 less a year to heat than one with oil heat. To a potential Buyer, that differential of $120/month is the equivalent of $20,000 worth of mortgage borrowing. Because of that, a recent comparable sale of $500K with oil heat, might mean an expectation of $520k or more for your identical home with gas heat. The same applies to differences in tax assessments, water and sewer rates and other ancillary expenses. All factor in to what a Buyers total monthly cost would be, and the lower their ancillary cost for your home, the higher a purchase price they may be willing to pay.


I suppose I have to end this report at some point, however I’ll close by saying that I can think of at least a half dozen or more other things one should consider, to ensure an absolute top dollar sales price. In addition to those, an issue just as important is figuring out which offer to accept, and how you’re going to deal with any appraisal issues that may arise, as you push the limits of the market beyond what the past sales might have indicated.   In any case, if you’re thinking of making a move, by all means reach out anytime, and I’d be thrilled to meet with you and go over everything in exhaustive detail. With over 2000 home sales under my belt, and 30 years in the industry, I like to think I’ve seen it all, and have the skill set to get the job done better than most others in the industry.


I look forward to hearing from you.



Report #3 – The Top 10 Improvements you can make for return on investment

Hi everyone, and thanks so much for reading my third report in the series.  Today I will try to keep it somewhat short and sweet, which is very unlike me, as you know.  So often when I go to view a home as a potential new listing, the Seller goes through with me an exhaustive list of the expensive improvements they’ve done to the home, just in the last 5 years alone.  Upgrading the attic insulation, replacing the windows with high efficiency low-e glass, converting to a high efficiency heating systems etc.  In the end, the return on investment for those types of things is really near to zero, which I can tell you first hand is NOT what those people wanted to hear.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that you shouldn’t do those things.  In fact, I did many of those at my own home, from the 15K I spent on the heating system on down.  The key is that when you do them, you do them for YOU, and with no anticipation that one day they might help with resale value.

Instead, there are some very, very easy things you can do, most of them incredibly inexpensive, which will generate huge multiples of return.  When I come to see a potential new listing for the first time, I usually will look at the home with an eye for the following question: “What can I have my seller do to the property for $X that will get us five times $X when we put it on the market?”  Here are just a few of those things, mixed in with some of the larger long-term project you might consider as well.

As always, if I can answer any questions, or be of any assistance to you, your colleagues, or your friends, please feel free to reach out.  I bring to the table a track record of close to 30 years as one of the top Realtors in the nation, and 10 years as the #1 REMAX Agent in the 5-state New England region.   Real estate remains one of the few fields in the world, where a consumer can hire someone with that kind of experience, for the same price as one with no experience whatsoever.  I don’t know about you, but when I’ve been faced with that choice in my life, I’ve always chosen to go the route of the experienced professional in any field.

Without further adieu, here’s my list for you.

1. Cleaning and de-cluttering, and then doing it all one more time!    I’m a huge believer in the adage that less is more, and you can’t believe what a difference it makes to just get things out of there.  Rent a pod, rent a dumpster and then I’ll teach you some secret ways to make it all happen without lifting a finger.  The $800 you spend on that operation will probably earn you back $15-20K.

2. Lighten and brighten – I love conserving energy, but not when you’re selling your home. Now is the time to find bulbs that make your home seem like the surface of the sun.   Swap out the old brass lighting fixtures that came with the house, and grab some new ones at HD for under $50 each.  The whole house will just sparkle as a result.  Also get rid of any old dark window treatments, and just grab some sheers from Walmart.

3. Yard – Now’s a great time of year for fresh mulch, trimming back trees and shrubs, planting flowers, and all the things that make a house super special.  This includes repairing walkways and patios, painting the deck, and anything else that makes the home more appealing as you walk up to the front door.  $1000 spent here could be worth another 5-10K.

4. Plumbing and electrical – So many of our homes still have the same faucets, sinks, and toilet seats that have been there for decades.  The funny thing is that they’re often so cheap to replace. Last month I brought in my crews to a home that needed updating, and they sprayed the pink tub white, painted the pink tile, put in a new sink and counter, and a new lino floor.  It cost under $500 per bathroom and looked like a top dollar renovation.

5. Stop Smoking Please – If you don’t do it because one day it’ll kill you, then do it because when you smoke in your home the value drops, sometimes by 20-30K.  If you insist on smoking, go on a long, long walk (not on the back deck.)

6. Update kitchen and bath – Update kitchen and baths by dropping in new granite counters. Very cheap to do and adds a fortune in value.  Your only downside is that you’ll be kicking yourself for not doing it sooner!  Some stainless steel appliances from the Sears outlet, a new backsplash, and even with the original cabinets it’ll look brand new.

7. Paint interior – I really should have put this as #1 on the list, because nothing costs less, or yields more than paint.  I have a painting crew that handles all of my new listings, and they’re just brilliant, as well as affordable.  They know their job is max return, minimum investment and they’ve never let me down.

8. Carpeting – Same thing with carpet.  When I bring in some of my favorite carpet folks and set them loose to make everything brand new neutral beige, it’s like nothing you can imagine. For a couple thousand dollars, again you may get 10k back in return.

9. Electrical – This isn’t so much an improvement, as it is saving you from bigger expenses down the road.  If your home is over 10 years old, or has had work done, bring in an electrician to go through the circuit breaker box and fix any issues, double tapped breakers etc.  That way you won’t have to deal with it later after the home inspection.

10. Last one is Me! – I hate to put myself last, but then it helps underscore my point.  While these are a few quick ideas, I have dozens more..from hitting up exterior trim with bondo, to dry-ice pellets in the attic.  No two homes are every the same, and so my top tip is to let me walk through sooner, rather than later, clipboard in hand, and work with you to put together a custom list of ideas to start with.  That way, we’ll all be on the same page, you won’t waste money on things that don’t have payback, and I’ll have an easier sale down the road.  Besides that, of course, I have my recommended vendors that will actually show up, which is more of an issue these days then you might think.

Thanks again for reading everyone.  Remember, please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.  You can reach me by email at or on my cell phone (508) 735-4663

In the meantime, here’s a video with some more things you might enjoy.



About Steve Levine

For nearly three decades, Steve Levine of REMAX Professional Associates, has been one of the top Real Estate agents in the Central Massachusetts. A ten-time honoree as #1 REMAX Agent in New England, he brings to the table the experience that comes from working successfully with over 2000 Buyers and Sellers, through all types of real estate markets. Adept at everything from land development, to custom home building, to residential single family and condo sales, his “can do” approach has made him one of the most sought after agents in the region.

A consummate marketing aficionado, and recognized as one of the most innovative Realtors in the industry, he has spoken nationally on many occasions, training other real estate agents on customer service, marketing, and web presence, and is currently developing a suite of instructional videos designed to enable agents to take their business to the next level.

When not out selling Massachusetts’s real estate, Steve is a passionate photographer, musician and writer, and is constantly looking for new ways to express himself.

For a private consultation on your Massachusetts real estate needs, he can be reached by email at, by phone at 508 735-4663.

You can also check out his photography website at


The Top 10 Issues That Prevent Homes From Selling

Last year, there were over 10,000 homes in Worcester and Middlesex County alone, which were on the market during 2016, and came off the market without selling.  In most cases, the listing expired without selling, and without relisting with someone else, or alternatively the Sellers just gave up and took the property off the market.

The question that always comes up in such situations is Why…

Was it the house?  Was it the price?  Perhaps it was the Real Estate Agent that was behind the problem, or maybe it was the Home Owner themselves that kept the property from selling?  Naturally, each situation is unique, but over the years I have come to realize that there were at least a few common themes behind most listing failures, and this report is intended to lay out a few of the more common ones. There are, however, so many more, and I have no doubt that I will expand this report over the next few weeks.

Certainly, price can be a huge factor, but I don’t want to spend too much time talking about that in this report. After all, one could argue that no matter how bad the house is, or how terrible the marketing program might be, that if you put the home on the market for $1.00 it would sell.  As such, I want to choose, at least in this report, to not use price as a “cop out,” and instead focus on what can be done to actually get “top dollar” for each property, rather than just explore ways we can “give the home away.”

By way of background, I have been actively selling Real Estate here in Central Massachusetts for just over 27 years.  In that time, I have had the privilege of working with well over 2000 Buyers and Sellers, and learned so much that I am finally going to put it all into a book this year.

I have been ranked by RE/MAX as one of the Top 100 Agents in the World numerous times, and the #1 Agent in New England 10 times. I have spoken to other Realtors nationally on creative marketing techniques, and technology, and I am currently developing a training course for agents to instruct them on how best to leverage the tools they have available to best deliver the highest quality service and results for their clients.

This means using technology, when applicable, but it also means not trading “high-tech,” for “high-touch.”  There are so many things that we can do now, here in 2017, that we could not even dream of even a decade ago.  In the end, however, no amount of technology can or will ever replace personal interaction, and that of truly being a caring, considerate professional, with the interest of your clients coming first.

Every year I have had the pleasure of being called in by homeowners who have had their homes on the market previously with other agents, and in almost every situation, I have been able to get in, revitalize the marketing plan, and get the home sold in a prompt and efficient manner.  At the end of the this report, you will find a video link which you should check out when you have time.  It contains several interviews with recent clients, several of whom were in that exact situation, and describe my coming in to their home sale, and actually RAISING the price, and having the property sell the first day.  That’s a pretty powerful concept, to be sure, and that’s why hearing it from a third party is probably best.

If you have any questions about any of the information below, or would like to chat further, you can always email me at or call me on my direct line, (508) 725-4663.

Thanks again so much in advance

Steve Levine


Issue #1.  The home is not properly listed based on it’s correct location

OK, you would think that this is an easy one right? After all, how hard can it be to get the correct address into MLS?  Surely, even the worst of agents can type in the address…or can they?  As the tech revolution took off, both agents and buyers became more and more dependent on technology.  Among the most powerful tools, are “map based searches,” which overlay the current listing inventory on a geo-coded map of the region.

Unfortunately, the geo-coding systems that exist out there are ultra-sensitive and small things can throw them off. One of these occurs when your agent merely types in the wrong zip code.  I know, you’re thinking again that this must be rare, but I can assure it’s more common than you think.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled up a property search in Shrewsbury and come upon a street name that I just totally didn’t recognize.  Of course, it turned out in was in Southboro…not Shrewsbury.  I mean really??

Another way it happens has to do with street names, and occasionally it’s because the actual “street name” that you think you live on, isn’t what some of the public records show.  For years, you couldn’t find Lamplighter Drive in Shrewsbury in the GPS maps, instead you found Lamp Lighter Drive, and that’s what the map based searches were looking for.  This is when manually inputing the latitude and longitude would come in handy, as that overrules the address.  The same thing with abbreviations.  Hatrford Turnpike shows up in many geo-codes as Hatford Tnpk.  I know that seems crazy, but in order for a property to properly show up in a map search, it has to be coded in a way that it gets picked up by the systems.


Issue #2.  The photos of the property may be just horrible.

With most home buyers starting their search on-line, what could be more critical than taking great pictures.  Sadly, the pictures that most agents put in the system are just embarrassing.  So much so that a few years ago someone started a Facebook page called Bad MLS Photos, and agents from around the country submit to this page the worst photos they see in their MLS systems.   Pictures of bathrooms with a plunger sticking out of the toilet, pictures of a kitchen with the cat on the counter eating out of the sink, and of course the ubiquitous photo of the front of the home, with a rear view mirror in it, taken by an agent so lazy that they couldn’t even get out of their car!

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression!

I can’t tell you how often I take a listing that had been on the market with another agent for months with nothing to show for it, re-listed it properly, and in some cases RAISED THE PRICE, and still had it sell immediately with multiple offers.

Can pictures make this big of a difference every time?  Well, almost every time.     Check out some of the photos below. These were actual photos in the Multiple Listing System.  Do you feel that these properly reflect the home itself?  Considering what an agent is earning on the potential sale, did they bring their A-Game to the table from a marketing perspective?

Note: These are not the “Worst of the Worst.”  This is just handful I pulled out in 30 seconds to make my point.


Perhaps the agent could have waited a minute, until there were no butts in the mirror?


The thing on top of the camera is called a FLASH for a reason!


Granted, I’m also a photographer, so I’m picky, but seriously?  Overblown, underexposed and out of focus, all at once.


Now this is really an appealing photo.  I’m sure if I were showing the home to Grizzly Adams it might be a good idea to leave the decapitated heads of these poor animals there, but perhaps to appeal to the masses, it might the best to store them off-site.


Time spent remodeling the kitchen, 4 months, money spent on the cabinets and appliances, $24,000, effort spent hiring the right real estate agent, ZERO.   Result, it sits on the market, and expires, and “nobody can figure out why?”


Granted, this one is listed by a friend of mine, who is both the OWNER, and the REALTOR!   I hate to say anything, but seriously…can you picture loading this into MLS and saying to yourself “yeah that looks great – it’s just what I was looking for.”    Of course, it also makes me wonder whether this large remodel had a building permit, since a bannister would have been required by the building inspector.


How much extra effort would it have been to put the door back on, focus, and get the lighting right?


Here are some of my photos, just so you can see how it should be done.

Each of these was shot with multiple lights, and probably around 10K worth of photographic equipment. Then an hour was spent selecting from what may have been 100 images, retouching those chosen, and then resizing them into multiple different files, each optimized for where they would ultimately be used, whether for MLS, social media, general web presence, virtual tours, color brochures etc.  If you use too large a file size for the web, it slows down your site, too small a size for your brochures, and your photos look crappy. It is by no means a one-size-fits-all system, and I would estimate that I spend from 1-2 hours on the photos alone, and really…THAT’S how it should be done.  In the end, the photos are one of the single most important pieces of the marketing puzzle.


I think this makes the kitchen look just as the homeowner intended when they spent the money updating it.  Do you agree?


This was a lovely family room, and I shot it with a wide-angle lens to show the high ceilings and sense of space.


This is what is known as an HDR image, in which I took three photographs at once, all at different exposures, and blended them in photoshop to bring out the rich highlights, as well as the shadows.


Photographing sunrooms is always hard, because when you have the light proper inside, you can blow out the highlights out of the window.  This is another HDR image, shot wide angle, to capture the view outside, as well as the beauty of the inside.

If you’d like to see something really special that I do for my clients, click the image below! It will open up in a new browser window.Now THIS is the level of marketing that you were supposedly paying for the last time you hired an agent.  Did you receive it?

Click the image above to access the tour

Click the image above to access the tour


Issue #3.  Incorrect property information.

Have you actually gone online to look at your listing, and check and verify the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, garage type, etc?  These are all items that play an early role in a buyer eliminating properties from their search. I can’t tell you how often I see a home that has, according to MLS, 0 Baths, and 2 half baths, and 1 garage, when really it had 2 baths, 1 half bath, and no garage.  Someone apparently had hit the “tab” key and was working one box ahead in MLS as they entered the listing.

Another huge issue is not so much an accident, as a deliberate plan that sometimes backfires.  This all goes to the question of “what is square footage.”  Are we counting finished basements, attics or what?  You may think it’s doing you a favor to put your 2800sf home, with a finished basement, into MLS as a 4000sf home, but you may be costing yourself business.   The clients who look at it may think it’s “too big,” or just as often don’t realize the basement was counted, and are suspicious as to why a 4000sf home is listed “so cheap’ and assume that there is something wrong, so they pass it by.

Even mis-identifying whether it’s even a HOUSE, happens all the time (and I mean ALL the time).

How about these gems I just pulled out of MLS?

Do you know what an “attached home” is?  Basically, it’s a duplex, or a “row house” such as you might find in Beacon Hill.  If you live in a normal free-standing property, then you live in a “detached home.”

When an agent is sitting with a buyer doing a search in the Multiple Listing System, or perhaps when an buyer is searching on many of the 3rd party websites, they would be looking for a “single family detached home,” perhaps a “colonial style” with a certain number of bedrooms and baths.

Countless homes are listed incorrectly like this each day.  This was just a quick sample of how many I could fit in one screen shot.  If you click the image to enlarge it, you will see that each of these are incorrectly listed as being “attached homes,” and thus wouldn’t even show up in a normal search for detached single family properties.

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Issue #4.  The MLS remarks desperately need help

Have you ever been looking online for a home yourself and come across that generic verbiage used by some agents when they sell property?

For Example:

“Not a drive by”   (This is a code for “it’s an ugly house.”)

“Tenant is Living. Must Make Appointment.”  (I can only imagine if the tenant were dead!)

“Awaiting your final touches” (meaning it’s a dump)

“PREICED TO SELL!!!!!   OWNER ANGSOUS!!!!”  (I have no words for this one! Spell-check anyone?)

“Seller is a lisensed Realator”   (Now this is probably part of the problem.  If an agent can neither spell Licensed nor Realtor, where do you go from there?)

“Honey Stop the Car!” (there’s an agent in my area that starts nearly every remarks section with this.  For the life of me, I still don’t know what it means.  Surely those characters could have been used to better describe the property?

“Current owner wants to sell.”  I would imagine they do, what with the sign on the lawn….

Frustrating right? Welcome to my world!

Your agent needs to be sure that your description is telling a story, and with only a couple of hundred characters allowed in the system, you just can’t waste any.  Because not only the MLS, but also the syndication sites (Zillow, Trulia, & Yahoo Real Estate) are going to match the description input.  This is your agents chance to make you shine!

But don’t confuse lengthy – with good.  Sometimes less truly is more.  Even the most simple description can make the difference between someone making an appointment to see it – or not.  Remember, giving a prospective Buyer all the information they need, may allow them  to rule out inquiring.


Issue #5.  Your agent has a bad reputation among the agent community.

Let’s say the buyer’s agent has 4 homes that they’re helping their buyer to choose from.  All of these homes fill their buyers housing wants/needs.  What might play a role in eliminating properties from that list?  You got it!  Your listing agent. Over the nearly 30 years I have been selling real estate in Worcester County, I have worked with hundreds of different agents, from just about every real estate company there is. Some I adore, and they become dear friends, others I’ve had a single pleasant, or even less than pleasant transaction with, but really don’t even remember, and then there are a two or three that just drive me crazy to the point where i can’t understand how they are still in business. Not just a little crazy, but crazy to the point where I remember writing a letter to one of them after the closing telling her I’d rather have a colonoscopy than work with her again, because in the end, the feeling is pretty much the same!”

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE 99.999% of my fellow Realtors. Many of us are dear, dear friends, and have known each other for decades. The consumers think we’re “competitors” but they don’t realize that our kids played together, we went on vacation together with our families, we cover for each other on vacation, and we go out for lunch all the time, brainstorm ideas. Yes, despite what you may think, most of us are always there for each other. That said, those few others are notorious for being absolutely horrible to work with, and while I would most certainly show my Buyers any home they wanted to see, I also am not going out of my way to show their listings because I honestly just don’t want to work with them.

In the end, if an agent representing a Buyer knows the listing agent is notorious for: not returning phone calls, being stubborn and defensive during negotiations, lying about what they know about the property, and approaching the business with a reckless abandon – they’re actually protecting their buyer from a potentially frustrating and even harmful negotiation process.


Issue #6.  Either you or perhaps your home, aren’t as welcoming to showing agents as you could be.

One day I can recall bringing a relocating client to see a home on Piccadilly Way in Westboro.  I rang the doorbell, and the owner, mop in hand answered the door, with a puss on her face that could kill.  The conversation went something like this.

“Hi, I’m Steve Levine, from RE/MAX.”

“Yes, may I help you?”

“Yes, I have a showing scheduled for today for these Buyers. May I come in?”

“That showing is supposed to be at noon, Steve.  It’s only 11:50!”

“Well, that’s pretty much noon, isn’t it?”

“Pretty much, and noon, are two different things.  I am mopping the floors, and if you come back at the correct time, I will be ready!”

“Okey dokey, thanks so much.”

Needless to say, I did not come back in 10 minutes, nor did I come back at any point in the months the house sat on the market.  Who needs that kind of drama? Thanks anyway…plenty of other homes to show.

In short…be nice to people!  Even if you’re just faking it…fake it ’till you make it!  Sometimes,  I’ll be out showing homes to clients, and  come upon a seller who left a bowl of candy, some cookies, a few bottles of water…along with a little note that reads “Thanks so much for coming to view my home.  Please feel free to help yourself to a snack.”  Even if my client wasn’t in love with that home, I’ll be back!  Not because I can’t buy a cookie myself, but just because these are the kind of people I truly want to help.   Being made to feel valuable and special is so nice.

Beyond you, and how you might be interacting with people, there is your home itself and how it makes Agents and Buyers feel.

Many people, especially two-income families, are out of the home all day.  You arrive for a showing, and the house is 50 degrees, the shades are drawn, the lights are off, and the bedroom doors are closed.  Even when I try and turn on the lights, there are bulbs missing, and the ones that are there are the energy-saving ones that start off dim, and need to warm up.

Meanwhile, the cat, apparently very unfriendly, is sitting on the kitchen counter hissing at me, and the dog, obviously too friendly, is trying to hump my clients leg.  Yeah, we’re done now…thanks for the showing!

What can you do when you aren’t home during the day?  Well, there are many, many things – among them setting up a marketing plan designed to stack the showings into a particular, narrow time period, and get an offer during that time.  In this way, we can minimize the inconvenience, while getting the maximum price for the property.  We can meet up and chat about that further.


Issue #7.  Buyers and Agents can’t get in!

There are few things more frustrating than having to jump through multiple hoops in order to schedule a showing.  Sometimes, this is unavoidable. However, there are often times when the listing agent is the only point of contact for a property and they never answer their phone or return voice messages! Other times, it is the Home Owners fault, and they have set unrealistic restrictions.  I ran into this a short time ago – “…all showings to be held after 12 noon and before 3PM on weekdays only.”  Apparently, they had a teenager, who liked to sleep in, and two younger kids who got home from school at 3:00PM.

Some agents try to win over Sellers by saying that they will “accompany all showings.”  If you hear that – run!  It may sound appealing at first – after all what better way for the home to be viewed than with the listing agent there?  However, no agents want to show those listings, because they are always incredibly hard to get an appointment for, and honestly I don’t want to walk my Buyer through while the listing agent is doing a shpiel about “this is the kitchen….”   If your listing agent has so little business, that they can promise to be at your home day or night, 7 days a week, for every showing, then they have way too much time on their hands. After all, who wants to eat at a restaurant where you can get a table in one minute on a Saturday night.

You would be shocked at how common it is, that the “showing instructions,” actually prevent the showing.  I deal with it all the time.  I will reach out to the listing agent to schedule an appointment, and hear back a week later, or not at all.


Issue #8.  Your listing is not being properly syndicated to other sites.

When I list a property, I think I have a total of 50 or 60 other websites that I send the data to, in addition to ver 300 other agents that I allow to post it on their websites through my IDX interface.  That exposure is very important  in some markets, and with some properties.

Just as mission critical as this syndication is, it is even more important to do it properly, and way beyond the competition.  In our area, for example, most agents allow MLS to upload their listings to sites like, Trulia and Zillow, however only by the agent actually PAYING for those listings, do they look appropriate.  You see, those sites will “post” any listing they are sent, but in order for the home to be “showcased” in a fashion that is appealing to Buyers, and to have all of the inquiries on it actually go through to your listing agent, that agent must pay them a fortune.  I believe alone I had paid over $3500 to, and I know I just paid Zillow and Trulia close to $2500 each.  Yes, it costs money, to make money, and I’m fine with that arrangement, because (a) it’s in the best interests of my Sellers, (b) it results in a better sale for them, and (c ) both a and b mean more referrals for me down the road.


Issue #9.  The buyer’s agents commission is not competitive.

By federal law, all commissions are negotiable.   It is a violation for any agents to get together and agree to charge no less or more than a certain rate.   At the same time, however, your home is listed out there in the MLS offering compensation to agents that bring their Buyers, and if your property is offering compensation far below others on the market, then why would people bring their customers there?  To the contrary, you can often overcome many objections by offering a HIGHER compensation that your competitors, even if your home has issues that a potential Buyer might not want.

Imagine for a moment, that you run a car dealership, and you have a lot full of minivans all priced at 20K.  Whenever one of your employees sells one, he or she earns $1000.  Now you have this one ugly lime-green minivan sitting on your lot that you really want to get rid of.  One approach might be to drop the price $500, but that won’t work.  In the end, the Buyers aren’t that price sensitive, and will happily spend $500 more for a color they like.  On the other hand, what if you went to your employees, and offered a “”50% bonus” which in this case is an extra $500, to whomever sells the green one?  I guarantee it’s off the lot by nighttime!  In short, give the incentive to the person who has the most influence on the decision making process.  In your case, that’s the Buyers agent.


Issue #10.  Your agent is marketing reactively, rather than proactively.

Reactive marketing is probably what you see around you each and every day. An agent listed your home, promised you the world, dropped it in MLS,  and was never heard from again.

Somehow, the approach of sticking the sign in the ground and praying didn’t work!

In the end, marketing is far from a passive endeavor. In order to be proactive, an agent needs to take it light-years beyond what they were doing 20 years ago.  Take social media, for example.  I like to consider myself one of the kings of social media marketing.   I run over a dozen websites, multiple blogs, facebook, and twitter accounts, and push out information on my listings to thousands of people a day.   This has probably been my single largest generator of Buyers (and sellers for that matter), that I could ever have asked for.  It’s not free, as some people may think, and no doubt I will spend thousands on social media marketing alone, but let’s face it, if it wasn’t working, I wouldn’t be spending the money!

I have a 25 point marketing checklist that I implement for each listing, and I do it all within 24 hours!   During a listing presentation, many agents will lay out their “marketing plan.”  In this plan, they talk about what action they are going to do in week 1, week 3, week 9, week 12 etc…and I never really understood that.  If the idea for week 12 was so great, why didn’t you just do it the first day?????

My passion for technology will never replace the personal touch – EVER.  That said, I have taken it to the point where I now travel around from time to time and train other agents on who best to use the full depth and breath of technology to generate results for their clients, and when I do, the response is just overwhelming.   I’m not sure how often they actually “follow through” on what I teach them, but at least I know at the end of the course that I’ve done my best to bring the level of the industry up a notch.

I don’t leave it to social media, by any means.  I’m constantly reaching out to other agents that may have Buyers, other listing agents who have properties in the same range and may know about people looking, and of course to the thousands of people in my own database.  That, and ONLY that, is what true marketing is all about.


Well that was here is my Bonus Tip!

If I were to ask you what the most important time was in the marketing of your home, what would you say?  Most home owners would say that it’s the first week that the property hits the market – and if so, they would be very close.

In reality, the most important time is the week BEFORE the house hits the market. I’m not sure why I always use this example, nice I am NOT a hunter, but in a way, putting a home on the market is a lot like duck hunting.  You can hide in the weeds for weeks, but once you fire the first shot, the ducks all know you’re there!  For that reason, the FIRST shot is the very most important one, and that’s why the week BEFORE you hit the market is the most important of all.

It is during that week that you and I can figure out what improvements we want to make before the first Buyer walks in the door.  These should be things for which we hope you will earn $5000 for ever $1000 you spend.  Maybe it’s touch up paint, fresh carpets, painting that green bathtub white, or replacing light fixtures.  Perhaps it’s just a thorough clean-out, bringing in a dumpster for the things that are getting tossed, and a POD for things that we can store off-site, and then having my mover send a few guys over to get things into either the POD or the dumpster.

To maximize the value for my homeowners, I put together over a decade ago a group I affectionately call my “pre-marketing team.”  If you’ve ever tried to get vendors to show up at your house, you know how frustrating that can be.  I however, can send out one text message, and usually have my handyman, carpet installer, painter, roofer, mover, dumpster, plumber, electrician etc., drop whatever else they are doing, and get over the property to get your work done.   That in and of itself is a HUGE value!  These guys work with me all the time, and know that if they want to continue to get business, they need to get in, get it done right, do it at a fantastic price, and get out so we can list.  They don’t give me “a cut” of any of the work, and I would never accept it.  They are just members of my team that I know I can count on when I need it, and over the years, they’ve gotten to know and love each other too.

By leveraging that kind of power for you, I can take such a huge weight off your hands, and get your home properly prepared and listed long before it every hits the market.  In the end, that means top dollar, fast, and without the hassle.


Of course, that was only top 11 tips, and there are so very many more!

While I am good at many things, and great at others, being succinct isn’t one of them!  Yes, those who know me, know that I can talk and talk and talk.  Hey, nobody is perfect, but it’s really useful information!

When you have a moment, drop me a quick email with any questions you might have, and perhaps we can arrange to meet up.  You can reach me best at or of course call me on my cell at 508 735-4663.

In the meantime here is a video that you might enjoy, in which some of clients who recently bought and sold talk about their experiences, and things they might do differently in the future.