The Race to the Bottom

2 minute read

I was going to call this post ‘Do Quality Marketing Materials Really make a difference?’ It is a question worth discussing. In the US marketplace, there is no such thing as VPA (Vendor Paid Advertising). The sales commissions for Agents are higher (around 4 – 4.6%) and from that, they have to finance all their own marketing.

So, in the United States, Agents ‘doing it themselves’ is common place – assisted by new technology which sees kids in prams texting. Now Americans aren’t exactly what you’d call a camera-shy race. From taking their own photographs to shooting their own video – on an iphone, or a Flip – which you can upload to a site to take care of all the editing and the streaming – all for $29, the US market is flooded with ‘do it yourself’ and ‘host it yourself’ collateral.

Just one example:

Click here to view video. There’s even film-making and script-writing courses at HD Hat. In reviewing these ‘home’ movies, you have to say, they do the job. If you were interested in buying a particular home, I think they certainly show you enough of the property to make a judgement call on whether or not you phone the agent.
Add to this Google Maps and Street View, and buyers do have a vast arrange of free tools at their disposal.

From a Vendor’s perspective, why invest any money in quality marketing materials or even mass media for that matter. Just do it yourself and launch it to YouTube. Which raises another question; if marketing professions are being made redundant by technology, will ‘Agenting’ and negotiating skills follow? But if quality doesn’t really count, why has Google added a High Quality criteria to its searches for video? And why do big Companies spend millions on new creatives if any video describing a product will do?

Guess Jeans goes to awesome lengths, with multi-million dollar campaigns, just to sell a pair of pants yet most home-owners agonize over spending a few thousand to sell a million dollar asset.

The US housing market is a total mess. Making it ‘Cheap and easy’ to not only own a home – but sell one – hasn’t worked. Will Australian Agents ‘Flip’ over doing it themselves?

Guest Author: Brett Clements from Platinum HD

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  • Shane Dale
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 10:56 am 0Likes

    There is a huge market for professionalism there in the US – its my motto that “people buy with the eyes”. We can see this in the fees they charge and the way groups that pioneered pro photography and signage like McGrath and Di Jones who grew hugely at the time.

    Its hard to sell “ugly” in any field. Although I must say those billboard ads for Picnic – the peanut studded chocolate bar were outstanding with a range of quips like “it has a great personality” underneath a full product shot, which shows its lumpy exterior to full effect. I chuckle everytime I see them.

    However most agents , esp in the US are focused on saving $100 rather than making sales or getting new listings. Bad move, probably poor sales person as well.

    How do vendors choose to list with you as an agent? They look at YOUR listings, and the quality of the presentation, and the listings themselves first, then they decide whom to shortlist. From there its personality and presentation onsite to the vendor.

    Agents need to understand that their media IS their listing presentation to the public.

    I have never seen an agent using professional photography – floorplans – virtual tours/video take a backward step in profitability in my experience of over 14 years across several states.

    Sure I have occasionally seen some who mismanaged their accounts but their listings, and sales always lifted due to professional photography and media. They shook out the clients who wouldnt pay VPA – frankly they are the “time sucking” nitpickers anyhow.

    Things like an interactive floorplan in particular represent an effective 24-7 inspection process where the property is genuinely looking its best, but without hassle to the vendor or the agent or even the buyer.

    This is a huge time saver for agents – and buyers self qualify – and can inspect the agents entire listing inventory in one session.

    If you cant jag an enquiry from that – then clearly that client isnt interested – save your time.

    Regarding DIY systems – I have supplied them – a single shot VR system – honestly, the first thing i learned is that those clients are not worth wasting my time on – as their focus is always low cost despite any quality level, hence an unprofitable exercise for me. Plus I could not have believed that such a simple system could still be so amazingly poorly implemented – the results showed what can only be described as a drunk monkey given a camera 😉 No offence to monkeys I hope.

    It was clear the majority of agents were not able to remember the instructions training or even take the interest in getting a good result. The results I believe achived a negative result for the agencies – as they simply were advertising how poorly they could present a property.

    The public is very visually acute and sophisticated – every TV show has gorgeous colour, good lighting and presentation – as do magazines. Do you really think the vendors will be happy with poor presentation imagery on their largest asset?

    Yes I know every vendor is a skin flint – wanting to save every cent – when all they see is the agent’s commission, but seriously – professional rpesentation is far more than just selling the property – its selling YOU. Ignore it at risk of your profitability.

    PS, I also think the vendor doesnt believe the agent can do a professional job – they expect an actual photographer – floorplanner.

  • Brian Wilson
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 12:42 pm 0Likes

    What do you mean by “vender-paid advertising? Real Question.

  • Brett Clements
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 12:51 pm 0Likes

    VPA (Vendor Paid Advertising) is advertising that is paid for by the seller of the property. It includes collateral – photographs, video, floor-plans, newspaper advertising (why they persist calling it ‘news’ remains a mystery as there is nothing ‘news’ in any papers – it all happened yesterday) online portals ( and domain) etc.

  • Mac
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 1:34 pm 0Likes

    Couldn’t agree more Brett & Shane. We do it better than the US and how do those old sayings go? “Pictures maketh the mansion”… and “Not all listings are created equal”…:)

    It is difficult to create a silk purse from a sow’s ear no matter how well the pics are taken! (Though Brett has done a pretty good job with that annoying auctioneer on his website 🙂

    Listings from salubrious suburbs seem to have a pretty good canvas (and more funds as a ratio of commission) to begin with while those from less architecturally up-market areas struggle because their images are just so darned difficult to present – even with good websites, pretty girls and HDTV.

    Compared to

    While there are plenty of nice tools ‘out there’, I’m sure Brett et al are pretty focussed on the premium dollar because we can’t always help all people all of the time.

  • Shane Dale
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 2:05 pm 0Likes

    Of course the US is a massive market – you cant generalise, so there are of course the very best and the very worst examples to be found there in some corner.

    But on an overall scale, for some reason the Australian public is an early adopter in this space.

    I actually think its middle and lower level properties that have been underestimated here – thats where consumers scan the listings more closely to work every advantage out of their tighter wallets than pricier areas. Getting the extra $5000 or selling faster means real benefit to the vendor and in fact the listing agent.

    Its true that video production costs are of course higher to achieve the prestige look than simply good professional photography and a floorplan.

    After all, even an ugly or dishevelled property looks good as a clean floorplan layout.

  • Brett Clements
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 2:07 pm 0Likes

    You rock Mac. I reckon we’ll be drinking buddies one day. 🙂

  • Andrew Blaxland
    Posted July 21, 2010 at 10:41 am 0Likes

    I think in the very near future, moderately intelligent vendors will want to know alot more about how the agent handles the negotiation process with buyers. You can have all the tricks, bells and whistles, but if you can’t explain to a vendor how you will get them the highest price in your dealings with buyers, and show them what you present to the buyers in a “selling presentation” of their home (during your “vendor presentation”) you won’t be the one who gets the job.

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