How To: Use a Free Blog to Help Sell Your House
It's a how-to on using the web to make a spiffy "For Sale" brochure on the cheap -- and how to make it work for you. If you want the lighting low-down, you can see how we lit many of the photos in the other post.
The Three Dreaded Words: Sell Your House
We are hoping that the market is not completely dead -- only mostly dead, as Miracle Max says in The Princess Bride. But we are realistic and do know we'll need all the help we can get.
Our first step was to choose a price that would let us stand out within our price range. After we stopped crying, we then cobbled together some free web resources to try to create an spiffy online brochure on the cheap...
Before You Start: Get a Good Address
No, not for your house. That boat has already sailed. I mean on the web, where your address is called a URL.
The good news is that the best one for you is probably still available, unless you live at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., or at 10 Downing St. Your current address makes an ideal and most logical URL. Our address is 7353 Broken Staff, so that became our URL.
What I wanted was to build this on a free blog platform, so I grabbed www.7353BrokenStaff.Blogspot.com. You can set up a blog for free at Blogger.com (where all of the ".blogspot" blogs hang out) in about 2 minutes.
My address was available on Blogger, as was the straight "dot-com" version when I checked on GoDaddy.com. You can easily by the dot-com and have a (free) redirect set to point to your Blogger site.
Cost is about ~$10, and it is not even really necessary. After all, we are going for zero budget here, right? But if you want to live large, by all means buy it and redirect to Blogger.
Next: Build a Site
I love Blogger because it lets you tinker around under the hood with the HTML, which is how to make a blog template look like a nice "For Sale" brochure. But blogs have post titles, post dates, multiple posts, etc. You do not need that, and it is a little distracting in this context.
If you have even a slight amount of experience with HTML, it is easy to find those things in your template (use the "Edit in HTML" method in the template) and get rid of them.
Now, your "blog" starts to look more like a normal web page. BTW, I chose the "White Minima" template and it was a very easy one to tweak.
You'll want some pictures. More on that later, but you might need to address it in your template. I chose to use Flickr, as it is free and I already had an account there. And because Flickr's standard photo size is 500 pixels wide, I "stretched" my Blogger Minima template to accommodate that photo width in the main bar.
Again, it is easy to find in the HTML code. Just make sure to adjust your blog's total width in pixels so the main and sidebar add up right, with a little space in between.
You do not absolutely need to do that, as Blogger handles photos quite well in 400px sizes. Just upload your pix to Blogger and Bob's your uncle. I just wanted a little more splash, so I went wider. And if you are an HTML newb, I would go the latter route.
Tweak the Sidebar
You'll need to swap out the typical sidebar stuff. Nuke the blog roll links, archives, etc. and replace those items with the info you would want if you were buying your house.
Some ideas for sidebar links:
1. Local schools
3. Recreational facilities
4. Nearby public transportation
5. Don't forget your Realtor's contact info (or yours, if you are a "For Sale By Owner")
6. Be creative. Use your imagination and have a little fun.
Take LOTS of Pictures
You cannot have too many photos of your house. The more pix people see, the more it helps them qualify your house for a visit. It also keeps them from wasting a visit if your house is not for them.
If you are a total klutz with a camera, ask a shutterbug friend. You should plan to end the shoot in the rec room with pizza, beer and a good game on the tube.
If you are a regular reader here, this will be the fun part. If you just happened by from another site, you are reading Strobist, where we are really into lighting. And again, you can see how I created many of my brochure photos here.
But I also recommend the site PhotographyForRealEstate.net for great advice on the subject. Larry will totally hook you up with the skills you need. It is one-stop shopping for this kind of thing.
Location, Location, Location
Where are you? One easy way to show them is to embed a Google Map.
They can see exactly where you are, get driving instructions and find any nearby items of interest that you missed. While you are at it, place some clickable markers on a public map you can create. Now, when you embed that map, the markers will be on your brochure site, too.
Spread the Word
When your house gets listed in the Multiple Listing Service by your broker, (or you may have to buy into that somehow if you are attempting a FSBO) give them a good selection of most of your best photos.
Then request a link that says, "For more photos, go to [YOUR BLOG URL]." This will draw people from the visually restricted MLS format to your splashier, picture-heavy site.
You may wish to buy classifieds in the local newspaper, or perhaps on Craigslist. In that case, it may make sense to spring for that $10 dot-com URL to keep it neater.
That would be an easily worded link in, say, a cheap newspaper classified ad:
East Columbia Townhouse for Sale: $299,000. More info and photos at www.7353BrokenStaff.com.
It's cheap, but has lots of leverage. I ended up not buying the dot-com name (we just went with the Blogspot address) as we chose not to buy newspaper advertising.
Next Step: Cross Your Fingers
That's where we are now, as of Thursday, April 23. It is all up to the fates, but we are hopeful that the upgraded pictures and visibility will make a difference. We'll check back in and let you know how it went.
One Last Thing
After the house sells (humor my optimism for a moment) do not tear down the brochure blog. What better way to help you remember your old house -- or for the next owners to be able to email a tour of their new house out to their friends and family?
UPDATE: From the comments, a really cool example of a house site (although not a tweaked blog) in Atlanta.