Thursday, April 23, 2009

How To: Use a Free Blog to Help Sell Your House

NOTE TO REGULAR READERS: This half of a two-post Thursday is very off-topic. But I thought it would be of use to those of you who, like us, are trying to sell your house in a tough market.

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...
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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.

Well, almost.

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

2. Restaurants

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.
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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?
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UPDATE: From the comments, a really cool example of a house site (although not a tweaked blog) in Atlanta.



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46 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You forget to mention the very last tip;

plug the brochure site link to you high traffic website and watch the click-through skyrocket. :P

April 23, 2009 2:05 AM  
Blogger bmillios said...

Oh, and don't forget to insert the Google Analytics code so you can see who's looking at your house, and where they're coming from.

Unless you're David Hobby, and 200,000 people from around the world are looking at your house site, in which case the data has nothing to do with who's looking to buy your house.

Congrats on finding a new place!

April 23, 2009 2:36 AM  
Anonymous NIels Tybjerg said...

Hi David

Good luck with selling the house. In wordpress there's a lot of SEO (search engine optimization)plugins which helps you get on the top of the list in google search results. I don't know if blogspot has the same but it's worth to use a moment to look into it.

Thanks for a fantastic blog!

Niels Tybjerg

April 23, 2009 3:15 AM  
Anonymous Martin said...

What is missing is a layout/groundplan in your for sale blog. Difficult to imagine which room is where. Just a thought. Best,
Martin

April 23, 2009 3:50 AM  
Blogger Kim Long said...

You and Joe McNally love to quote The Princess Bride. =)

Inconceivable!

April 23, 2009 4:24 AM  
Blogger Bert said...

Very cool idea, your "selling blog" is in fact a very cool and one of the most beautiful "real estate" websites :-)

One remark though. Your "leave the website online" hint is acceptable, but probably the new owners don't want to have a full view on their house all the way on the Internet - if they care about robbery.

I recently bought a house and I asked the previous owners to remove the house from the real estate websites. Two reasons: 1. Robbery, 2. I didn't want my friends/family to see everything before they actually came to visit me. The friends and family that couldn't visit my house (lack of time, too far away) can visit the site/photo's but that should be hidden for the world. I'm using picasaweb for this. True, then you don't have such a great website, but I feel more comfortable by the idea that not the entire world can look into my home.

April 23, 2009 4:26 AM  
Blogger Mark Howells-Mead said...

Looking at the blog you've set up really brings home the importance of looking at your photos as a ste, or in the "real" context of where they are to be published. Whereas the ones you've used are excellent and look good as individual examples of lighting on Flickr, they shine when viewed together in the blog itself for which they were intended.

April 23, 2009 4:56 AM  
Blogger Peter Pan said...

Does the lighting knowledge comes with/through the house!!???

=:oP

Pedro.

April 23, 2009 5:42 AM  
Blogger Peter Pan said...

Does the lighting knowledge come with/trough the house!!???

=:oP

Pedro.

April 23, 2009 5:43 AM  
Blogger Alessandro said...

Bloody hell, i just can't imagine such a nice house sells for 300K$ in the United States !

Okay, the only place i've been in the US so far is NYC and Brooklin, where i saw those beautiful 800K+$ appartments, hence my astonishment !

I thought US real estate market was far higher than here in Belgium ! My parent's house here in Belgian capital Brussels sells for 600K€ ! Seems like it's a better deal to look at some great place in Columbia :)

Nice work and crossed fingers !

April 23, 2009 6:00 AM  
Blogger asperry1 said...

Wow! I grew up in Owen Brown around Lake Elkhorn, this is bringing back those Dasher Green Elementary Days!

April 23, 2009 8:15 AM  
Anonymous Pete said...

Nice info, but I have a security related question.

Are you still living in the house?

If not, is advertising the address to everyone a good idea?

Generally, the real estate ads I see list a general area, but you need to contact someone to get the address. I presume this is for both competitive and security reasons.

I'll be interested in seeing how this goes for you (on all fronts, not just security) and wish you and the family the best of luck selling the house quickly and profitably.

April 23, 2009 9:33 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

Are you skipping the realtor? I'm not sure you can get better exposure than having your house listed on the MLS.

April 23, 2009 9:40 AM  
Blogger JS said...

David, be sure to mention to prospective buyers that the house does not come equipped with twenty-seven SB-800s.

April 23, 2009 9:41 AM  
Blogger justin english said...

Funny ... I just got an offer because of www.1519paranglen.com

It does work. Adding a blog would also be helpful.

April 23, 2009 10:02 AM  
Blogger team met said...

I put a blog together to help the people rent the house we use to live in. I also added a small slideshow to show some of the details.

17grandcras.blogspot.com

We were very sad to leave that house, I do not think I will every live in another place as nice as that one.

They did rent it, very quickly...

April 23, 2009 10:53 AM  
Anonymous CJ Chavez said...

Under your kitchen photo, what does "The microwave and major kitchen appliances convey." mean? Perhaps some words were left out?

Thanks for the (Strobist) blog and keep up the good work!

CJ

April 23, 2009 11:24 AM  
Blogger Dominique Pelletier said...

What a great idea! I have a friend in a similar situation, as a strobist-newbie I will relay the info and (hopefully) help him out.

P.S.: You could have mentioned 24 Sussex Dr. (Ottawa) as another example, although they are undergoing severe renos at the moment...

April 23, 2009 11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At last i can stalk David Hobby, look through his garbage, take photos of him from an adequately sized bush and print large posters of him for my bedroom wall! =D

You shouldn't only be worried about burglary, there's nutcases like me out there too! =D

By the way if you're seeing flashes of light from your premises, you're having a seizure ;)

April 23, 2009 11:34 AM  
Anonymous CJ Chavez said...

Nevermind - I get it now, it means they stay with the house.

Now I’m embarrassed to admit that English is my first language!

April 23, 2009 11:43 AM  
Blogger Philadelphia Wedding Photographers said...

I love this. The funny thing is your home will now get sold to a photographer.

April 23, 2009 11:52 AM  
Blogger scottj said...

What a beautiful site you've made for your home, David. I especially like your ideas for replacing the Blogger sidebar with restaurants and schools. Good luck on getting it sold.

April 23, 2009 12:29 PM  
Blogger David Turner said...

Great idea I hope it works.

April 23, 2009 5:24 PM  
Blogger NotYourAvgJoe said...

This is something I thought of a while ago and it actually helped a friend sell his house.
Its a great way to get lots of info on your house visible. My friend who had open houses simply printed business cards with the web address and phone number.

Check out my two samples...

http://320riverside.blogspot.com/

http://90westminster.blogspot.com/

April 23, 2009 10:05 PM  
Blogger Philip Morgan said...

Thanks for the awesome idea! Working on getting my house sold, and this idea has become part of the marketing: http://1236NE80th.com

April 24, 2009 1:03 PM  
Blogger Peter C Berkman said...

David, as always, THANK YOU for everything you do. We just put out house on the market last week too and this post, well, I had to copy it - it is hard to improve on the BEST!

http://1048ViaRomales.blogspot.com

Thanks so much for this!

April 24, 2009 2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll make a blog for both the old house and the stuff in it, think I'll call it www.9999BrokenStuff.blogger.com

April 24, 2009 6:48 PM  
Blogger indianseo said...

Search Engine Optimizers

SEO is an abbreviation for "search engine optimizer" or “Search Engine Optimization”.

SEOs provide useful services for websites and for website owners,

SEO can do:

Writing content for the website
Giving advice on site architecture
Finding relevant directories to which a site can be submitted
(to make it reachable to more and more...)

Finally, SEO should bring relevant visitors to your website

Overall, "to make a website relevant and useful for one or many topics"
This is what I feel.

Please make a not that manipulating search engine results is not the work of SEO this is unfair and very ugly.

No search engine has got any relationship with any SEO company and they are 100% independent of their own. All the search engines have their own method for displaying search results for a given search term.

All search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN wants to display search result very appropriate for the user.

So what they do?
They have index of millions of WebPages, it means they are aware of so many WebPages and they have their method to rank them for a given keyword.

They know which page out of all is most important and relevant for a given keyword. But who will make a decision? “The Formula” it can be like

(aPbBc)/2Qbvy
----------------
110000*gWY

he he . who knows?? :)

In simple what we can understand is there are two important points.
1. Your website and - (Content of your website)
2. Other websites - (Other websites)

Your website:
That can be done in any language or on any platform for a purpose.

So, your purpose to create a website is very much important. Your website must full fill that purpose. If your website is solving the purpose of its existence then of course it is a relevant website for that topic or keyword and it should be reachable to maximum people who are in search on that.

For example: An e-commerce website. Web site is supposed to sell cloth items. How this website will become a relevant website for search term “Buy a Dress Online”

Website should have to sell something called Dress, is not it?
Website should have enough information on Dress.

If the website has enough content for selling dress online, then for sure is relevant for search phrase “Buy Dress Online”

SEOs (search engine optimizer) says this "on page optimization"

What they do here? Once I have enough content that’s all, why they need to do anything?

Yes!! here the SEO will help you in presenting your website to search engines. They will highlight those words, keywords which is important for your website.

How they will do that?

Search engines are not human being. They read text on your website. For example by reading a text in bold you will know, this is something more important then normal text.

SEO knows which text to place and where to place and how.

That is all about on page optimization.

Now we can see, what they know and we don’t.
even we should know…


Keyword in URL
First word is best, second is better, like Indian-SEO it says first Indian then SEO

Keyword in domain name
Same as in www.Indian-SEO.com

Keyword in title tag
Keyword in Title tag - in beginning
Title tag 10 - 60 characters, no special character like “<>(){}&*%#@”

Keyword in H1, H2 and H3
Use H1 font style – very important

Keyword in description meta tag
Talk about your theme, less than 200 chars is ok.

Keyword in keyword metatag
Every word in this tag MUST appear somewhere in the body.
If not, it is irrelevance and not good

Keyword density in body text
5 - 20% - (all keywords/ total words)

Individual keyword density
1 - 6% - (each keyword/ total words)

Keyword font size
In strong, bold, italic, etc.

Keyword proximity for 2 or more keywords
More adjacent is better

Keyword phrase order
Order in the page should match order in the search query?
Better you anticipate query – better your chances are.

Keyword prominence
Most important at top of page, in bold, in large font

Keyword in alt text
Should describe graphic - Do not fill with spam

Domain Name Class
.edu - seem to be given the highest status
.org - sites seem to be given high status
.com – normal

File Size
Do not exceed 100K page size.
Search engines preferred <40K

URL length
You should keep it minimized - use less than the 2,000 characters allowed by IE - less than 100 is good

Site Size – Search engines likes big sites
Larger sites are presumed to be better funded, better organized, better constructed, and therefore better sites.

Site Age
Old is gold.


Now we can talk about the other part Other Websites
How old they are?
How many pages they have?
What all they are doing?
How many friend they have got?

Yes, we should know all these things. we will talk about this next time.
I will write that part soon...

Send you comments on abhishek@indian-seo.com or visit http://www.indian-seo.com/
Bangalore India based web development and SEO Service provider and Hosting company Indian SEO

April 25, 2009 5:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the thing about using flickr to host your photos is that many government computer networks block flickr pics from showing up. and given that government employees are a demographic very likely to be home shopping in this market (since they're job is stable), it makes sense to host the home pics where they can see them while they search for real estate during their breaks at work.

April 25, 2009 6:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the thing about using flickr to host your photos is that many government computer networks block flickr pics from showing up. and given that government employees are a demographic very likely to be home shopping in this market (since they're job is stable), it makes sense to host the home pics where they can see them while they search for real estate during their breaks at work.

April 25, 2009 6:01 AM  
Blogger Matt Freedman said...

Regarding the website you linked to at the end of your article, which advertises a home in Atlanta: this site could use some major redesign.

First of all, music that starts playing when the site loads is a BIG design no-no. (If you want to include music, start with it OFF and give visitors the option to turn it ON).

Second and more importantly: the main slide show is confusing. How do I get to the next picture? how do I go back? There are no clearly defined buttons or labels about how to control the slideshow.

Finally, a "link" to written information about the house - one of the most important things on the site - is crammed into the bottom-left corner.

This site is pretty, but it's an empty sort of beauty. It always is when style takes precedence over content.

April 25, 2009 8:57 AM  
Anonymous Mo said...

You can write "David Hobby lived here" and then you can add a 100K to the selling price. I'm sure years from now it will be a historic house.

April 26, 2009 1:01 AM  
Blogger Crazy Guy said...

I sure hope you're staying in the Columbia area. I was looking forward to running into you some day.

Good luck with the sale and the new home!

April 27, 2009 8:39 AM  
Blogger Lauren said...

Hi David,

Saw your house on my friend JD Roth's "Get Rich Slowly" blog. I live in Columbia, and recently looked at a rental house on Dockside Ln.

Great page, shows well. As a rental-home hunter, glad you gave lots of pictures, descriptions, and 'stories'. This helps househunters decide whether to come visit your house rather than skip your house for something else. I myself prefer seeing photos on the web rather than just seeing a listing address. Depending on what the owner posts I can tell how good any process of communication will be. (Since I have been looking for rentals, I usually email to see how polite or literate the owners are). If an owner of a rental posts no pictures (or posts too few), it has followed that they are covering something up.

Best wishes on a quick sale... you can always try the "St. Joseph" statue method too ;)

April 27, 2009 8:25 PM  
Anonymous Phil Craswell said...

Hey, love your site so much I felt the need to add it to my links page, really helped me to further my on location shooting, thanks for everything! Check out my page, heres my URL as requested www.philcraswellphotographer.com

April 29, 2009 6:39 PM  
Anonymous Alleh Photography said...

Thanks for the great idea. Had my condo on the market for 4 months now with 2 price reductions as I watch the surrounding housing market fall. Maybe it will help drive a little more traffic in the door and get some offers rolling.

May 03, 2009 3:33 PM  
Blogger Alas said...

Great job.

Your blog site looks ALOT better than the MRIS (MLS) listing from your realtor.

Is there a way for Catherine to link to your blog site? The photos loose some of their shine and depth when they're all tiny!

May 05, 2009 6:28 PM  
Blogger pilotgt said...

Great idea. While I am not selling my house, I purchased its domain for when I do.

Quick note about your blog listing, I recommend adding details about the house to the blog header (ie. number of bedrooms & bathrooms, square footage, etc). Had to dig into the MLS listing to find the info.

May 06, 2009 5:56 PM  
Blogger Samples said...

Do you know of any 'virtual tour' services that will allow you to embed the tour directly into the blogspot site, instead of having to link to their site? I think the virtual tour is a great amenity for selling, but many of those sites have clunky interfaces.

May 08, 2009 9:37 AM  
Anonymous Matthew Newton said...

Good luck with the sale. I'd never really thought about setting up a blog/website just to sell my house. I'll have to keep that in mind when the day comes (hopefully sooner rather then later as my family could use a bigger house).

One other thing I noticed, you live about 5 miles from me and I never realized it! Are you Staying in the area?

May 08, 2009 11:36 AM  
Anonymous Goncalo Figueiredo said...

Great tips for selling houses, David. I loved your behind the scenes real estate photography "how to", very comprehensive... like always.

Another tool to enhance the visual impact, could be a small movie with an overall visit of the house, something in the style of Andrew Hetherington movies.

I remember seeing this link somewhere, probably in your blog (there are so many, I just forget). Any way, here is an example: http://vimeo.com/3697140

May 16, 2009 3:30 PM  
Blogger Buy My Guitar said...

Thanks again for yet even more inspiration. I'm not selling a house (the bankruptcy trustee is taking care of that), but I am selling a big-ticket item.

Yes, this post is mostly off-topic (which means it's slightly on-topic). Any reinforcement of the assertion that great photos help the sales effort is welcome.

June 03, 2009 3:29 PM  
Blogger stagingworks2009 said...

You have shared a brilliant idea DAVID. Selling house needs a set o preparation as u said. the better we prepare, the better we can reap from selling profits. I myself suggest home-sellers to take Home Staging Service to help boost the price

July 16, 2009 8:26 AM  
Blogger arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

I found your post almost a year after you post it.. We are selling our home and we've set up a blog, though more information heavy than picture heavy.

Do you think your house selling blog helped selling? A lot? Or is it hard to tell?

March 29, 2010 2:30 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Looking at the blog you've set up really brings home the importance of looking at your photos as a ste, or in the "real" context of where they are to be published. Whereas the ones you've used are excellent and look good as individual examples of lighting on Flickr, they shine when viewed together in the blog itself for which they were intended.

July 20, 2011 3:39 AM  
Blogger Charlotte Fraser said...

Great tips on selling a house. It's just amazing that you used "princess bride". and... nice photos too!

December 12, 2012 4:25 AM  

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