Her home has sat on the market three years, a testament to just how tough it can be to move a higher-priced residence in this downturn.
But Nancy Mitros, who owns the house in Flossmoor, doesn't blame her real estate agent. Quite the opposite: She's thrilled with the effort that Sue Jenner, of the Olympia Fields office of Baird & Warner, has made.
Jenner attends every showing of the house, which has an asking price of $650,000. That way, she's able to show the house's unique features to every potential buyer. Jenner tracks feedback from buyers carefully, and offers to make simple changes -- new carpeting, new paint -- if such moves will help turn a potential buyer into an actual one. She's listed the house on as many Web sites as possible, promotes it to fellow agents and regularly places print ads for it in both specialty and general-interest publications.
So even though her home has not yet sold, Mitros is at least comforted by the knowledge that her agent is taking every possible step.
"I think it's great what she's doing for me," Mitros said. "If she wasn't there at every showing, trying to sell it to the people who are there, then I'd think I was missing out on something. But she's doing everything she can. It's really the market that's slowing everything down."
Gone are the days when agents could sell a house by placing it on the Multiple Listing Service and hammering a sign into its front lawn. Agents have to market homes more aggressively to cut through the glut of inventory in a slow market. Even then, as Mitros' case shows, there are no guarantees.
It's up to sellers to make sure their agents are doing all they can to promote their homes; otherwise they'd better get comfortable staring at those "for sale" signs.
"Today, you can't count on anything," said Maureen Murnane, an agent with the Lincoln Park Plaza office of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. "When the market was booming, you could put out a sign and answer the phone. Now, you have to work to move every listing, to schedule every appointment. If you're not doing everything possible you're not going to move that house very quickly, and you're not providing full service to your clients."
What should your agent be doing? Here are suggestions from agents across the city and suburbs.
*The importance of being there: When homes were selling within weeks, listing agents didn't have to attend every showing for each home they were trying to sell.
That's no longer the case. Your agent should be at your house every time buyers look at it. This way, agents can tout positive features that buyers might miss. They can also tell buyers about the neighborhood and its amenities. If buyers have any questions, the listing agent should have the answers.
This is why Zoe Carne, an agent with the Michigan Avenue office of Prudential Preferred Properties, never skips a showing of one of her properties. When the listing agent is on site, she says, buyers are far more likely to remember a property.
Carne has firsthand experience with this. She recently showed 32 properties to a client. The client remembered properties by the names of the listing agents on site. If a listing agent wasn't at a property, the client didn't remember the home.
"My buyers almost wiped it out of their memories if an agent wasn't there," Carne said. "They just don't remember those houses as well. And why would they? An agent wasn't there to tell them about all the great things in the neighborhood or about what new businesses were coming in. An agent should always be there to tell you about a home. That's what we're for."
*Reacting to feedback: Buyer feedback is important. If a steady stream of buyers is complaining about the wallpaper in the kitchen, it's probably time to rip it down.
It's your agent's job to not only ask for feedback from every showing, but to suggest ways to react to buyer comments.
If buyers truly loved everything about a house except for the thick carpeting running through it, agents should not only relay that message, they should offer suggestions to their clients on what they should do in response. Perhaps the best solution would be to provide the potential buyers with a financial allowance that would allow them to rip up and replace the carpeting at no cost to them.
"You have to be reactive with feedback. That is a type of marketing that people sometimes don't think about," Jenner said. "You have to get back on the phone with people who like almost everything about a house and see if you can work something out. You don't just give up in this marketplace and wait for someone else to come along. Maybe in the past you could do that, but not now. I am relentless. If they are even somewhat interested, I am on the phone with them."
*The power of technology: Most buyers begin their search on the Internet, usually logging onto sites such as Realtor.com to find listings in the communities that interest them.
But simply listing a house on one of these sites isn't enough. Top agents do more, much more, when it comes to online marketing
Consider Brady Barr, an agent with Chicago's @properties. He's created his own Chicago real estate group on the social networking site Facebook. The group, which has more than 290 members, features the latest properties available from Barr's agency. By placing a house in the group, Barr can quickly showcase it to each of these members.
It's one more tool for sellers eager to expose their residences to as large a group of buyers as possible.
"It's important to show sellers that you are willing to go the extra mile," Barr said. "I am building a whole network of people with this group. People interested in any of the developments on the site just have to click on it and then contact me."
Others, such as Murnane, create unique Web sites, with address-specific URLs, for each of their listings. If Murnane is representing 123 Main Street, for instance, she'll create an individual Web page for that residence. The site's address would behttp://www.123mainstreet.com . Murnane advertises the Web sites on the "for sale" signs outside her listings and in all her print advertising. Clients can easily remember the addresses and, instead of having to first log onto either Realtor.com, Murnane's own Web site or the Coldwell Banker home page, can simply access the site of the one home that interests them.
*Marketing to the agents: Renee Clark, an agent with the Buffalo Grove office of Baird & Warner, isn't content to market her listings to potential buyers. She puts as much effort into promoting her homes to her fellow real estate agents. This is something every agent should be doing.
Say Clark is representing a historic house in Long Grove. She'll send brochures to the top-producing agents working in that community, e-mail them information about the home and hold house tours open only to real estate professionals. Some of these agents, undoubtedly, will have clients of their own who are searching for a historic house in a peaceful suburb such as Long Grove.
"Everything is more important now that the market has changed," Clark said.
*Keeping that house open: For years, many agents have spurned the traditional Sunday open house, saying such events rarely bring in serious buyers. Such open houses, they've said, attract mostly nosy neighbors.
Murnane disagrees. She says that open houses are important selling tools.
"Open houses are wonderful opportunities to showcase a property to its fullest extent," she said. "You present the house in its best, most welcoming environment."
And Murnane doesn't shun those curious neighbors. She invites them during a specific time period. She knows that these neighbors won't be making any offers. But they do have family members and friends. The hope is that the curious neighbors will rush home to call these house-hunting friends and relatives.
Murnane has attracted as many as 100 guests during her weekend open houses. She estimates that 25 percent to 30 percent of the time, a home's final buyer can be traced back to one of her open houses.
*A little financial boost: Nancy Fanning-Basso, an agent with Century 21 McMullen on Chicago's Northwest Side, has her own way of marketing her listings: Give buyers a little cash.
It sounds strange, but it makes sense. On certain listings, Fanning-Basso, with the seller's approval, provides a credit to buyers of anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000. This money, provided by the seller, comes from the sale of the house. If a house sold for $500,000, and the seller provides a credit to the buyer of $10,000, the seller actually gets $490,000 on the sale.
It's not a tactic that every seller will agree to, of course. But some sellers are willing to try if their homes have sat on the market for months and if they've built up enough equity so that they can afford to lose a small amount of money on the sale.
Fanning-Basso recently sold a condominium in Norwood Park that had been on the market for six months. She finally moved the unit after the seller agreed to offer a $1,000 credit to any buyer.
"The buyer, who was a first-time buyer, chose our condo because we were assisting with financing," Fanning-Basso said. "Sometimes you do have to get creative."
*Aiming for that niche: Joanne Nemerovski, an agent with the Lincoln Park office of Koenig & Strey GMAC Real Estate, is one of the top-producing real estate pros in the Chicago area. It's little surprise, then, that she has her own techniques to move listings in a slowing market.
The most important is her targeted marketing campaigns. Nemerovski represents several high-end listings. She sends her marketing materials to the groups who would be most interested in these homes, including legal and medical professionals. She sends information to corporations who are relocating employees to the Chicago area. She even keeps a close watch on trades made by local sports teams, and sends information about her listings to athletes before they become Cubs, Sox or Bears.
"We see a lot of empty houses now because of this market. All I can think of is that someone is paying a mortgage on this empty house. As I'm walking out of these houses, I'm always thinking about what else I can do to help sell them," Nemerovski said. "I'm always lying in bed thinking of new ideas, new things to do. It's not like your work on marketing a home is ever done."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times