• Mark Olivito

If it Works for Selling Cereal, It Works for Selling a House

A couple of Buying Principles: Consumer Behavior, in the consumer goods market:

1) Having the PRICE clearly marked on the box of cereal (or any product) is a key enabler to sell your product.

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling $5 cereal or $20 steaks, people want to know how much an item costs.

2) There is a saying in retail: “Out of Stock means out of business!” When the product is not on the shelf, consumer can’t buy it from the retailer. Game over.

Some call it Distribution, as part of the outdated 4p’s of marketing mix model.

Now to the star of this post, real estate….

What is wrong with this picture?

Each sign has the basic information:

  • The Real Estate Company, agent name, basic contact info.

  • A box to load the specifics of the property, the listing “brochure”….

But what is painfully missing? The brochure box is empty.

My Experiment: Over the past 4 weeks, I biked around 15 different subdivisions and about a 5 mile radius from my home. Here’s what I’ve found:

  • Approximately 100 houses with For Sale signs.

  • AT LEAST 80 of these homes had EMPTY brochure boxes. These were not new construction homes; these are subdivisions with re-sales.

  • Nothing that stood among realtors: In other words, well-known local realtors had empty boxes at the same rate as agents I’ve never heard of. And the boxes that were empty are not “1 timers”, they are always empty….

If I was taking notes while sweating the % of boxes that are empty would probably be HIGHER than 80%. Take your own poll on your next Sunday drive around the neighborhood; you’ll be surprised how many boxes are empty.

What’s the big deal? Can’t people go on line to check the price & specs, or call the realtor listed on the sign? ABSOLUTELY! That’s not the point. Here is the point:

  • IF price matters for a $5 box of cereal, wouldn’t it matter for a $300k house?

  • Why gamble on a prospect and make them hunt for a key variable in selling your house?

Ironically, I have yet to meet a realtor who was NOT quick to pull the “drop the price” trigger when marketing my home after it’s been sitting for 90+ days. Doesn’t matter that I’ve had only 3 showings in 90 days (market is dead), the price is the answer so says the experts you are paying 5% of your biggest asset……..take a look at this 3 minute video from the author of Freakonomics, a best-selling study of how humans respond to incentives, in particular how realtors and homeowners may NOT have their interests aligned.





This all sounds critical of realtors, and that is not the intent. I know a ton of great realtors……they are all great people-people, involved in their communities and genuinely concerned for the well being of their clients. I am lucky to call most of them friends.

However, while a realtor only gets paid when a house closes, I suspect that a fair number put more energy into “getting the listing” vs. moving the listing. I’ve seen many creative pitches for listing my house with them vs. their competitor. Great power point, reference lists, statistics, etc. Then when they get the listing and it does not magically move? DROP THE PRICE.

How about we start with the basics? Keep the brochure box full if the homeowner is out of state. If you can’t personally fill them, fine. Pay their neighbors with a creative gift to fill their box; a falling price won’t help them either.

Sounds like nitty-gritty work keeping these boxes full? ABSOLUTELY. Hustle cuts across every profession. Not always sexy, but always needed.

In real estate, in a 5 mile radius around my house, I can tell you that a degree of Hustle is missing from a tiny aspect of House sales process. It may not be a big deal in the process.

Maybe the rules of cereal do not apply to a $300k house sale. It certainly doesn’t seem to concern all of these homeowners and their agents.

Marketing is about being different, and standing out. It applies to cereal, and it applies to service professions like Realtors.

I never heard a realtor make a guarantee on something so simple. Maybe that’s not needed, or not possible.

For me, the Realtor that says it (and demonstrates it) would certainly stand out, and earn MY listing.

The one’s with empty boxes, I won’t be inviting them in. And unfortunately for them, they won’t even know it. It’s an unfortunate truth in Marketing.

The Realtor has established their brand in my mind. “Branding” is what happens in the minds of consumers, not the marketing material.

It is hard to read minds, but you can certainly earn positive (or negative) mind share. You do that by showing up. Working hard. And not leaving your boxes empty.

The good news for realtors?

Many potential home sellers do not sell $3 items for a living……

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