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RISMEDIA, March 28, 2009-The value of a home is exactly equal to the amount a willing seller and a willing buyer agree to at a given point in time. It can sometimes be difficult or impossible to convince a seller of a realistic asking price, especially if they purchased their home within the past few years.

Virtual Office Websites (VOW’s) can help you work more successfully with a seller by allowing them to watch the local market dynamics along with you. The pivotal concept is that if both the agent and the seller are looking at the same information, they should derive a similar opinion on how to price a home, or at least have a shared set of facts to enhance their positions.

Here are a few tools that VOW’s offer to help increase the chances of selling a home:

Daily Alerts: By using a Virtual Office Website as a seller’s tool, real estate listing agents can inform their client on a daily basis about economic factors that will impact the asking price of their home. Sellers can be notified whenever there is price change, new listing, or sale activity that may influence their listing price. Be sure to watch the inventory with your seller and converse with them about market activity. This will assure your seller that you are informed and vested in the market impacting their home value.

Client CMA Tool: Agents have always been at the center of doing research in the MLS to share with their client as the foundation of developing the opinion of the value of a home. With a Virtual Office Website, the home seller is also afforded access to the same information used by agents. Sellers can build their own Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) by running a search on a broker or agent VOW. The difference with a VOW is that the CMA is dynamic – it can be updated everyday with changes in both active and sold inventory. This dynamic approach to CMA will allow you and your seller to discuss any alterations in asking price.

Market Conditions: Virtual Office Websites put more information into the hands of sellers in a way that allows the agent and the client to agree to reasonable changes in sale price. If a seller is interested in selling a home in 60 days and the average days on market for a similar property is 260 – something must give. Either the seller will need to get lucky or provide an incentive to buyers. If the seller is expecting $360 per square foot and the market for comparable homes doesn’t exceed $250, the likelihood of selling the home is pretty low. VOW websites offer key market statistics such as days on market and price per square foot that will help agents set realistic expectations for their sellers. Allowing the seller to access this key information will lead to the development of an informed seller and a more accurate listing price.

Open House Notification: With open house notifications, sellers can go and visit listings that are comparable to their listing to gain first-hand knowledge of other homes that buyers may be considering in the same area or price point. Since a VOW can provide consumers with electronic invitations for open houses that closely match the properties they are interested in, it can be an excellent marketing tool for the listing agent and a real value to the seller. “Single site” VOWs are not as effective as those such as Listingbook that have a large community of agents, buyers and sellers. The more consumers that access the VOW, the larger the community of potential buyers, which means more open house visits and a happier seller.

Agent in the center of the conversation

The same principals of working with sellers that apply to your IDX website hold true for your Virtual Office Website. An agent’s goal is to provide opportunities to engage a consumer to help them stay informed about market conditions that impact the value of their home.

With Virtual Office Websites, the opportunity for new forms of engagement with your customer become available that keep the servicing agent in the center of the online behavior. With VOW, these new features of consumer engagement emerge:

-Agents and clients can leave notes or remarks for each other about competitive listings.
-Agents and clients can modify search criteria to include or exclude listings
-Agents can view their client’s click through activity
-Open house notifications invite sellers to look at competitive listings

Leaving a Note for my Agent – This is pretty straightforward. This functionality allows the agent and the buyer to chat about a listing, and have a record of that communication preserved for the seller and agent to refer back to at any time. As new listings come on the market, the agent can share remarks for their seller. The seller can respond to those remarks and even ask questions of their own. Although this online conversation happens mostly by email, it could conceivably contain live chat features too.

Reject a Listing – As sellers become familiar with the inventory, it is helpful to discard homes that do not compete with theirs. Reject a Listing will remove those homes from the clutter and allow sellers to focus on new listings, price changes and other information that may encourage a price increase or decrease on their listing. It also provides a great reason to call the seller to discuss why their listing may be getting “rejected” by potential buyers.

Open House Notifications – Notify both your buyers and sellers of open houses that match up. Doing this in a manner that supports and reinforces the client/agent relationship is critical. While many agents have a hard time grasping the idea of sending their seller to another agent’s open house, with a VOW relationship, the loyalty is almost always maintained.

Stay With Your Customer

The most important skill set that a broker or agent will need to focus on with their VOW is paying attention. If you offer a VOW site to your seller, make sure that you are committed to responding to them in a reasonable amount of time. Most VOW solutions notify you of activity by your customers on your site by email, so it is important to check your email to keep up with your client activity. Doing so will allow you to build a stronger relationship with your customer.

Victor Lund is a partner with WAV Group. For more information, visit