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Editor’s note: This week RISMedia is running a five-part series of Q&As with Top 5 in Real Estate member Valerie Fitzgerald, owner of The Valerie Fitzgerald Group ( in Beverly Hills, California. Valerie will offer unique insight into what it takes to be successful in today’s challenging times, and her new book, “Heart and Sold: How to Survive and Build a Recession-Proof Business,” due on bookstands May 19.

Part 1

RISMedia: The real estate market has become increasingly competitive. While the economic situation plays a role in it, marketing real estate had in fact changed well before the mortgage and Wall Street meltdown. People don’t buy a property, but rather the whole “experience” of a lifestyle that comes with it. Buyers are today more demanding than ever, better informed and the Internet turbo-charges comparisons at the speed of broadband. With this in mind, how has an increasingly competitive marketplace changed the way you market a property?

Valerie Fitzgerald

Valerie Fitzgerald

Valerie Fitzgerald: In 2007, we realized the limitless numbers of people looking at real estate on the web. We therefore focused our attention to our online strategy and found ways to interface with those people, to get them the information they needed and wanted about particular properties. We set up systems to reach the highest number of people possible, to give them information of value to them. Doing this forced us to organize our database, so that we aren’t sending out random information, but that the recipients instead receive specific information catered to their interests – information delivered through our newsletters, blog, and website. We’ve done away with the old- style website, where an agent would post tons of content and talk ‘to’ the reader. Visitors today want information quickly, so we give them small, bite-size pieces of information of value to them instead.

The bottom line is that we focus on the value of the content, on keeping the information specific to a particular reader, and on keeping the process speedy and efficient.

RISMedia: Market, location, conditions and presentation are the main variables used to determine the price of a property. How much do conditions and presentation impact the price? Can you quantify that in a rough percentage for our readers?

VF: Conditions and presentation tremendously impact the price of a property. A home has to look good. Nearly all developers stage the projects they are working on, and more than half of the homes I work with are staged.

Using a quality, high-end company to assess a property’s aesthetic needs is crucial. A property has to be in presentable condition prior to opening the door to potential buyers.

The fact is, many people can’t figure out how to live in a house. Of course, they know where to put the bed and the sofa, but in consideration of a big floor plan, a contemporary design, or an empty house, a potential buyer is often lost because they can’t picture how they fit into the particular space. Homes are sold on emotion, and in many cases you need to create that.

Ultimately, I’d say conditions and presentation impact the price of a home by 60%, with other variables being location, floor plan, style, and neighborhood.

Tomorrow, Valerie will offer insights into the true costs associated with a home that sits unsold and the worst mistakes sellers should avoid.

For more information about The Valerie Fitzgerald Group, visit