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TOP 5 IN REAL ESTATE NETWORK, October, 2009—Brenda Fontaine

Fontaine Family:The Real Estate Leader

Years in real estate: 26

Region Served: Central Maine

What are you three best tips/strategies for marketing homes to buyers? Price it correctly, de-personalize the house and stage it. The first showing is really on the Internet so we work hard to get sellers to move furniture around, de-clutter, de-personalize and then to paint the house before it goes on the market. Painting is a great investment.

What is your mix of print versus online advertising? Over 80% of our clients come from the Internet. We still do some print because the sellers look at it. This area has taken a long time to get out of print. We used to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on print seven days a week and it was ultimately doing nothing. The sellers expect it more than the buyers. Buyers really only look for homes on the Internet. So I have two personal websites and get a lot of traffic from various other websites we are involved with. We are connected with approximately 50 different sites.

What are you doing to network? I do some social networking by using Facebook. I also have one team member who does BNI business networking and we share those referrals.

How important is staging in this market? Staging is a must in this market. I have been doing staging for five years at least. I have some things that I let sellers borrow, especially in vacant homes. It has really helped me sell a lot of homes in this market. The professional stager I recommend will even have sellers put in new carpet…whatever needs to happen. She will even help them start packing so they take all their personal items and put them away.

I also have sellers adhere to this rule: One or two items per flat surface. That’s it. No more. People have to see the house and be able to imagine themselves there. So it has to be de-personalized. The countertops should be bare in the kitchen and the top of the refrigerator should be clean. I even try to get sellers to take all their family pictures down. I start off by saying, “I hope you won’t be offended…” It could make a difference in your bottom line.

Why did you become a Member of Top 5? I am known to be one of the top people in the area (last year we sold 211 homes and we are on track to close on 300 homes this year). I think it is so great that we finally have something that showcases the top agents who do 95 percent of the sales. One of the other reasons I joined Top 5 is for networking.

How are you/will you utilize the Top 5 program to help build your business? We have already put the Top 5 Resource Center on our website. Even though we have a top website, it will make it better with all of the increased information. What is also very attractive is that with Top 5 we can differentiate ourselves from the pack. We are discussing now how we will be using the brochures, which we think are great.

What is the key to a successful life in real estate? Balance.