iBuyers discover listing real estate is hard – but demonstrate improvement

My ultimate goal is always excellence – can’t find anything to fix – but my everyday goal is simply better: I want to do better every day, understanding that excellence is worth pursuing even if I never quite manage to catch it.

So I want to celebrate the Phoenix iBuyers in that regard: They seem to be doing better.

I beat all three of them up last month, this because they are astoundingly poor at marketing real estate for resale. In response they carefully said nothing – cum taces, clamas – and even more carefully pored over every word I wrote.

This is stupid, of course. I wasn’t teaching theory, I was bitching about its absence. And trying to reverse-engineer theory from a harangue is daft. So, of course, none of them reached out to me to learn the theory of listing and selling real estate – quickly and reliably, for optimal ROI. My guess is they don’t want to actually do better, they just want the bitching to stop.

Whatever. There is a limit to how much better they can get, regardless: Employees and entrepreneurs work very differently, achieving very different results. Even then, DOOP is death and will be for the foreseeable future. All three are getting better at turning the product over, but the Pending timeline will eat the upside regardless of the pace of other events. Non-producing real estate is unprofitable. Who knew?

But: Still: Small victories. OpenDoor is A/B testing pricing on $5,000 boundaries, and its pricing is now targeted to well-understood lender qualification tiers. Zillow was better on the public remarks sections when I looked in July, and it is even better now; there may be only one writer now and the copy is benefits-focused – much unlike the other two.

Zillow’s pricing is sill doubly-hostile: Indifferent to buyer and lender preferences and repellant on sight: $309,900 misses the target with oily, obvious guile. Even so, of the 15 listings I looked at in detail (the five most-recent MLS entires for each of the Phoenix iBuyers as of 5 am today), only Zillow has a Pending sale. And of the 30 homes it has listed in the past 15 days, 12 – 40% – are Sale Pending. Not great, but not nothing – and much better than the other two.

Meanwhile, OpenDoor’s listings omit the driving directions – have I missed this all along? – which seems an odd choice: “Yeah, but” all day, but if someone expects them and misses them, what inferences might he draw? I think they do have marketing value, anyway, if only to telegraph the location, but, ultimately, why take a chance on something that easy to deal with?

OfferPad chugs on unfazed, for all I can tell. Nota bene: Every Master Bedroom is ‘ensuite’ – the separate bathroom is what makes it a Master – so using that word confuses things: Two bathrooms? Jack-and-Jilled somehow? That much is easy. Writing to sell is an art, and writing to sell real estate is a high art. OpenDoor is ultimately worse on the public remarks – just by seeming not to give a damn (noting, as always, that everything sells something) – but OfferPad’s listing copy is robotic and feature-focused.

Everything still looks like an REO – and nothing looks like a home. They sell, anyway, in due course, but they could go faster and for more money, if anyone on the listing side gave any thought at all to the buyer – and to what makes a house sell in days into multiple offers. Better-by-mimicry is still better, but only better-by-theory results in listing well: The highest/safest/soonest return – with predictable excellence on every listing.

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