Who Says the Best Things in Life Aren’t Free?

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Some things in life are free. The Internet seems to be exploding with sites where you can post new home listings at no charge. Not only do industry folks know them by name, but consumers have bookmarked them as destinations when window shopping for homes.

Even though you’re not spending money on these free sites, it’s important that you invest the time to make sure your listings generate the best results possible. When potential homebuyers can’t find your listing, don’t understand the industry lingo you’ve used, or can’t use the information posted to find the home, those free listings can actually cost you a sale.

Rules to post by

No matter which free listing site you choose, there are a few rules to remember that will help you get the most for your investment of time and effort.

Always include the basics. Every listing should have, at a minimum, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the type of home, the neighborhood or home address and the price. They’re not charging you for more words, so don’t skimp on the important details.

Be sure to spell it out. Your primary audience is regular people, not industry experts. It’s easy to slip into the abbreviations you rely on in MLS and other listings seen primarily by real estate agents. Your Internet listings, however, will more likely be read by actual home buyers who are shopping online. Even Internet listings you believe to be aimed at other agents will sometimes get picked up on consumer sites. Don’t assume they know that a spec is referring to a home under construction. Someone may think it is one that they can spec out.

Another reason to avoid abbreviations? Search engines don’t understand them. If a potential buyer conducts a keyword search for “townhomes in Atlanta,” neither Google nor Yahoo nor any other search engine will think to stop at “Atl TH.” Before you post a listing, consider the searches a potential home buyer might use to find your home and write them in the description. Is the home in a popular school district? Spell it out.

Rather than short, to the point listings, think like a marketer. Use the phrases that turn a buyer’s head. Describe the luxurious owners’ suite and the gourmet kitchen. Double shower heads in the owners spa? A relaxing spa bath? A large fenced yard perfect for the family dog? Add it in there. Name brand appliances? Include that, too.

Finally, double check automated tools. For example, if the site links the home’s street address to a map, take the extra step to ensure map displays correctly. If not, those buyers may never find you or the home of their dreams. If the site allows external links to your website, make sure you take advantage of the referral. Double check the link’s accuracy and usability before you finish posting.

Ready, set, sell!

If you’re ready to get started – or if you’re ready to rethink your past approach – here are four sites to consider.

Trulia.com has fast become one of the most visited listing sites. Strong partnerships with other listing sites add to its success. Trulia does a good job of SEO (search engine optimization), so search engines will often show Trulia local pages within the top results. Additional free tools allow you to place Trulia-generated information on your own site, including real estate statistics and Trulia’s most recent listings in your area. TruliaVoices is an online community that is valuable for networking with other professionals and for establishing expertise with homebuyers who pose online questions.

Like Trulia, Zillow offers a social media component that is similar to networking on FaceBook or ActiveRain. Registered users can actually interact with industry professionals in a networking atmosphere. You can also use the networking tool to reach buyers or promote your neighborhoods. As you familiarize yourself with the Zillow or Trulia online community, you will discover even more ways to drive traffic through networking tools.

Realbird.com and Postlets.com allow real estate agents to create many web pages or online flyers for individual listings. You can syndicate to multiple websites, including Google, Trulia, Zillow and even MySpace. The sites are form-driven, so you just fill in the blanks, upload pictures and choose your style. The hard work is done for you. Partnerships vary by site, but you will also find tools for posting your online flyers to Craigslist, FaceBook, BackPage or GoogleBase.

Online time moves slower than real world time, and it’s easy to get lost in the many tools and opportunities on the free listing sites while the work day passes by. Minimize the time spent and maximize your exposure by using a couple of the services together. You might also partner with members of your real estate team or with unaffiliated agents who swap referrals. Divide the sites so that each agent has a presence on one listing site (Zillow or Trulia) and one online flyer site (RealBird or Postlets).

Just because free listing sites are free, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them seriously. To get the most value from these sites, approach them as if you’ve paid for them – after all, your time is worth money. And treat them as if your next sale will come from the information you post. Who knows – that just may be the case. And if you continue to post often and post well, the free listing sites may generate your next 10, 20 or 100 sales, too.