HBS – from Preparation to Selling: Live, with Fresh Updates

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  • Since I am gearing up to do another Highest Bidder Sale in Hideaway, TX, on April 23rd, with the Open House scheduled for April 22nd & April 23rd, I want to get some feedback if you would like to come along for the ride with updates, and an open forum for discussion and suggestions. I’ll post any steps I have taken, any difficulties I am presently contending with, or may be facing with in the foreseen future, and my way of handling it. Everyone is invited to make suggestions.

    I finally managed to get Zillow to let me place a For Sale By Owner, after I had “claimed” the property, as someone who has an equitable interest. Zillow has been dragging its feet lately to convert from an “owner-claimed” property to one that is FSBO or a “make me move” one. I had to send Zillow an email when they took 9 days, instead of the promised 2 days for review. Zillow is being cautious because of the current rental scams going on its website.

    Zillow Listing for HBS house in Hideaway, TX

    this is wonderful Ayesha and very considerate that you are sharing this information with all members. We are pulling for you in all of your dealings. Wishing you all the best and a smooth journey as well. Thank you very much for sharing this experience.

    Thank you, Abe for the support.

    Here is the blog I set up:
    Highest Bidder Sale in Hideaway, TX

    I’ll update it with more Property specific info. I have yet to add an Email capture form that I intend to use to capture emaill addresses. The incentive I am providing is a Property Inspection Report that can be viewed online, as well as additional photographs. This would help allay any fears for people thinking of bidding.

    Second thing I would like to add is the ability to bid online. As time would allow me in the future, I shall get a coder to do that for me, and set up a separate website for that, with current HBS showing, and info on the previous ones archived on a separate page, to give me credibility.

    Tomorrow I’ll put up one of the Flyers I am mailing out to the people in the immediate community.

    It is a gated community, so I am limited to mailing it either using USPS’s EDDM service, or just mailing out postcards announcing the HBS, and the Open House. There are 642 non-resident home owners, and 1368 Owner-occupied residents. So using EDDM, the flyers/postcards may end up in empty mail boxes, or worse still, a bundle landing in a vacant house’s forgotten corner. I have heard such horror stories about mass mail bundles getting tossed.

    I use a mapping software, and am going to map all the non-residents on the area map. I’ll mail the full colour postcards to the non-occupant owners – to refresh their memories of the availability of the house, in case they have someone they want to suggest it to. If most of the non-owner occupied houses are concentrated in certain pockets, I’ll skip them and distribute flyers by hand, next weekend. This is besides the black & white flyers I’ll be hiring someone to put on the windshields of cars at major shopping areas, gyms, and Lindale schools.

    Three thoughts.

    1. Does that gated community have a newsletter that a) allows outsiders to place ads or announcements, and b) that has a publication schedule that would permit you to get such an announcement in front of the residents in time for your HBS? If their schedule is too tight for you this time, it provides a lesson worth remembering for when you plan your next gated community HBS project.

    2. You probably don’t need to hire a coder to create auction software from scratch. I ran a search on DIY AUCTION SOFTWARE, and from a number of hits I found this really interesting 2017 link that reviews a long list of such software already available:


    3. While the HBS concept has its roots in the multi-thousand year old idea of auctions (the ancient Romans used to auction off possessions on the battlefield of the enemy they had freshly killed), under Texas law an HBS doesn’t fit the categories of auctions that require a licensed auctioneer to conduct. Therefore, it’s probably a good idea to use the word sale, and avoid using the word auction in all publicity and all written materials for your bidders — so as not to attract any extra attention from either the realty or auctioneer communities that might be resentful of your competition, or from the licensing bureaucrats in Austin (the state capitol) who are ever watchful for new opportunities to grow their empire of authority.




    1. I have already placed a 5″x4″ ad in the gated community’s monthly newspaper. Their deadline was in the 3rd week of March. Even with this paid ad, I’ll be competing with ads from Realtors. So, to supplement that, and to get in front of non-residents, I need to do the flyers, and postcards.

    2. I was talking about getting a coder to dig one up to install on a website I am starting to build from ground up. I have seen the pre-made themes available, but none that I like to organize the information like I would like it to. I am going to use the Genesis framework, WordPress, and some real estate related child theme that will be tweaked to cater to Primary themed property to be highlighted, with rules, FAQ’s etc on other pages, and a special page for people to bid online after going over every bit of information available about the property. I would also like it to work with an on-site webcam, or a video camera that can show the action taking place online. This would be in addition to the pre-recorded walk-through video of the house. For all of this I need a coder/ programmer to make sure everything works together.

    3. Please point me to the areas where I have written “auction” instead of sale, so I can quickly make the correction. I tried to be careful not to use the term auction, or any other derivatives of it, to stay clear of the head honchos in Austin, and other such authorities.

    Dee, thank you again for weighing in, and helping this live HBS documentation work . I really do hope everyone interested in HBS gets clarifications they need.

    I’m not aware of where you might have written the word auction on publicity or written materials where bidders or the general public might see. I just intended my remark to be a general precaution — which you were already aware of long before I wrote about it.

    Wow! Lots of moving techie parts to your plan. About the only enhancement I can think of might be to add some drone-carried video for overhead coverage of the house and the neighborhood. Whether that really might be worthwhile or not, I can’t be sure.

    There is another consideration. Sometimes, the simplest system with the minimum number of reliably working parts can have much virtue. It’s easy to over-design by piling on complexity. It’s a different mindset to make the process as simple as possible, but not simpler.




    As usual you are absolutely right. Simplicity is the name of the game. With as few moving parts as possible, the likelihood of something failing, or falling apart will be lower. I want to spend some time on developing such a platform WHEN I have the time 🙂

    In the meantime, the blog is what I can quickly set up, since I did the initial work a few months ago, now I copy from the old one, and make the new property specific changes, and boom.


    CL ADS
    I just started my second series of CL ads today. Here is the link to the Dallas one: https://dallas.craigslist.org/dal/reo/6076504072.html

    In the weekdays leading up to the HBS weekend I’ll start adding more written description to the ad. I have seen people tend to skim over things, and not read the details, so for now just he basic information to get their attention, with a contact number to get them to call me.

    Please note, there is NO mention of the address anywhere, and I have also attached the flyer I had designed as one of the images with Highest Bidder Sale written on a bright red background. This way the main image will be the flyer promoting the HBS.

    Secondly, this phone number is a Google Voice number, and I’ll be recording basic information about the HBS on the voice mail, so that people calling in will hear the recording. I’ll get to capture their phone numbers too, and ask for permission to text them reminders before the bidding weekend.

    Ayesha, since you plan on adding more details in that CL ad in the coming days before the HBS weekend, you might consider putting a note to that effect in that CL ad now — so that readers will have an incentive to check back on your ad several times. In fact, if you know exactly what days you’ll be adding such details, you might even mention those dates in that note. That way, readers can know exactly when it’s worth their time to check back with your ad. What a great way to reinforce their interest in the property with repeated readings.

    Oh, in your first photo you show the Open House dates (in a white circle) of April 22 & 23. There’s also an unlabeled “17” on the right side of that circle. I have no idea what that “17” means, so I’d imagine your readers will be equally puzzled.



    Silly me. After I logged out, it hit me that the “17” in your first photo is probably a shortened version of the year 2017. But here’s why there’s some confusion. On the right side of your CL ad, there’s a line that reads “available Apr 14.” Then, with the Open House dates coming up shortly on April 22 & 23, it leaves open the question of whether something is happening, but just not labeled, on April 17, or is that a shortened version of the year 2017 — which your readers are very unaccustomed to seeing in 2-digit form. With the full 4-digit version of the year, that would remove all doubt, partly from a matter of cultural habit and partly from the swirl of the other close dates.



    I shall update the flyer to read “2017”. You are right, it can be confusing to the uninitiated.

    I’ll also add a link to the Zillow ad, and as per your suggestion a date when “more will be revealed”. 🙂

    I think I should also add some major surrounding cities as keywords at the bottom of the ad, to get city specific ad hits.


    This is a great idea to post what you are doing to get feedback.

    Dee is absolutely correct, you need to be very careful to not use the word Auction anywhere in our advertising or when discussing the Highest Bidder Sale.

    I know this area well. I had a lake house not far from there before moving to Panama. I also know lake house buyers. In most lake communities only about 50% are full timers. The rest are part timers who come in on holidays and weekends sometimes.

    Lindale is not your market for buyers. Neither is Tyler.

    Your buyers will most likely come from Dallas. So you need to focus your marketing on Dallas versus east Texas.

    Did you advertise in http://www.lakehouse.com It would be worth a featured ad there. Be sure to use Sold to the Highest Bidder in the subject line.

    Ayesha, I’m guessing you’ve probably already thought this through, but since this thread is intended as a training tool for later HBS users….. When your visitors show up at your Open House afternoons and you have them sign in, I trust you’ll be asking them how they heard about your HBS sale and Open House. You’ll certainly need their answer(s) to track how well each ad and publicity method you’re using is producing. And you want to encourage multiple answers in case they saw your ads in different places. Whether you jot down a letter code (or multiple ones) for such sources (on the sign-in sheets), or whether you let them check off such information is up to you. Examples might be “C” for craigslist, “N” for the community newspaper, “W” for word of mouth (in which case you’d want to ask if they know where their referrer learned of your sale also), etc, etc. I’m thinking that if you jot down such letter codes, your sign-in sheet can be a lot less cluttered.

    Or, you may well have a similar system worked out and ready to go again.




    The word “auction” is not used anywhere in the marketing materials. Dee, and you, by writing it down here, helps in reiterating that detail.
    Lakehouse.com has a default setting of the newest ads popping up first on their website. The onsite filters are a bit clunky, and counter-intuitive, and that made me wonder if it would be better to post the ad right after Easter Sunday, to keep it up at the top of the 1st page, or just only on the 1st page. I spoke to their ad & marketing manager, and she showed me how some people can navigate through the website – again very counter-intuitive. She also agreed that the freshest ads tend to linger on at the top for the first few days of posting. I shall use “sold to the Highest Bidder” as the subject line, when I place the ad.

    What I cannot crack the so-called code is that of addressing the major Buyer’s pool that resides in Dallas – 100 miles away from Hideaway. So in other words, how does one bring in Buyers, and get their attention, when most of them reside in another town, and may use the subject property as their second home/ or a retreat?! The intended audience may not even look at CL ads.

    *Press Release
    *Other city’s newspaper with the most circulation
    *Neighbourhood Online Forums


    Your suggestion is spot-on. I have a sign-in sheet with columns for name, email address, telephone number, but I am going to tweak it to add the source of lead generation, and engagement. I used to verbally ask everyone how they heard about the deal, or the event. I used to use codes, or different phone numbers for tracking, but then not everyone calls, or remember the code on the flyer, or postcard.
    As you pointed out, this is an excellent opportunity to track which avenues of marketing work best for such a Highest Bidder Sale. When all of us have compiled enough unique situations, we’ll be able to come up with common denominators, as well as differences, for markets with different price points, demographics, and audiences.

    Ayesha, when I wrote about using one-letter codes to represent the various ad and publicity sources, I had in mind the situation where you would be asking each person where they learned of your Open House, so you could jot down those codes. Of course, it wouldn’t make sense to hope they might remember such codes.

    However, if you have to ask each person a lot of such questions, that could slow down your intake line. One possible remedy for that might be to hand each person a single sheet with enough lines labeled so they could fill it all in, and let them just checkmark off whichever pre-printed ad and publicity method(s) applied to them. No codes needed, and no extra time spent asking those questions — just lots more paper.

    One possible downside: if they later decide to enter a tiny starting bid (which you hope for), you’d have to locate their unique intake sheet, so unless you immediately filed those sheets (by last name) at least in A through Z folders, you’d have a mad scramble to find their sheet again quickly.



    Another Marketing Ave: Rehistersigns.com

    Registration for Registersigns.com was done a few days ago. Jackie had suggested this website in one of the discussions on the forum. Today I received the stickers.

    RegisterSigns.com lets people text a code on your sign and instantly get the info they need about the property. All listings get a free sticker shipped to you. You can also get a Coroplast/Bandit sign with the sticker info on it – that you can post anywhere you want to place your Bandit signs. RegisterSigns also posts your ad on Backpages, Oodle, etc for you too. The coroplast signs are directly ordered at Lowe’s as a special order through the RegisterSigns.com website and can be picked up in person.

    I have uploaded photos of the RegisterSigns Sticker & Coroplast sign, as well as the date style amended flyer to my Dropbox:
    Registersigns sticker & Board sign + Flyer copy


    I use press releases for all my Highest Bidder Sales. It is the best way to reach a broader market of buyers. And with press releases are ideal for reaching people who are not actively looking for a house for sale. You can hire someone on fiverr.com to write and distribute the press release for you. I’d have them focus on Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas. Have the write elaborate on the family fun at a lake house, lake activities, fishing, etc. The press release needs to help people visualize living at a lake house

    Did you do a video and upload to youtube? If so, the link to the video should be included in your press release and all other marketing too.

    Yes, there is a lot of marketing involved in doing a Highest Bidder Sale for a few weeks prior to the 2-day open house. You don’t want to get involved in any Highest Bidder Sale unless there is a sizeable profit for you to compensate for all the marketing you do (no skinny deals). If you do a good job on the marketing, it attracts a lot of people to the open house which causes the bids to go up and up and up.

    Property Inspection Report is in now; I am going to print it and get it bound – all in B&W.

    The property inspectors are sometimes overzealous in pointing out “problems” with the house, and sometimes use red to point those out. Trivial stuff is sometimes blown out of proportion, as if they are trying to justify their fees. Examples from the current one: bulb in the ceiling fixture is non-operational!!. For a person flipping through pages of the report will only start seeing the red, and not the actual content.

    I am still waiting for the Seller to vacate the property. Today I drove to Hideaway to take some exterior photos myself, but still have to wait for her to clear out before any interior photos or videos can be taken. Before anyone comments on this, let me clarify, the house HAS to be cleared out before anyone can “wade” through the stuff inside. AS soon as she is cleared out, I’ll take a video, and post on YouTube, and link back to the blog, PR, all other marketing material, and the Facebook page.

    @Jackie, I believe you have been using a Press Release service for some time now. Could you please make a recommendation for one that can write and distribute?

    @R Perrin, I have found your event marketing pages, with the most recent one in March, on EventBrite, Evensi, etc. Have these worked for you? You do Press Releases too, so could you please direct me to a company that works with small businesses and is good. Please respond.

    Thank you.

    I have a virtual assistant who does my press releases and distribution. You can hire someone on fiverr.com to take care of this for you. Look for people with lots of 5 star reviews.

    While you’re hire someone on fiverr, it would be a good idea to hire someone to write an ARTICLE about 7 tips for buyer a lakehouse or something like that. Then have them distribute to article sites like http://ezinearticles.com/ and similar sites.

    Have you ordered signs?

    Did you hand out flyers at First Monday in Canton?

    Did you run an ad in the Hideaway Newsletter?

    Since your HBS is April 22-23, many of these things need to be done the week (7 days) prior to the open house. If you do it too soon, it will be forgotten.


    • The ad in the Newsletter was placed on March 21st for distribution in April.
    • Flyers were not handed out at the First Monday fair in Canton, and I’ll privately inform you of the reasons.
    • I ordered a Press Release to be written. The draft came in earlier today, and it was filled with mistakes, with incorrect emphasis on realtors, instead of selling people on the positive aspects of living on the lake, the golf course, the activities, and the gated, and secure community. So I spent a lot of time editing, and making corrections, and sent it back for a re-write. The distribution date is set for April 17th, since the whole weekend before it is Good Friday, & Easter celebrations for most people.
    • The bandit signs have been made, and the banner ordered. Remember, we are not allowed to use either inside the gated community. You had suggested most buyers would be coming from Dallas, and the extended areas, and not Tyler, or Lindale. Lindale school parents are nowadays trying to buy houses in Hideaway because of the better community settings.
    • The printer will be giving me the 2500 postcards by Wednesday, April 12th. I found a very cheap printing service, with fast service here in Texas, with countrywide printers

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