I’ve done everything from painting walls and rearranging furniture to taking out the garbage if a seller forgot. I’d do just about anything if I thought it would help sell a property. All of these things matter, but I’ve learned that there’s one extra thing you can do to make your listing stand out, create buzz and attract more buyers.
I was once selling two brownstones on the same street. The first brownstone had undergone a dream renovation. It featured every modern touch a buyer would want, and better yet – all of the beautiful old touches were still in place. It was perfectly staged too. I’ll just say the second brownstone was rough around the edges. Sure, it was beautiful too – but it didn’t have a new kitchen, all of the bathrooms needed updating, the elevator was a potential death trap (I got stuck in it), and worst of all. . . it was completely empty. Normally I’d be concerned about how I’d sell a sad looking, empty brownstone. But this property had one secret weapon – it came with a great story. Brownstone #2 was once the home of jazz legend Billie Holiday. This was a huge advantage, and I knew I could use the story that came with the brownstone as a potential sales hook. Stories are unique, history is something that lasts forever. The owner of this home will forever be able to share the fascinating story that Billie Holiday once lived here.
Storytelling is a simple and powerful way for humans to connect, stories are something everyone can understand and relate to. The story behind a property can serve as a talking point, can make a property memorable and can be used as a hook to draw more people in to take a look. Once another broker showed me a loft space in an old building in the East Village that I thought might be right for one of my clients. He gave me a tour, showed me the highlights and l left thinking I’d bring her in to see it. She was artsy and creative, and I thought the apartment and the neighborhood might be a good match for her. When I got back to my office, I googled the address of the listing, and found some curious information. It turns out that the building was part of the punk scene back in the 1980’s – bands played there, lots of parties were had. I thought this story made the property seem even edgier and more interesting. Why wouldn’t the broker have shared that story? Instead of calling my client and saying, “I just looked at a loft that has great light, a chef’s kitchen and a roof deck,” (all the things on her wish list). I said, “There’s an opportunity to buy in a historic building that was part of the pioneering punk movement in the East Village. It’s a great loft – gorgeous kitchen, and outdoor space!” I let her know that not only did the property have everything she wanted, but there was that extra-special little bit of history attached to it, and that’s not something a renovator can add. It’s completely unique to the property.
Since selling a brownstone that was once the home of a jazz legend, my team has made a point to use storytelling to sell properties whenever possible. To use the power of story to sell real estate, do the following;
Do some research: This sounds obvious, but most people simply do not do this. Learn as much about a building, home, neighborhood or town as you can. What interesting facts can you find?
I once discovered that a building I was really struggling to sell was designed by the same architects as the Empire State Building. I was able to take a stale listing and breathe new life into it by highlighting the famous art deco roots of the building’s original designers.
Use what you find as a hook: A typical three-bedroom condo in a quiet neighborhood can be hard to sell when it’s a buyers’ market or there’s a lot of inventory. But if you can dig up a little history, you can use the information to distinguish a property from others with similar features. For example, there are now apartments on the grounds of Thomas Edison’s former factory, which can make for a really great story. Imagine telling clients they could wake up in a space where one of the world’s greatest inventors worked! Suddenly this isn’t just a condo, it’s an opportunity to surround yourself with the spirit of innovation!
Make it memorable: Sure, it’s cool to be able to say that someone famous used to live somewhere, or a building is designed by a favorite architect. That’s a cool fact, but it needs to be made memorable. When I learned that the building, I was selling was designed by the Empire State Building architects, we made up a character to represent the vibe of the building. Soon the building wasn’t 99 John Street, it was the “John Deco Building.” This character was featured on our marketing materials, and we even threw him a party to kick-off sales at the building.
Obviously not every property we’re going to sell comes steeped in fascinating history. Just remember that when there is a story to be told, it is a fantastic opportunity and you can use it to make the property stand out from everything else. It doesn’t have to be a life altering mind bending story either. Just knowing that an area was part of the early punk scene is unique and sticks in people’s minds. If the building used to be the home of the Tootsie Roll factory (it used to be in Dumbo) tell people that a classic candy used to be manufactured right, there in their future home. Who else can say that? I believe in using every single tool at my disposal when selling a property, and story is one of my secret weapons. When preparing a listing get in the habit of doing a little investigating to see if anything is there. You never know when you’re going to stumble upon a fact that’s going to give you a really good story to tell, with a big commission to follow.