All houses have a personality. There are happy homes and abandoned lonely ones. There are homes where you feel relaxed and comfortable and homes that have an intimidating attitude. Some homes are built around children. They are nurturing and protective while others have been neglected. There are homes nearing the end of their useful life and sparkling new ones waiting to welcome their first family.
Although there are no actual numbers, I suspect happy homes sell faster and for a higher price than homes with less feng shui. Buying a home is a very personal and subjective decision. Buyers must first feel good about a home before buying it. If not, they will go on to the next one. This explains why when showing identical track homes or condominiums, a buyer will be attracted to one particular home and not the others.
Agents understand that homes have different personalities. It’s this emotional attraction based upon a home’s personality that compels a buyer to make a positive decision. Buyers may search for square footage and bedrooms but their buying decisions are based on intrinsic personal values. They are searching for a home that closely resembles their personality or one that can be transformed into their expectations.
Matching personalities of buyers and homes isn’t easy. Using our multiple listing service, agents can search for homes based upon 300 different categories. We can search for multiple combinations of price, size, room features and pinpoint a location down to a quarter-mile radius. Looking for a bank REO with a propane range that has automatic sprinklers in the backyard and a master bedroom that is 15-feet by 20-feet? No problem, but what I can’t search for is a happy family home.
Marketing real estate is an art not an exact science. We all read the tea leaves differently. My approach to marketing a home is to first discover its personality. Once that’s determined, I place emphasis on its dominant personality traits, which then creates a positive attraction for a buyer with a similar personality. It’s the law of positive attraction. Not only do we surround ourselves with friends like us, we choose our homes that most resemble who we are or want to be.
As an example, let’s say I have an organized and very disciplined home. Not a blade of grass is out of place; the kitchen is always spotless, lots of bookcases and closet organizers. Regardless of price and location, a mother of three will never see herself and her children living in this home. Her primary focus is finding a kid-friendly home.
Some professional property stagers and home designers will advise their clients to remove all family photos and other personal items while the home is for sale. Their rationale is that buyers can’t see themselves in the home while the current family is still there. Although too much of anything can be distracting, taking the family and its personality totally out of a home can eliminate the No. 1 reason for buying it.
To attract like-minded buyers, I like to use personality focal points that identify and highlight the home’s most prominent personality features. If it’s granite counter tops, they should be clear of all cutter and illuminated. If it’s the view from the deck, then the deck should be in top condition with appropriate patio furnishing. If trees are obstructing a view, hire the tree trimming arborist. If no view, one can often be created by landscaping. Formal dining rooms should be accented by place settings and a bowl of fruit. If marketing a Tuscan Villa or French Country style architecture, the wine, glasses and accessories should be prominently displayed.
There are physical and financial limitations. Generally, the costs of major design changes are not recovered in this market. That’s why agents need to discover a home’s personality and then accentuate the positive. In our homogenized world buyers are looking for an opportunity of individual expression.
Some homes require a personality makeover. An obnoxious home may need to tone down its brassy personality. Sad homes need to be brightened. A neutral personality is an option for homes that are emotionally or financially distressed. No personality is better than a poor one.
What do you do with a haunted house? Two other agencies had the old place listed without any success. Everyone knew the story about the crazy old man who killed his wife and then himself on Halloween night in an old section of Riverside. The house had been first marketed as the lowest-priced home in the neighborhood, which it was. When that listing expired the next agent marketed the property as a fixer, and it was getting worse from vandals. When I got the listing I convinced the estate to spend serious money and convert the house from the eyesore it was into the vintage Victorian it once was. The local newspaper picked up the story and ran a feature tracing the history of the old house back a hundred years, including its sordid recent past. We increased the price to offset the remodeling expenses and within a month a retired history professor tendered a full-price offer. The personality of the house wasn’t the recent crime scene. It was the history of Riverside.
Marketing is first understanding your product and identifying the most likely buyer. Then it’s only a matter of matching the two personalities.
Ken Calhoon is a real estate broker in El Dorado County. He can be reached through his Website at KenCalhoon.com.