Tell Me a Story

Climbing Ancient Age

by Jay Zenner on February 3, 2012

My favorite television commercial at the moment is a Citicard ad called Accessories. It begins with an attractive young woman looking into a display case apparently getting ready to buy something. The first thing I noticed was that she didn’t look like an actress even though she was very attractive. She talks about preparing for a vacation with her boy friend and she needed a new belt, nylons and, of course, shoes. She mentions that they had thought about a diamond but she had another rock in mind.

It turns out the belt was a climbing belt, the nylon was rope and the shoes were definitely not Manolo.  It ends with her climbing up a rock formation and standing and enjoying the view on the tip top of this red rock peak  which appears to be about the size of home plate.  Her perky silhouette, pony tail and all. is framed by a gorgeous landscape.  Apparently this card has a better airline miles.  Besides it’s exposure on TV, it has been viewed over 130,000 times on youTube and drawn over 200 comments. The comments identify both the place and the woman who did the climbing.

It’s hard for me to believe banks are still pushing credit cards but based on how frequently the ad runs it must be generating some business.  So why did Citibank go to all the trouble to film what had to be a terribly expensive commercial when they could have just described the features and benefits of their card?

Because that would have been deadly dull…just like most real estate copy.

There are two dominant styles in run of the mill real estate copy. The first is characterized by brevity. I think these are older agents who had to write copy for those big newspapers ads of yesteryear with hundreds of pictures of  little houses.  The copy allowed made a tweet seem like War and Peace. If you are old enough, you’ve seen them. Crn lot, all brick, 3bds, 2bths. Won’t last. Call 2day.

The other style is the documentarian.  These are usually younger people who are comfortable with technology and can add pictures to Realtor.com and add more copy than the truncated MLS information. They’ll not only post the maximum number of pictures, they will describe every detail at great hyperbolic length afraid of missing any detail that might spark an immediate offer.

Neither approach is particularly effective if you are competing with numerous other homes for showings.  Even at the high end of the market, $1 million plus, in my MLS there are almost 200 listings.  Last year there were less than 90 closings of homes listed for $1 million or more.  That means that if there is a buyer out there, she has a lot of choices but  is probably not going to look at all 200 options.  When you are in the lower price ranges and there are thousands of options, getting feet across the threshold is even more difficult.  So, what’s the solution? Do like the wizards behind Accessories and tell a story.

Early in my career I used to believe that the beauty of providing all the pictures and information in the MLS online to every corner of the world was a great thing. The rationale was that instead of driving clients around for days they could narrow their choices online saving them and me time and gasoline. This may work for a buyer agent but takes control out of your hands as a listing agent.  Instead, what you want them to do is be curious enough to want to see it. We’ve all heard the expression “Buyers are liars.”  Of course, most of them aren’t liars but a very high proportion of them a. don’t know what they want, b. can’t agree as a couple what they want, or c. don’t have any sense of what is available to them in terms of style, neighborhoods, etc.

So the solution is that when producing copy and other promotional materials remember:

  1. The goal is not to sell the home but to get a showing. Let the home itself do the selling.
  2. Engage them with a story. Sometimes it’s easier to come up with a story than others. But just like the Citicard folks you want to make the potential buyer curious. If the house has history, that’s a great way to generate interest.  It could be as simple as dropping the builder’s name or the architect’s. I once tracked down information on the architect of a home and a note that he was considered the best ranch home designer of his era as attested to by Popular Mechanics.  I’m sure the design was purchased out of a plan book. The story may be the origins of the neighborhood or the original owner or any number of things. Don’t fabricate anything but do use your imagination.
  3. Tease. This applies to the photographs too. Remember your goal is to get showings.  (Yes, I’m repeating myself, but it’s that important.) Avoid anything that would tempt somebody to cross the home off a list of potentials. You want to make them want to see more.
  4. Save one of the best features of the home for a second “WOW.” The second WOW comes during the showing. They have been tempted by your description of the wonderful gardens. Since you didn’t mention it they won’t expect much of the kitchen, for example, which you know is a jaw dropping WOW.  They’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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