Marketing your home to sell

We have just completed our first “home-staging” for a property we are currently selling.

We did this in order to entirely re-vamp the marketing of what is an absolutely fabulous barn conversion in a quiet hamlet just outside Basingstoke.

Our original brochure was created using professional photographs, but if we’re entirely honest, it was a bit “samey”. Every agent in the area produces the same sort of brochure and there was nothing about ours that set us apart from our competitors. And more importantly, there was nothing about these brochures that made the property stand out from its competitors. Other agents had already marketed this particular property and there will be a number of brochures lying on shelves in various offices, shops and homes showing this property in exactly the same manner in a variety of different seasons and to varying standards. Ours wasn’t the worst example, but in truth, it wasn’t the best either.

The brochure we are producing this time, however, will be entirely different from our original brochure and those of the competition and we’ll happily wager that this time it will be the best and by a considerable margin.

We’re selling someone’s home, not Belvoir, so the Belvoir brand will be far less apparent; the property itself will be the only thing to draw anyone’s attention. Where appropriate, in future, we’ll actually turn the property itself into a brand.

We won’t be just showing pictures of the rooms and gardens, but will instead be including life-style imagery. We want potential purchasers to imagine what it must be like to live the life that goes with this great home.

Gone will be the typical estate-agent speak. You won’t see expressions such as “this property benefits from…” or “the dual aspect kitchen…”. And you won’t find reference to t.v. points, Sky points, BT sockets or anything of that nature. Instead, we’re going for evocative adjectives to draw potential purchasers in. Room sizes are important, but dimensions belong on the floorplan. And our floorplan will be large; you’ll actually be able to read the measurements!

In case you’re wondering, we haven’t written the copy; the home owners have been interviewed and a professional writer explains just what it is that the owners like about living there. The owners aren’t usually at the viewings and whilst we might think we know about the area, we aren’t intimately acquainted with the property the way someone who has lived there for many years will be. Quotes from the current owners will undoubtedly carry more weight than something we come up with in one of our more creative moments.

With the photographer we visited this particular property twice, the second time at twilight. Twilight on this occasion so near to the summer solstice, was after 9.30 pm. This type of photography is something we are going to be using in future brochures for unique properties such as this. These images really do make properties look appealing and it’s not an image that we come across that often in estate agent brochures. Even the home-owner is often seeing the property photographed like this for the first time.

Sadly, there is a slight drawback for an impetuous home-owner. All of this takes time to organise and it will undoubtedly take a little longer to get the details ready for marketing. Instead of a few days from instruction to seeing a home on Rightmove, we will typically be looking at 3 weeks or so.

We’ll be taking photos not when it is convenient for us, but when the weather and the light is right to show a property off to its best advantage. We don’t want shadows causing problems and so we want the sun behind us when we take them. And if there’s no sun, then the light somehow just isn’t as good as it could be. It may be that the photographer has to visit more than twice; once for the internal shots, once for the external shots when the sun is right and again for twilight shots when the sky is just right. In winter, the twilight shots might be late afternoon, but in peak selling months, it will often be late evening before the sky is dark enough.

The actual staging may easily take the best part of a day. You probably have a lovely home, but it is undoubtedly furnished to your tastes and full of items that are personal to you. What we want to achieve with our home-staging, is to neutralize and de-personalise the house. We want to make it so that the potential viewer isn’t distracted in any way by your possessions or your bedspreads, oriental rugs, lamp stands or other similar things. Our first staging took three of us, plus the photographer some 6 ½ hours.

The home we staged was already a fabulous property, but with especially large rooms, the first time we photographed it, we fell into the trap of trying to achieve too much with every image. Most agents, ourselves included until now, take a photograph from the corner of a room and try and get in as much as they can. For beautiful and unique homes such as this one, we now try to concentrate on the most important elements of a room. This property has a space nearly forty foot in length which includes a dining area, the kitchen and a further smaller reception room. It was simply too much to take in with only one image.

By toning everything down and removing clutter, we are striving to make it look as appealing as possible. The idea of a brochure is to tempt a buyer to cross the threshold and we consider that extra effort at this stage is well worth a little inconvenience and cost.

We went shopping and purchased throws, lamps, cushions, pillows, candles, fresh white towels and flannels. The owners probably had most of the things required, but taking our own meant that, with the owners’ consent, we only had to swap a few things around. This causes far less trouble for the home-owner than getting them to dig deep into the airing cupboard to find appropriate bedding etc.

For this particular home-staging, we also took croissants and a cafetiere, champagne flutes, fruit, light bulbs and all manner of similar bits and pieces. You can perhaps appreciate now why it took 2 cars and 3 people in addition to the photographer to transport and arrange the various elements!

In theory, we moved slightly ahead of the photographer and got the next room ready for him. In actual fact, we all stood around, looking over his shoulder in order to approve the images before moving on. Sometimes, estate agents will leave slippers under a bed and in view, or there will be other similarly irritating flaws in the execution of the images. We, however, were picking up bits of fluff and brushing out folds in throws! We were even measuring the distance between pillows and ensuring that bed-side cabinets and the like were equidistant from walls.

Once the photographs had been taken, there was then a period of a few days selecting images, asking the photographer to remove one or two elements which detracted, such as a kid’s stair-gate and one or two electric sockets which whilst handy to have in practice, spoiled the overall impression of the image.

The copy then had to be checked and edited and a designer had to been sourced. We wanted to find someone who understood exactly what it was that we were seeking to achieve. We didn’t want images set in boxes alongside the text with little or no thought to the end product.

We’re now at the stage for this particular property where concepts are being discussed with the designer and a spec for the brochure is being decided upon. This includes the size of the brochure, its shape, orientation, weight of the stock used and whether or not it will be glossy. From start to finish, owing to weather conditions, it will probably be nearer 4 weeks before the end result is printed. We will then have a page-turning .pdf produced so that even when viewed on a computer, the brochure will look sexy.

This approach won’t be appropriate for all properties. If a home-owner simply wants to list his home with the cheapest agent and get it advertised online as quickly as possible, then this won’t be the answer.

But, when the property advertised in a hurry with a cheap agent doesn’t get much interest or it gets the wrong sort of interest, often the only response that the agent will have will be to suggest that the price is dropped. And, in truth, we see many expensive properties advertised at reduced prices by even the most prestigious of agents.

We firmly believe this is the sort of approach that can do away with the knee-jerk reaction of lowering a price. In fact, there are examples of this approach having been used elsewhere when a price is actually increased when a property is re-launched.

If you own a property that would lend itself to this manner of marketing because of its size, your anticipated sales price and particularly because it has been languishing on the market with little or no interest, then make sure that you call and speak with Mike Jones, our director responsible for this type of work. Consider this approach seriously if you have a property that may be considered unique for some reason.

Mike will happily visit you at a time that is convenient and explain in detail the entire process and establish whether or not Belvoir can help you change that “For Sale” board to a “Sold by Belvoir” board.

Sept 2018 Update:  We’ve now finished a number of these brochures and you may view the page-turning .pdf’s here.