Real Estate: What I've learned about branding from buying and selling a home
Firstly, Happy New Year! It’s my first time writing this year, after a bit of a hiatus late last year when we decided to put our house on the market and purchase a new house in a completely different area of Sydney.
Despite my best intentions to blog at least once per week, this all went out the window, as did many things: exercising and cooking amongst them. My ‘exercise’ was replaced with the near-constant churning of my stomach whenever I though about the scale of the task at hand (which was often). Cooking involved MenuLog'ging our favourite Vietnamese (at best) or tea and toast (at worst).
We had our hearts set on a property which was due to be auctioned one week before ours. If you are familiar with the Sydney property market you’ll appreciate how hard it can be to purchase at auction as prices creep higher and higher and palpable desperation has bidders stretch themselves further than they anticipated. There was every chance we could have missed out at auction only for our house to be auctioned a week later, and we would have essentially been without a home!
It all worked out I’m pleased to say. We were the successful bidders for our dream home, and sold our house five days later when we accepted an offer before the auction. Happy days. Well, almost happy, once we figure out what to do with all of the boxes.
What I learned about branding
Funnily enough, there were some observations that I made throughout the process that can be applied to brand management. Firstly, in Paddington, where we sold our house, real estate agency BresicWhitney has some 45% of the market share, and it could almost have been a no-brainer to go with these guys. So why are they doing so well?
1. Innovation is at the heart of their competitive advantage
They have created an ‘off-market’ proposition that is incredibly compelling to both buyers and vendors in a hot market. Vendors can list their property – free-of-charge – in the off-market listings, and the agent will arrange private viewings for qualified buyers to see your property. There are no intrusive open-for-inspections and no marketing, and you can be as circumspect as you like. It works in a highly sought after places such as Paddington as people are desperate to get into the area. They will happily register to receive updates about off-market properties in the hope that they can snag something before it goes on the market. Side note: if you’re needing to sell your property quickly (as we were) it probably wouldn’t be as effective as you cannot create the environment of competition required to get the best possible price. But if we’d had less time pressure this is an option that was definitely appealing to us.
BresicWhitney also have a few other user-friendly features such as Contracts of Sale and Building/Pest Reports being downloadable from the property listings on their websites. Small things perhaps, but important things that help buyers along the journey from consideration to purchase.
Like I said, they are killing it in the Inner-East of Sydney and it’s not hard to see why they are so successful. They have listened to the needs of their market and developed appropriate solutions.
2. Good visuals tell a thousand words
BresicWhitney have also developed a unique visual style to market their properties. Photography has a strong ‘lifestyle’ element to it which helps to paint a really clear picture for potential buyers. You can actually imagine yourself in each of their properties, which is half the job done.
We did our fair share of research both around Paddington, and in Haberfield, where we ended up buying. Far and away, those houses that were styled the best achieved optimal results. Professional styling services were commonly used, and the houses that went to this effort certainly reaped the rewards in the prices they were able to command. Two weeks before the auction of our property, we attended a (rather frightening) auction of another house in the area. The properties had similar specifications in terms of square metres and bedroom/bathrooms and was also a Federation era property. It’s fair to say that it was in slightly poorer condition and in need of more work. We watched, stunned, as two bidders fought it out and the price went up and up and up. When it was finally over, the price was some 500K+ over the estate agent’s price guide.
Fortunately for us, our ended up selling for less than this, despite being in arguably better condition. You know what? This other property had been professionally styled. Despite it’s bright blue 70s bathroom, laundry and brown kitchen, the bedrooms and living areas had been styled with contemporary furniture to create the impression of a light and breezy home, which no doubt these two bidders could see themselves and their families within for years to come.
I couldn't help but relate this to visual branding and how sharp, incisive branding can help paint a picture for your potential buyers that help them to imagine how your product or service will be of benefit to them.
3. A personal touch goes a long way
Despite BresicWhitney being an obvious choice of real estate agent, we didn’t end up choosing them. We instead chose a Paddington agent from Ray White who had contacted us again around this time (yes, timing had a lot to do with this agent securing our business) but it was the way that he listened to what we needed that helped to make this decision.
We were extremely nervous about putting our beloved house up for sale (the house where we had started our family and the only home our children knew) and even more nervous about the leap of faith we were about to take (the only reason we were selling was to buy this ‘dream home’ we’d seen: no pressure then!). We had spoken with a few agents by this stage and felt that few had truly understood the unique features of the house that would need to be communicated to potential buyers. We felt that this particular agent had listened, understood and given us sound advice.
He knew that my husband, an Englishman unfamiliar with the concept of an auction, was extremely nervous about bidding for the Haberfield home. He even went so far as to offer to bid on our behalf at the auction; an offer that we gratefully accepted, and perhaps the reason why we are sitting in it today. He took a holistic view of our situation and realised that facilitating the entire transfer of property was what we required - not just a smooth agent who would sell it for us. He then went over and above to make this happen.
We may have gotten more artistic marketing had we had gone with other agents, and who knows, maybe more interested parties and a better price, but our agent's genuine interest and investment in securing our new house was what won him the business. And us our dream home.
In all, a very frenetic start to 2017 and we're so happy to be in our new home, where coincidentally, I will also be working from in the studio out the back. I can't wait to deck it out and make it my work 'home'. I'll keep you posted.
How is your 2017 going so far? I'd love to hear in the comments below!