a different way to look at real estate listings - and will it be worth it?
After a few years of hanging around the real estate space, I'm starting to get better at clarifying for myself what bugs me about it, as well as what I love about it. One aspect that keeps coming up in my 'there has to be a better way' files is the honesty - or lack thereof - in how homes are represented. It's tricky when most consumers are finding homes by viewing photos on their tiny phone screens, so I understand there are challenges to photography, video, and all the visual ways you can represent a listing. However, time and time again, I go into houses with buyer clients, or as an investor myself, and the home just doesn't present in reality the way that it did in the photos. Houses that look tidy and clean and bright in the photos are actually shabby and rough around the edges, and photography was a tool to make them look more move-in-ready than they actually are. Sometimes it works the other way, and a home presents in person much more positively than it did on the internet. In this case, it's usually because the home FEELS good. It's cozy, or well laid out, or the finishes are high quality but the detail wasn't easy to see on a phone screen, or has any of the many other less obvious - and more intangible - attributes that make a property 'the one.'
I'm in the stressful position of listing my own home this year, after we tried unsuccessfully to sell it last year, and I think our house is one of those that requires a bit of outside-the-box thinking in order to get it sold. Admittedly it's a hard space to photograph, and it's got a lot of color, which is a challenge in these lingering days of the 'white everything' trend. After looking at the listings of our house last year, which we used outside agents for (I still stand by this choice, for a lot of reasons, but if anything, 2018 needs to be a year of me standing on my own and getting the heck on with things, so...) the photos were at odds with the way I felt the house 'feels'. When people who are over at our house regularly would say 'oh it's going to sell right away! You'll do so well!' I knew something was missing. Price response from local agents and the ubiquitous 'Zestimate' and other online feeders was in agreement, so either we all misjudged the appeal of the house, my friends were just being super polite, or the listing was just not resonating with people. The only option of those that I can do anything about is the third one, so I came up with a new approach to marketing the house. I spent a lot of time stalking listings in my price range (usually on Instagram, sometimes on the MLS, and sometimes via listings in my KW inbox, just to clarify sources), both locally and around the country, and saw that the best ones took the visuals very seriously. Video, interactive photography, 3D, VR, it's all out there now, and as agents we can't just ignore it. I've been in enough houses of varying prices and conditions to know that photography isn't always honest, but you can't deny that it makes a huge impression. The other undeniable reality is that people are looking for houses on their phones - agents, buyers, and owners looking for listing agents to represent them. My house has a lot going on in it - textures, colors, open spaces, high ceilings, large rooms, and all of it makes a standard image set lacking in communication. The house also FEELS good. It has moody lighting, great entertaining flow for large groups, rooms that can function one way during the day and completely differently in the evening. In fact, evening and nighttime is when the house really shines, and how many listing shots do you see shot when it's dark outside?? Not many, because most spaces start getting sleepy as the sun goes down. So my amazing photographer was given the task of recreating what this house does best, and here is what happened:
Now that I've got the mood down, next up is going to be 360 photography. I think it will be a good way for a viewer to use their phone and 'walk' themselves through the space. Look up, look down, through, around, and get an idea for what the volumes are like and how the space flows from one area to the next. I had thought about video, too, but aside from the astronomical quotes I got, it felt like I would be dictating too much of the user experience. I can see the value in video for a lot of listings, especially if they include the neighborhood or town, and other aspects of the property besides the physical house. For my listing, though, I think this might be the way to go, as well as for any home that has a lot going on inside. Could that be your house? As is my usual SOP, I'm also using my own home as an laboratory experiment to help refine my business and benefit future clients, so if you would like to look into taking the sale of your own home outside of the box, please do comment or contact me!