Firehouse Dog Movie Poster

The Certified Home

by Jay on November 11, 2009

If you ever need your spirits lifted around Christmas and have seen It’s a Wonderful Life about ten too many times, pretend like you’re twelve again and watch a dog story. The evening I was first planning to write this article I started flipping around the channels and came across Firehouse Dog already in progress on HBO.

Rex is a movie star dog who gets lost and found by a young boy whose Dad is the Captain of a fire company that is about to be shut down. Without revealing the whole plot, Rex becomes the station mascot, saves several lives, the relationship between father and son, the firehouse and puts a crooked politician and an arsonist behind bars. Of course, everybody lives happily ever after.

Ah, if only the real estate market…which feels like the firehouse in ashes… had a clever mascot like Rex to pull it through. Markets don’t work that way though. Residential real estate will not be “rebuilt” the way the firehouse was in the movie. There will be fewer real estate agents and they will be doing things differently and doing them within different kinds of real estate offices.

Marketers, not salespeople

One of the inevitable changes will be that agents generally, and especially listing agents, are going to have to learn to sell houses as well as themselves. During the really good times real estate agents didn’t need to market their listings or really even sell. They were order takers and transaction facilitators. In a market like today’s where there are more homes for sale than buyers, sellers are competing more intensely with each other. A more sophisticated look at the “marketing mix” appropriate for selling a  home is what this series of posts is about. The previous post was about pricing. This one focuses on product.

The Primacy of Product in the Real Estate Marketing Mix.

Even for the extremely wealthy, real estate tends to be a major purchase and one rarely done on a whim. Even at deep discounts, most  individuals are not likely to buy a home that they aren’t pretty sure they will like.

You can say something similar about the automobile industry. In the luxury auto market the cars may be comparable but  some of the luxury auto companies, especially the German and the Japanese companies are way ahead of real estate marketers in terms of enhancing their products. But it’s not just gizmos and leather. What did BMW do with trade-ins in good condition? By “certifying” the best trade-ins with an inspection program and guarantees they often get entry level luxury buyers into their brands before the buyers can afford the new models of the same line.  A home can also be “certified” by taking steps to reduce the buyer’s risk. These include appraisal, inspection, repair, staging and warranties.

There are other elements too.

A few years ago a friend asked me to accompany her shopping for a new car. In one afternoon we shopped a local Ford dealer, a local Toyota dealer and a local Lexus dealer.  In my opinion, the experience of shopping at these dealerships was much different than the differences among the cars we drove. And so was the promise of service after the sale. Until that afternoon, I had assumed that when you bought a Lexus you were basically buying a dressed up Toyota. At least in the minds of the management of this local Lexus dealer, this is not the case at all.  They actually create additional value by the way they manage the buying process and the subsequent service of the vehicle.

A creative marketer can do the same thing with a home.

There are things you can do to enhance or add value to the home buying experience and there are other product considerations that are inherent but often overlooked. We’ll talk more about them in the article in this series about writing copy.

Preparing a home for market and thinking through the desired buying experience you want for the potential buyer, separates the marketers from the transaction facilitators in this business.

In the next article in the series we’ll talk about one aspect of promotion, promoting a home on the internet.

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