The real estate market is experiencing a change, in the past it was enough to clean up your home, do some minor repairs, get a well networked real estate agent, put a sign in your front yard and wait for your buyer to show up. This still works in some areas of town but in the hot spots of the 1990’s and early 2000’s not so much.
Those country club communities that sprung up on the outskirts of the city that drew in all the doctors, lawyers, bankers and entrepreneur are now the home of many of the countries Baby Boomers and they want to downsize. The natural progression would have the Generation Xer’s storming those gated communities buying the Baby Boomers McMansions. But they still have college debt and they lost their first home equity in the 2007 – 2009 sub-prime crises. Their probably 5 to 6 years away from catching up.
So, what’s a Baby Boomer to do? You’ve got three choices.
1. Age in place.
2. Put you home on sale and possibly sell it for less than what you have in it, after all it did provide you with good housing, good schools for your children and a great social life. Bite the bullet and move on.
3. Sell your home. By sell your home I mean treat you home like a product, a retail product, which will require you to identify your Target Market, make your Target Market aware of your product, sell the features and benefits of your product then make them an offer that they can’t refuse.
The hard truth is putting a sign in your yard and a MLS listing isn’t going to get the job done. Here’s the eleven steps you need to take to sell your home for a fair price in a reasonable timeframe.
Design a Highly-Customized, Comprehensive Marketing Plan.
A luxury home calls for a unique and exclusive marketing plan. Chances are, the buyers who are qualified to purchase your luxury property are not wandering aimlessly into open houses or mindlessly flipping through the real estate classifieds. The most well-suited prospective buyers for your luxury home or luxury condo may not even reside in your community that means your luxury realtor will need to employ a variety of innovative strategies to make sure as many prospective buyers as possible are able to see the home and convey the message as to why its purchase would enrich their lives.
Fortunately, the online marketplace has made this easier than ever. The online marketplace for luxury homes and properties has made it vastly easier for homes to gain exposure to a nationwide and worldwide audience. But we are talking about far more than the standard listings on Trulia, Zillow, Homes.com, and Realtor.com. These websites are important, but they should be only the starting point for your luxury home agent.
Your luxury agent should have a web presence all their own, and they should employ cutting-edge promotional techniques. Studies show that 88% of buyers search online for a new home. (Compare that to the 21% who rely on print newspaper ads.) The best luxury real estate agents have the best internet strategies and the best websites to promote the sale of your home.
These more innovative marketing techniques are exclusive to luxury agents with a particular skill set. They require a keen eye, and, often, a background rich in marketing. These agents have a way with words and with visual imagery. They also have good working relationships with photographers and videographers who are the top in the unique industry of real estate photography, and they are willing to pay top dollar for their exceptional services.
2. Listen Well – and Often
When a good agent begins the conversation about potentially marketing and selling your home, they will ask a variety of questions about your interests as well as the aspects of your home that truly set it apart. They will then use this information as a springboard to come up with effective marketing ideas that go above and beyond the competition.
A good luxury agent will craft an entire campaign around your home. This campaign will likely have a clear theme, which ties into those aspects that set it apart. This theme will be consistent among brochures, mailers, and the customized website the agent creates about your property. Of course, the entire campaign should be designed to appeal to the luxury buyer.
Regardless of whether your luxury home has an official title, make sure your agent highlights each feature of the property – and has committed each to memory. If someone calls your agent on the phone and asks what kind of icemaker the listing has, she should know and be able to rattle off its characteristics. This is the service you should demand from the luxury agent.
3. Sell More Than the Home
The best luxury realtors know that they aren’t selling simply a home. They are selling a lifestyle. The theme your agent chooses for the campaign should emphasize this lifestyle. In the Birmingham market that theme may center around mountain top views, or village atmosphere, or lakeside, or a country club community for golfers, others for equestrians… or people who love their cars and want space to work on them, oenophiles who dream of an expansive wine cellars, grandmothers who dream of multiple bunk rooms, history buffs who dream of a historic home. Perhaps your home is perfect for entertaining. Again, these special features should be obvious in your agent’s marketing of the home.
Your luxury agent should use the special features of your home to find potential buyers… to reach the proper group of prospects. The modern world is ripe with opportunities to target specific, niche groups more than ever before. Offline, an agent can advertise in niche-specific magazines. A luxury historic home may find its buyer in the pages of the Smithsonian, or the National Trust for Historic Preservation, for example. A home with lavish gardens in Fine Gardening. A home for with particular architectural grandeur in Luxe Interiors + Design Magazine. Your agent should present you home where your potential buyers are.
The online ad space is perfectly suited for this type of highly targeted advertising. Facebook advertising for example, allows you to control the demographic your ad will show to as well as those most likely to be in the market to purchase a home. You can set the ad to show only to those people with a certain annual gross income in a certain zip code with an interest in a particular hobby and in a particular region. For example: a golfer in Birmingham who earns upwards of $400K per year and loves to fish. Your luxury agent should know which online advertising venue this is, and they should be well versed in how to use it.
A top luxury agent will also know where the luxury buyers are hailing from, in your marketplace. Birmingham draws a lot of doctors, are there particular zip codes where these buyers tend to come from? In the Birmingham market, second home owners come primarily from within 3 miles of their next home, they’ll purchase a home within 125% to 165% of the value of their current home. Knowing this makes it even easier to offer highly targeted – and very effective – niche advertising.
Top luxury agents learn a product’s special features and design the marketing around those special features. They determine which demographic could be most interested in the home, and they advertise accordingly. This is the fundamental basis of good marketing, and a good luxury agent will be employing this as a fundamental strategy.
Top luxury agents are also accustomed to pitching stories to media for additional exposure. Press releases, local and national, can be very helpful in getting the word out about special homes. To do this, the agent must discover the story in the home. The agent must discover the unique hook and create a story that is truly newsworthy.
4. Know How to Tell a Good Story
Stories are powerful. A top luxury agent knows not only knows how to use them, but how to discover them.
Marketing truly is about storytelling. It’s about evoking a feeling for a product, and nowhere is that more important, impactful and effective as in the marketing of fine luxury homes. The best luxury agents know how to capture the attention of the people who feel the home was built just for them and their needs – and the people with the means to purchase such an exquisite property.
To do this, they must, once again, find the hook. What is the story of the home? To do this, top agents might ask you to take them on a detailed room by room showing of the home, asking for details and even stories about the construction of the home or special memories created there. Top agents will reach out to the builder and to the architect. They might solicit stories about how the home was created and aspects of the home that they personally love the best.
I just listed a home in Greystone Legacy and the home is a work or art from the bleeding mortar on the bricks, to the oversized drapes on the windows framing the golf course views to the bright colors used in the upstairs bed room conceived by a noted local interior designer. I’ll use this “art story” to present a unique home that potential buyers will want to see for themselves. I’ll bill it much as a museum might promote an artist’s showing.
People love stories. Agents can choose to relate them to clients during the showings, and listing agents can write a narrative – made available to all showing agents – that perfectly encapsulates the home.
5. Get Professional Staging Help, if Necessary
Many luxury homes have interiors that have been professionally and artfully designed. A top luxury agent will provide ideas on what your prospective buyers will expect to see, paying particular attention to outdoor areas, formal dining areas, as well as the kitchen and great room. Again, the goal is for the buyers to imagine themselves becoming part of the story of the home, imagining themselves eating Thanksgiving dinner at the table and summer picnics in the garden.
6. Know Every Inch of Your Property
The best luxury agents know each of the features, benefits, and selling points of the property. They have them committed to memory and available to all who visit the property in the form of a bound property brochure book. The agent should also have full color brochures, a well-crafted narrative about the home, and bulleted lists of special features. Make sure your agent has these available in PDF form, as well, for easy distribution via the MLS.
7. Know How to Attract Online and Social Media Exposure.
Most Realtors can easily make sure your home appears on Zillow.com, Trulia.com, Homes.com and Realtor.com, but today’s high end properties should also be featured online, in a featured listing on the agent’s website and blog, for example, as well as in social media.
Once the luxury agent has a good understanding of what sets your property apart from all the rest, this information can be used in social media to drive additional traffic. Your property should be a featured listing on your agent’s website and blog, as well as on your agent’s social media sites, with the proper use of keywords and hashtags to effectively reach the luxury market.
8. Utilize Print Advertising & Direct Mail
Even in this digital age, direct mail and print advertising remain integral to reaching the right demographics. A top luxury agent will create high-quality marketing brochures to highlight the features and benefits of your home, both for cooperating agents and potential buyers. The agent will also send direct mail postcards for select neighborhoods and target areas, and will provide you with email brochures for you to share with friends & family or post on social media. The agent will also consult with you regarding print campaigns.
9. Open Houses
Open houses don’t sell luxury homes in the Birmingham market. Open houses get a lot of visitors who just want to look at your fine furnishings and finishes, like a home tour. One thing is true: open houses often get neighbors to come through, and neighbors might have friends or relatives they’d like to share information about the home with. Agents know that is not just the people who come in to the open house, it’s the people they know. To reach the people they know a good agent will produce a video tour of your home that you can distribute via email to your neighbors; they can then share it with their friends and relatives.
10. Always Use Professional Photography and Videography
To properly showcase a luxury home, a top luxury agent engages the services of a professional photographer. This photographer can not only showcase your home in the best light (literally) – but can and should also provide a quality video tour.
With Internet exposure so critical to the sale of your home, quality photographs are simply more important than ever before. They are essential. Clients will judge whether they want to look at your home based on the photos they can click from their laptops, tablets, and smartphones. The best luxury agents use the services of a top professional real estate photography, and they are present during the photography session to ensure that the proper amenities and features are showcased. Video tours are also very helpful in the promotion of luxury real estate. There is often a limit to the number of photographs that can be included in an online listing (for our MLS, that number is 50), but we can link to a video, which can show the entire property as well as the flow from room to room, this should also be presented as part of your agents featured listings on their personal web page.
11. Ensure that the Pricing is Right.
Make sure your luxury agent provides data to back up any pricing recommendations. It should be apparent in your realtor’s Comparative Market Analysis that a great deal of time went into getting to your luxury home priced competitively. The pricing report should discuss such details and statistics as absorption rate in the area as well as in the price range so you can get a sense of how long homes in this price range reasonably take to sell.
Make sure your realtor has considered all of the features so important in the luxury market, from smart home features, to the gourmet kitchen, to outdoor entertaining spaces, steam showers, spa baths, hot tubs, water features, landscaping…. Your agent might solicit the services of an appraiser who specializes in luxury or custom homes simply to get a gauge or touchstone for pricing.
As with all homes, if a luxury home isn’t priced right from the beginning, it can be detrimental not only to the timing of the sale, but to the overall price.
Kerry Grinkmeyer is a real estate agent in Birmingham, AL specializing in the marketing and sales of luxury homes. Kerry's a retired financial advisor, he sold his firm, one of the largest in the Ameriprise Financial Advisor system in 2005 to his son, daughter and nephew. Now he's building one of the largest boutique real estate agencies that he'll eventually sell to his grandchildren. He the author of the children’s book The Christmas Web- A Family Christmas Tradition. Kerry competes in the Senior Olympics in to 50M, 100M and 200M dash as well as the 5k and 10k time trial cycling events.
Kerry offers you his financial background, knowledge of the community, love of business and family and energy to assist you in one of the most important financial decisions you'll make in your lifetime.
205 919 6006