I recently spent the day visiting four different Open Houses in the same area, hosted by four different Real Estate agents, who each created very different experiences. All properties were in the same area and price range, so provided a facinating comparison of brand experiences.
Here is what I observed:
1. The Knock-down
Selling a house in a state of disrepair can never be an easy task. This one was made worse by tenants who were present in every bedroom (which is their right) and made potential buyers feel a little bit awkward. The Real Estate Agents also didn’t have control over simple things, like the Ant Rid visible in the kitchen, and the messy appearance of the front porch. The biggest feature of the property was location — close to shops, transport, and in a leafy residential street. The agents were present to answer questions but could have done a better job of building rapport in the process. I also received the last brochure they had, which I thought was poor planning, and not a good impression.
2. The Apartment
The second property was in a converted Mill, part of a contemporary development. The agents matched the hip design with a sophisticated presence far above the other properties. The presentation of the home was flawless, and the brochure they provided felt luxurious in its design and paper stock. They also provided an overview sheet of other listings that day, and while not necessary for what I needed, it added to the brand experience. There were small touches too that made a huge difference, such as subtle music in the bathroom from a Bluetooth speaker, and the furniture had been “staged” with care and precision even though the occupants clearly still lived there.
3. The Old Favourite
The presentation of the third property was simple, but endearing, and was easily the best experience of the day. The agents made no mistakes when writing down contact details, and were friendly from the outset. The home was an older house with character that extended beyond the facade and was evident in every room, and the agents had taken the chance to set up just the right amount of furniture and splashes of colour to help buyers picture living there. They also placed a rubber duck in the bathroom and an inflatable soccer ball in the backyard that toddlers were taking great delight in — all the while giving their parents a vivid picture of what family life in the house could be. They also had simple ideas in place, like a laminated sheet showing north and east directions — nothing fancy, but incredibly helpful for buyers browsing the house. One thing against the agents though was they left a follow-up voicemail with only a name and number. I had to Google the name to work out which agent he was, and therefore also which property he was representing. All-in-all though, the agents created a great, positive experience.
4. The Duplex
The final property was an average house, that would no doubt make a great investment property. The house was only 11 years old, but had a tired but loved feeling. The current tenants (who weren’t there) had cleaned the place despite overflowing corridors, and the agents said they were hoping to extend the lease as they loved living there. The agents weren’t pushing, despite arriving with 5 minutes to go, and were probably the most ready to answer questions and give honest answers. They were also the only ones who followed up with a text message as well as a phone call, giving me the option to reply using a method I was more comfortable with.
The day provided a range of experiences, and of course, different buyers will respond differently to me. In summary though, I had these takeaways from the day, many of which can be applied to any branding situation:
Be helpful and knowledgeable, using intuition to respond to questions you may not know the immediate answer to, and be listening to your colleagues too, so you can step in and support them if they don’t know a particular answer (such as the list of inclusions)
Be effective at listening, so you don’t need to ask for names twice — and be welcoming as much as possible.
A warm smile and genuine “hello“ goes a long, long way.
Take time to consider how the experience can be improved, and how to help the buyer best picture themselves and their family in the property.
Giving buyers something printed and tangible provides an easy way to start a conversation — and the design and quality of the materials make a big impression too.
Following up later than other agents leaves a bad impression, and not giving full details shows little respect for the buyer’s time and workload.
Tailor the experience you create to what you are selling, and don't pretend it is anything other than what it is.
It was a great day making observations, and a reminder than branding lessons can be found in every interaction,
Cover photo by João Silas