What's Your Home's Story?
Used with permission
Every home has a story. Yet with all the technological advances of real estate marketing, the stories about our homes aren't being told. As humans, we crave story. It is that craving for story that compels us to go to the movie theatres and the book stores and that our children beg for at bedtime. Stories are one of the primary ways we make sense of our information-rich world.
Almost all of us can tell the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. We know how to describe beds being too firm, too soft - porridge being too hot or too cold and chairs that possess varying degrees of comfort and sturdiness. We might even throw in a few enhancements to our voice to really drive home Papa Bear's indignation that someone has entered his home and ransacked the place! Stories convey information - in a way that is meaningful, memorable, and engages our senses and emotions. That's why stories can be so persuasive.
More than a few of us have had the distinct pleasure of trying to memorize the periodic table of elements. One of the common devices my fellow chemistry classmates employed (before I dropped the class) was to make a story out of the elements to help with the memorization, you know, something like "Once upon a time a nice little Hydrogen atom was wandering through the forest when she came upon a small cottage inhabited by 2 Helium atoms. Inside the cottage were 3 Lithium ladles and 4 Beryllium bowls and 5 Boron baskets..." Just one example but you get the idea. Those cold hard facts out of context are difficult to remember and relatively meaningless to English majors trying to score some science credits.
The same is true with most homes for sale. The internet provides gigabytes of information: square footage data, room dimensions, photos, proximity to Old Town, estimated commute times, school districts, property taxes, etc., etc. I don't mean to diminish the importance of that information - but it is just that - information. Where's the context? Where's the piece of the puzzle that makes your home rise above all the others that are being scanned online? Where's the story behind the data? If you've ever bought a home, you know that it is a visceral experience. We very often make our decisions to buy a home on a ‘gut' feeling rather than just the data. That ‘gut' feeling usually comes from story - either the story the marketing information provides or the story we make up in our heads as we move through the home ("Honey, look at the size of this workshop! - If we bought this house, I could build our baby's crib that will become a family heirloom and be passed down to our children's children's children!").
My suggestion here is that when you put your home on the market - be sure that your listing agent not only knows your home's story but that the marketing material and the photos tell your home's story. The story needs to appear in as many places as it can. For example, why not have a nice welcome letter framed on a table in the entryway that could read something like this:
"Hi, we're the Nelsons. Welcome to the place that's been our home for the last 15 years. Enjoy yourselves as you tour our property. Be sure to linger on the rear deck. We've enjoyed glorious sunsets over a glass of wine in the summer and steaming hot chocolate in the Winter! We've loved this house very much and hope you do too!"
Even a brief story like this one about the deck will help others who visit the home identify personally with it and begin to make it their own. It is an opportunity to accentuate the positive and help foster an emotional connection that will be difficult for a potential buyer to set aside.
Currently, the most visited internet site with homes for sale is http://www.realtor.com/. At this site, listing agents are provided space for up to 2500 characters of description about the home. That's a lot of space to fill since all the raw data like baths and bedrooms and square footage is provided in the margins. Use that space to tell your home's story! Give your listing agent the back-story of how you found the house and why you fell in love with it. Tell her how you used the doorjamb to measure your children's growth spurts and how your kid's friends would gather in the backyard for summer twilight games of hide and seek or swing the statue. Tell the story of the 2007 snowstorms and how the neighbor with the 2-stage multi-horsepower snow-blower cleared the walks and the cul-de-sac out to the main road so people could get out to the store.
We all have great stories to tell and our homes deserve to have them told. When you're interviewing REALTORS to list your home - make sure that part of the marketing plan includes telling your home's best stories.
Chris Hardy is the Managing Broker for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage at 702 W. Drake Road in Fort Collins. If you have any questions about real estate or would like to contact him please send your emails to: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 970-419-2201. Visit http://www.joincoldwellbankernow.com/.