Headlines that get properties sold

Tap into emotional benefits to sell even the toughest listing

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You have just taken a terrific listing, but there’s a major problem — it has the steepest driveway you have ever seen. How would you go about marketing this terrific house with a horrific driveway? Rather than trying to downplay the driveway, the secret is to turn it into a positive that will attract buyers.

Julie Ryan, a leading real estate speaker from Australia, recently was a guest on our RealEstateCoachRadio show. Julie had some excellent suggestions on how to market difficult listings with creative headlines. Her most powerful example involved a property that had been on the market for 11.5 months. It was a great house with a fantastic view, but the steep driveway was a turnoff for most buyers.

If you were marketing this property, how would you have dealt with the driveway issue?

Agents normally downplay the negatives. But the most creative marketers can turn a negative into a positive.

What could you possibly say to turn a steep driveway into a positive? Well you might mention the privacy or perhaps the fact that the driveway leads up to a spectacular view. Using this approach, here’s a sample of a headline that might work:

"Steep Driveway Equals Massive Savings for You. Beautifully upgraded contemporary with an extraordinary view. Priced $50,000 less than houses with less driveway and less privacy."

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While this headline and copy works, here’s the headline that got this property sold the first day that it ran: "Relative Repellent."

Rather than extolling the view or the privacy (the features or physical characteristics of the property,) the "Relative Repellent" headline taps into the benefits (the emotional value): "Keeps relatives away."

While it’s commonplace for agents to rely on feature marketing, the secret to selling even the toughest listing is to tap into the emotional benefits of the property.

At his session at the National Association of Realtors’ annual conference last year, Peter Knight recommended describing the blemishes of your listings, rather than extolling their virtues.

For example, assume you have a listing on a busy street and the sellers reduced their asking price to reflect the location. Here’s what to say:

"This property is located on a busy street but is priced $35,000 less than the same floor plan a block away."

An even better approach is to have some fun. Here’s Knight’s suggestion for marketing a house with a small second bedroom. 

"This property is priced $40,000 less — the reason? The small second bedroom is the perfect size for an office. Besides, how often do you have someone stay the night anyway?"

From a psychological standpoint, this is a smart move. Here’s why. When people view great photos of your listing online and then discover that the property has a major flaw, they normally scratch it from their list. In contrast, when you highlight the worst, they already have agreed to live with the flaw. If the house is better than they expected, it will make it much easier to close them on purchasing.

Here are two more examples from Veronica Mullenix. The first is for a home with a tiny backyard:

"No Yard Maintenance. You will give very high marks to everything about this home, as long as you can accept its lack of a yard."

She sold the property to new grandparents who wanted to be close to their new grandchild. An even better headline would have been, "Backyard removed for your convenience."

Mullenix also referenced a custom home that had a six-car garage. The home was not much bigger than the garage. The headline was, "Six-Car Garage with Attached House."

A different approach: "$350,000 Six-Car Garage — Attached House is Free."

Another example: "No Room for Car, but Prize Inside." Mullenix cited this example of a home where the garage had been converted into a beautiful woodshop. For the right buyer, the woodshop would be a worthwhile trade-off.

The bottom line is that people will tolerate almost anything if the price is right and the flaw is acknowledged up front. This is especially important for today’s younger buyers and sellers who place a high value on authenticity. The more real you can make it for them, the more likely you are to attract the right person for the property.

Here’s one final example from Peter Knight, who recommends that you avoid making your listings too sterile. People are buying a home, not a showcase. The example he used to illustrate this point was a picture of the door to a little girl’s bedroom. The little girl had a brother who constantly teased her with a rather obnoxious habit. The girl took out her crayons, made a sign, and taped it to her door. The sign read, "No Fart Zone." Now that’s a headline people would definitely notice.

The next time you take a listing with a fatal flaw, don’t try to hide it. Instead, acknowledge it, price the property appropriately to account for the flaw, and write a creative headline to get the property sold.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of the National Association of Realtors’ No. 1 best-seller, "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success." Hear Bernice’s five-minute daily real estate show, just named "new and notable" by iTunes, at www.RealEstateCoachRadio.com. You can contact her at Bernice@RealEstateCoach.com or @BRoss on Twitter.

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