Everybody knows to pay attention to how a home looks when you’re showing it or hosting an open house — but not everyone pays attention to how other senses like smell and touch can affect a potential buyer’s perception of the space. For Hoby Wedler, who earned a PhD in Chemistry from the University of California at Davis and has been blind since birth, the connection is obvious; it’s one reason he founded Senspoint Design, which helps companies design spaces that cater to every sense.
“So much of how we feel, how we think, what we’re dealing with, has to do with all five senses,” Wedler explained, “and as a sighted world, we tend to utilize our vision a little bit more than maybe we need to.” He’s helped Francis Ford Coppola with blind wine-tasting events and has specialized in creating spaces for the food and drink industries, but he’s recently been experimenting more with what his perspective can bring to real estate. Wedler will be speaking at a general session, “Taking a Shot in the Dark: Viewing Real Estate Without Vision,” at Inman Connect New York, January 29 through February 1 at the Marriott Marquis Times Square.
Tell us a little more about your session. How will it address how the industry can embrace the shifting market?
One of the value-adds that we offer is in thinking about real estate and property non-traditionally. Where we come in is definitely on the seller side, but one of the things that comprised a recent real estate boot camp we did — we visited between 25 and 30 properties in the San Francisco Bay Area, priced between $1.1 million and $3 million and what we found was tired. The industry is a little bit tired — people sweep the porch, turn the light on, set out a stack of brochures and that’s kind of the end of it.
We offer these reminders — let’s refresh and rejuvenate what we do by focusing on the way you can get a place to smell, to sound and to really feel under your feet. I know this sounds a little bit esoteric, but so much of that is customer service. Out of the properties I visited, the agents didn’t feel a need to stand up and greet us and show me with my hands how things worked. So I think our value-add is just a different, refreshing way of thinking about putting together open houses. I wouldn’t call us a staging operation, but putting together open houses to engage all the senses and personnel — walk up and say hello. All the way through, how does the property smell to opening up the attic the day before. Not just showing up at the open house five seconds before you show the property, making it look good but forgetting the other senses. Maybe Grandma passed away six months ago and the house has been sitting vacant since then. They leave the place feeling and smelling like it hasn’t been opened for months.
We provide a non-visual route to understanding the real estate purchasing process, and we use our eyesight for 95 percent of the information we obtain; what can we be doing with our other senses and how can that be advantageous in your market, to think differently and way outside the box?
Another few examples that I think re poignant: A bathroom that looks clean might not smell clean. Some of the homes I visited, at least one had a dirty smell to them, they smelled of urine or really strong chemicals that haven’t been wiped up. It’s not just about how the bathroom looks. And fan sounds — so often people install fans that are noisy and rattly, a replacement to something quiet and sleek won’t necessarily improve the look of the property, but it will really enhance someone’s experience because the fan above the hood or in the restroom can be noticeable.
I’m doing my best work when nuances and features are unnoticed. It’s the lack of noticing and concavity of space that’s important. Rather than noticing a negative, we get the subtleties to blend into the experience. Refrigerator cleanliness — people are going to open a fridge and look! If there are a bunch of old items in the fridge, tidy it up and put some baking soda in there.
What are your hopes for the next 12 months, and what will you be working on?
I really want to expand a lot of our design work more into the spacial realm — I really want to see how it goes getting more involved with real estate design, and also there’s an idea by proxy about what a lot of our clients have asked for. People want more sensory-directed sales and marketing work, and I’d really like to apply sensory-based sales and marketing to a lot more industries.
Discover the opportunities in a changing market at Inman Connect New York, January 29 – February 1. Jumpstart 2019 with tactical takeaways, unlimited networking and thought-provoking speakers. Learn more.
Thinking about bringing your team? You may qualify for special group perks! Contact us to learn more.