Debbie Hanlon_crop - webIn our last column we talked about subdivisions and the salesperson’s role as midwife to the birth of a new community. That puts you in a slightly non-traditional position as not just a salesperson but as someone with an active role in the shaping of a series of empty lots into a cohesive whole that is a neighbourhood.

Breaking with tradition can be a great way of standing out in a sea of subdivisions all vying for the buyer’s dollar. I’m going to expand on our last column so you have a better idea of what your role is and some easy tips and techniques you can use to ensure the birthing pains are as minimal as possible.
Recently I picked up a subdivision that, to put it mildly, had not been selling well. It had gone through other real estate companies without generating the level of sales required to make it a happening spot and the owners were very concerned about this. They asked me if I would take a look for them so I checked the place out. It was beautiful, a treed area with one side skirting a small pond just minutes from the city in a high-traffic area. Given the location and privacy afforded, I was surprised it wasn’t selling so I agreed to take over the subdivision and started to look at why sales weren’t happening.
The first thing I changed was the sign on the side of the highway advertising the place. It was a typical real estate sign with a map of the lots available (you know, that green and brown thing that looks about as inviting as a crushed caterpillar). Most of the sign was taken up by two or three smiling heads along the bottom with contact info. It looked like an advertisement for a subdivision, not for a community, so I changed it.

My sign has a full-length, welcoming picture of me taken on that spot with the pond behind me on the left side. It can be changed out to match the seasons. So it’s a picture of me literally in my subdivision advertising my subdivision. A sign that never ever grows stale.

That gave it a more human element immediately. The other two-thirds of the sign has lots of white space, my contact information and open house info under the name of the subdivision with a tagline I thought said what I wanted the place to be: “You’re home. Naturally.”

With the cosmetic side of things worked up, I turned my attention to making that subdivision a community in other ways. I knew that before the roads had been put in, before the lots were cleared, before a blade of grass or tree limb had been touched, that place had a history and I needed to uncover it. For every subdivision you handle, get the back story. What was it before? What are the memories people have of it?

To bring it to life I will be using social media and traditional door-to-door campaigning to launch a story contest. All the people who lived near those woods and that pond had to do was email me a brief memory of the place to qualify. The response so far is amazing. People are telling me about summers spent swimming and winters skating on the pond and all those memories are good. We are tweeting excerpts out and adding them to our marketing material so that anyone who came to check the place out leaves with a sense that it was more than empty lots and roads. It is becoming a place with a life of its own, a community they could be a part of, if they chose to make their home there.
I knew instantly that the pond was the unique selling point and by selling it as a place where children swam and skated, as opposed to “lake-side lots available”, I gave prospective buyers a glimpse of the community they would join. They could easily picture themselves and their children enjoying a day of swimming or skating in the beautiful outdoors minutes from their home. That was a better selling strategy than the typical, unemotional approach most salespeople take.
When you get a subdivision, don’t try and sell someone a lot, sell them a lot of memories waiting to be made in their new neighbourhood. Make it more than just a place where they can live, make it a place where they can build a life. That’s a community.

Debbie Hanlon is a real estate broker who has helped train hundreds of sales reps and brokered and managed a national real estate franchise. She also founded an independent real estate firm. Currently she coaches sales reps all over the world. She is the CEO of All Knight Inc, a global educational mobile company, as well as a published children’s author and the creator of the national I’m No Bully Show. 



Debbie Hanlon is the owner broker and Realtor at Debbie Hanlon Real Estate, a new boutique brokerage in St. John’s, Nfld. She is also a motivational speaker, real estate coach, author, former city councillor and children’s entertainer. She lives in St. John’s with her husband, Oral Mews and her dog Fisher.


  1. Wow, some great information there Debbie. I’m stealing some of your ideas for sure. Thanks for the interesting article.

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