roses webBy Debbie Hanlon

We’ve all been there. Every real estate agent at some point in their career has to try and move inventory that simply does not have a unique selling point (USP). You get a listing in a subdivision and that house looks suspiciously like the house up the street and the one just down the street. Same age. Same price range. Often originally built by the same builder. McMansions, the cool kids call them.

So how do you market one of these so people are more inclined to purchase yours? How do you make your McMansion stand out in that subdivision sea of sameness?

I found myself in that situation early in my career. The lesson I learned that day has stayed with me throughout the years and pretty much defined my real estate career. I remember standing outside the house, looking up and down the street and wondering why anyone would choose my listing over the others available in the neighbourhood. I tried to think of a difference, any difference I could hang my hat on and gain an advantage.

As I always did, I’d gone through the competition’s houses before I held my own open house. Those trips only reinforced my suspicion that, other than paint colours and furniture, there really wasn’t a difference between them all. Just as I was coming to grips with this, my first couple walked in through the door. Outside I could see their car. It had been parked up the street a few minutes earlier. They, like everyone that day, were checking out all three McMansions that were for sale on the street. After a quick walk-through they were gone again.

Sitting at the kitchen table staring at the printed material from my Open House System, I felt almost defeated and that was when it hit me; the only difference between the three houses was the real estate agents. I was the USP for that house. I realized I wasn’t selling that particular house as much as I was selling the experience the purchaser would have buying it. That’s what would be different, that’s what I would make sure would be better. My service. Me. That’s what I was selling on that day.

When the next couple walked in I was a changed agent. The first thing I did was ask them if they enjoyed gardening. When they said they did, I told them they were going to love what was in the back garden. I took them out through the patio door and watched the surprised looks come over their faces. There was nothing in the garden but a lawn. Now, I said to them, just close your eyes and smell that beautiful garden you’re going to plant here. Imagine what the rows of colours will look like when you come out here for your morning coffee. Imagine the fresh-cut flowers in the vases in the rooms of your new home. They smiled and she said, well that’s different.

Before they left I assured them that not only did that particular house come with an imaginary garden, but it also came with a free supply of Tylenol. Tylenol? Yes, because I would make 100 per cent sure that any possible headaches that buying the house might produce would be taken care of by me. I’ll take care of all the headaches so you can plan your garden, I told them. They left with smiles on their faces and a pleasant memory of me.

Debbie Hanlon_crop - webLater, after they had become repeat clients, they told me how they used to tell the story of my open house to their friends. It’s still one of my fondest real estate memories. So, next time you do an open house, don’t try and sell the house, sell the person in it, you. No matter how much alike everything can seem at times, from houses to ads, always remember that you’re what’s unique and special.

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.


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