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A Saturday open house in spring does nothing to convey autumn leaf colours, nor the scent of jasmine blooms through windows on a breezy evening.
But what if there was a way to tell everyone interested in buying your home what it felt like to live there, what it was like to come home to?
Kurt Opray found a way, using social media to connect with buyers ahead of the February auction of his family home in Northcote, about seven kilometres north of Melbourne’s CBD.
The house sold for $1,055,000 – $135,000 above the reserve and 30 per cent above the Northcote median.
The result for his three-bedroom Californian bungalow was reported throughout national media and generated a “frenzy” of interest.
“It’s been crazy,’’ he said.
“This is what I do at work every day, I just applied the same principles from my job to selling my house.’’
A social media specialist, Opray is a co-founder of online marketing business ImpactData and has formed Hottest Property, an offshoot helping other vendors find similar sales success.
What separated his marketing strategy from a traditional agent’s web advertising was that he was the owner, and he connected to buyers.
As Opray says, it is odd that life’s biggest transactions happen with no communication with the person you are actually buying from.
Car shoppers take test drives, fashionistas try on a dress or a suit, but when we buy houses, we spend just a few brief moments sizing up the potential investment, which can have decades of consequences.
Opray got the edge on his target market through setting up a blog and twitter account about his Andrew Street home.
Rather than sending the blog into the ether, he drew on his nine-to-five skills to drive traffic to the blog through twitter and web search optimisation.
Short and sweet tweets about the home have generated the most interest post-sale, but Opray is keen to clarify Twitter was simply a tool to create web traffic. The real difference was the blog, allowing for an intimate conversation with anyone Googling around for a house in Northcote.
“Who knew my home better than me? An agent can sell, and we needed an agent of course, but I knew that I could sell my own home better than anyone else,’’ he says.
Opray stuck to the Google flagship, using Wordpress for his blog, Picasa for photos and YouTube for videos. The Google affiliation was reflected in Google results.
Google is undeniably the widest open window to the internet and even the simple blog name, Northcote House, was chosen for its Googlability.
Opray believes there is a natural space in the marketing sphere for more than agent websites, print advertising, boards in front of homes and even open-for-inspections.
People buy wedding dresses and gain education qualifications online, it was simply a matter of time before property marketing evolved beyond a standard agent website.
His selling agent Rob Elsom, director of Hocking Stuart Northcote, said the auction drew about 80 people – 30 per cent more than expected – and Opray’s methodology had fascinated him. “We’re now looking into how we can use the internet better ourselves,’’ he says. “There was so much interest, but it was an average house on a good-sized block.’’
After a write-up in TheAustralian Financial Review last month, Opray was taking dozens of calls from vendors keen to know how their sale could sing louder than anything else on surrounding blocks. The bulk of interest has come from private buyers, many keen to recreate Opray’s success themselves.
Although anyone can start a blog or a twitter account, Opray says detailed website optimisation knowledge is essential for it to work.
Hottest Property flaunts its ability – through its website, of course – to build on the emotional connection buyers have with a house through pushing intimate information about the bricks and mortar’s ability to be a comfortable home.
Real Estate Institute of Victoria spokesman Robert Larocca says online marketing can help but won’t replace an agent. “Social media will help bring a property to the attention of buyers but it won’t turn a $500,000 home into a $1 million home,” he insists.
Real estate marketing will always focus on promoting the best in a property. But the same principle applies – the more tangible information to separate one home from the pack, the better.
Right down to what it’s like to watch autumn leaves change as years pass and mortgages whittle down.
There’s no median price on that.