Waypoint Writing’s latest guest blogger, Dale Smith, discusses real estate marketing and how the story, more than the setting, ultimately drives the sale.

After months of searching for the perfect place to live, I’ve figured out the three most important aspects of any real estate marketing: locution, locution, locution! Thought I was going to say “location?” Think again.

There’s only a handful of neighborhoods in my city I’d consider calling “home,” but the housing opportunities within them are practically limitless. Every day new listings sprout like so many wildflowers. So, what separates one “4br 2.5ba” from another? The story it tells.

Here’s a great example of what does not capture my attention: “Two-story, four-bedroom, three-bath home with a two-car, attached garage in Fisherville. First floor features kitchen with Whirlpool stove, microwave, and dishwasher, breakfast room, living room with gas fireplace, one ‘flex’ room, and half bath. Second floor features master bedroom with master bath and walk-in closet, three additional bedrooms, full bath, and laundry room. Home has never been lived in and is covered under warranties.”

Sorry you had to suffer through that. Imagine reading a novel written in such a tone-deaf voice. Now you understand the plight of the house hunter, who has to sift through hundreds of pages filled with such tedious descriptions as this. Practically every listing on the MLS (that’s the Multiple Listing Service, the secret intranet only licensed realtors have access to) just fizzles with such languid language.

What’s wrong with that ad copy, you ask? After all, it conveys all the appropriate information (house size, amenities, location—elsewhere it tells the asking price). But my life isn’t just a list of features (40, male, Leo on the cusp), and neither is the home I’m looking for. I’m looking for a story.

Here’s another listing from a practically identical house. See if this one makes you feel anything different:

“Be the first to call this two-story, four-bedroom Fisherville property ‘home!’ Three bathrooms means never waiting your turn, and the extra ‘flex’ room offers a quiet space for retreat. Maytag appliances will keep the repair man away while your family enjoys meals in the off-kitchen breakfast nook. Room enough in the attached garage for the minivan and the sports car. Rear deck has space for an outdoor kitchen, and the adjacent woodlands make the backyard feel like its own getaway. One year whole-home warrantee protects your investment.”

I see a busy family—my busy family—crowding the bathrooms (but not all of them!) and living it up in this high-end new construction, while keeping in mind there’s plenty of space (“flex” room, backyard “getaway”) to “retreat” from the happy madness. It addresses my aspirations (I don’t own a sports car, but now that you mention it…) and not only describes what’s there (a huge back porch) but what I could add to it (an outdoor kitchen). In just a few more words than the first listing, this one tells a story, and I subconsciously cast myself as the hero.

I only have time to look at one house today. Which do you think I’ll choose?

An old professor of mine once said, “People don’t remember facts. They remember stories.” That’s as true today as it was in Beowulf’s time. But what constitutes a story relative to real estate marketing? And how can you craft one in under a hundred words, about a real estate listing no less? Just look to the example.

First, it follows three-act structure: There’s a beginning (new construction—be the first to move in!), a middle (the “happy madness”), and an end projecting into the future (reminding you that a home is an “investment”). Then there are characters (inhabiting the bathrooms and relaxing in the flex room). There’s conflict (Dodge Caravan vs. Porsche 911). And, of course, there’s setting (your future home).

Stories don’t have to begin, “Once upon a time…” to be effective. Just a sprinkling of these four elements will do.

And storytelling doesn’t just benefit real estate marketing. Imagine a chainsaw on Craigslist:

“Lightly used.” vs. “Purchased to clean up after last weekend’s storm. Both my trees got wiped out, so I don’t need it anymore!”

Tinder profile: “Hobbies include camping and kayaking” vs. “Let’s take an overnight rafting trip down the Colorado and sleep under the stars!”

AutoTrader: “Garage-kept 2015 BMW S550” vs. “Be the envy of the carpool lane!”

There’s a story waiting to sell everything. All it takes is a little imagination to find it.


Smart Real Estate Marketing Requires a Story

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