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One of my most favorite motivational messages comes from a short piece by Simple Truth’s 212-degrees movie. The message is simple and powerful: At 212 degrees, water simply boils. At 212-degrees it becomes steam. And steam can power a locomotive. In other words: One small degree of effort more, and you’re moving from ‘hot water” into powerful productivity.

So, what would one degree more of effort look like for REALTORS when trying to sell a home in a competitive marketplace?

Too many agents today think that “effort” comes in one size: Advertising dollars. That’s a major mistake, because the vast majority of listing advertising involves wasted dollars. Direct mail is a money black hole. Newspaper classifieds are financial suicide. Even “special web domains” for each listing is tantamount to pressing the “reset” button on your strategy (because you have to re-establish the site’s awareness in the public’s mind every time, rather than keep pounding away with your company domain, domain, domain).

In fact, the difference between properties that sell and those that do not is rarely a factor of advertising. REALTORS “think” it’s all about advertising, because it’s something they can always say they will do “more” of than their competitors. Sure, they can spend more money, place it on more sites or print outlets and do more direct mailing. However, if we ask the only person who can tell us what effort pays off – the BUYER – they’ll tell you that all the sound and fury in advertising comes to naught if they arrive at a home and it is a disaster.

The extra degree of effort for selling homes can be found in staging.

Staging doesn’t mean decorating. That’s, well, decorating. Staging doesn’t mean cleaning or decluttering or arranging the furniture to be in alignment with the whims of the Great Zenu. What staging means is: Preparing a home’s value statement in such a way that makes buyers place offers.

Now, if “decorating” doesn’t do this, what does? Well, graduates of the Certified Home Marketing Specalist¬† Designation (CHMS) have learned that staging is a three-part process of uncovering the home’s unique value proposition, spotlighting it to potential buyers, and incorporating that value in the pricing and marketing mix. Sounds complicated, but it is another “simple truth” about marketing.

First, REALTORS need to uncover the special value proposition of every home. Here’s a simple hint: It’s not the NUMBER of rooms, bathrooms or square footage. It’s not about DIMENSIONS or HEATING or ROOFING. Buyers consistently compromise on those “qualities” but they won’t compromise on certain others. Perhaps it’s the location, or the “feel” of the neighborhood or the “light” or the living potential. In other words, it’s something you have to position in the “imagination” of the buyer so they can say to themselves: If we lived here, we’d experience this….. and we want that!

Nobody experiences “blue paint” or “gleaming hardwood floors”. But they can experience peace and quiet or a impressive entertaining value. As you uncover what a property “means” to people living in it, you have to bring those qualities out. This is where each room has to “contribute” to the value proposition of the home. Is a home’s special quality its serenity factor? Make sure all rooms communicate that. Is a home’s special value it’s abliity to handle a growing family? How will the rooms portray that, too?

Now, pulling these together into the “extra degree” of effort means translating the property value into a marketing statement. The most important component of the marketing statement is the price. Does the price of the home support the value? If so, then it’s never a problem. If a home is “the quietest on the street” then it can be priced higher than neighboring homes; if it’s “just as quiet or not as quiet” then you can’t overprice it – even if it has a pool and others do not. To a buyer seeking quiet, the pool is meaningless. Amenities can be added or removed. Value cannot.

Finally, communicating that value, supported by the price, has to come through the marketing mix. Essentially, this means and video, with accompanying narrated audio or written text, that NEVER mentions features and ALWAYS stresses the unique value offering. Who cares that the home has four bedrooms, if it’s value is that it’s convenient to the train line? Why talk about the finished basement, unless it’s to support the statement of the home, a place for growing families. Downsizing baby boomers won’t care about the basement, and might OVERLOOK the property if that’s what appears in the photos and text.

All of this is hard to do, we know. It requires actually thinking about the property’s value, pulling it out through room positioning and developing a price-supported marketing plan that isn’t a laundry list of “stuff.” It means looking at the property through the buyer’s eyes, not the seller’s memories. And it means going one step beyond the “MLS LISTING SHEET” style of adveritising that makes most listings on the internet absolutely dull.