Brutal honesty in real estate advertising


To be totally honest…

There used to be some billboards you’d see when you drove down Highway #6 on the way to Hamilton. 

“We buy ugly houses”,

they said. I always thought that this was clever advertising, but maybe a little too clever for it’s own good as no one is going to admit that their house is ugly after all. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We live in denial. 

We don’t want to commit to a marketing plan that is honest to a fault — too risky. 

Instead we sugar-coat the truth sending signals, sometimes strong signals like “where is, as is”, or the little softer, “needs TLC”, or once in a long while, “handyman special”, or telltale phrases like “good bones”, “lots of potential” and “blank slate”. 

It is what it is

I’m not here to rock the boat. I don’t think we have to change all of the language of real estate. The way we do things seems to work just fine. Any informed real estate buyer knows in their heart of hearts what to expect with a “distressed property”, with a listing with one picture, a low price and some coded language. The newbee investor-buyer may not be as ready for it as they think, but they know that a house priced $100,000 below the neighbourhood average will need more than a little TLC. 

(It’s going to be a gut job)

No guts for honesty

At the top end of the market, with the perfect listing, hyperbola is expected. Life is great. This house is awesome and the neighbourhood is unbeatable. Truth in marketing becomes truthiness. It’s accentuating the positive, eliminating the negative and latching on to the affirmative. 

I mention this today because I was reading this article — Dreadful House’ for sale in Auckland: Agents say brutal honesty a winning marketing tactic. I really wish I had the guts to do this not just for the fun of it, but I think it would actually work. 

Do these pants make me look fat?

The average person lies everyday. The jury is out on just how many lies we tell but we live in a society, a polite society and we tell people what they want to hear instead of what we really think. I used to work with a broker that said that every house sells eventually. So I suppose brutal honesty in real estate advertising is just a gimmick. Too bad. It would be fun and according to the article, honesty would work to sell the place quickly and efficiently. 

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