As home buying shifts to the virtual world, Realtors and homeowners are being forced to find unique angles to present their product. The most obvious changes in the market have focused on presentation: HDR photography, drone flyovers, VR home tours, and virtual walk-throughs. But a more subtle change has been unfolding too – extended listing descriptions.
To say home listings are important is an oversimplification of the evolving real estate market. Historically, listings were a property summary destined for a real estate office window. Potential buyers sought the professional advice of informed real estate agents to whittle down a list of properties for consideration. The maturing digital arena has given more control to home buyers and many successful agents are exploiting listings with technology, creative writing, and brands for SEO value and detailed must-haves.
Creative Property Listings
Agents are looking for value propositions for potential buyers that describe the home in detail, but also validate the emotional connection from featured photos that drew them in. Julie Lunn of Edina Realty describes her property listing drafting method, “I make sure to descriptively paint a picture for potential buyers of life in the home, but I also seek to highlight upgrades, unique detailing, and value-adds.”
Historically, descriptive factors have included floor plan layouts, architectural character, and property site and condition, but listings are evolving with the needs of digital users. Users are increasingly demanding search options for specific listing information including special products, proximity to services, and home improvement history like building permits and age and condition of mechanicals. Many of these options are built around tangible products with a quantifiable rate of return or real value. Because users want to quickly sift through property highlights, Realtors are embracing brands in property listings.
A Brand New Influence
In today’s “Sellers Market” we’re seeing home buyers looking for a move-in-ready homes. Buyers are showing preference to completed renovations even if the design isn’t a perfect match to their taste. They want updated kitchens with stainless steel appliances and quartz or granite counter tops and bathroom with soaking tubs or multi-jet shower heads. This is where brands come in. Consumers looking for a new home expect these options. Here’s a list of the top home upgrades for potential buyers:
- Kitchen Remodel
- Bathroom Remodel
- Basement Finish
- Whole House Updates (appliances and fixtures)
- Window Replacement
Jessica Lowe of Coldwell Banker in Highland Park describes today’s buyers as, “More attracted to homes that are completely move-in ready and well maintained. People are willing to pay more for homes that have stylish and quality finishes.”
Quality can be hard to convey through photos and Realtors are relying on known brands to drive perceived value. A description that includes “Kohler Fixtures” has much more appeal than “Updated Fixtures”. Regarding brands, Lowe added, “It’s an easy way to convey the level of value in a home.”
Which Brands Influence Real Estate Buyers?
The biggest brands influencing listings today are almost all in the kitchen, with the exception of a Andersen Windows. “There is an education gap between homeowners and Realtors for many home building products,” says Jim Young with Edina Realty. “The impactful products are almost exclusively appliances because they have the identifiable ‘wow’ that consumers relate to,” he added.
We took a look at the popularity of brands in real estate listings on Realtor.com in April 2017. The data backs up the high-quality brand influence mentioned previously. Here’s a short list sorted by number listings. Sub-zero is far and away the leader in total number of listings, and of the Top 5, only one isn’t in the kitchen, Andersen Windows.
A reasonable explanation for the comparative popularity of Andersen Windows is the depth of brand penetration. In the same way that Sub-Zero or Wolf have a certain look, Andersen Windows provide a predictable quality with top-end aesthetics. Promoting a product that is a known quantity is comforting for consumers and shows a construction value for a home. Julie Lunn of Edina Realty added, “I do mention brands that consumers recognize or know to be more high end or top quality.”
Virtual Reality Branding
The influence of brands is beginning to extend beyond listings through virtual home tours that include called out appliances and features. Currently offered primarily in new construction homes, virtual tours call-out everything from paint color and brand to backsplash tile and cabinets. Brands that previously had a generic touch and feel interaction with potential buyers now have the opportunity to connect virtually. Check out a sample of a recent virtual listing and explore some of the embedded branding – click the “3D” in the upper left corner to view the walk-thru tour.
While digital presentation has been the focus of many real estate websites, the importance of listings continues to grow. In the near future, there will be a melding of presentation, brands, and architectural aspects that will result in a more complete online home buying experience. The most interesting factor is the growing influence of brands in an era that brands were predicted to be unnecessary and dying due to unlimited online accessibility to all products. But consumers rally around predictable experiences and there’s nothing quite like brands to deliver on that.
About the Author
Ben Lindberg is a partner at Lion Tree Group, a marketing agency in Madison, WI. His expertise is in multi-platform brand messaging with a focus on inspiring consumers. His agency specializes in website design and comprehensive branding solutions in the real estate and construction industries. He regularly blogs at his company’s digital news blog: The Bark and Roar.