I recently visited the three Bavarian Castles built by King Ludwig II. The story behind them is a fascinating one. Between 1864 and 1886, King Ludwig II spent an obscene amount of money building three fairytale palaces. In total, they had over 500 rooms and yet the King built them to live in on his own. The cost of building them was so enormous that it almost bankrupted the country and finally, in desperation, the Bavarian Parliament had the King declared insane. He was confined to a psychiatric hospital where a few weeks later, he died in mysterious circumstances.
I found it fascinating that a man could become so obsessed with building palaces that he would give up his throne and ultimately his life in his quest to create the perfect home.
THE QUESTION IS
This got me thinking about this question, “What are houses really for?”
The media seems to focus on people who are intent on building the perfect dream home. Programmes like Grand Designs in variably feature breathtaking glass boxes with spotless white interiors but I simply do not believe that these are the houses that most people want to live in. They are wholly impractical and most people must realise this.
King Ludwig II was obsessed with fairytale palaces. Your buyers may also be obsessed, but do they want the fantasy home or the perfect home to live in? Your marketing has to reach their real needs.
So what are people really looking for in their homes? I believe that what most people are really seeking is the way that a house makes them feel rather than the way that it looks. For example, estate agents tend to use words such as “an impressive formal dining room” but most buyers don’t want an impressive room or a formal room – they want a room that creates a convivial atmosphere and encourages great conversation.
For me, the perfect dining room would have a 6-8 seater circular table. A circular table ensures that everyone can see everyone else and this is essential to ensuring a really good conversation. If the table seats less than six, it feels cramped. If it seats more than eight, then people are too far away from each other to interpret subtle facial gestures which again is such an important part of communication.
My perfect sitting room would have comfy sofas on three sides and a real fireplace to act as a focal point on the fourth. It would face southwest to maximise the natural light and have big windows with low sills so that I can see the view without standing up.
My perfect kitchen would have a big central island to encourage the family to cook together and talk together. It would have a big breakfast table with comfy dining chairs and a sofa for dogs or teenagers to loll about on. My perfect bedroom would have an east-facing window so that I can wake up to the morning light and would be insulated from any traffic noise that might disturb my sleep.
THE DEVIL IN THE DETAILS
My point is this: none of these features which would be crucial to my decision to purchase a house, are included in a traditional set of estate agency details and I think this is a real shame. One of my clients recently changed their details to achieve just this. Their details now include a short quotation from the vendor about what they have most enjoyed about living in each of the main rooms. The viewing staff is encouraged to refer to this as they walk round the property. This simple change has made a noticeable impact on the mood of their viewings and they are now trying to measure the impact that it has had on their viewing to offer ratios.
If we are to differentiate ourselves from the online agents, we must learn how to add value to the house selling process at every stage and the way that we produce our details, and the effectiveness of the accompanied viewing process, could be an excellent way of achieving this.
Adam Walker is a management consultant, business sales agent and trainer who has worked in the property sector for more than twenty-five years. www.adamjwalker.co.uk