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Buy a House - Get 2 Dogs Free

Updated on October 16, 2009

This might just as easily have been titled ‘Desperate Times, Desperate Measures’, because I am sure this extraordinary story of how a property owner and their realtor have marketed a quaint home in Hampshire, England, has more to do with publicity than the offer of in-built canine sentries.

Agents Carter Jones have marketed the smart detached property under a blaze of publicity, saying if you buy this house, you will get the two resident Westies – Isla and Angus – completely free. And what’s amazing about this story is … it’s true.

The tale (or should that be tail) of how the dogs came to be included as a package is actually rather sad. The late owner of the house was also the owner of the two dogs. The family that inherited the property were unable to care for the animals on a permanent basis and felt they would be happier staying in the home they had always known. The agent agreed to market the property with the pets as an included or ‘free’ item, which some like me might think was a stroke of publicity genius.

The story (and consequentially the property) has appeared in several newspapers and it has even managed to get into the columns of the estate agents’ own professional national magazine. Now, perhaps this is a gimmick, and perhaps it isn’t – the point is, it has aroused interest and sparked publicity at nil cost. The agent has managed to spread the word about this particular property on his books to a national audience, without paying a penny in advertising fees.

Property sellers are having a tough time trying to get viewings, because the market has yet to recover from the credit crunch and house price collapse. This situation calls for estate agents to become ever more inventive, if they are to generate enough interest to promote buyer confidence. Many have simply sat back, waiting for the market to recover – but that’s not enough in this tough climate. Agents worthy of being instructed by desperate sellers are those that create opportunities, where previously there were none. Realtors that are able to think outside the box tend to succeed; while those that hold their head in their hands fall by the wayside.

Complacency does not attract buyers. If you are selling your home, but are receiving few or no viewers, and your agent continually complains that it is the market that’s at fault rather than him – it may be time to change your agent for one that thinks strategically. The buy a home get two dogs free story just goes to show what a little imaginative application can achieve.

I have been an estate agent and property writer for many years and, in the past, I have seen how owners and their agents have managed to stir interest amongst buyers by adopting unique marketing methods, which far outweigh the rather dull and lifeless standard advertising strategy so commonly implemented. During the last housing market slump, even I used a few age-old ploys to pull in more punters.

At the time, I had my agency operating on the outskirts of the chic canal side development of Salford Quays, just outside Manchester in the north west of England. Business was slow – and sales were down substantially. My clients were complaining that nothing seemed to be happening and I quickly realised we were going to have to do something ‘different’ or we might sink without trace.

Salford Quays was (and probably still is) an expensive and rather exclusive estate, favoured by rich businessmen and by celebrities; but it sat in an area surrounded by very ordinary housing – and very ordinary working families. Selling properties on the outskirts of The Quays was hard work, because these homes paled in comparison to the stylish new dwellings flanking the canals. However, they had one major attraction – they were cheap – and they were within spitting distance of abundant fame and fortune on The Quays.

Linking the two didn’t prove that difficult – and it resulted in a wealth of publicity that increased sales overnight. I simply waited for one of the celebrities to appear in the press. You know what celebs are like, sooner or later something happens or someone happens  and the world quickly knows about it, because the celebrity themselves or their agents tell the press, in confidence of course. The old adage still rings true, there is no such thing as bad publicity!

Every time a local celebrity became headline worthy, I used it to write a piece for the local newspaper while at the same time extolling the virtues of properties I had for sale close to where they lived. It took a few attempts, but eventually I was writing these pieces like the paparazzi … and getting my agency in the press at no charge as part of the bargain. The ploy worked. Viewings increased.

The point is, there must be something unusual about you, your property or the neighbourhood that you can adapt to create local or even national interest. It needs to be something positive, otherwise it could work against you. There is no point writing about your neighbourhood being in the top-ten crime spots in the country, for example. On the other hand, if your town or somewhere nearby has just been classed by a magazine survey as one of the most desirable places to live, then use it.

In these difficult selling times, owners and their agents must become creative. It’s often not nearly as difficult as you might think. So give it a try.

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