These real-life stories of unconventional sales tactics might unleash your creative side.
Why one home in a neighborhood sells in a matter of hours while the next one sits for more than a month is one of the great mysteries of real estate. Sometimes the reasons are obvious: The house that sits is overpriced, needs repairs, or is near something undesirable — like a detention pond, train tracks, or a boarded-up house next door. Maybe your house is in a down market, such as Houston, TX, real estate, where the economy has been stalled by lower oil prices.
But sometimes, there isn’t an obvious reason for a house that sits on the market week after week — people just aren’t interested. Times like these might call for drastic measures. Before you dramatically slash your home’s price or spend thousands on renovations or remodels, why not try an outside-the-box idea, like offering to pay for snowplow services in upstate New York?
1. Include an animal or pet with the sale
Glenn S. Phillips of Birmingham, AL, is an experienced real estate agent, so when he wanted to buy his first house, he knew he could try asking for certain extras … but a dog? Asking a seller for their pet typically crosses the line, but Phillips’ case was different. “The dog was a recent stray that the owner was unsure she would take with her,” he says. “So it was actually in the dog’s best interest, and he was very loved.”
There are other ways to use animals to speed up your home sale. All states offer some sort of tax exemption for properties zoned as agricultural. So if you’re selling in a rural area, and if the zoning regulations allow you to operate a small farm, use that to your advantage. “[My client] wanted three of the seller’s mini cows included in the transaction,” says Pennie Arneson, a Miami, FL, agent. “[The seller] agreed to leave them on the property but wanted to maintain ownership.” That wasn’t all this creative buyer wanted — she wanted a horse thrown in too! The seller balked, saying, “Lady, I don’t even have a horse.” But Arneson solved the problem with a visit to a local horse rescue. And the story has a happy ending: “Property sold. Horse saved. Mini cows never knew anything changed,” says Arneson.
2. Be like a game show host and give away a car
Although the population is growing faster in suburbs than in cities, according to a Trulia survey, some people do move to city centers from the burbs. Case in point: Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal, who wanted to sell his house in the burbs — in Murfreesboro, TN, to be exact — and move to the city. “I really didn’t need my car, which at the time was a 2-year-old Nissan Maxima,” he says. “I parked the car in the front yard with a big sign, ‘Car Comes with House!’” The outcome? Caballero sold his house in fewer than three days.
The very wealthy typically enjoy giveaways too. Tracie Copeland, a South Florida agent, says she’s seen lots of crazy things in the Palm Beach County real estate market. One of the craziest? “I’ve seen a listing for a multimillion[-dollar] water estate in Hypoluxo Island that came with a brand-new Bentley Continental GT — a car that retails for around $300,000.”
3. Suggest your buyer work out, but do so tactfully
Everyone knows what receiving breath mints on your desk at work means: You have bad breath. But because a gift is involved, it’s usually an acceptable way for a co-worker to convey this information. Similarly, you might run the risk of offending people by offering a free gym membership with the home … unless you’re in Los Angeles, CA, where people work out as often as they sleep. Andrew Reeves, founder of Luxe Translation Services, promised to pay a year’s gym membership for anyone who bought his LA home. “I was ready and willing to pay their setup and monthly fees … as long as they bought my house,” he says.
4. Be neighborly
This story comes from across the pond, in London, England, but it could just as easily happen in Akron, OH, or Peoria, IL. Jamal Asskoumi, owner of an online estate agency, tells the story of a seller with a luxurious property who could not generate much interest in her home. When she did get someone to come by, she put out cookies, which the potential buyer complimented. “The seller took this [compliment] and ran with it,” says Asskoumi. “She hand-delivered a batch of cookies to the buyer’s current house every single day for an entire week.” Caution: This approach could gain you a restraining order. In this case, however, the tactic sweetened the deal — and worked. “The buyer bought the property,” says Asskoumi.
5. Create buzz
If people can post on social media about what they make for dinner every night (even though they probably shouldn’t), why not post something that could interest potential buyers, such as the progress you’re making on remodeling a house? Susan Naftulin of Rehab Financial Group tells the tale of a client who was rehabbing an investment property before selling it. “She created a Facebook page where she documented the rehab from the day she bought the property, describing what had been done and showing pictures almost every day,” she says. People took note, the same way they do when awaiting a grand opening of a new restaurant. “When the property was about half done, she started getting inquiries about pricing. Before the property was finished, she had several offers and sold it immediately upon completion at full asking price.” Win!
6. Use the latest technology
Using a drone to get cool aerial listing photos is a hot new trend — but make sure you can do so legally. The Federal Aviation Administration prohibits most commercial use of drones. To take real estate photos, you’d first need to apply for an exemption to operate commercially. Some sellers even scan their home for a virtual reality (VR) experience. Right now, selling homes through VR is mostly limited to the rich and famous. But just imagine being able to give a tour of your home instantly to people who live anywhere in the world. (That day is coming!)
7. Rethink conventional buyers
If you’re in a hurry to sell your house — or have a would-be buyer who’s struggling with mortgage approvals — you do have other options. You could offer an assumable mortgage, wherein the new owner just takes over the seller’s mortgage payments. Or consider seller financing, wherein you’re the seller and the lender. If you’re having trouble selling and you own your home outright, advertise that you can finance the deal and see if the offer brings in new buyers.