Today is Auction Day for our house (the house that blogging bought).
While I’ve bought houses before I’ve never sold one and the whole experience has been one of a lot of learning.
We’ll find out how it will end later today (12 hours from now) – but as we nervously wait for the hour to arrive (while doing last minute polishing, scrubbing and tweaking) I’ve been reflecting upon some of the lessons that I’ve learned during the last four weeks since the house went ‘on the market’:
1. Small Things Matter
As part of the service that our real estate agents offer we had an interior designer come to our home to give us some advice on how to arrange things to show the house off to it’s fullest potential. I’m not sure what I was expecting her to tell us but was surprised to hear that much of what she suggested was quite small and that while they didn’t sound much they made a real difference. For example, moving our fridge from one part of the kitchen to another completely opened up the room.
Pay attention to the smaller details on your blog – while individually the small things that you don’t might not make much of a difference, overall they can really add up!
2. Tell a Story, not just the Facts
One of the theories that I’ve been testing with the marketing of our house is to appeal not just to the head of buyers but the heart. I’ve pushed for the ads in local papers and the copy used to not just present facts but to appeal to emotion and the heart. We also added a few ‘heart’ and ‘story’ elements to the way we’ve presented the house during opens for inspections by writing a short brochure for prospective buyers on why we’ve enjoyed living in this house and have left a screen saver of images that I’ve taken around the house running on my computer screen in my study. These have complemented the more ‘factual’ brochures and information that the agents have presented to potential buyers and the feedback that we’ve received is that it’s really made an impression.
Blogs that appeal to different levels (particularly emotions) can do quite well. Add elements of story into your blogging.
3. Don’t reveal all your Cards at once – Get people in the Door
While selecting which images to use of the house in our newspaper and online advertising our agent gave us some good advice. She suggested that instead of featuring images of every room that we only show half of them. The reasoning is that if you do this you get people to actually come and visit to check out the rest. Getting people in the door drastically increases your chances of converting people into bidders.
In blogging the temptation when starting a blog is to vomit out everything you know on a topic very quickly. I’ve seen a number of bloggers launch with ’100 ways to….’ type posts and while these can be good at getting attention – they can also leave you with little more to say. While I believe a key to success in blogging is to share everything you know – there is an art in the ‘slow reveal’ that helps to build momentum and loyalty in blogging.
4. Expect the Unexpected
The last week has led to a number of ‘surprises’. One was looking out the window of the house one day and seeing a photographer setting up his full kit. A couple of days later our house was featured prominently in two prominent newspaper articles as editorial copy – nice! The other surprise came one afternoon a couple of weeks back when I was quietly sitting in our living room working on my laptop and three people appeared in the window. They were carrying out their own impromptu open for inspection (well outside of the advertised times). My agent would probably be horrified that I let them see the property without the agent being there – but it turns out that the family who was there are coming back today to bid.
Blogging is full of surprises. Some of them feel like threats and some opportunities. The key is to be able to harness them and turn them into positives.
5. De-cluttering Rocks
One of the main things that we did to get both our garden and the inside of our home ready for auction was to ‘declutter’. We’re currently living in a very neat home with about 75% of the furniture that we had in it 5 weeks ago (we also have a locked shed with a lot more in it). I’ve also ripped out a significant number of plants in the garden and planted some great new (and smaller) plants. It’s amazing what taking out elements in a home can do for it!
Most bloggers have been through times when they’ve seen the power of de-cluttering. The principle applies in design (especially sidebars) but also in blog writing itself.
6. Get Sensual
I’ve already touched on how appealing to the heart through story can impact how a home (and blog) is perceived. Similarly, we’ve worked on making our opens for inspections a slightly more ‘sensual’ experience. No…. not that kind of sensual…. we’ve been appealing to the senses with music, candles (scented), flowers etc. While you don’t want to overwhelm people with these things – a few subtle touches can really make a house more homely. We saw the impact of this ourselves recently in looking around to buy our next home.
The same is true for blogging – while it’s primarily a medium where people read text – it’s increasingly possible to add visual and audible elements with images, video and podcasts. My own experience of this is that it makes your blog a much more engaging and personal space.
7. Facades Count for a lot but….
The most impressive part of our house is the view of it from the street. It’s not that it’s bad inside – but we’ve worked hard at the outside by upgrading a fence and fixing up the garden. Our home is a Victorian period home which is sought after around here – as a result, we’ve used a shot of the front of the house on our marketing and we’ve seen a lot of people come to the opens for inspection come to check it out.
However… while the front of the house is great – it’s what’s on the inside that counts and that will term people from interested parties into actual bidders and eventual purchasers.
The same is true for a blog. While a lot has been written recently about how a blog’s design can make a major impact upon a blog (and it can) – if you want people to stick around and to convert those who are impressed with how it looks into loyal readers then you need to provide them with something on the inside that is useful to them.
8. Spending Money to Make Money
Over the last 2.5 years that we’ve been living in this home we’ve added value to it by updating a variety of things to it. We’ve put on a new roof, installed wardrobes, painted, put in new carpet and more. We didn’t do this to make money but did it for ourselves because we originally felt we’d live here for the long term (plans change). While we didn’t do it as an investment – it seems to have paid off with the quoted selling figures all significantly more than it would have been without the extra features that we’ve added.
In terms of blogging – I don’t believe that you need to spend a lot of money in order to have a successful blog. There are examples around of blogs that are run on free platforms and hosting that have done well that would shoot this down in flames. However…. spending money on your blog can help to give it a boost. I regularly speak to bloggers how spend money on advertising, more who spend on education (buying online learning resources), others who’ve spent considerable money on design and others who pay for writers (and more) who would argue that spending money to make money blogging is an important part of their approach to profitable blogging.
9. Positioning is Everything
Our agent started talking to us about where to advertise our house by saying that people from our suburb generally don’t buy in our suburb but that there’s a 90% chance that our buyers will come from 2-3 suburbs closer to the city to where we live. As a result – advertising in our very local papers was a waste of time and our ad dollars would go a lot further by advertising in papers from the inner city suburbs.
I’ve discovered a similar thing in blogging when it comes to where growing your traffic by putting time and energy into developing a presence in other websites and blogs. While some take a shotgun approach and market themselves to any other blogger who will listen – smart bloggers think carefully about where their potential reader is already gathering and positions themselves in those spaces.
Now it’s Time to Test it…
So everything above is, in reality, untested theories. I guess we’ll find out what the reality is in just a few hours. Wish us luck! I’ll update this post with a note on how it all goes later today.
Update: We sold the house and achieved our targets. Thanks to everyone for your well wishes.