Monday Madness

Gravitational Pull

quillpen.gifRobin Realtor writes: “Dear Tom, you are so creative in your blog and so wise about what makes listings and photos good … I wonder if you can give me some tips on creating attractive listings.”

Well, thank you Robin. All that you say is true, of course, but you need to know that I’m not a Realtor. I’ve never faced the awesome responsibility of making my client’s listing look as good as they would like. Allow me to make suggestions that I’ve learned from observing the industry.

Let’s start with what is becoming known as ‘gravitational pull’. In reading some retail industrymagneticattraction.jpg news I came across this blurb at “Apple’s stores have a “gravitational pull” on shoppers. Nearly 30 percent of shoppers who pass within 25 feet of an Apple Store are drawn inside, according to a survey by analyst Gene Munster at investment bank Piper Jaffray.” A related term evolved with Steve Job’s (Apple) product announcements at high tech events. It is said that he created a ‘reality distortion field’ around himself which compelled people to fall in love with his product.

Mesmerizing Master of Marketing, Steve Jobs


[!] Looking directly at this photo may cause confusion and unintended spending.


To create a powerful listing, Robin, all you need to do is generate Gravitational Pull, while avoiding a listing that sucks. As we look around at Our East County listings, it is clear that many agents and sellers haven’t got the message. Ugly photos, gross misspellings, bad grammar and poorly described properties abound. Agents SHOUT IN ALL CAPS, they use extreme punctuation!!!!!, they gush over the handles on the kitchen cabinets and they don’t have a clue. Do listings in La Jolla or Beverly Hills have these problems? Not if the agent wants to keep his job. Commissions may be smaller here but that doesn’t warrant sloppy listings.

Disney’s maelstrom–Gravitational Pull or just plain sucky?


The listings have to generate Gravitational Pull, not fear and loathing. Carnival promotions may work in discount stores and used auto sales lots but are not recommended for major purchases. All those techniques do is tell the world that you are not ready for prime time.

First the basics. Buyers demand facts, useful facts. Many local listings don’t indicate howjustthefacts.jpeg many square feet are included with a house or lot. It might be nice to know that the back yard can be used for a barbecue party, but if you neglect to mention the un-permitted patio conversion a potential buyer will be annoyed. Start with all the facts. If you must add commentary, keep it brief and encourage the reader to imagine the barbecue rather than spelling it out.

Beyond the facts you need creativity and consistency. Hopefully agents can find an agency that sets quality standards for listings and together you can create an image that the public will recognize even if it appears on a foreign listing site (like Redfin). Each agent in the organization needs to support the others to maintain that high standard. That helps to provide the consistency and opens the door to creativity.

creativity1.jpgCreativity is elusive, Robin. We have a lot creative of artists and musicians in East County, let’s find the creative Realtors. Someone in your group has it or knows someone who has it. One person can do it, provided that a control keeps him/her somewhat grounded in reality. Let that person go wild with concepts and fantasies until one catches on with the majority. Brainstorm! Then find a way to work it into all the groups’ listings.

consistent1.jpegYou’ve seen a lifetime of creative promotions on TV, billboards, even business cards. Now you’ve got to find your own. Something consistent that will be identified with your group above all others. A trademark. It’s important. Here are some things that could be included in each listing: catch phrases, mantras and repeating images. A common word could be misspelled in each listing in a funny or subtle way and become a flag for your agency. Your photos could have your logo in the lower right corner, just like the TV stations do (I’ve seen this elsewhere but not sure of local constraints). Don’t overdo it; our small, somewhat intimate community will recognize your trademark over time. Use a consistent, sincere tone of writing and, of course, carefully planned photos.

thisonesours.gifMy personal inclination is to offer absolute honesty along with some self-deprecating humor. Many agents are driven by ambition and ego and not too comfortable with, uh, self deprecation. Let’s look that up so I’m not making an idiot of myself… OK, that works. By looking it up, I allowed that I might have made a mistake. This is critical for people in the public eye (perhaps our President’s greatest flaw) if they wish to be perceived as human and likable. So, again, that’s a start in building your image and the consistent image of your group.stinks.jpg

Robin, don’t be afraid to say something bad about a property if it is factual. A warning about potential noise problems or gophers, for instance. What you are suggesting is that (a) this house is not perfect (b) we acknowledge that, and (c) we’ve factored that into the price – you’re going to get a bargain!

Can we find a pattern in this article? Not exactly but we have several review points:

  1. The Basics – useful facts, not fluff, not hype
  2. Consistency – you and your group need an instantly recognizable identity
  3. Creativity – also consistent and part of a pattern of exposition
  4. Humor – self-deprecating, put aside the ego or find another job
  5. Honesty – many listings should include a cautionary comment

Do this well and your listings will generate Gravitational Pull. Viewers will be unable to ignore your listings and soon they will recognize them on sight as they plow through the mass of dreck and find the bright light that your listings offer. If you still have questions, Robin, leave a comment at the link below and you’ll probably get an excellent answer from me or another reader.

One of my repeating images on left, possible change/addition on right.


I could just use the thumb. It permits use like this thumbsupmed.jpg in photos and text. Still a human face is often the best choice. An agency needs both human images and a logo.

redfin_logo.png This logo, the “Sweet Digs” name for the Redfin blogs and more distinguish us from them. You probably paid no conscious attention to them till now, but over time they will have you salivating like Pavlov’s dogs for a fat refund on your next real purchase.

[Any resemblance to fact or usefulness in this article is purely unintentional.]