Ever fancied transforming into Batman and Robin, Tarzan and Jane, or even a Real Housewife?
Clearly many have, because a novel real estate marketing approach depicting lifestyles like these is working, with the homes they’re attached to flying off the shelf – and for top dollar.
Brisbane-based boutique agency Duke Realty has been deviating from traditional real estate listings, instead producing magazine covers for each home with high-end, glamorous photography centred on the property.
Each magazine-style cover has a particular lifestyle theme that’s teamed with quirky and creative captions.
The cover story features on the signboard for the home, and the agency’s listings are paired with an editorial that tells a story of the dwelling behind the cover.
Ultimately, it’s about selling a lifestyle rather than just a house, according to Duke Realty director Sam Patterson, who started his business five years ago, 17 years into his real estate career following a stint as a plumber.
“We’ve got a product – a home people live in – but I want to sell lifestyle,” he said.
“People buy property purely based on their lifestyle, and I want to bring that across in my photography.
“It will pull on people’s heartstrings even more if they see an image and can imagine themselves being in that space, and that’s what we do.”
Creating a memorable and emotional connection
This out-of-the-box approach is working for Duke Realty, with listings selling fast – even those that have been sitting on the market for years previously with other agents – and often for prices exceeding expectations, Mr Patterson said.
While he admits the marketing is not “everyone’s cup of tea”, overall the innovative concept is grabbing the attention of both buyers and vendors.
“We know that by the time they have turned up, buyers have really engaged with not only the photos of the house but the story behind it, so they’re more invested when they rock up at the open,” he said.
As well as Batman and Robin, a modern Tarzan and Jane, and the Real Housewives of Seven Hills, some of the most memorable concepts the agency has produced for their properties include The Queen’s Gambit, kids doing cannon balls into the pool of a house in Cannon Hill, Red Riding Hood on Riding Road in Balmoral, and an Elf on the Shelf at Christmas.
The Batman and Robin concept for a townhouse that recently sold at Coorparoo for $1.18 million was inspired by a media room in the house decked out with Marvel paraphernalia, and is just one example of the success of the marketing.
While Mr Patterson said he was initially concerned it was “a bit gimmicky”, the campaign attracted so many buyers simply due to the popularity of superheroes.
“We had a contract on the first weekend and the buyer paid top dollar purely because they were into superheroes and Marvel,” he said.
The ‘Housewives of Seven Hills’ concept was for a house in Seven Hills, with the female owner and her friends dressing in beautiful gowns.
There was some push-back from people who didn’t understand the story behind it, but it did the job, because it got so many people talking.
“I had to do something different because the home struggled to sell through two previous agencies,” Mr Patterson said.
Following the marketing campaign, the house sold for $1.57 million – more than the owners had previously been encouraged to accept.
Meanwhile, for a townhouse owned by an older couple in Bulimba, the photo shoot was based on The Queen’s Gambit and featured an antique chess table, beloved by the husband who had received it for his 18th birthday, but despised by his wife.
That chess table helped to make the couple $300,000 more on their property, with the home selling for $1.235 million at the first open home.
Duke Realty sells properties all over Brisbane and Ipswich, and has even sold homes as far north as Sarina in central Queensland, but the marketing approach has the greatest impact in suburbs where it hasn’t been seen before.
“Clear Mountain was one suburb that was blown away by the marketing,” Mr Patterson said.
“For one house we sold in Clear Mountain, the vendor thought they’d get about $800,000 for the property, but we got just over $1.1 million.
“All the neighbours were coming and saying they love the marketing, love the lifestyle, love what you’re done.
“I’m a bit biased but I think it’s amazing – I’m getting more traction out there for my vendors than if buyers were just seeing the same marketing.
“I always say to vendors: ‘If you want local prices go with a local agent, but if you want top dollar go with someone that has a totally different approach.’”
Getting ahead of the marketing game
It was about four years ago that Mr Patterson started using his marketing technique, after consulting with his photographer – a wedding shooter rather than real estate photographer – to see if it was a good idea.
Initially, the approach was just used for development projects, but in the past two years since COVID-19, it has been employed more broadly.
It’s now the marketing approach employed by Duke Realty for every property, whether it’s a $300,000 apartment or a $12 million house, and everything in between.
“Every house deserves to be a cover story,” Mr Patterson said.
While other agents are dabbling in this type of marketing, which Mr Patterson said was “quite out there”, he believes Duke Realty is ahead of the game.
The Duke Realty brand and unique type of marketing has been inspired by Mr Patterson’s love of fashion, lifestyle, architecture, and photographic artwork.
He’s especially fond the work of Slim Aarons, a lifestyle photographer who used to take pictures of interesting people doing interesting things in interesting locations.
“You have to be different if you want to stand out from the crowd,” Mr Patterson said.
“I’m not your typical stereotypical agent – I’m not trying to be. I’m always dressed differently, my marketing is different, my branding is different, my office is different – people walk into my office and they think it’s a showroom.”
How are the concepts created?
The marketing concept for each property is a collaborative process between Mr Patterson, his wife Rebecca, and the agency’s in-house marketing arm, Duchess Media & Marketing.
Paid models are very rarely used, with the people photographed in the properties usually being the vendors or people they – or the team at Duke Realty – know.
“We get people that are relatable, and try to find the right person authentic to that story, which means you can get an authentic photo,” Mr Patterson said.
With so much originality going into the marketing of homes at Duke Realty, buyers would be forgiven for wondering if the cost was greater than other real estate agents.
But it isn’t.
“It’s a part of my branding,” he said.
“I’m willing to go the extra mile to deliver the best result I can and if my vendors believe and trust in me, I will get the job done.
“I get more of a thrill out of working hard and making more money for my vendor than doing the sale.”
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