Show houses still an effective property marketing tool

Any serious seller of a home must agree to opening it up to the public as a show house, if necessary not just once but two or even three times, says Tony Clarke, Managing Director of the Rawson Property Group.

Show houses, he says, create a base for an immediate comparison with other houses and can lead to people paying higher and quite possibly buying in areas that were not originally on their preferred list.

The value of show houses, says Clarke, has been even more evident since the South African housing market moved into recessionary conditions.

“Today’s buyer,” he says, “may have to battle to get his bond and may have to pay above prime. He is, therefore, a great deal more value conscious than those of earlier times: he is out to get more ‘bang for his buck’ and show houses are one of the best ways of impressing him.

“There are fewer buyers in the market than ever before and the advantages of using a show house to publicize a home, says Clarke, are that it enables the seller to expose his property to the maximum number of people in the shortest possible time. Furthermore, show houses attract the many buyers who either do not consult online media or only look for homes in print media. Show houses also attract passers-by who did not go out with an intention to buy but, after suddenly deciding to view the home, simply decide to make an offer on the spot.  

“Although it is true that 70% of buyers today visit online marketing media right at the outset,” says Clarke, “the other 30% is important and should not be neglected.”

It should also be noted that many buyers, says Clarke, make show houses their first port of call to find out what is available in their chosen area before consulting an agent.

Show houses, he adds, will often have the additional benefit of making the potential buyer aware that rival buyers are possibly just as interested in the property as he is – for the simple reason that the buyer’s visit is likely to overlap with those of others. This can trigger them into putting in an offer rather than continuing to be fence-sitters.

Then, too, says Clarke, the arranging of a show day has the big advantage of enabling the family to prepare the home thoroughly for visitors. It gives them the chance to remove all clutter, clean carpets and windows, warm up the house on a cold day, polish the furniture, do flower arrangements and, most importantly, eliminate those off-putting pet and other odours that many families have lived with for so long and are no longer even aware of.

“A few Rands spent on air fresheners can be the best investment the home seller makes, especially if he has had dogs and cats in the house for some time.”

On show house days, says Clarke, the Rawson Property Group always advise the owners and their families to take the afternoon off and remain away until visiting hours have come to an end. Their absence, he says, will encourage visitors to ask those awkward questions which they would not ask if the owners were present. The answering of these questions, by a clued-up estate agent, can very often bring about a sale.

In addition, show house visits over weekends can be leisurely and relaxed. The visitor has the time to tour the whole house (twice if necessary) and then sit in the living room, enjoy a cup of tea and get the ‘feel’ of the home.

This, says Clarke, particularly suits those visitors who do not want to be accompanied by an estate agent throughout their visit. And, he says, it makes these visits a very different experience from those rushed visits on weekday nights when the family is probably trying to cook their evening meal and the children are doing their homework.

It is sometimes said, says Clarke, that show houses are less effective in winter. This, he says, is not entirely true.

“The number of visitors in winter may well be lower, but again our experience at the Rawson Property Group is that those buying in winter tend to be serious and are anxious to get a deal done as soon as possible. Winter can, therefore, be a very good time to put your house on show.”

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