George Clooney “likes” a quick sale

Trying to sell a property urgently in a relatively quiet market without massive discounting requires a bit of creativity. A friend’s recent use of Facebook to give her apartment a bit of personality and promote its sale got me thinking about social media’s relationship with real estate. Is it worth the effort?

Taking off to the United Kingdom is a well-worn path that’s been travelled by university graduates, ambitious young professionals and former Neighbours cast members for decades.

Most people decide to do it before they’ve got any strings tying them down at home, like a serious relationship or big debts. My friend Martha breaks that mould a bit.

When she decided recently to quit her job and relocate to sunny London, she had to consider the mortgage on her inner-city unit. She faced two choices – keep it and try to manage things from the other side of the world, where the job market is very unpredictable, or sell up.

She ultimately decided to let go of her lovely little pad and enlisted an agent to handle the sale. Not content with sitting back and hoping for the best, she took some initiative and hit the interwebs to kick things along.

And thus, the persona of George Clooney was born. Like Hollywood’s leading man, her apartment was “a little grey around the edges” but had “loads of character, charm, style and dependability”. That creative comparison was an effective way of getting people’s attention, she says.

From a specially created Facebook page, she shared highlights and fond memories of the property and talked up the area’s dining, entertainment and lifestyle facilities. Her friends helped spread the word, and Martha’s agent also drove prospective buyers to the page to gain insight into what the unit offered.

“I’m confident Facebook helped drive word of mouth and educate buyers about the area, public transport, restaurants and other utilities,” she told me.

In the end, it sold in six weeks – about half the suburb’s average time on market. While the ultimate buyer came via the agent, Martha believes they also took a look at the page to familiarise themselves with their new home.

It’s easy to forget that the internet and real estate are still relatively new companions. Not long ago, sales listings were confined to a lift-out in the local paper or an agency’s front window. These days, buyers get much more than a few pictures and flowery description – there are virtual tours, floor-plans, suburb profiles, price data and interactive maps showing nearby schools, transport, shopping hubs and dining precincts.

Social media is beginning to be embraced with similar enthusiasm. In addition to individual agents taking to Twitter and Facebook to promote themselves, their agencies and specific listings, actual properties are developing digital personalities.

It’s potentially a good way to take buyers beyond the standard listing. They get special information and a first-hand account of what makes the property worth buying. The nature of social media is such that this exercise in engagement, if done well, could encourage an investment of time and also emotion. It taps into the personal nature of buying property, which – as much as we deny it – is never far beneath the surface.

Rather than just another listing, buyers can interact with and even talk to properties.

There have been a number of recent examples of vendors creating specialised websites and profiles for properties, in order to set them apart from the competition. It’s a simple and relatively affordable form of branding.

Of course, it’s hard to measure the success of such campaigns. Does it make any difference to how quickly a property sells and for how much? How many eventual buyers were encouraged by social media efforts? It’s hard to say, but in a slow market, surely it can’t hurt to have a go.

Shannon Molloy is the deputy editor of Australian Property Investor magazine

Image: DFree /