Forget the Tim’s gift cards, Air Miles and freshly baked cookies at open houses. Real estate agents are going to extreme lengths to sell homes.

Sleepovers are becoming a popular trend. Giving a prospective buyer the chance to spend a night in a house they are debating purchasing gives them an authentic feel for what it would be like to live there. A bottle of wine and a box of snacks make the night even better. Touring a home for an hour or two and taking photos is great but nothing beats sleeping in a place to get a true picture. This is the ultimate “try before you buy” example.

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Offering a moving truck for clients to use when they buy or sell with you has gained popularity in recent years. But California real estate agent Jeffrey DeJesus took it a step further. He not only provides clients with a moving truck at no charge, he also throws in people to help you move. And pizzas.

Listing a house for $1 may sound loonie but it’s an extreme strategy that has worked. Broker Manjit Singh of HomeLife Superstars previously had a semi-detached Brampton, Ont. home listed for $899,000. He couldn’t find a taker. So he listed the property for $1 to start a bidding war. Genius or ridiculous, it was a marketing ploy that caught attention and got people talking.

The raging popularity of Pokémon Go has inspired some agents to jump on the gaming bandwagon. This is evident in a Zillow ad for a Washington home: “3 Pokémon Go gyms, 5 Pokestops. Confirmed Squirtle sighting in backyard.” With Niantic (the company behind the popular game) lining up to sell locations, this fad might not vanish anytime soon, leaving it a viable marketing option. Analysts encourage retailers to use Pokémon Go to increase traffic and motivate engagement and savvy agents are using it, too.

Internet video home tours are a common marketing tool but some agents are kicking them up a dozen notches. The Corcoran Group spent $50,000 to create a video for a penthouse they were selling in New York City. While that may seem extreme, it’s no longer surprising to hear of agents forking out big bucks for videos that showcase a listing in the best light.

Another spin on online videos involves going beyond a regular tour and showing off the lifestyle a buyer could expect from a home. Vanessa Shelley of Re/Max Rouge River Realty in Oshawa, Ont. posted such a video on a listing she had that was sitting empty after extensive renovations. The video shows her bathing with a rubber ducky, drinking coffee on the deck, doing cartwheels in the sizable backyard, cooking in the impressive kitchen, and crawling through the numerous storage spaces. Ramping up videos is an effective way to get more traction and draw attention to listings.

Incentives have been around as long as property has been sold, but the incentive ploy has been kicked up to new levels. Forget throwing in the hot tub in the backyard or leaving the pool table behind. One real estate agent stocked a fridge with $1,000 worth of beer, which will stay in the home after the sellers move out.

Another freebie incentive is paying green fees for a year on a house that borders a golf course. Other popular incentives include throwing in all the furniture at no charge, giving a free vacation with the home sale and leaving a car in the garage. Incentives work as they make buyers feel like they are getting something for free.

More examples of agents going beyond the norm to sell a house:

  • Turning open houses into flashy parties and inviting A-listers.
  • A California sales agent hired a professional crew to stage and film a movie that features the house as the main star.
  • Forgoing a regular open house and highlighting how kid-friendly a neighbourhood is by hosting a carnival. (The event included a bouncy house, face painting, a petting zoo and balloon artists.)
  • An Oregon agent listed an empty residential lot. He placed a door in the patch of dirt and garnered a lot of buzz for the “open concept” home.
  • In the higher price point, one agent created a custom iPad app that highlighted the property. She had the app installed on a stack of iPads that she gave to prospective buyers.
  • Hosting art exhibits at open houses.
  • Throwing a pool party, if the home has a backyard pool.
  • Having professional musicians play softly in the background during an open house.
  • A broker in New York hosts sexy photo shoots at his properties, aiming to portray a lifestyle that he believes potential buyers are looking for.
  • Holding a smudging ritual to clear the home of any negative energy. The process involves giving the home a smoke bath by burning sage leaves as you slowly walk around the home.

But how far is too far? When a marketing tactic isn’t legal (such as selling raffle tickets or holding an essay contest with the home as the prize) or appears to be a one-way ticket to a lawsuit (like the agent who set up the roller coaster through a listing for easier touring), it may be too far. If an idea feels sketchy, it’s probably best to forego it.

Extreme marketing techniques can offend or turn off people. Some may even hate what an agent has done. But few will be able to forget it or ignore the unconventional, out-of-the-box methodology.


  1. Is “this” a form of “branding?”

    A recent posted comment to PED addressed thoughts on moving vans supplied by agents, among other systems the comment referred to as bribes … It’s interesting that no one on the forum made any comments on this REM article a while back…

    And now this in local news broadcast today…

    I understand time management, COGS, and marketing (branding) …but sometimes there are goings-on in the industry that are quite difficult to wrap one’s head around.

    Has anyone checked that their insurance covers such concepts? The cost for the (wrapped) moving van alone, although extremely useful and helpful, is huge; but where is agent liability in all the creative offerings if anything goes haywire?

    Using the moving van as an example, what if there’s a drinking/driving infraction by the client? Or he runs a red light, or somebody else on the road creates a fatal accident involving a faultless moving van.

    Not being negative: just curious, because everything flows back to the brokerage as well.

    Remember back in the (I think) early 90’s, when Christmas parties for staff and clients were abandoned, and forbidden by some franchise offices? Due to alcohol consumption, and due to a serious accident?

    Speaking of which, does your vehicle coverage include covering your clients? In all this business-related “opportunity presents itself” what is the net liability.? Has anyone addressed this relative topic?

    Concentration on age-old farming still supports building an on-going, and future pipeline. With no need for extreme methods such as described. What happens if there is an accident while bonused-clients are out of the country?

    Good luck, sincerely, to all involved. It all sounds so wonderful. But perhaps be well-advised to “read the fine print,” and go get your manager’s or broker-owner’s, or corp head office signature, and a disclaimer to protect “you,” for them to sign for the liability, because they are the ones who could get even more badly bitten. Just sayin.’ Safety first applies in all businesses. Like the carpenter and seamstress rule: measure twice; cut once. At all times. What is offered up as wonderful creativity isn’t always practical, sadly.

    Carolyne L ?


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