How do you make your listing stand out? A list of features alone, no matter how impressive, won’t do the trick. It’s the storytelling that draws potential buyers, especially those in the market for houses $5-million and up, says real estate agent Voula Argyropoulos of Hammond International Properties in Toronto.

“Storytelling is part of the selling process,” says Jerry Hammond, broker of record. “People relate to stories” and they add to the emotional experience of buying a home.

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Hammond has made storytelling mandatory practice, which gives a whole new meaning and approach to marketing a property, regardless of price.  Although the agents may already know the home’s history, they sit down with the homeowners, who elaborate and have good stories of their own. Those memories are packaged into a story that will create attraction and appeal. They can include distant or more recent “history” and fun tales, to pique a buyer’s interest.

Some of the owner’s original puppets, including Kermit and Animal, were conversation starters when potential buyers toured the lower level.
Some of the owner’s original puppets, including Kermit and Animal, were conversation starters when potential buyers toured the lower level.

Potential buyers loved the background of a $5-million plus home that the brokerage sold recently. Argyropoulos says relating the story of the owner and the Disney design team that created the home’s resort-like ambiance, was a great talking point. So was the owner’s background as a toy creator and his work with the Muppets. Some of his original puppets, including Kermit and Animal, were conversation starters when potential buyers toured the lower level.

Rock band Rush’s guitarist Alex Lifeson, who built the house, was another topic of conversation. Although the home had been completely renovated (the recording

studio where the band worked is now a gym) the owner has some of Lifeson’s gold records on display so the memories of Rush remain.

It’s a visual world, Hammond says, so adding points of interest is important.

Their storytelling worked – the artistic vibe of the Richmond Hill, Ont. house appealed to an international buyer. The buyer, an artist, liked hearing the story about the past artistic owners, Argyropoulos says. “High net worth people want to know what the current owners do for a living. The buyer fell in love with the home and it had a lot to do with the history.”

When it comes to features, interesting tidbits help. For example, the 10,000-square-foot home’s elm plank floors weren’t just any elm floors. The wood came from two barns dating back to the 1800s. The exterior pebble dash stucco was created by artisans, who were flown in from France. Five furnaces and air conditioning units promise to keep the occupants comfortable.

Story telling can be used for any house, regardless of price. Give potential buyers something to think about, something to remember and something to enjoy.


  1. Here’s the thing about buying real estate: Most buyers are not clinical-by-nature cerebral researchers trained in the ins-and-outs of actual snap-shot real estate market value. That is left to guys and gals working at what I once was (other than the cerebral part), an accredited real estate appraiser who had no skin in the game. Story telling and emotional content had no impact on what I eventually was paid to produce…an opinion of value on the day, and on that day only, that the report was signed off on by me. Everything else connected to real estate pricing, selling and buying is highly emotionally charged…because humans are highly emotionally charged beings. Thus, story telling actually works. H

    Shifting gears, how else does the used car salesman/saleswoman sell the used cars traded in at the new-car dealerships, which if not of saleable quality to the said dealerships, are sold off to a used car dealer, or are sent to the auction, bid upon and bought by the used car dealers, then set out front to be sold by the story telling salespeople? Everyone wants to believe that he/she has purchased a sweetheart of a deal, unless one is a trained evaluator…which 99.999% of us are not.

    Selling resale real estate is no different than selling used cars; there are just more zeroes after the primary asking price/purchasing price primary numbers. The difference, therefore boils down to that which exists between salespeople, and it is thus: Are their stories about what once was, or are their stories creations of what could be? Big difference. All stories about used car sales are about what once was, whereas all stories about real estate sales are about what could be.

    Stories work…unless one is selling to cyborgs and robots…or appraisers. End of story.

  2. A little light reading story:

    This is “very” old news and just used as a sample construct… this is the type of “story” that got presented immediately that I listed a property … I chose this old property listing story as just an example because of the story inside the story, thinking the just graduated classes might find it a fun read.

    Welcome to 23 Newton Road, Brampton… Subsequently the owner wrote:

    $400,000 – “We interviewed three top agents in total. One said our house should be ‘listed’ at 345k. Another said we should ‘list’ at 350k, which indicated to us that we would end up selling for less. The third agent to be interviewed, we told Carolyne how much we wanted for our beautiful house. She said we could try, based on comparable sales at 385k, that were not on ravine lots. So we listed with Carolyne. Showings started April 29th. Five days later, on May 4 we accepted the first offer at 395k. That’s 45k and 50k more, respectively, than the other two agents would have had us list at.”

    Behind every success story there’s always another story … I had a listing on a small street across from a local high school on a very busy intersection; got an MLS call registered offer. The owner couple had an older couple visiting but allowed the MLS agent to present at the table.

    The older couple was introduced to me when I arrived first, and they stayed sitting unobtrusively on the sofa in the open to kitchen floor plan familyroom. We all kept our voices down and there was a small sign back as the offer-agent said her buyers were waiting in her car outside and really wanted the house.

    Her presenting wasn’t helping her buyers in any way shape or form and as frequently happened in my career the offer-agent said something to the effect: “Just sign the offer back, they want your house. I’ve had a long day and they are waiting in my car.” Out she went and was back in five minutes. Firm offer. No contingencies. Almost list price. I had been told listing was overpriced.

    Several years went by and I never gave the particular presentation another thought. Then I got an invitation call to do an evaluation on a property in a rather special location just outside the geographical boundary where my business was dominant, not by much. Normally I would have referred out the call to another in-town agent. Those were the days where my phone never stopped ringing, as I had opened my boutique singular office.

    I always had a map on my wall and I could see this was a tiny ravine pocket property with excellent access to amenities. That always was a keen advantage as always in short supply. I pulled my comps and went to work figuring out an evaluation. I didn’t know agents who had listings for sale not yet sold had also been invited,

    The lay of the land in our city did not accommodate a lot of residential housing ravine lots.

    So I took a chance. I could always turn down the listing if the seller wasn’t prepared to be reasonable. And then the surprise was when I got there and the owner lady who had informed me, no they both wouldn’t be there because her husband had passed away.

    (There are agents who take advantage of such situations.) But the piece de resistance was when she said her husband had insisted when he was alive that when they would ever sell they would hire me. (And I only had been introduced to them briefly at that years-before offer presentation. I had no conversation with them at the time. I had no idea where they lived; they could have been from out of town even.)

    An adult son charged with protecting his mother’s best interest (of course) desperately tried to convince his mum to list with one of the others who had given an opinion of value. He liked one in particular, nothing to do with real estate, he made clear. He much liked her personality and about his age group.

    Even after I had the listing he called to let me know that “I would be working with him and reporting to him.” I had to explain that “he” was not my client but I respected his position and of course he was always welcome to communicate with me but through his mum.

    He demanded I change my marketing strategy and my property “story.” It was “too girly.” I refused of course, telling him that his mum loved it that I was playing the listing to appeal to a buyer who ideally would appreciate the property, what she had done, and maybe not change a thing.

    You would have had to be there to understand the decor that many agents would have insisted be changed in order to receive best price opportunity. Instead, I chose to play up the decor insisting that although limited appeal. A special buyer would appear; no need to touch a thing. There will be someone who falls in love with it all. And that’s what happened (quickly).

    I printed out the property “story,” rolled the feature sheets into cylinders tied with a pretty pink bow matching the special decor (read story), and had the owner lady refill a vase at the front door where there was a tent card saying “take one.” It’s important to get that kind of marketing available pronto because typically a new MLS property draws high attention, particularly a ravine lot. So, I agree; the story needs to describe the house.

    If a property is designated as historical then maybe there’s some history needing telling.

    My marketing was one of the secrets of my success.

    Carolyne’s Clients Speak
    I wish the webmaster had not id’d this link as awards … but scroll down the page … to read clients…

    Carolyne L

  3. The design team and materials used are actually features of a property. Not a story. The past owner may add an intrinsic value ( or even a stigma) , such as any historic property may add. However once again these are facts not stories. Telling stories may work for a kindergarten class but for most multi million dollar homes the story line is thin. May go like this. Knocked down an old bungalow built in the sixties. Built this four thousand square foot new house and now asking 5.5 million. Exciting !
    Just be a slow time for any articles of substance.


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