Realtor Carol-Anne Schneider made fellow agent Michelle Merritt cry.

Merritt says she couldn’t believe all the nice things Schneider wrote about her when she suggested that REM feature her in a story. Usually it’s an agent who requests a story about themselves, not an agent from another brokerage who suggests a colleague be featured.

“After I read her email, I sat there and cried,” Merritt says, more than flattered that someone would speak about her in such glowing terms.

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Schneider, broker at REXIG Realty Investment Group in Oakville, says, “I am fascinated with people and properties (and) I recognize that Michelle’s listings are always presented in a unique and different way than most homes on the market. Michelle curates the story of the home. I see this as an art and gift that she has that truly separates her in the industry.  It intrigued me and I love following her stories from ‘coming soon’ to ‘sold’. In an industry that is so competitive I feel we should support each other and celebrate one’s talent. Michelle is an amazing Realtor. It’s nice to celebrate her success.”

Merritt, a 16-year real estate veteran, started in the business when she was just 21. “I was working at a golf course when someone I was serving offered me a job. I was in the right place at the right time,” she says.

Merritt worked as an unlicensed assistant for two years before she got her real estate license and joined Royal LePage Meadowtowne in Milton.

“I started young and had an interest in interior design. My first listing was fully staged. In 2006, that wasn’t a thing. I showed the house in a ‘model home light’ in order to sell it quicker and for more money,” she says.

Housing development was starting to pick up, after the “big pipe” connected Milton to Lake Ontario and homebuilding in the area boomed. “I had to learn all the new streets and models.”

She had a list of homes and used different colour highlighters to indicate the various housing types. “There was not a single model I didn’t know, or home sale I didn’t know. I had in-depth market knowledge.”

Merritt says she is grateful for what she focused on then, which she did partially because she was young and new. “I needed to be confident that what I was saying was correct. I went overboard.”

For new agents, she says having community knowledge is invaluable. New agents should get to know their areas to ensure success, and it doesn’t cost them anything, she says.

In 2017, Merritt decided it was time for a change. She joined Re/Max Real Estate Centre in Milton and started the Merit Group. She was Re/Max Centre’s No. 1 Individual Realtor in Milton in 2020 and earned a Re/Max Hall of Fame Chairman’s Award 2020.

She doesn’t spend money advertising, relying on “attraction marketing” to set her apart from other agents. She continues to stage and partners with a professional photographer to create magazine-style photos and polished lifestyle videos that will evoke viewers’ emotion.

The sweet spot for clients is 30 to 45-years-old, a demographic she says lives on their phones and social media. “So I meet the buyers where they are.”

Her photography attracts attention – people share the photos and even contact her to ask where they can source items in the pictures. “That shows they’re paying attention. It’s more than just another listing. I reach a larger than traditional audience.”

Then, best of all, even those not currently buying or selling a home will say, “If I ever sell, I’ll sell with you,” she says. “There’s so much competition, to have that is incredible. People see what I do and want to work with me. That’s how I justify the dollars spent. It’s attraction lead generation.”

She also doesn’t offer staging packages, instead creating plans on a case-by-case basis. “We’re not a conveyor belt, not one size fits all.”

She and a stager go room by room and create a list of tasks – whether repainting is necessary and what items and furniture need to be packed up and removed in preparation for the staging. “I see the value in staging, but owners have busy lives,” Merritt says. So she came up with a plan. The movers bring staging furniture and move the client’s furniture out at the same time and store the pieces at the Merit Group warehouse. “We’re creating a solution, not roadblocks.”

Owners are given a list of tasks, for example repainting a room or emptying drawers and cupboards in preparation to move furniture to storage.

She supplies a paint colour and owners can choose to do the work themselves or hire from her group of service providers.

If the task of emptying furniture seems too great, it helps to remind owners of the end goal.

“No one lives like that (staged houses). We sympathize. It can be overwhelming for some, but communication diffuses that feeling, she says.  “We give the owners small tangible tasks and that allows them to focus.”

Merritt says sellers have to pack anyway but packing early for staging can make them money. “If it’s their primary residence, a lot of extra money can be made tax-free if they put a little sweat equity in now.”

Once the owners are finished with their tasks, Merritt’s team moves in and within 48 hours, the house is deep cleaned and staged.

When the house is ready, she says, “Many owners say, ‘This is incredible. I don’t want to move any more.’ Then they laugh. It’s incredible to show people their space in a different light.”

As a result, Merritt says her listings are shared and commented on exponentially more than regular listings.

Merritt and Schneider met at a conference about five years ago. “Each home has a story and Michelle tells that through her digital marketing. Her listings sell for top dollar time and time again, and did so even in markets with little competition,” Schneider says. “Michelle takes clients on a journey from pre-listing to sold that is like no other.”

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