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The value of visuals is undeniable when it comes to selling real estate. When used in ads, brochures, flyers, and presentations, photos of homes can create excitement in prospective buyers in a way that mere words never could. But what about more artistic renderings of homes, such as portraits and sketches? These, too, have the potential to spur clients' interest, according to one Houston realtor.
A distinctive touch
Bryan K. Williams came on board at Coldwell Banker/Swilley-Hudson last May, after leaving a rival firm of the brokerage. Soon after his arrival, Williams decided he wanted to get the word out and "create a positive image" of his new alliance. He hired a public relations firm to design a postcard for a mailing campaign. The postcard combined the realtor's photo - a standard element in agents' promotional materials - with another image that was less typical. Several years before, the brokerage's then-owner, Catherine Swilley, had commissioned local artist Jean Steinhardt to create a portrait of the firm's headquarters. Williams felt that the pen-and-ink portrait would be the perfect complement to his own image for the postcard. "We have a wonderful office," Williams explains. "It's a two-story Victorian home, with dark woodwork, wood floors," and a host of period touches, including a front door with a transom and glass side panels. "It's very inviting," he says. The building is also a familiar sight to area residents. "Most people know our office, because we've been in the area for 25 years," says Williams. Using the pen-and-ink house portrait helped create a distinctive look for the postcard, adding to its impact, Williams believes. "It stands out partly because it's a drawing, not a photo," he says. "That makes it unique."
Creating a "keeper"
The postcard, which bears the line "Two names you can trust: Bryan K. Williams and Coldwell Banker/Swilley-Hudson," was a great success. "I had thousands printed up, and everyone loved it," reports Williams. He has since incorporated the same design into the full-page ads he has run in local magazines. Williams notes that an artistic element such as a house portrait increases the chances of promotional materials being saved and looked at repeatedly, as recipients may keep the image on their desks or post it on their refrigerators. Anything that extends the life span of a mailing is a plus, he adds, especially when one hopes to attract listings from sellers. "They may not be ready to sell when they get the card, but they might be ready three months down the road," he says. "You've got to keep your name in front of them." The realtor is a believer in mailings in general. "They're the best and least expensive form of advertising you can do," Williams says. He sends out postcard mailings twice a month, noting properties he has recently sold or just listed. This type of communication "shows your productivity and gives people information on what's happening in the marketplace," he says.
Options for every budget
The medium and format you choose for a house portrait can vary, as will the cost. Steinhardt, the Houston artist who executed the office portrait for Swilley-Hudson, charges rates beginning at $330 for a pen-and-ink rendering of a house. This is a highly detailed work of art that will lend itself well to reproduction for branding and promotional purposes (see sidebar). Steinhardt also offers a "quick sketch" of a home as a lower-priced ($50) alternative. "A quick sketch doesn't have as much detail as a pen-and-ink portrait," he says, "but it has enough to project a sense of warmth and welcome, and the personality of the house." Steinhardt's complete list of offerings and prices can be found at his website: www.jeansteinhardt.com; . Visitors to the site can also view samples of his works in each medium offered, to get a better idea of what to expect from a house portrait.
Bryan K. Williams
What's Your Firm's Artistic Potential?
Artist Jean Steinhardt, who has specialized in house portraits for 20 years, notes that postcard mailings are just one of the ways in which renderings of homes can be used. Other possibilities include: p>
* Closing gifts: A house portrait given to a buyer at or just after the closing can be a step toward an ongoing relationship with that client. The buyer will most likely display the portrait in his new home, and "every time he looks at it, he'll think of you," Steinhardt says. The picture will also help spread your name and good reputation to everyone who visits the home as they remark on it and the buyer tells them who gave him this one-of-a-kind gift.
* Team and morale builders: You can reproduce the portrait of your brokerage on T-shirts, mugs, etc., and distribute these items to agents at your sales meetings. Your agents will be reminded of their professional "home" every time they wear or use these gifts.
* Brokerage identity: You can incorporate either a portrait of your brokerage itself or an image of one of your typical properties into your company letterhead or logo. This visual will become linked with your business name in the minds of everyone who receives a mailing from you or sees one of your ads.