Obstacle:  “The Creepiness Factor”

“After a quick scan of his Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pintarest, and Instagram, here’s what I know:  “Likes” — Chicago Blackhawks, kickboxing, the movie “Die Hard,” and beer.  He meditates, he loves Indian food, and he’s crazy about his dog, Otis.”

–Haley Dunphy, reporting the results of her online reconnaissance on prospective home buyer “Bobby.”

How plausible is it that home Sellers — and their agents, and perhaps their agents’ daughters(??) — will scour the Internet for “scoop” on prospective Buyers?


In fact, it’s already happening.

Just not the way it was depicted on “Flip-Flop,” the most recent episode of sitcom Modern Family.

Claire & Cam Cash In.  Not. 

If you missed it, one of the sub-plots involves what happens after Claire and Cam finish readying their “flip” (rehabbed) home, and Phil puts it on the market.

In a word:  nothing (save for a lowball offer from one of Phil’s rivals).

Finally, 13 year-old Luke turns up a lead — a single guy named “Bobby” — prompting Haley to surf various social media to find out his likes and dislikes (Chicago Blackhawks fan, small dog owner, martial arts enthusiast, rap music follower, etc. ).

social mediaArmed with that info, Phil et al give the home a whirlwind makeover to appeal to Bobby.

It starts out well enough, but eventually backfires when Cam accidentally starts playing Bobby’s favorite rap music.

In quick order, Bobby busts Phil for spying on him and flees, creeped-out by the whole experience.

TV vs. Real-Life

Leaving out the “creepiness” factor, no real-life Realtor would go to those lengths for a mere first showing, because the odds are so long.

In my experience, fewer than 10% of first showings lead to a consummated transaction.

Re-staging a house each time someone requested a first showing would be a colossal waste of time and money.

12_3rd_FloorBy contrast, once a prospective Buyer circles back for a second showing, the odds of an offer (if not a deal) jump dramatically, to 1-in-3, and hit 50% for a third showing (thereafter, the odds start to decrease — typically because the prospect is either ambivalent or simply indecisive).

Once prospective Buyers, uhhh . . . home in on a property, it’s typical for the listing agent (representing the Seller) to open a dialogue with the Buyer’s agent to learn the Buyer’s interests, profile, etc. — and tailor their sales pitch accordingly.

Table Staging for . . One

Technology — including social media — is merely an extension of that process.

I don’t know how to conjure up a virtual six-pack, but already I work with several virtual stagers who know how to put a framed Black Hawks poster on the wall — or any other sports team, for that matter.

Which suggests that the real potential for customized staging is consensual, not surreptitious; and virtual, rather than “analog.”

Exhibit A

In that vein, here’s a real-life example, from just two weeks ago:  my client’s home had an unfinished third level with several potential uses (photo, above).

Based on the neighborhood and the likely demographics of the Buyer — a young family with kids — I had the space virtually staged as an extra Bedroom (photo, below).

51_3rd_Level_BR_Virtual_compressedBut if I’d known that the Buyer was a single bachelor — a “Bobby” — I could just as easily have had the space finished as an Amusement Room or a Home Office.

Or all three, just to cover my bases.

Virtual staging is still in its infancy, with high attendant costs (the virtual photo above cost me $150).

But as it becomes more mainstream and affordable, the “Phil Dunphy’s” of the real estate world will embrace it just as the real-life Ross Kaplan’s already have.  🙂

P.S.:  I handled a deal a couple years ago where my client, the Seller, indignantly rejected what was actually a quite reasonable offer.

His justification?

He’d discovered on Facebook that the Buyer had just been made a partner at his law firm.

In fact, the Buyer ultimately raised his offer and bought the home.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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