Brenda Thompson owns the boutique real estate agency, Special “Finds…” in the mountains of western North Carolina. Just like the properties she sells, her agency is truly one-of-a-kind, with a specialty focus on unique properties with a lot of character. In this interview with Bill Kopatich, Brenda discusses her unique marketing approach to selling unique homes.
Bill: Brenda, thanks for sharing your story here today. You have created a true specialty in the real estate industry – marketing unique properties that you call Special “Finds…”. What qualifies as a Special “Find…”?
Brenda: A Special “Find…” doesn’t have to be expensive; it just has to have its own unique character. We’ve listed everything – underground homes to converted barns, even a French Chateau.
Bill: I know you are in the Asheville, NC area in the North Carolina Mountains. How wide a geographic area do you cover?
Brenda: Right now we’re covering an area within about two hours from Asheville. As long as I feel we can serve our client well, I will take the listing. I’m in the process right now of listing a property that’s two hours away. It’s a Tiny House. I’ve named it “Duality – A Luxury Camping Cottage”. It has every luxury amenity you can imagine; its plumbed and wired internally, but utilities have yet to be connected.
Bill: What led you to focus entirely on unique properties?
Brenda: First of all, every house I’d ever owned, I purchased because of its uniqueness; second, as former director of marketing for the New York Stock Exchange, I wanted to use my marketing expertise to market something interesting. I started out affiliating with the large franchised real estate companies. In those traditional firms, large or small, everyone competes for the same piece of the pie – predominately cookie cutter houses. Since it was often difficult to differentiate one house from another, I couldn’t get excited about marketing them. I could, however, get very excited about houses that had tons of character. I could sell those houses all day; it was fun for me, and I had the marketing expertise to make those properties shine.
At the same time, I had a crazy driving desire to use my poetic voice, so I combined my poetry, my marketing expertise and love for unusual properties and created my company, Special “Finds…” … Properties of Unique Character for Those Choosing Something Out of the Ordinary.
Bill: Are there some common questions that sellers have when they want to sell their unique property?
Brenda: They want to know what I do that’s different than every other agent and my answer is everything. I focus on bringing “life” to the property. I describe it in such as way that a buyer can “mentally” feel what it’s like to live in the house, to be on the property. I bring as many of the senses as I can into my ads – what you see – floors the color of honey; what you hear – a train whistle in the distance; what you smell – fresh mown grass; what you feel – cool slate floors. I use emotional advertising to mentally transport buyers to the property from wherever they are as they read my ad. I want to give a buyer the feeling of what it’s like when you become part of the house – it then becomes a home.
Bill: What else do you do to market your listing differently than other agents?
Brenda: Using poetry, I create a story about each property. I give the property a name. I tell a story from the property’s point of view. I don’t overstate or understate. The facts are in the story, but they are softened. It’s a little complicated, but it comes to me naturally.
Bill: What have been the results of your methods?
Brenda: The effect is that buyers connect emotionally with my listings. The properties have an identity. They stand out and are memorable; they have a life.
Buyers often inquire about our listings by name or by elements of the property’s story, rather than the address. They remember “the house where the seven children grew up”, or “the place where the horses waited for the sound of the sliding barn door”. That tells me they’re connecting with the property and I’m on the right track to getting the listing sold.
Over the last nineteen years we’ve marketed and sold hundreds of Special “Finds…”. We’ve sold four properties just from our advertising without the buyer physically seeing them prior to coming to the closing table. Of course, we provided detailed images and video tours, and had them agree to hold our sellers and Special “Finds…” harmless if they didn’t like the property once they saw it. Each one closed without a hitch.
I’m happy to say that most of our business is by referral. Over the years we’ve sold several of our listings multiple times.
Bill: Do you use the normal Multiple Listing Service for your listing?
Brenda: Absolutely. That will be the most basic thing we do; I take every opportunity to get the word out in our marketing. I use Pinterest quite a bit because Pinterest is a great way to reach a very visual audience. With Pinterest I have a lot of room to describe the little things that stand out in a property.
I just sold one of my listings where the artist/owner had collected pinecones, acorns and other pieces of wood from her property. She then lacquered and attached them to the corners of her windows and doorframes. Using Pinterest, I showcased close-up images, and describe the thought that went into those special touches.
We actually sell a lot of our own listings because we are known for the place to find special properties with a lot of character. Most of my buyers come through our website. People tell me they are addicted to specialfinds.com, where unique properties from all over our area are fed into the site, then sorted by style and type. Tracking visitor usage, I can see some visitors stay on the site, looking at unique properties, for hours at a time.