While the right asking price and a buyer's ability to secure bank financing are key to selling your house, generating a lot of traffic will increase your odds of success in this real estate market. That's why some sellers and agents are pushing the envelope to entice buyers and create buzz.
"We've seen sellers resort to some pretty creative moves and high-profile advertising," says John Viteritti, a licensed broker, Realtor, and real estate lecturer at Long Island University's School of Continuing Education, Riverhead campus. "It's a buyer's market, and we have to be clever and draw attention to our listings."
What follows are some unusual tactics sure to attract attention:
1. RECRUIT A DEAD CELEBRITY
Get a life-size cardboard cutout of Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley or Charlie Chaplin, just to name a few, place it in your living room and snap a photo for your online listing, suggests Barbara Corcoran, president of Barbara Corcoran Inc. Corcoran -- a real estate mogul who founded The Corcoran Group, has a home on Fire Island, is the star of ABC's reality TV show "Shark Tank" and is a real estate contributor to NBC's "Today" show -- says it gets people talking; it also gets them to stop and notice your living room when they get tired of browsing through dozens of online photos. It can be the bait that draws traffic, she says. The cutouts are widely available online for about $30 and up at sites such as elifesize.com.
2. HOLD A JOINT OPEN HOUSE
"If you really want to get attention, join hands with your competition," advises Corcoran. Ask your agent to organize a bunch of sellers and have an open house on the same morning. "It pulls out so many people because of its convenience that a lot more houses often end up getting sold," Corcoran says. And it's a marketing technique that not too many agents use, she notes.
3. GET A SIGN
Put a huge For Sale banner on your house, says Tom Hug, owner of Hug Real Estate in Point Lookout. You can design such a banner from 3 feet to 8 feet online, with a picture of your house, and contact information. But be sure to check with your town regarding any signage restrictions. Prices start at $13.99 at sites such as vistaprint.com.
4. GO FOR BIG AD TIME
Ask your Realtor to promote your sale on a neighborhood billboard: traditional or electronic, highway or transit billboards, billboards in malls and on kiosks, or on park benches suggests Hug. Prices vary, but may be lower than you think. Production costs are about $35 to $5,000, or $1 per square foot, but do not include rental fees, which are usually month-to-month for a few hundred dollars depending on area traffic and billboard size.
To attract attention to some of his listings, Hug says he has used a 12-foot blimp that says "OPEN HOUSE" that is attached to the ground in front of properties for sale. "And every summer I run air banners from Brookhaven Airport to Atlantic Beach to advertise.
"It all creates excitement and gets my listings out there," he says.
5. LOOK TO HOLIDAYS FOR HELP
To increase traffic at one of her listings, Karin Hendricks of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Smithtown says she will be giving out Halloween candy at her open house this weekend and on Halloween to keep the kids happy. And Cheryl Goldman of Shawn Elliott Luxury Homes & Estates in Woodbury will be giving away free turkeys at an open house she's throwing for Thanksgiving. "For Christmas, I'm going to hire a Santa and have photos taken with the kids who come along with their parents," says Goldman. Prospective buyers need incentives to go house-hunting -- especially during the winter months, she says.
6. HOST A GARAGE SALE
But do it the same day as your open house to increase traffic, suggests Bernard Caprera of Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Plainview. "Because we have the For Sale sign on the property, we get questions about the house, and I'm ready to hand out fliers and show the property to anyone interested -- it may be for themselves or someone they know," he says. "You never know how you can generate a lead." He notes that people who already live in a neighborhood are often its best promoters.
7. DO A CHARITABLE EVENT
A civic-minded Realtor may draw more clients. "I've asked buyers to bring cans of food to open houses for Long Island Cares, the Harry Chapin Food Bank. I'll even turn an open house into an art show by bringing in stacks of artwork for sale and giving a portion to a local charity that supports the arts," says Susan Miller of Realty Connect USA, based in Huntington.
8. PROVIDE SUSTENANCE
Looking for a home can be exhausting -- especially with kids in tow -- and buyers welcome a little energy and distraction, says Stephanie Cullum of Coach Realtors in Garden City. "One tactic that I've found fosters good will and is a good reminder about the house is handing out candy bars and water bottles with pictures of the house for sale as the wrapper, along with a color brochure and floor plan of the property." Corcoran says she is a fan of posting a latte cart in front of an open house. "It's a gimmick, but clever, because you're getting people's attention," she says.