The former CEO of Realtor.com, named by the National Association of Realtors® as one of the Industry’s 25 most influential thought leaders, and founder of TownAdvisor.com talks about the importance of putting your town on the map.
Life Beyond The Listing — A Home Seller’s Path To Greater Value
“There are 8 million stories in the Naked City… this has been one of them…”
This was the iconic quote that baby boomers routinely heard decades ago at the conclusion of each episode of the then highly popular TV show Naked City.
These memorable words informed viewers that each life within “Gotham City” was deserving of having its own story shared. In 2015 my questions are: do the approximately one thousand towns and small cities within metropolitan NY also deserve having their story told, and are individual home values influenced by how communities are professionally narrated and marketed?
THE BENEFITS OF TOWN TRANSPARENCY & PROMOTION
Who benefits most when town and city information becomes more transparent, and when communities become thoroughly showcased? In general, every town or small city economically benefits when the optimum appeal of their community is celebrated.
Ultimately, by maximizing the lifestyle appeal of these exurbia, suburban, and fringe markets surrounding major cities, you strategically countervail, on behalf of local home sellers, an emerging demographic trend, one that reveals a shift from a suburban to an urban lifestyle preference. Specifically this demographic trend unveils how real estate consumers are opting for lifestyles that sport greater pedestrian and transportation friendliness along with more substantial cultural and employment convenience.
This trend is captured in books carrying foreboding titles that reinforce my assertion that towns, suburbs, and small cities need to be better promoted, as witnessed by these following book covers: The End of Suburbs, The Death of the American Dream, and The Death of the Fringe Suburb. Fortunately, most metropolitan NY towns provide town/city centers, abundant employment opportunities, excellent transportation services, significant culture, and impressive educational resources. Conversely, a credible source for contextualized and robust content pertaining to the all-important selection process of choosing the right city, town, or neighborhood is a far less evolved and long overdue process.
It was inevitable that both buyers and home-sellers would insist that the marketing of homes for sale should extend to include comprehensive community-based perspectives. It is not really all that surprising when, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, consumers are less likely to compromise when selecting the appropriate city, town, or neighborhood than when choosing their individual home.
The most important question is this: whose job is it to comprehensively present the lifestyle qualities of each town and small city to prospective buyers and businesses? The creation of TownAdvisor.com requires collaboration in the form of contributed and relevant content in order to fully capture and convey each community’s distinct essence—and it requires a village. Participants and sources must include a combination of publically available, organic, consumer-generated and local professional real estate contextual data, knowledge and wisdom. The combination of this material is dedicated to capturing that which distinguishes one town or county from another.
As a start-up, most of the towns represented on the site, while providing robust information, are not at the level yet of our exclusively hosted member communities such as Fairfield, Westport, and Greenwich, CT; Port Washington and Yorktown, NY; or Madison, Summit, and Chatham, NJ. These communities represent what will be the prototypical presentation of all of our towns as Town Advisor grows.
This past month, TownAdvisor.com introduced an online portal that connects to towns and cities across America as part of our expedition (with apologies to General Electric) to bring good towns to life. Beyond featuring community information, consumer and real estate perspectives, and links to homes for sale, Town Advisor also provides created content that pertains to those who are moving with children and/or pets. It also provides information for buyers who want to fine-tune their lifestyle needs, in order to determine whether or not they are a match for a particular town (sort of like a match.com for town selection).
This collective task is similar to how the marketing of homes also represents a shared experience involving home sellers, public information, and real estate professionals, all of which converge to dispense necessary and relevant property information.
TownAdvisor.com readily concedes that when it comes to searching for individual property information, websites like realtor.com, Trulia, Zillow, and content-rich brokerage sites found throughout metropolitan NY are where consumers are conditioned to search.
TOWNS OF ALL SIZES COMPETE, JUST LIKE HOMES FOR SALE
Towns compete against other towns and small cities. Even the world’s most illustrious cities find themselves in competition. This point is perhaps best exemplified in the following: when former Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, was asked on Meet The Press what posed the greatest threat to the future prosperity of New York, his immediate response was “…that would be London.” While New York has the budget to mount business development, tourism, and I Love New York style campaigns that, without question, influenced the home values of all Manhattanites, most smaller towns and cities are not as vigilant concerning the concept of town brand management.
While town brand management may never be fully accomplished for all occasions, when buyers are considering a particular town among multiple choices, the way in which a real estate professional presents the fabric and essence of a home seller’s community becomes both monumentally important and revealing. One must also consider marketing sophistication and the commitment level of the selected real estate professional.
A world-class level of integrated marketing—where a home and town are contextually offered up in the most compelling fashion—should not be a professional performance one takes for granted. Whereas “organized real estate” has established an infrastructure from MLS to IDX (this is an online MLS) that provides a monumental foundation for the marketing of all properties while simultaneously lifting the marketing effectiveness of all real estate professionals, the same collectivized capability cannot be found regarding the marketing of the other half of the lifestyle equation—and that is the town, city, or neighborhood.
While there is a so-called “home caravan” enabling real estate professionals to unite and share information and knowledge regarding the sale of individual properties new to the market, towns, which are always on the market, do not command equal forensic attention in the form of “town caravans.” Therefore it takes the creative heavy lifting of a real estate professional possessing a pronounced predisposition towards taking it upon him or herself to essentially create and develop the proper narrative necessary to promulgate community distinctiveness.
This is not to say that any of what I am asserting is news to real estate professionals. Instead, it’s the execution of this knowledge that matters most. By way of example, of what results when awareness and execution merge, would be Fairfield County’s Julie Vanderblue, President of The Higgins Group and CEO of the Vanderblue team. While certainly not the only example of superb marketing, particularly that of homes, towns, and the county as an arresting lifestyle package, Julie exemplifies what happens when remarkable property promotion and community celebration converge.
During my tenure as CEO of realtor.com, I remember my northeast service manager coming into my California office and exclaiming, “Allan, you’ve got to see how this agent in Fairfield County, Julie Vanderblue markets her towns as part of her overall marketing system.” We monitored the marketing behavior of agents on a wide scale and my associate’s reaction was due to how unusual Julie’s approach was. A search of Fairfield county towns like Fairfield, Westport, Weston, Norwalk Bridgeport, and Trumbull in TownAdvisor.com shows Julie and her team uniquely marketing these compelling communities.
I have studied real estate professional practices throughout America for many years and I have found that the professionals serving home sellers throughout the entire metropolitan NY region to be the most advanced and sophisticated in their marketing as exists anywhere in the country. Most appreciate that when buyers learn the full story of a particular town they are more likely to want to move there. This sharing of information correspondingly benefits home sellers, the economy, the region, and, of course, the real estate professional.
On a personal note, TownAdvisor.com represents the greatest joy of my professional career. Being born and raised in New England with such a notable heritage regarding the importance of town and community, it gives me immense gratification in being able to lead a company that honors the many towns across the country that Americans call their home.