BARBARA PEARCE – ‘Time-sensitive’ process

Contrary to what you might think, real estate advertising isn’t the only way to sell houses.

To be more precise, specific house ads won’t sell specific houses and may, in fact, drive a prospective homebuyer from making a purchase, according to one industry veteran.

Typically, a real estate company will place daily or weekly ads in local or regional newspapers, advertising specific houses it has for sale along with various products and services offered. In addition to such advertising, companies will engage in institutional campaigns to build the brand’s image. Those often vary according to the size and scale of the company’s operation.

“Everyone knows that advertising doesn’t sell real estate. We basically just do it to keep sellers happy,” said Barbara Pearce, president of H. Pearce Company Real Estate in North Haven. “We do it in the classified section [of a newspaper] and there is a format to our ads that’s the same every week. Everyone knows what it looks like, but it isn’t there to sell those particular houses – it’s there to get the phones ringing.”

She added, “It really doesn’t matter that we advertise a seller’s house or not, but the sellers don’t get that.”

‘Branding’ Efforts

Pearce said in her opinion, too much specificity in an advertisement could cause prospective homebuyers to talk themselves out of the purchase.

“For example, if an ad were to describe a four-bedroom house with three-and-a-half bathrooms and in-ground pool, a homebuyer might decide that they don’t really want an in-ground pool and they might lose interest. The more details you include in the ad, the more people talk themselves out of buying,” she said.

For that reason, H. Pearce is focusing much of its attention on institutional advertising, or “branding.” The purpose, Pearce said, is to get people interested in purchasing a home through one of her brokers but not necessarily to sell a specific house included in the advertisement.

“The whole process is very time-sensitive,” she said “We trying to drive people to our Web site, which is far more up-to-date and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If someone wants to know about a house they saw in an ad, they might not be able to reach us at our office. But if they go to the Web site, they can learn about the house in the middle of the night if they want to.”

Currently, H. Pearce holds an advertising contract with the New Haven Register, a local daily newspaper, for its print advertising campaign. Pearce noted that often the people most interested in her real estate ads are those who recently bought or sold homes.

“People who just bought [homes] always read the ads because they want to know what other people are paying,” she said. “So you attract people with specific ads, but they may not be the people you want.” She noted that is also the case with open houses, when a percentage of visitors to the open home are actually neighbors.

Aside from the traditional classified print campaign, the company also has been running an institutional campaign throughout the winter. Using the slogan “From one generation to the next,” the company is trying to emphasis that it’s a family business and is community-oriented.

H. Pearce’s institutional campaign utilizes roughly a half-dozen billboards throughout the New Haven area, displaying a commercial building and residential house that the company has recently sold. The house, which is surrounded by a green lawn in what appears to be a rural neighborhood, is actually a “really expensive piece of property in the city of New Haven,” said Pearce. The idea, she said, was to find a house that appeals to as many people as possible. Therefore, the company chose a house that was both rural and urban.

Another goal that the company aims to accomplish with its advertising is point out that it isn’t the Wal-Mart of its industry, according to Pearce.

“I don’t try to pretend we’re the same price as everyone else, because we’re a full-service company,” she said. “We’re not a low-cost provider. We have in-house attorneys, relocation services and public relations. It would be foolish to assume that comes at no cost at all. We have to convey the image that we’re giving something that you can’t just sell by sticking a for-sale sign on your lawn.”

She said that is hard to accomplish with regular property ads, and that advertising agencies often spend a lot of time on ads that are deceptively simple.

One of the billboards will be placed on the “Q” Bridge at the junction of Interstates 91 and 95 – an area that sees hundreds of thousands of people every day.

“The basic philosophy is that if you’re going to do billboards in the summer, you want to put them where people will be sitting,” said Pearce. “Where are more people sitting than those stuck in traffic on the bridge? We can’t get those kinds of hits from newspaper advertising. You’re going to see our billboard every single day.”