How to market long-held homes

Marketing and selling a property that has been in the one family for decades is anything but a run-of-the-mill listing. It takes patience, empathy and a commitment to guiding your vendor through what is likely an emotional process. Here, three agents tell Kylie Dulhunty how they listed and marketed long-held family homes – including that of Aussie cricket legend Sir Donald Bradman.

Sir Donald Bradman is widely regarded as the greatest batsman ever to hold a cricket bat, with the man affectionately nicknamed “The Don” holding a test batting average of 99.94.

One might think a real estate agent tasked with selling the knighted Australian batsman’s Crafers West weekender in South Australia would relish the chance to generate significant personal brand awareness.

But for Raine & Horne Rural SA Specialist Paul Clifford, selling the cricketing great’s stone family hideaway is more a lesson in relationship building, discretion and going the extra mile for your clients.

When the five-bedroom property on 22 acres sold in November last year, it had been 62 years since Bradman, and his son John, bought the circa 1830s home.

Paul says the vendor, John’s wife, was incredibly private and didn’t want to make a fuss about the property’s famous former owner.

“In the end, we decided it wasn’t something we could ignore, and while we didn’t want to play the Bradman card too much, if we tried to hide it, it would seem very unusual,” he says.

“So we said we’d allow one snippet, a piece in Saturday’s (Adelaide) Advertiser, and that’s it, we leave it alone because I had news crews contacting me wanting me to do a piece for the Sunday night news.

“As much as it would have been fantastic for me and for exposure, I had to say, ‘Thanks, but no thanks’.

“No one could understand it, and there were people going, ‘Wow, this could make you a lot more money,’ but it just wasn’t on their (the vendor) agenda to do that.”

Paul admitted it was a tricky situation to navigate, but in the end he said the vendor’s wishes had to 100 per cent come first.

“We decided to sell it on its own merits,” he says.

“As an agent, it’s about being really respectful.”

As well as having to handle lots of interest from the media, Paul says he’s also had to navigate cricket fans eager to get a look at their hero’s property.

Table Top Homestead on the banks of Lake Hume. Picture: Elders Albury

That meant carefully dissecting who were genuine buyers and who were fans.

“We wanted to sell it and maximise the full potential of the property, but we didn’t want to treat the property inspections as a museum tour for cricket fanatics or Bradman fans,” Paul explains.

Paul noted that he had to be quite pointed when fielding calls about the property and specifically ask buyers what stage of the property journey they were at, including what their position was, if they needed to sell first and then buy or whether they were cash buyers.

“I had to say, ‘We have a very private family here… so we need to know that people are the real deal when it comes to the buying public’,” he says.

“I had to be blunt, as nicely as I could be, because if we had an open for inspection there, we would have had 1000 people there.”

Instead, Paul spent up to six hours at the property to show genuine buyers through at 45-minute intervals.

Paul says he didn’t have to pitch for the listing as he had a strong relationship with the vendor’s son, and knew they wanted an agent that appreciated the complexities that come with selling a property such as Bradman’s.

In Sydney, McGrath Lindfield’s James Sutton was tasked with selling one of the oldest homes in Roseville, and one that had been in the vendor’s family for 73 years.

James says a lot of intricate, delicate work went into managing the sale of the Circa 1897 property.

“You had to be very mindful of the emotional element to the sale, particularly for the vendors,” he explains.

“Our vendor grew up in the home… he spent all of his childhood there, so there were a lot of memories.

“You have to be very mindful of the fact that it’s not just a house sale, it’s closing off a part of your life.”

James says it was important to the vendor to find an agent that appreciated the Roseville Ave property for its history and would work to find, not just any buyer, but the right buyer.

“We wanted to find a purchaser who also loved the home for its history and wanted to keep the original parts of the home and keep that history alive, but also modernise parts of it and keep it going for the next 100 years,” he says.

James says a lot of work went into developing the listing presentation for the property, including engaging a heritage architect to design what the property could look like while retaining all of its original period features.

“Our pitch was all about how we didn’t want to take away from what the home is today, but if we want to achieve the sorts of numbers we want, then this is what families need to see, so let’s provide them with that solution,” he says.

“We’re doing it sympathetically, we’re doing it with you (the vendor) in mind, and we’re doing it with the heritage and history of the home in mind.”

The Roseville home was built in 1897. Picture: McGrath Lindfield.

James says the home had previously been on the market with another agent, but with his approach, the home’s heritage features were showcased in the marketing.

A team of specialists were brought in to prepare the house for photographs and video, which included repairing and revitalising ceiling roses, hardwood floors and marble mantelpieces.

James says REA Group had also assisted with detailed data to help target the right buyers.

“We looked back over a year and found buyers who inquired on properties north of $10 million and where they come from and layer that in on top of buyers who inquire on heritage and character homes in the mid-North Shore,” he says.

“Then REA helped us target market those regions where it was more likely than not that we’d find a buyer.”

In regional NSW, Elders Albury agent Henry McKinnon sold Table Top Homestead on the banks of Lake Hume, which the vendors had purchased in 1973.

He says the sale of the Circa 1880s homestead was in the pipeline for about four to five years, and it was critical that the sale was handled with care due to the history of the property and the emotional connection the owners had to it.

“We also had a slightly different marketing strategy with this home,” Henry says.

“You spend a bit more on the marketing to give it the respect it deserves and to really try to capture every buyer in the market.

“We put it in The Border Mail, The Weekly Times and The Land; we put it on Domain and Domain Dream Homes so we were in the Sydney Morning Herald and the AFR (Australian Financial Review) on the weekends, to capture the city market outside of Sydney.

“We also used the online portals of realestate.com.au and Domain.” 

The property, which included the homestead on a 24ha parcel of land, along with two other lots of just over 100ha each, sold prior to auction for an undisclosed price.

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Deputy Editor at Elite Agent.