How realtors can use history to tell stories and win over clients


I had a conversation recently with a realtor friend whose business is located in a very historical town that’s filled with 17th– and 18th-century houses. She was trying to sell a house that dated to the mid-1800s, and she contacted the local historical society for information. She was told, “Oh, we don’t really care about a house that’s so recent. We can’t help you.” Wow! Ouch!

Like many realtors, my friend is not a historian, nor is she a researcher in this area – nor, frankly, does she have the time to spend with her town clerk, public librarian, or register of deeds to find the information she needed.

And yet, she KNEW that being able to tell the story of this house, its early residents, and the development of the neighborhood, and the house’s connection to town history would help her make a sale. The house is not in stellar condition, but we all know that people fall in love with old houses every day – and it’s the story that can push them over the edge. (Luckily, she called me for help.)

This is one way realtors can use history to achieve business goals – once they find someone who can do the research and present them with usable information! – and there are others ways.

Beyond house stories

I am all for businesses becoming involved in local history beyond just writing a check. There needs to be a win-win, mutually strategic investment of time and money between a business and a historical organization, project, or event for this to work well.

Some ideas for you realtors:

• You could co-sponsor a lecture or walking tour on houses in your community – old, modern, restored, whimsical, famous – with your museum or historical society. You share the marketing, co-introduce the event, and as a result you receive attention, attract customers, and increase your stature in the community.

• You could support a local historic preservation project by serving on the committee. People in historical communities do care about preserving their irreplaceable historical treasures. You will be a hero!

• You could partner with your museum or historical society on a display, exhibit, talk, or publication on issues of “home” in your community. What was home life like in the 17th century? The 18th? 19th? 20th? Compared to today? How did people buy homes then and now? These are big questions, and you could actually turn this into an annual signature event or a series of events.

Emotional connection

Realtors are already well on their way to establishing what marketers call an “emotional connection” with clients just by virtue of what you do. There is no more emotional subject than home and family, and especially at a time when houses are being foreclosed upon and people are downsizing, home, neighborhood, and community are of central importance.

People are also emotionally attached to the history of their home, neighborhood, and community, so when you become involved in local history what you do and what people care about meshes perfectly.

Not only that, but by becoming involved in local history you are able to connect with people because of a shared interest and NOT through direct sales – which, as we know, people either ignore or flee from.

Telling the stories of “your” houses is one way to use history to benefit your business, but some of these other methods will make many more people pay attention. You will gain credibility, stature – and customers!