The Clues to a Great Real Estate Story

People love stories. Whether you’re a young child cuddled up in a blanket by Mom’s bedside, sitting around a smoky campfire with friends, or one of the millions of people who flock to the movies each year, we all enjoy being entertained by a good story. As the writer and filmmaker best known for his work on “Toy Story” and “WALL-E”, Andrew Stanton (@andrewstanton) knows a thing or two about storytelling. The following TED Talk – which I highly recommend watching if only for the opening monologue – got me thinking about the presence of story in real estate search (or lack thereof).

When it comes to property search,  is our search for a specific criteria (size, price, type) OR are there less tangible variables we seek in a home? Are we (the real estate industry at large) helping customers find a piece of artwork in its complete form or an empty canvas to create future memories? What is the role of story in search??

“Storytelling without dialogue. It’s the purest form of cinematic storytelling. It’s the most inclusive approach you can take. It confirmed something I really had a hunch on, is that the audience actually wants to work for their meal. They just don’t want to know that they’re doing that. That’s your job as a storyteller, is to hide the fact that you’re making them work for their meal.” - Andrew Stanton


Deciding where to live is both a left and right brained decision making process. Fortunately for the left brain (logic), the entire online search experience has become far more robust and easier. Simply determine the qualities  (i.e. # of bedrooms/baths, price, etc.) you’re looking for in a home > apply those criteria to specific search on Move, Trulia, Zillow or brokerage site > wade though hundreds of listings until you find a few you want to visit for closer inspection.

However a ‘home’ extends far beyond the wood, drywall, brick and/or stone that surround and protects it. Your home becomes a backdrop for your life, a ‘setting’ for the thousands of stories waiting to unfold into your future. In this sense the final decision (largely visceral) rests with the right brain. Photos, demographics, home values  and other static information are quite useful for the logic based portion of your decision, but do little to help us visualize what it might feel like to actually live somewhere.

We’re born problem solvers. We’re compelled to deduce and to deduct, because that’s what we do in real life. It’s this well-organized absence of information that draws us in. There’s a reason that we’re all attracted to an infant or a puppy. It’s not just that they’re damn cute; it’s because they can’t completely express what they’re thinking and what their intentions are. And it’s like a magnet. We can’t stop ourselves from wanting to complete the sentence and fill it in.” - Andrew Stanton

This is where video shines. Filmmakers are natural storytellers. Through video they can not only help you (agent/seller) show what’s present, but help us (buyer/renter) imagine what’s possible. And when it comes to real estate search, isn’t helping the viewer picture their story the greatest story of them all?


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