Can the Cookie-Cutter Strategy: Clever Ways to Sell Unique Real Estate

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Unique real estate, whether an avant-garde architectural masterpiece, a home with historical significance, or a property in an unparalleled location, holds a special place in the real estate market. You fell in love with your unique home for its one-of-a-kind features, so why isn’t it selling?

Unfortunately, what led you to purchase your property might be the same elements holding it back. Unique homes captivate with their individuality, but selling them requires a different approach. Throw in a few odd quirks or simple flaws, and it can start to feel like you’ll never get the home you love off of your hands.

Unlike conventional homes that fit neatly into market standards and comparables, unique homes demand a bespoke selling strategy, tailored marketing plan, and a keen understanding of the property’s distinct appeal.

Selling a Unique Home? Get Top Results With a Top Agent

HomeLight can connect you with a top-performing, trusted agent in your market. We analyze over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews to determine which agent is best for you based on your needs.

Fortunately, we’ve done a little homework to create a guide that will help you sell that unique home of yours.

We spoke to some of the best real estate agents in the country and asked for their best tips on how to price a unique house appropriately and how to put together a targeted marketing strategy that leans into your home’s unique character. They came back with a clever approach to addressing your home’s quirks. Pair this advice with the help of a top-notch agent and you’ll soon have a buyer who’ll consider your home to be a once-in-a-lifetime find.

A HomeLight infographic about how to sell unique real estate.

Know what makes your home a piece of unique real estate

No matter how unique your home is, it will still fall into a specific “unique home” category. There’s always something that ties your house to other comparable properties.

For properties like The Flintstone House and The Whiteacre Residence, it’s the quirky architectural design that makes the home special.

High-end homes get their one-of-a-kind qualities from the luxury features that few houses have. It might be the cold-plunge pool or spa amenities (like a private massage room) found in Sotheby’s International Realty’s 2023 Luxury Outlook report, Or maybe your home has unparalleled views, like these waterfront properties.

For historical home owners, it’s the preservation of the past that matters. Maybe you’ve modernized your old-fashioned home, choosing to preserve only a few key vintage features, as did the owners of these converted churches listed on Dwell. Or your historic home is a perfect picture of the past, like this circa 1760, National Register-listed Glasgow house in Cambridge, Maryland.

Michael Pallares, a top real estate agent in Boston, who sells properties more than 62% quicker than the average agent in his market, has firsthand experience selling one-of-a-kind properties:

“One of the homes I sold a couple of years ago was built in 1915 by a film producer from California when the film industry was just starting on the west coast. He was a studio owner and a film producer, but he had roots in New England.”

Along with its 100-year-old history and uncommon provenance, this home’s Spanish architecture stood out amongst the traditional Colonial, Georgian and Federal styles typically found around Boston. He knew it was special and leaned into it when he showed it to prospective buyers.

The right spin can turn any outlier into a positive feature. Pinpointing the categories that your unique home fits into is the first step in nailing down the appropriate asking price for your property.

Price your unique home right

“It’s almost like appraising an antique,” Pallares says about the process of assessing a unique home’s value. Knowing your home’s architectural era and origin story provide the kinds of details unique home buyers are willing to pay for.

If you’re convinced your unique home has a secret past, you might even dig into old government records, vintage newspapers or your local historical society to uncover its untold story. Knowing a home’s history allows the seller to look beyond the property’s functionality and assign a dollar figure to uncommon features.

The problem is, if you only look at your home’s worth with the eyes of an antique lover, chances are you’ll overvalue its rarity and price yourself right out of the market. Overpriced properties stay on the market for much longer than they should. The longer a listing lingers, the lower the final selling price, as buyers become wary over the reasons for a property’s slow sale.

Luckily, no matter how ordinary or extraordinary the house, every property has three elements in common:

You can use these three characteristics to find a solid starting point and begin to determine a fair price for your home.

That’s how Pallares determined the asking price for the Spanish mansion in Boston. “The first thing I did was a basic search looking for comparable properties of the same size in the neighborhood; that gave me a baseline,” he said. “Then I could go up from there or down from there depending upon the condition and desirability of the home.”

Once he had that baseline, Pallares factored in the estate’s Latin casita charm and over-the-top features like the grand staircase in the enormous foyer. He then balanced that by acknowledging the expensive custom repairs the home required to help his seller settle on a reasonable price that still allowed for plenty of profit.

For sellers in search of the right real estate agent to list with, it helps to have a sensible ballpark figure in mind when interviewing. Online home value estimator tools, like HomeLight’s own Home Value Estimator, allow sellers to speak confidently about their asking price expectations (even though they’re not always very accurate).

Address your home’s unique flaws with frankness

No matter how spectacular the property is, every home has its flaws. For unique homes, those eye-catching assets can often be drawbacks as well. Rock walls in cave homes like the Chulo Canyon House may require special treatment to keep them from cracking or to deal with moisture. Homes with extensive grounds will likely require a team of greens-keepers to maintain their picturesque state.

The old construction of historic homes rarely meets modern building codes and may require extensive repair, such as the expense of replacing out-of-date wiring. These properties are often subject to restrictions by local historical societies that regulate the type and look of renovations, such as restricting exterior paint colors to a historically accurate palette.

With Pallares’ Spanish property, it was the beautiful ceramic tile roof that needed work. “Those were individually laid tiles on the roof, so for each one that was broken, a new one would have to be created and then put in — so it was going to be very expensive to fix the roof.”

Chances are that buyers in the market for a unique home are aware and ready to handle the unusual challenges that come with quirky properties, so it’s always smart to address your home’s peculiarities and flaws from the get go.

Pallares accomplishes this by providing sellers with a pre-listing inspection to share with potential buyers. This eliminates the likelihood of any surprise repairs being uncovered during the closing process that buyers can use to renegotiate the price or walk away from the deal.

As Pallares advises his clients, “I’m going to tell buyers that you as home sellers have full confidence in the property itself because you had a full top to bottom home inspection done by a professional home inspection team prior to putting it on the market, and you addressed these issues.”

Use a tailored marketing strategy

Unique homes require out-of-the-box marketing strategies that target niche buyers. Relying on a standard listing alone simply isn’t enough to get the word out as to why your home is worth the price you’re asking.

When a property is truly special, top realtors work to ensure all marketing strategies and materials are up to the quality standards of the home. “Every point of contact that buyers come across for a house has to be consistent, engaging and stellar,” says Pallares. “The marketing materials have to represent the house.”

This means that the stats for a multi-million dollar mansion shouldn’t be printed on standard copy paper. High-end homes require high-end advertising, such as a slick, multi-panel brochure and a standalone website featuring professional photographs of the property.

Some agents may take out advertisements in a national newspaper like The Wall Street Journal and arrange by-invitation-only open houses. For Pallares, his strategy included a private party for neighbors and local brokers to launch his campaign to attract the right buyer for his Spanish mansion.

“We had a local wine shop owner do a wine tasting with all the top Spanish wines, guitar players playing Spanish music and a professional photographer. And because the brokers had so much fun, we had a ton of people at the first public open house,” he recalls. “The word got out and the house sold pretty fast compared to what we had anticipated.”

Your home’s uniqueness may be key in scoring a little free publicity, too. Realtors with the right connections know how to get one-of-a-kind homes featured in popular real estate magazines and in videos on HGTV. They’ll also know when it’s advisable to list your home on luxury websites, like Sotheby’s Realty that caters to international buyers.

Leave your unique home in good hands

Selling a unique property is a bit like sending a child off to college. The best way to let go when it’s time to move on is to ensure that you’re leaving your home in good hands.

While there’s no way to guarantee the fate of your home once it’s no longer yours, you can ease your mind by requesting that all offers be accompanied by a letter to help you vet the buyers. For buyers, a personalized letter that tells a little about who you are and why you love the seller’s property is the extra effort that might just get your offer accepted.

Connect with a Top Agent to Sell Your Luxury Home

HomeLight data shows that the top 5% of real estate agents across the U.S. sell homes for as much as 10% more than the average agent. To make the most of the sale of your luxury home, connect with a top-performing agent in your area.

Pallares recalls a moment when a buyer’s letter made all the difference to his seller: “I had a situation where we had eighteen offers, and the top offer was a little over $100,000 above the asking price. When I sat down with my seller, she chose the second-highest offer. And I was like why? Because it killed me. And she said, ‘This young lady wrote a letter, and she’s a special education teacher. And the letter is so heartfelt, I want to give it to her.’ And so that property went to her.”

Sell your unique home with confidence

The process of selling an unusual home is often just as unique as the property itself. While this may seem daunting at first, with proper pricing, a forthrightness about flaws, a clever marketing strategy and an excellent agent can ensure that your unique home goes to a buyer who’ll love it just as much as you do.

Unique real estate FAQ

Header Image Source: (iAlicante Mediterranean Homes/ Unsplash)