Last month, a real estate listing in Baltimore, Maryland became the talk of the internet for the home’s very specific design aesthetic. If you haven’t seen the pictures yet, I won’t ruin it for you. But you should definitely check them out before reading the rest of this post.

While the photos made for an amusing break from the work of the day, a follow-up interview with real estate broker Matt Godbey by left an even bigger impression. Godbey is the broker selling the house and his question and answer session with Slate’s Dan Kois is a masterclass in message discipline. Take a few moments to read it then continue with the analysis below.

The Interview

Kois, the interviewer, opens the piece by sharing a picture of the bedroom – one of the most customized rooms in the house – and describes the home’s design aesthetic as ‘sexy funeral goth’. That would be hard for most realtors to come back from, but not Godbey.

First, Godbey humanizes the seller and the home. When Kois asks if not toning down the aesthetic of the home was an active choice to embrace it, Godbey suggests that the seller took his advice as a long-time agent and removed some of the more customized elements of the home. Godbey then suggests that the seller is not weird but just a fan of horror movies, something he and many members of the public also enjoy from time to time. He also mentions how hard the seller works at his day job and all the work he put into making sure the home would be ready for its next owner. And he closes by mentioning the nonstop showings he’s had for the house already.

In one quick answer, Godbey has established his own expertise, built bridges between the seller and potential new owners, and established what a hot commodity the home is within the broader market.

Next Godbey talks about the selling features of the house, deftly sidestepping Kois’ comments about the design aesthetic along the way, and makes the case for the house as a diamond in the rough in that neighbourhood in particular because of its double-wide driveway, two-car garage, and custom built outdoor entertaining space. He makes another strong sell for the interior of the home, highlighting the spacious loft-style bedroom and the ease with which it could be converted into two bedrooms, instantly upgrading the value of the home.

Kois eventually comes out and asks if the seller is a vampire. Godbey responds expertly by highlighting the first rule of real estate – discuss the property, not the people. As Godbey rightly points out, real estate is all about the home and who might live there next, not who is moving on to other pastures. But he also goes one step further by highlighting an important ethical element of real estate: housing discrimination is real and focusing on the people can lead to unfair treatment. These are back-to-back slam dunks for Godbey, who has not only showed he is laser focused on the job at hand but that he has a strong moral compass when it comes to his work.

Kois ends the interview by asking if a Raiders football aesthetic will fly with buyers in Baltimore, home of the Ravens. Godbey offers one more excellent answer when he posits that the area is transient and the people cheer for a number of teams. He even correctly drops the racial slur from neighbouring Washington’s NFL team when providing his answer.

The Takeaway

Godbey was so successful in the interview because he knew exactly what he was trying to achieve when he sat down for it.

His job was to sell a house that could offer a new future to a new owner and to make that case despite the aesthetic of the home and broader competition in the market. He highlighted the perks of the home, downplayed its challenges, and stayed focused even as the interviewer tried to steer him off course. Most importantly, he never repeated the negative statements the interviewer led with. Instead, he reframed the discussion towards the positive while demonstrating his real estate expertise and trustworthiness. When you finish reading, you not only trust Godbey, you’re even thinking about how the home he’s selling might be worth buying.

This is the power of strong messaging and it’s something we help our clients with every day.

Good messaging isn’t about rewriting your story, as Godbey demonstrated in his sales pitch of the so-called ‘vampire house’. It’s about telling your unique story more effectively in a way that connects with your audience and generates actual results. Strong messaging takes planning and practice, but it can make a world of a difference in ensuring the success of your organization. Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help.


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