Selling a historic Philadelphia mansion in 48 hours at $100,000 over asking takes shrewd marketing and a measured approach
By Mark Rowh
In the market for a 10,490-square-foot Federal-style mansion that was once home to an Italian consulate? Only a handful of buyers are.
Brett Furman, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Classic in Wayne, Pennsylvania, was well aware of the potential challenges when he took the unique listing, which the seller had inherited from her parents. Moving carefully but aggressively, Furman took a strategic approach to cover every marketing angle that might result in finding the right buyer at the best price. The result? The property, Philadelphia’s historic Samuel House, sold in less than 48 hours for $3.35 million – more than $100,000 over asking.
Here are the fundamental and effective steps Furman followed, which can serve as a guide for anyone handling a distinctive property.
- Do your homework.
The imposing four-story brick building, listed on the local register of historic places, is located just a few blocks from Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square. Furman hired an intern to research and confirm details of the home’s historical background, which unearthed more details and unique selling points for the listing.
Steel magnate Frank Samuel commissioned renowned architect Theophilus P. Chandler Jr. (founder of the University of Pennsylvania Department of Architecture) to design the home as a family residence. Completed in 1905, the building retains appealing period features throughout, including decorative moldings, parquet and herringbone floors, curved walls, leaded glass windows and an elevator with a gilt gold interior.
The building had since been converted for mixed-use. The main floor was a medical office. The second floor housed apartments, with a five-bedroom, 3,590-square-foot owner’s unit on the third and fourth floors.
Furman initiated an architectural review to evaluate feasibility options for the property, including further subdividing the home into condos or apartments, or converting it back into a single-family residence.
“This was a very complex property that required careful analysis to determine whether it should be marketed as an apartment building, condo conversion or renovation to convert it back to a single-family home,” Furman says. After several months of study, he reviewed all of the options with the seller and recommended that the marketing campaign focus on converting the property back to a single-family home – which his research showed was likely to yield the highest price. Although Furman’s analysis revealed that the highest price would be a sale to a single-family homebuyer, he launched a broad marketing campaign to also include potential investors, condo converters and apartment buyers.
- Reach out to a broad base but target a specific audience.
To generate interest in the property, Furman initiated a multi-faceted public relations campaign that resulted in coverage in local and regional newspapers and magazines – and online.
“All this helped produce multiple calls and showings,” Furman says. “And reaching out to developers, investors and brokers who were involved in similar properties yielded two offers. Online marketing yielded a third offer.”
Spend the time doing the research, he says. “And be proactive. Call prospective buyers, as well as brokers who are active in the market.”
- Invest in the listing to showcase unique selling points.
Furman decided being “pennywise and pound foolish” was not the way to go. He needed to go the extra mile and invest his own resources in making sure the property’s features and finishes were prominently on display. He enhanced the listing presentation with aerial mapping to showcase the property’s central location, and he created a custom absorption analysis that details how long it will likely take the market to absorb or sell homes in a specific price range, geographic area and timeframe. He also engaged a professional photographer to create a visual tour highlighting the homes flow, size and many unique features.
All listings, especially one-of-a-kind homes, should have a visual tour.” Brett Furman
“All listings, especially one-of-a-kind homes, should have a visual tour,” Furman says. “Also be sure to engage the media before and after the sale to promote the property and your role.”
- Leverage your professional knowledge and experience.
The seller may have a pocketful of facts about the property, but it’s the professional’s knowledge of best practices that can make the difference.
Initially, the seller of the mansion stipulated there should be no “for sale” signs. But, given the property’s high-profile location, Furman felt this would be a mistake. So he backed up his recommendation with a NAR statistic from the 2014 Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers, which reports that 9 percent of buyers found the home they purchased from signs. The seller agreed.
“Persuading the seller to allow two ‘for sale’ signs and two subsequent ‘sold’ signs on this property helped me generate several showings and one seller call,” Furman says.
Furman’s initial research, preparation and professional instincts paid off in the end with a short time on market and a sale price that realized the property’s full value.