No one can predict the future of real estate, but you can prepare. Find out what to prepare for and pick up the tools you’ll need at Virtual Inman Connect on Nov. 1-2, 2023. And don’t miss Inman Connect New York on Jan. 23-25, 2024, where AI, capital and more will be center stage. Bet big on the future and join us at Connect.
Before Nicholas Greer began his near-decade-long career as a real estate agent in Houston, Texas, he was a musician and artist.
“I’m just an artist at heart,” Greer, a real estate agent at Happen Houston, told Inman. “I can’t turn that off.”
Throughout his career and life, Greer said he has looked for ways to express himself creatively but has found few opportunities to do so satisfactorily in the world of real estate. So, earlier this month when he saw an opportunity to take a risk with a home he was listing, he jumped on it.
The opportunity came in the form of 1730 Gardenia Drive, a house in the Oak Forest section of Houston that Greer listed this week for $1,666,999. It being the month of Halloween and the house being priced scarily high, Greer hatched a plan to have a little fun with the listing.
Instead of run-of-the-mill listing photos, Greer enlisted the local real estate photography company TK Images to take a series of staged photos that paid homage to classic horror film tropes, with performers and artists Greer knows posing throughout them.
One photo pays tribute to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho by featuring a woman with a frightened expression standing in a shower, while another reveals a red balloon floating ominously in the staircase in a nod to It. A man wearing overalls and a ski mask with bunny ears makes multiple appearances throughout the listing photos, as do two people wearing creepy masks. A woman, meanwhile, appears to float above a bed in the style of The Exorcist.
Greer had fun with the listing’s description of the house as well. In the section to name the home’s builder he wrote “Jack Skellington.” For the material the countertops were made out of, he wrote “bone” and he listed the dimensions of the primary bedroom as 84 X 48 — the dimensions of an adult-sized coffin.
Greer, an agent with Happen Houston, said the photography company and the seller were both enthusiastic about his unorthodox marketing approach.
“I knew the idea was a little wacky in our arena but they were extremely excited,” Greer said of TK Images photos. “They’re used to shooting boring old houses, and houses are cool and all, but they’re just houses and this was extremely outside of the box, especially for the editing team.”
The seller, too, was excited about the potential for the listing to bring more attention to their property.
“They were excited about it, and still are, they think it’s a fun idea,” he said.
And bring attention it did. Within hours of Greer uploading the listing on Sunday he received a barrage of emails commending the listing, along with a flood of positive social media comments.
“I’m screaming, this is brilliant,” one commenter wrote on his Instagram post.
But he also immediately attracted detractors.
“It’s been a 50/50 split, definitely a divisive listing by every definition,” Greer said.
A large contingent, it seemed, took issue with the non-traditional style of the listing, and some were personally offended by what they saw as disturbing imagery. Complaints began to roll into the Houston Association of Realtors, which controls the multiple listing service the listing was uploaded onto.
Greer said he expected some pushback to the listing but was shocked by how fast it began to roll in. When he uploaded the listing at around 6:00 pm on Sunday, within an hour the HAR began receiving phone calls complaining.
“Apparently this listing really struck a chord in a negative way for a lot of agents — which I don’t fully understand — but also for consumers,” he said. “It was enough negative backlash for HAR to put the pressure on me and my broker.”
Representatives of HAR soon reached out to Greer and to pressure him to remove the listing, though he argued it didn’t technically violate any of their rules.
“They felt the need to put the pressure on me and my broker…not because I was breaking any specific rules, but probably because I was careful enough and methodical enough to know the rules so well,” he said.
Greer said though he knew the listing was taking some considerable risks, he never intended to provoke so many people, and ultimately decided to remove the listing by Tuesday.
The HAR issued a brief statement to Inman, and did not elaborate on whether or not the listing was in fact in violation of any of their policies.
“The listing agent and broker made the decision to withdraw the listing from the market,” a spokesperson for the trade organization said.
After removing the listing, Greer said he feels he was unfairly targeted for trying to think outside the box in his marketing strategy, which he argued was essential for agents trying to make their mark in a challenging market.
“At the end of the day if we know as an industry that 1 percent of the industry is actually pulling the weight of 99 percent of the rest of the industry — in other words there’s just a bunch of zombie agents out there, everybody is aware of that — the people that really move the needle forward, the people that really serve clients and really do the work and that are really in this, they know that the marketing aspect is super important,” he said. “I don’t think agents like that saw this listing and thought ‘oh this is ridiculous, this is so immoral, this is so unethical, this is against tradition.’ I think they were like ‘That is really cool, this is super creative.’”