It goes without saying that real estate marketing isn’t the world’s most progressive field. Browse some online property listings—with the small, grainy photographs and the oddly dated decor and the Realtors who look like they’re posing for a portrait at the local Olan Mills—and it becomes abundantly, painfully obvious. If real estate is as much about selling an image as it is about selling property, and surely it is, then why does that image look like an embarrassing Polaroid from a 1980s youth?
Here to inject a big dose of sex appeal into the limp world of residential real estate is Fantastic Frank, a young, Stockholm-based real estate agency that has built a vibrant business model on sleek decor, impeccable photography, and a promiscuous social-media presence. The company hires photographers and stylists from high-gloss industries, including fashion, advertising, and architecture, to transform ho-hum apartments into temples of modern design that wouldn’t seem out of place in the pages of Elle Decor.
Then, Fantastic Frank lobs its photographs around the web, sharing them with design blogs and interior design magazines, in addition to standard-issue property sites. "We’re actually not doing anything radically new," CEO Tomas Backman tells us. "We’re just using the communication attitude from the fashion and ad agency industries and applying it to the sleeping gray real estate branch."
What is radically new are the numbers Fantastic Frank is throwing up. "We have looked at official data from Sweden’s largest marketplace for real estate, www.hemnet.se," Backman says. "We have compared the number of times our ads are shown to the market against the number of times the competition gets its ads shown—and we have on average 50% more people viewing our ads than the competition." Not bad for a boutique agency that’s just a year and a half old.
"This in turn gives us more people at the open house—there’s always an open house in Sweden, and then a bidding war—and so more people to sell the property to," he says. "This most certainly given us better prices than the competition, but it’s tricky to measure" because prices vary dramatically from one property to the next.
Fantastic Frank has thrived in Stockholm’s relatively robust housing market. But it stands to reason that, at a time of crisis for many other real estate markets around the world, the Swedish company’s model could be a promising way for agencies to distinguish themselves and, in turn, help homesellers reap greater profits (or at least lose less money). Indeed, Fantastic Frank plans to take its strategy global: "We are not stopping with Stockholm," Backman says. "Next year we are looking at two new countries. We don’t know where yet. We need to find the right fantastic people first."