Why Houses need a Hook.

Why houses need a Hook.
by James Miller

When I started in rental houses,  I took to noting how people went through an apartment and what they focused on.  I had, at the time  two properties with fireplaces.  While fireplaces aren’t on the list of favorite things for my insurance agent, they did get the attention of those looking for an apartment.  I also noticed that they tended to rent faster.

I realized that apartment hunters and home hunters alike, might look at a lot of places in one hunting session.  My fireplace made the place I had to offer stand out. It made it different from the rest.

It was the “hook”.

I am sure people like the idea of curing up in front of a fireplace, but I think there was  a little more to it than that.  First off, my fireplace became a focus of their walk through. Their attention turned to it and possibly made them miss a few of the less desirable things, like how the refrigerator was from circa 1960 or how the carpet could really use a shampooing. Or maybe they did see these things, but discounted them because “this apartment has a fireplace.”

The other thing I believe happens is that my apartment becomes different than the rest of the places they looked at.  I have been though a lot of the apartments in my area.  I know how the other landlords stick to a strict pallet of pure white, for walls, trim, and outlets alike,  making it look like everything in the place was hit by an albino tornado. I realized then that the nice couple with good credit, the kind who can take their time to pick instead of taking what apartment they can get, when they  got home that night the way they would refer to my apartment would be:

” You mean the one with the fireplace?”

After that, I started to look for places that had a hook, or ways to create one in my existing apartments.  I found that it didn’t have to be much, just something memorable.  Although I don’t consider it much of a hook, A wall with a contrasting color would often do.  Hardwood floors and claw foot tubs get all A’s for their ability to set the hook.

One of the simplest hooks came about by rather serendipitously.  I had installed a dimmer switch on some can lights by the entryway door of one of the apartments. I had committed to some  expensive high wattage bulbs which made the entry area very bright.  I could have replaced them, but I had a cool new dimmer switch on hand, and as an Electrical Engineer by trade, changing out a switch was easier than four bulbs and a ladder. Besides the switch was a newer illuminated one with the slider on the side.  I thought it might add a little class to the place.

When we were showing the place, I demonstrated how to adjust the dimmer switch to the woman who was thinking about renting.  I didn’t place any particular importance on it, or think much about it until she asked for a second viewing of the place.

This time she brought a friend.

When they arrived, the woman who I had shown the place to the day before took over my role and reiterated much of what I had told her to her friend.

The big focus?  You guessed it.

The dimmer switch.


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