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‘Bring a hazmat suit’: Tongue-in-cheek marketing tactic reels in buyers

By Juliet Helmke
20 June 2024 | 12 minute read
kelmscott property reb nmywwk

Can using humour in a listing help sell a home? For a Perth property ominously described as the “Kelmscott challenge”, the strategy has paid off.

The description for the four-bedroom, two-bathroom single-storey home in the city’s south-east fringe has many of the hallmarks of real estate listings. Visitors are asked to “step inside” the 1977 construction to discover a property that offers a “unique blend” of features.

But it’s what comes between the real estate lingo that sets this property apart.


One of the four bedrooms adjoining the spacious living area offers “a ceiling that’s more on the floor than above your head”, which is apparently perfect for those who appreciate sky views.

A bathroom includes surprise elements such as “a bong thoughtfully left behind for your, um, recreational enjoyment”.

“The living room is a treasure trove of the old owner’s furniture, offering instant décor inspiration or kindling for your first fireplace. The kitchen awaits your culinary dreams, currently accessorised with mysterious appliances that add a dash of unpredictability to your daily meals,” it continued.

While it’s certain that listing agent Ash Swarts of O’Neil Real Estate has had some fun putting this description together, what was less assured is whether property hunters would be in on the joke and prepared to spend the roughly $500,000 guide – admittedly a bargain for the area.

Swarts’ humour, however, seems to have struck the right note and attracted exactly the buyer pool he described as “DIY enthusiasts, brave souls, or those with a very creative imagination”.

Now on its way to contract, Swarts feels vindicated by the test, having fielded close to 20 offers during the campaign and the property now set for its second life with an owner who shared the firm’s sense of humour and wants to “clean it up with the aim of making it the family home”, he told REB.

According to the agent, though the firm considered putting some work into the property, they felt any efforts would be more like a band-aid on a much bigger problem, and so he settled on the tactic of framing it in a frank and funny light almost immediately.

“We figured, why sugarcoat it? This property wasn’t going to win any beauty contests in its current state. By being honest and injecting a bit of humour, we hoped to attract the right kind of buyer – someone who could see the potential and wasn’t afraid of a little adventure,” he said.

Though the tone of the listing wouldn’t be right for every listing, Swarts feels that in this case it helped set realistic expectations and “weeded out anyone who wasn’t up for a project”.

In addition, it attracted perhaps more attention than many properties would, garnering media coverage as well as local banter and drawing eyes to the listing, “which is half the battle in real estate”, the agent acknowledged.

Carving out something of an unusual niche for himself, Swarts hints that he might have more unusual properties in the pipeline that could use a healthy dose of humour to help them find an audience.

“Stay tuned,” he promised, “there’s more fun to come!”


Juliet Helmke

Based in Sydney, Juliet Helmke has a broad range of reporting and editorial experience across the areas of business, technology, entertainment and the arts. She was formerly Senior Editor at The New York Observer.

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