Henty House: How to market a heritage listed building for rent

In our previous post “Marketing challenge: Heritage buildings vs modern skyscrapers”, we talked about how current  homeowners and landlords in Melbourne CBD may be facing falling rent and home prices due to an oversupply of apartments from newly constructed modern, high density skyscrapers.

In this post, we’ll zoom in on a particular case. We know a landlord of a one bedroom apartment in Henty House, a low rise, heritage listed building in the heart of the CBD who would like to improve the profile and awareness of the building and his apartment, in order to target design savvy, heritage loving tenants, without resorting to reducing rent. We share some preliminary tips to help him achieve that.

Henty House Melbourne Little Collins Street Facade

Tip #1 It’s great to show your age

Our online research on the building, Henty House on 501 Little Collins Street, Melbourne 3000 revealed its name was taken from an 1800s merchant family, who also had the lane adjacent to the building named after them, so we know the Henty family must have had some influence or presence over that part of Melbourne CBD.

The most telling information we found about the real age of the building was from the Heritage Victoria website where it stated “The pastorialists Henty family established James Henty & Co., a merchant and shipping agency in Little Collins Street in 1851.” Additional research revealed that the company was set up by the Henty patriarch for his sons Henry (1833-1912) and Herbert James (1834-1902) to run. So the Henty House building today or the site it sits on could date all the way back to 1851.

The landlord didn’t even realise how old the building could be until we shared our findings with him. This goes to show that not enough marketing or awareness of heritage listed buildings is conveyed during the buying and selling of these properties.


Henty House Melbourne Little Collins Entrance

Henty House Melbourne vase sculpture entrance

Henty House Melbourne vintage letterbox mailbox

Henty House Melbourne stairwell

Henty House Melbourne lift lobby

Tip #2 It’s a character building experience

We asked the landlord, what are the character features that attracted him to Henty House in the first place? Likewise, to help market the building, it’s about conveying the very same things that appeal to buyers and renters emotionally. For example, its entrance definitely harks back to a time long past. You’re welcomed by two ornate concrete vase sculptures, and then up a flight of steps as if you were entering a municipal building.

Once you get past the sliding doors, you notice the thick and bold stripe pattern on the marble slabs in the landing which is flanked by vintage wooden letterboxes on both sides. The last time we saw such wooden letterboxes was in Paris. Very quaint, and very charming. The marble flooring continues into the main reception and lift lobby area, also decked out with painted wooden panel walls.

Most service stairwells are quite drab; not the one at Henty House. The timber handrail of the service stairs of the building is a highlight, you can imagine businessmen and secretaries in their Mad Men-esque outfits rushing up and down these stairs in the hey days. In fact, when we visited the building, the elegant lady with the perfect bob in the lift with us heading to her apartment, carrying a pristine condition top handle vintage handbag looked like she dressed to match the style of the building.

These are the very character features that people overlook during the one rental inspection as there’s no time to zoom in and take in all the unique details that help potential renters “romanticise” the building. Therefore it’s critical to promote these features in advance, that people come to the inspections with a particular romantic notion of the heritage building prior to the inspections. Best way to do this? It’s in our next tip.

Tip #3 Make your online pictures work harder

In today’s social media prevalent times where people are very conditioned to seeing picture perfect and stylised images of homes around the world on Instagram and Pinterest, it is no longer acceptable for real estate companies to use very mediocre or generic “showflat” images to help promote apartments for rent or for sale.

Play with lighting, composition, style things up with some props, create an ambience or mood in the pictures of the heritage building like what the top bloggers and Instagrammers do with their interior shots. Pictures may speak a thousand words, but these days, it’s their ability to bring in thousands of online clicks and views that counts.

Last words…

Not a tip but a strategy in general, landlords and owners should tap into the viral power of social media. Use their own personal social media pages to promote their own properties, talk about their properties, they have to be excited about their properties, otherwise, who else would?

Ideally, most heritage listed buildings should have their own website or blog that reflects their lifestyle and design, but this is rarely the case because these buildings are managed by real estate companies where their websites are mostly transactional, for rent or for sale. Imagine how a dedicated website for the buildings managed by the creative occupants would differ?

There’s a lot more that smart marketing can do to help raise the profile of heritage listed buildings to combat the oversupply of modern skyscraper apartments in Melbourne CBD, but let’s just wait and see which are the real estate companies smart enough to take action. You heard it from us here first.

Henty House Melbourne 501 Little Collins Street

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