Real estate agents always are looking for new ways to promote the properties they have for sale and the areas in which they are offering homes.
One of the more unusual approaches recently taken in the Washington region may have been the Old House Fair held last Sunday at the Eastern Market on Capitol Hill.
"I don't know of any other old house fair," said Helen Carey, a real estate broker and the main organizer of this year's festival, the third one put on by the Capitol Hill Brokers Council. "It's a potpourri of information."
Last weekend's exposition included displays, seminars, musical entertainment, food from several local restaurants, and live demonstrations of house repair techniques.
Services offered to fair visitors ran the gamut from landscaping and kitchen remodeling to chimney sweeping and home inspections. Other merchants were marketing decorative items such as pottery, stained glass and custom photographs or watercolor paintings of individuals' homes.
The Capitol Hill Restoration Society, Don't Tear It Down, The L'Enfant Trust, and other groups were there to push the cause of historic preservation.
Seminar topics included remodeling, how to inspect a home before purchase, and the special tax benefits available on historic properties. Food choices ranged from sandwiches and desserts to spring rolls and fresh lemonade.
"The biggest thing is that the fair is a one-stop, broad-brush stroke" for owners of older houses, said Joel Truitt, a contractor who participated in the festival to advertise his company's remodeling services.
The group that benefitted most directly from the exposition may have been Truitt and the other merchants, rather than the Capitol Hill real estate agents.
"I had people call me from last year's fair as late as June," reported Truitt.
"We talk at the fair, and they go home and mull it over. It's the beginning of a relationship."
Active demonstrations were big attention-getters. J. S. Wagner Co., a roofing and sheet metal contractor, had two craftsmen shaping metal pieces and soldering them together to make parts for a rain gutter and downspout.
"It was Mr. Wagner's idea to do a demonstration," explained the firm's representative, Debra Franck. At both this year's festival and last year's, the company received a number of requests for repair bids, especially for tin roofs, said Franck.
"You do sell things when you have something active, a demonstration," explained Ed Coppenhaver of Frager's Hardware. While fair visitors looked on, Coppenhaver stripped the paint off several old doors he had brought to the festival. "We sell a lot of heat guns," he commented.
Some persons came to the fair with very specific needs in mind. Bob Anton, a resident of Capitol Hill for five years, arrived with a broken wooden doorknob.
After looking over the selection offered by the Brass Knob, an architectural antiques dealer, he chose a highly decorated metal handle as a replacement. Anton attended last year's celebration to find out about home inspection services, information he has used since in buying a house in the neighborhood.
This year's fair drew about 4,000 visitors, Carey estimated. It is much smaller than other city celebrations such as Adams Morgan Day and the Hispanic Festival, but that's just the way the Capitol Hill real estate group hopes the old house fair will 'I wouldn't want it to be much larger It's just the right size. It has sort of a small-town nostalgia about it.' remain.
"I wouldn't want it to be much larger," Carey commented. "It's just the right size. It has sort of a small-town nostalgia about it."
And will the Capitol Hill agents sell any more properties because of the fair? It's hard to see an immediate link between the festival and any additional business, Carey admitted.
Sales are running at a higher level than last year, but she believes much of that is due to the drop in interest rates.
"None of us expected a direct benefit," Carey said."But some positive PR couldn't hurt us."