House portraits: A closing gift clients remember


Russell McRae used to flip houses. Lots of them. He used a different agent for every deal. After the sale, the agent would give him a run-of-the-mill closing gift. It bothered McRae, but not for the reason you’d think. He hated that the agents couldn’t see that they were missing a huge opportunity for repeat business and referrals.

McRae says once the wine and chocolate were consumed and the flowers wilted, he never gave that agent another thought. There was nothing to remind him of the agents and no follow-ups to keep them top of mind – so when McRae attended a party and met a “new and shiny” agent, he used them for the next deal. That agent would give him another impersonal gift and he’d never hear from them. It was a vicious cycle.

So McRae, an unusual blend of artist, businessman and savvy marketer, decided to do something about it. Vancouver-based McRae Portraits is a marketing program focused around a heart-felt closing gift – a house portrait – that provides homeowners with a constant reminder of their agent. The marketing program also reaches out to clients on a regular basis on behalf of agents.

“A house portrait is a winner every time. You don’t have to know what kind of wine they like,” McRae says. “They bought the house so you know they already like it.”

The company has created 9,000 house portraits for agents across Canada since 2010. The portraits, digitally produced using a method McRae created, are a standard 13×16 inches. “Because of its size, it’s usually hung in the entrance way of a house and is the first thing everyone sees,” he says. Portraits include the name of the agent.



The process is easy. All agents have to do is visit the website, pick a package, supply a photo and wait for the portrait to arrive in about 10 days. It can also be shipped directly to the client.

In addition to the portrait, packages ($299) include house portrait postcards to share with friends and family. Three months later, the company sends a thank you card bearing the house portrait to the homeowner on behalf of the agent. A web page includes the house portrait and the agent’s name, so the homeowners can share the portraits on social media. On each anniversary date of the transaction, another thank you card is sent on behalf of the agent.

Photos don’t have to be professional shots. McRae’s digital artists remove power lines and cars from driveways. They add trees, blue skies and foliage to make the house look its best. “This means there’s no need to wait until spring or for blue skies,” he says.

Who should receive a house portrait? “Every single time you make a sale, send out a portrait. It’s a way to stay top of mind,” he says. “Give them to all of your clients, not just one or the best.”

Everyone who receives a portrait will want to talk about it and the agent who gave it to them, McRae says.