When real estate agents receive a home listing, they may do a few things: stage and take photos of the home; advertise the listing online; post a sign out front; and perhaps host an open house.
When a real estate agent lists a home in the multi-multi-million dollar category — a house that Sotheby’s International Realty agent Arthur Sharif calls a “super-prime property” — the marketing game completely changes. An afternoon open house will no longer do.
Everything — from the photography to the text and the introduction of the property to buyers — has to be perfect, Sharif said.
Start with connections
Often the owners of $15 million-plus homes don’t want everyone to know they’re selling, so it’s more who you know than what you do.
“I have clients say ‘I don’t want anyone to know the house is for sale,'” explained Sharif. “I’m forbidden to market the home, per se. That’s where it becomes important you have connections, that you know who to reach. And so that people know you, so they know to pick up a phone when they have a client who is looking for a home in a certain area.”
“In the upper end a lot is done through networking,” Mills said. “The creative part is trying to get to the right people. If something has a lot of privacy, we’ll try to reach out to celebrities. You have to market to the person who will fit the house, and a lot of people don’t do that.”
Throw a party
These upper-end properties may not be the place for an open house, but they are perfect for a high-end, invite-only event.
From a party sponsored by luxury brands (Joyce Rey of Coldwell Banker Previews International recently held an event along with Rolls-Royce) to themed parties (such as the “Great Gatsby” event Sharif held at an English Tudor-style home) the guest list is carefully vetted and the atmosphere strictly monitored.
“Quite a few liquor companies will do it if they have a new product,” Mills said. “They will sponsor a party for you, and they’ll invite their guest list. And you’ll invite your guest list, and you’ll be successful.”
But the event is never about touring the home or even making it about the home, explained Sharif.
“The event is a soft sell. No one needs the home, but you want them to want it,” he said. “And even if the folks don’t buy the home, the buzz from the party stays around a long time.”
Of course some events go a little bit over the top.
“I’ve seen everything here in Beverly Hills,” Mills said. “I’ve seen animals and ducks in a pool, a tiger in a cage. I don’t know if it works. I do know the ducks in the pool were not a good thing — it was a terrible mess.”
Once a home hits the multi-million dollar bracket, international buyers become a large part of the marketing equation.
“It’s largely attributed to the value of real estate here,” explained Rey. “Compared to other [international] cities, our prices are considerably lower, so we see a much wider international audience. I am constantly traveling the world making international connections because that’s an important part of our market.”
Even if agents don’t travel, they market specifically to overseas clients.
Mills specifically advertises in China with magazine inserts and updates her website to be accessible for anyone, anywhere.
“We get inquiries from all over the world online,” she said.
Create an experience
The marketing plan for each home will be unique, Rey says, but the experience should be extraordinary.
“You need to have the panache so that what you do makes people feel like everything about the home is special,” Sharif said. “It’s like you can’t sell a $4,000 suit at Kmart. Everything has to be just perfect because people will judge the presentation as much as the product.”
Often that means inviting clients to pre-market showings or including gifts with each showing.
But ultimately, you have to stick with what works for you, Mills says.