by Jennifer Cirillo
To blandish today’s trophy-house buyer, brokers are setting up art shows with borrowed museum pieces—perhaps even offering a Maserati as a deal-sweetener
No matter what the state of the real-estate market, says broker Doug Milne III, there’s always a buyer looking for a trophy property. Indeed, he points out, even though things aren’t as vibrant today as they were in the fall of 2005, from November 2006 through January 2007 there were more sales of homes priced at over $4 million in Darien than were sold in the previous nine months.
Still, even luxury buyers are being very deliberate before committing these days, says Milne, founder and former president of Kelly Associates, which serves Darien, New Canaan, and Rowayton. “In today’s market, sellers are dealing with very savvy buyers who have a lot of information available to them—particularly with the advent of the Internet.”
Says Realtor Julianne Ward, of Prudential Connecticut Realty’s office in Greenwich, “People are taking their time in looking. Instead of looking at a handful of properties, they may be looking at 20.”
Therefore, brokers are coming up with ingenious strategies to sell the exceptional properties they represent. Several brokers and Realtors who specialize in luxury properties in Fairfield and Westchester counties shared a few of their marketing strategies with The Modern Estate. To lure potential buyers, these specialists are planning—or have seen other brokers try—everything from hosting a charity benefit to setting up one-night art shows with pieces borrowed from prominent museums.
Susy Glasgall is going the cocktail-party route. (She has been named Top Producer 8 times at Houlihan Lawrence’s Real Estate offices throughout Westchester County—and 18 times at her home base, the firm’s offices in Rye, New York.) To market a 12,000-square-foot house in Purchase, New York, Glasgall has planned a party at which she will have an interior designer, a contractor, a feng shui expert, and a mortgage broker present to answer questions about the home and to address individual concerns.
“Buyers today—especially luxury buyers—are brighter and more educated, and because of the Internet, they do their due diligence,” Glasgall says. One Houlihan Lawrence marketing strategy is to work directly with Wells Fargo to help buyers find advantageous financing options. “If someone is really a $3-million customer, we can create financing that will let him or her purchase a home selling for $4 to $5 million,” Glasgall says.
When Realtor Michelle Genovesi, owner of Michelle & Company at William Raveis, was asked what marketing tools she uses, her answer was simple: “Technology.” Genovesi, who covers lower Fairfield County (Westport, Wilton, Fairfield, and Southport) is ranked by the National Association of Realtors as being in the top 1/10 of 1 percent, in sales volume, of all licensed Realtors in the United States. “When buyers are ready to purchase, they have done their own homework on the Internet,” she says. On her Web site, michelleandcompany.com, potential buyers and real estate agents can get answers to most of their initial questions about any of her listed properties. There they can take a visual tour—different from a virtual tour in that it includes more pictures and text, offers a mortgage calculator, is e-mailable, and offers a printable PDF Web brochure that is used as a direct-mail piece sent to the top 50 agents across the country.
Julianne Ward offers online floor plans of homes she is marketing, so a potential buyer can “walk through” the rooms. She notes that Prudential Realtor Jennifer Walsh recently marketed a Greenwich property whose builder offered a Maserati as a gift to the buyer. And, Ward notes, a seller recently offered a $10,000 dream vacation to encourage a broker to show a property, bring a buyer, and generate a sale. “The most important thing is making sure that a broker sees the property,” says Ward. These days, sellers sometimes offer straightforward financial incentives: The seller may pay the buyer’s closing costs ($5,000 to $10,000). “This can help a buyer to afford a house that he otherwise could not,” Ward says. “Some buyers have a high monthly income, but not the cash in the bank.”
Doug Milne, a 28-year real-estate-market veteran, has hosted his share of benefits and cocktail parties to try to generate buzz. Still, he has found, the best lure for buyers is presenting each one with a comprehensive package of information about the house. The depth of the research that the material in the package reflects is meant to persuade the potential buyer that he or she will get a reliable answer to questions like “Does the soil need to be tested? Is there potential for a dock? Do wetlands need to be marked?”
In the past, Milne, who specializes in land subdivision, new construction, and waterfront properties, has even negotiated, prior to the sale of a home in Darien, the buyer’s fishing and bird-shooting rights on an adjacent island. And the package that Milne prepared for one buyer included aerial photographs dating back to the 1920s and a view of the home that he took from his 21-foot fishing boat. Now that’s comprehensive. TMEJennifer Cirillo is a freelance writer who has contributed articles to numerous publications in Fairfield and Westchester counties, including Westchester Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.