If you ask me, Frank McKinney, “the most luxurious spec homebuilder in the world,” understands the psychology of the ultraluxury buyer better than almost anyone else in the world.
While you probably cannot afford his lavish marketing budget, many of his strategies work in virtually all price ranges.
Several years ago, Steve Kantor, in his book, “Billion Dollar Agent: Lessons Learned,” profiled agents who had sold $1 billion worth of real estate. Approximately 70 percent of these agents attributed their success in large part to giving back to their communities. Like these billion-dollar agents, McKinney attributes much of his success to “paying it forward.”
Robin Hood and the ultraluxury market
McKinney lives not to build lavish houses but to “sell to the rich to give to the poor.” Sometimes called a modern-day Robin Hood, his Caring House Project Foundation provides shelter to the “world’s most desperately poor.”
McKinney believes that the more you give to others, the more that comes back to you. In fact, he is currently training for the Death Valley Badwater 135-mile Ultramarathon by pulling a car tire for 24 consecutive hours at the Linton Bridge in Delray Beach, Fla. He’s asking for a $1 per hour donation ($24 daily) with each $24 going to buy five chickens for Haiti Relief.
McKinney has developed a very narrow market niche. If you’re building $15 million to $100 million-plus properties, the pool of potential buyers may be less than 20,000. Currently, many of the potential buyers for McKinney’s properties are foreign nationals. According to McKinney, the buyer of his property could just as easily be a Russian oil baron or a Saudi sheik. Both groups are currently active in today’s ultra-high-end market.
Uniqueness is critical
When it comes to serving the ultraluxury market, buyers want not only lifestyle and location, but they want a property that is completely unique. McKinney’s strategy begins with finding an extraordinary piece of oceanfront land.
He then begins the design process sitting in his office, which is literally a tree house. McKinney claims, “I’m not a real estate developer or builder.” Instead, his tagline is “daredevil real estate artist.” The tree house environment helps him create truly remarkable and unique designs.
“Acqua Liana” is one of McKinney’s latest projects. It may be “the greenest mansion in the country.”
The property is located in Manalapan Beach, Fla., and sold for $15.5 million. It is one of the most expensive “green” houses ever constructed and has “triple green” certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, Florida Green Building Coalition, and Energy Star certification. This one feature alone makes it unique from all other properties in the U.S.
McKinney wanted the property’s name to reflect the peace and serenity he wanted to create. In other words, the house needed a story.
“Acqua Liana” derives its name from the Tahitian and Fijian words for “water flower.” His goal in creating this property was to create a home that was calming and soothing due to its “many forms of liquid serenity.”
In addition to the waterfalls, the water gardens, the pools and the reflecting ponds, McKinney wanted to create something even more unique, so he designed a “water floor” and a “water wall.” Everyone told him it couldn’t be done. He says he’s accustomed to hearing that all the time. He then goes about making his plan a reality.
According to McKinney’s website: “From its water floors and water walls, to its water gardens and waterfalls, to its pools, reflecting ponds and fire spa, to the ocean beside and the Intracoastal Waterway behind, each is found intertwined in a magical and eternal blossom at Acqua Liana.”
To make sure every aspect of the property is as unique as possible, McKinney searches the world for unique building materials. In one house he built, he used wood from a barn more than a century old. If he purchases an unusual marble, he will buy the entire lot and then destroy any that is unused. This way the buyer knows she will never see the same marble in another property.
Fixtures must also be one of a kind. What’s more important than the uniqueness of the materials, however, is the story behind them. For example, if the doors to a particular room came from a European castle, what was the history of the castle? Who were the inhabitants? Who built it? What historical events took place there? Many buyers will pay a premium to have a piece of something famous.
We want it now!
The market McKinney caters to wants the best of everything. His houses are completely furnished, right down to the 18-karat-gold toothbrushes. “My clients want to move in right now. They don’t want to take the time to shop for furniture. They are accustomed to getting what they want when they want it.” (View a tour of the property.)
Las Vegas-style marketing
McKinney’s marketing events are legendary. As his website says, these events are “professionally choreographed symphonies of the senses … Past event themes have included Roaring ’20s, Bastille Day, Polynesian Luau, Chinese New Year, Pirates of the Caribbean, Oscar Night, Evel Knievel, Make It Big, The Maverick, and American Dream Brought Back From The Dead. The fireworks are equal to the Fourth of July. The events rival anything you would find on Broadway or in Las Vegas, and they directly contribute to the timely sale of the homes and to furthering the cause of Caring House Project Foundation.”
Does McKinney’s approach work? Acqua Liana sold in just 50 days, and La Marceaux in Delray Beach sold for $19 million in just 22 days.
Giving back, telling a story and sharing what is unique about the property are important best practices for any luxury real estate agent. See part seven to learn five more best practices for serving the luxury market.
Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of the National Association of Realtors’ No. 1 best-seller, “Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success.” Hear Bernice’s five-minute daily real estate show, just named “new and notable” by iTunes, at www.RealEstateCoachRadio.com.