MIAMI — Some billionaires fly low in ripped jeans and graphic tees. Others fly high with flashy suits and international lifestyles, traveling with an elite entourage of carefully chosen associates.
The group is diverse, unpredictable and rapidly growing. Some estimates put the number of millionaires in the United States today at 1 in 100 people.
The distinctions are critical when working with these wealthy individuals to broker multimillion-dollar real estate deals. And agents trying to sell some of these elite listings also need to do some homework when these potential buyers contact them, according to professionals in the high-end market who spoke during Inman News‘ Connect High Net conference in Miami this week.
A lot of wealth going into U.S. real estate today is coming from European and Russian buyers, according to Richard Ferrari, senior vice president of Prudential Douglas Elliman in Manhattan. “Europeans are buying in New York quite a bit right now,” he said.
“Things have changed. Our European market is right next to Wall Street and entertainment money right now in New York,” he said.
And these international buyers are scanning the Internet for U.S. real estate, according to Ferrari.
Ferrari is a single broker and doesn’t have the support to set up big parties to showcase multimillion-dollar listings, so he pinpoints his marketing efforts to channels he thinks make sense for individual listings.
“If it’s an apartment that can go to a Wall Streeter, then I advertise in the Wall Street Journal,” he said. “If it’s a second home that could go to a New Yorker or an international investor I use something like The duPont Registry … I pinpoint my listing to my marketing tools.”
The Internet in all cases is the number one listing tool, Ferrari said. “You cannot sell a property in Manhattan without using the Internet as your number one tool. It’s no longer a question of ‘will this be on the Web?’ Now it’s, ‘what’s on the Web?'”
Ferrari, who has used online video to market luxury listings, believes the video presentation is the future of marketing these types of listings.
Other ways to market high-end listings on the Web include creating Web sites around the listing itself or the high-profile owner who’s trying to sell and doesn’t want to be discreet. For instance, Olivia Decker, co-owner of Decker Bullock, a San Francisco Bay Area-based brokerage company specializing in high-end real estate, says she sometimes uses the name in the Web site address if it’s a well-known house or owner, such as www.tomperkinsbelvedereestate.com, for example.
Decker said it’s important to check around for information about a prospective buyer to get a sense that they are who they say they are. She usually performs a few searches on the Web to verify basic information, but she said it can be delicate sometimes to prequalify high-end buyers because they don’t want to reveal how much they are worth.
Jurgin Klaric, founder and chief executive officer of Mindcode, a consumer behavior research and consulting firm, said that his company helps market properties by emphasizing the experience or what happened in the house. For instance, if tennis pro Andre Agassi had a big party in his house, the firm will highlight that.
“We encourage people to tell those stories,” he said.
Tom duPont, chairman and publisher of The duPont Registry, said that he’s discovered it’s important to be traditional and nontraditional in marketing approaches. For instance, his company has a long-term relationship with sports equipment managers of every major league team in the country and regularly sends them a box of duPont magazines showcasing high-end property listings. That way, the ball players in the locker room will see these multimillion-dollar listings in the glossy magazine and stop by to discuss it on their way home.
Event marketing also is popular within the high-end market. Decker said she often hosts parties, fundraisers or even fashion shows inside her clients’ homes that are for sale. DuPont said it’s also good to consider having events at car dealerships where you may find buyers in the high-end market.
New York-based Ferrari offered some tips on how agents looking to get into the high-end market can start, saying the first thing is education. “You have to learn the high-end market. You have to know pricing, what’s selling,” he said. Agents should go to open houses for these listings and start talking to people there.