- By using ski resorts and hotels to identify where visitors are coming from, Paul Benson is able to find lucrative "feeder" markets.
- He targets print and digital advertising toward high-end clients in those markets.
When Lisa Kudrow (yes, of Friends fame) and her husband, Michel Stern, were gearing up to sell their condo in Park City, Utah, there was really only one agent who was right for the job.
That would be Paul Benson, the Engel & Völkers team lead who’s the go-to agent if you want to sell a home in Park City to a high-end buyer who probably doesn’t already own property there.
He’s developed “feeder markets” in Northern and Southern California, New York and Austin, Texas — and his marketing in those areas has established him as a trustworthy luxury agent who’s deeply familiar with Park City.
Kudrow and Stern had “really decked out” the “average ski condo,” Benson said, and so they were naturally interested in capturing a high return for their investment. “We needed to obtain a new record price for the building.”
That wouldn’t happen with a buyer from Park City, which Kudrow and Stern knew; they were also friends with a client who’d been very happy with Benson’s services in the past.
And presumably, Kudrow and Stern are also happy with his services. Benson was able to find a buyer for the condo — also represented by an Engel & Völkers agent. It recently sold for $3.6 million.
Thinking outside the town borders
“My marketing generally is focused on buyers outside of Park City,” Benson noted, adding that “very few people in this town do that. I’ve made a career out of marketing to people outside the market on a regular basis.”
The team lead is regularly ranked on the Real Trends/Wall Street Journal’s list of top real estate agents; he’s done $100 million in transactions every year for the past 10 years.
He identifies markets that could be lucrative by looking at two other industries in Park City that cater to visitors — ski resorts and hotels. “It’s nice to have Vail Resorts and Deer Valley here in town, because they track where their clients are coming from,” Benson said. “I have friends who run some large hotels in town, so I can track where their guests are coming from.”
That’s how he finds his feeder markets — but it’s not a “one and done” process because clients come to Park City from different areas “in shifts,” Benson said.
“Four or five years ago, the majority of interest in ski areas was coming from Houston and Dallas in Texas,” he explained, noting that since oil prices have shifted, he’s seeing more inquiries from tech-focused Austin — and, of course, Silicon Valley.
“Silicon Valley has become very strong for ski homes after it seemed they were only going to Tahoe,” he added. “Now it seems like Silicon Valley is looking for new places to build headquarters, so we’re even getting some relo.”
How to market
Benson still buys ads in the local Park City papers, he says — mostly during vacation or high tourist-traffic seasons. “The newspapers will be in the hotel and the tourists will see them,” he noted. “You never know who’s going to pick up the local newspaper.”
In his feeder markets, Benson uses a combination of digital marketing and print ads — specifically magazines, though not necessarily ads promoting listings. He’d rather promote himself.
“I still believe in print,” he said. “It would be very difficult for a broker to run ads in just one or two magazines and expect something out of it, but because I’ve done them for so long — whether it’s Southern California golf magazines or Hollywood Reporter — I’m in front of the same jet-set over and over and over, so it’s built credibility. They see my consistency and my ability to reach out in other markets and place beautiful ads in the magazines.”
Benson also places ads in The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register. And he’s found a lot of success targeting Facebook ads, too.
“Facebook campaigns have become very strong with high-end homes,” he noted, “specifically targeting people who ski and people who vacation in Utah with a high enough net worth.” He’s also active on Zillow.
And he says that having a consistent international brand is helpful.
“It’s become a cliche, but the world’s getting smaller as far as real estate goes, and our clients are buying all over the world more comfortably than they ever have,” he said. “It’s been so important for a client to feel like they have consistency.”