Sotheby’s International Realty CEO Philip White said the company’s growth is due to their investment in virtual reality and their in-house referral network.

Agents affiliated with Sotheby’s International Realty closed more than $150 billion in sales and increased sales 32 percent year-over-year in 2020, according to an announcement on Thursday. Sotheby’s also opened 50 new offices, bringing its international office count to 1,000.

“Agents affiliated with Sotheby’s International Realty quickly pivoted to address the impact of the global pandemic,” Sotheby’s International Realty CEO Philip White said of the earnings results. “Thanks to innovations we pioneered nearly a decade ago, our affiliated companies and agents made the impossible possible.”

“Their adaptability to serve clients safely further extended our position as a leader in luxury real estate,” White added.

Bradley Nelson

Sotheby’s International Realty CMO Bradley Nelson said the brokerage’s longstanding commitment to producing video content alongside virtual reality and live-streamed tours was an integral part of their team’s 2020 strategy and enabled their affiliates to continue working despite international lockdowns.

“As a leader in the luxury real estate industry, Sotheby’s International Realty is able to anticipate trends,” Nelson explained. “Our priority remains to present listings in the best possible manner and to provide a superb end-user experience however buyers prefer to search for their new home.”

Nelson said the brokerage’s revamped website with more than 6,000 virtual reality tours, expanded language translations and currency conversions resulted in record website traffic (37 million views) and increased engagement, with consumers watching more than 90,000 hours of listing videos.

“Virtual technology has been at the forefront of our marketing strategy for several years and comes as naturally to us as our commitment to high-quality service,” he added.

Beyond technology, White said Sotheby’s International Realty’s referral network was an integral part of the brokerage’s coronavirus strategy. Affiliates generated $2.9 billion in referral sales volume, which represented a 42 percent increase from 2019.

“What’s interesting about Sotheby’s International Realty and our international footprint [compared to] real estate companies that have an international presence is they’re really developed to generate referrals back to the United States,” he told Inman. “That’s really not at all what we’re doing. We’re developing businesses in foreign countries.”

White said Sotheby’s commitment to developing local businesses and leaders in foreign markets allowed the brand to continue growing, despite travel restrictions.

Philip White

“The local business is what really what it’s about, whether it was Sweden, Belgium, France, Australia, Hong Kong or the Caribbean,” he explained. “To put it in a nutshell, we’ve been working on this international business so long and helping these companies grow so they were able to be in the right place at the right time.”

Sotheby’s International Realty is already building on the momentum from 2020, White said. He’s confident the brokerage is on track to experience another banner year based on January and February’s sales activity and 2021 economic forecasts.

“It’s hard for me to say what the balance of the year will be like, but leading economists have increased their growth rates for the year and the National Association of Realtors has almost doubled what they’re expecting for home sales to in 2021,” he explained. “We obviously beat the market last year by a long shot and gained market share in the process, and we’ll continue to focus on doing what we do best.”

“I think we’ll continue to have the results we had in 2020,” he added.

Email Marian McPherson

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