Listing Luxury

Three pros who specialize in high-end clients share their winning strategies.

November 3, 2014

High-end real estate is booming. About 9 percent of U.S. buyers bought homes priced at $500,000 and above last year, up from 6 percent in 2010, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.

But it takes more than a pricey marketing campaign or rubbing elbows with luxury specialists to succeed in high-end sales, defined by® as an entry point between $500,000 and $1 million depending on the region. Unrivaled market expertise and impeccable customer service are core principles that should be mastered. Here’s how three practitioners put these fundamentals to work.

The Condo Queen

Karen Rodriguez, a salesperson with Dorsey Alston, REALTORS®, has cultivated her business in Atlanta’s prestigious Buckhead neighborhood over the past 11 years. As she landed more and more higher-priced condo sales, developers took notice. In December 2013, Rodriguez won an exclusive agreement to handle sales at The Residences at Mandarin Oriental where she has sold eight units (as of September), with a total volume of $16 million.

Rodriguez targets other high-end buildings in downtown Atlanta with direct mailings and advertises in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Because her buyers are financially savvy and detail oriented, they want to understand the developer’s financial picture as well as the story behind the building. She provides it all, sending her clients home with numerous pictures and handouts. Her sales team also posts professional photos of their staged listings on Pinterest. Whether or not prospective buyers are on Pinterest, their designers and decorators are, and they’ve been a rich source of buyer leads.

The Resident Expert

Over the past 17 years, Minneapolis-based sales associate Gary Bennett with RE/MAX Results has been inside the vast majority of homes in the Lowery Hill and Kenwood neighborhoods—an area with some of the Twin Cities’ most sought-after luxury properties.

Bennett’s familiarity with the housing stock, his nearly two decades as a resident, and his background in older home renovations (he has restored three homes in the area) have propelled his success. Entry-level prices in his market are between $750,000 and $1 million.

Bennett’s remodeling experience enables him to advise clients on how new projects will factor into the price. Dated kitchens or bathrooms will kill a sale, he says. Bennett finds success with direct mail campaigns, which other practitioners abandoned during the recession. “You just can’t survive online; this is a people business,” Bennett says. “I’ve taken calls from people gearing up for next year directly related to those mailings.”

The Savvy Developer

Carlos Tosca, who cofounded Palmcorp Development Group in 2009, builds homes in Miami with prices ranging from $699,000 to $4.5 million. He saw an opportunity when little was being built right after the recession. That first year, his company did 80 percent rehabs and 20 percent new construction—but after that, the new construction side took off.

Tosca and his partner, Gus De Ribeaux, offer spec homes that include customizable features for virtually every aspect of the design. They add amenities high-end buyers desire, including open floor plans and energy efficient systems, which are features most pre-2006 builds didn’t include. They deliver fast, too—within eight months, while other luxury developments can take two years or longer. “As soon as we saw it was working, we raised capital and we abandoned rehabs completely in 2010,” he says. In 2013, Palmcorp delivered $13 million in home sales, and Tosca’s projecting $24 million for 2014.