Marketing a Missouri Manse

St. Louis practitioner Mary Desloge, who shepherded the $3.25 million sale of her brother’s family home, credits her company with giving her the tools and mentoring to succeed.

August 1, 2006

Your sale in May was almost twice as much as the second highest-priced listing in your MLS. How did you get the listing?

Well, the seller was my brother. But let me tell you something: Working with family is more challenging than working with a typical client. My brother still thought of me as his little sister. He couldn’t help looking at me that way, even though he knew I was up to the task, and I proved it when I first got my license.

How did you prove it?

When I was starting out, in 1996, I sold my mother’s house for $1.5 million. At the time, it was a big sale. Of course, being new in the business made it a little difficult, but I had excellent support backing me up at Janet McAfee that made all the difference. Today, with 11 years’ experience, I still attribute my success to good support and mentorship.

Did you have any competition when you listed your brother’s house?

Not really. Years ago — before I got my license — he had sold a home through another practitioner and really didn’t enjoy the experience. Plus, Janet McAfee is a prestigious company with an excellent reputation, so it was a natural fit.

What was the most difficult aspect of the deal?

The sale really impacted my brother and his family. They realized, after the house was under contract, they were giving up a home where many memories had been made. It was very difficult for them. I had to act as their counselor.

What were the terms of the listing contract?

My brother signed a six-month contract. The hardest part was getting him to agree to the listing price. He wanted between $3.4 million and $3.5 million, but I felt that was a mistake. I did a competitive market analysis that showed what the market was willing to pay for his house. I finally convinced him to list at $3.25 million.

Sometimes it takes years to sell a high-end property. How soon was it before you had the house under contract?

I listed the house in September 2005 and had it under contract in January 2006, but the people who bought it had actually seen it the week after I listed it. The selling agent had shown the property but only to the wife, who didn’t like the décor or color scheme. Over time, the husband was getting frustrated with the search so the selling agent, to her credit, recommended they view my listing again. This time, the husband was present, and that night they called with an offer.

If you had a contract in January, why did it close in May?

My brother wanted an extended closing because he spends a lot of time in Florida and he wanted time to come back and find another place. Plus, it gave the buyers an opportunity to get their house on the market and get organized for the summer. All the parties involved were very cooperative and everything went smoothly.

Did you have any backup offers?

Yes we did. One offer was for the full price, $3.25 million, and the other was for $3.2 million. So we definitely priced it right. We went with the higher offer and kept the lower one as a back up.

How did you market the property?

Our agency has a fantastic marketing team. We mainly advertise in the St. Louis Post Dispatch and in Saint Louis Seasons, a high-end magazine where people expect to see luxury homes. Another source I used was the Ladue News. Since the property is located in Ladue, it made sense to expose my listing to readers in that area.

How about online marketing?

My company Web site,, allows users to view property information, photos, and open houses. The Web site also features community and school information. It’s very comprehensive and a great way to showcase my properties.

Do you have your own Web site?

Some people in our office do, but I just use our office site. Chuck Roper, who heads our marketing department, has done a magnificent job of putting together a fantastic site that people really love. Most of the younger buyers are very Web savvy. They usually check out the site before calling or visiting us, so they already know room sizes, square footage, and so on.

How much did you spend on marketing?

We pay for our marketing through commission splits. Our splits pay for marketing, Web services, closing services, some newspaper advertising, and phones. Of course, I pay for any additional advertising like the Ladue News.

Did you try direct-mail marketing?

A lot of people in the office use direct mail. I didn’t on this sale. What I did was call the top associates and drop off brochures at offices. I had a broker open house but no public open house.

Did the salespeople who brought you offers attend the broker open house?

No. The buyers’ agent knew her buyers wanted to be in the Ladue area and within that price range. The second offer came from a commercial practitioner who acted as his own broker. He had always admired the house. One day, he drove through the neighborhood and saw the “reserved” sign, which means “under contract,” so he decided to submit a back-up offer.

It sounds like the MLS and your sign were the right tools.


How do you track your marketing results?

Very informally. I just listen to people. If they tell me they saw my listing in Seasons, then I know it’s working. I’m more interested in people than I am in numbers.

What online prospecting tool has given you the best results?

I’ve experienced good results from the MARIS (Mid America Regional Information Systems, the St. Louis MLS) prospecting system. It automatically sends an e-mail to buyers when a new listing matches their needs. So it reduces my phone calls and allows buyers to retrieve property information at their leisure. It’s a wonderful tool, and it’s easy. I’m not too Web savvy, but I love e-mail. It’s especially advantageous in long-distance deals. I’m working with a buyer right now on a transaction where the owner is in South America. I wrote the offer, saved it as a PDF file, and e-mailed it to the listing agent.

What was your sales volume for last year?

I closed $2.5 million in sales last year. I’m not as big as some of the superstars out there, but every year my sales increase and I’m always aiming for more.

What line of work were you involved in before real estate?

I was in retail sales with Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, and different small companies. I wanted to do something a little more challenging, and my husband is a commercial licensee.

How did you find your first listings?

Phone duty. Those were the days when people called in for information. And, of course, friends, family, and acquaintances.

What do you love most about selling real estate?

Before a home goes under contract, there’s a moment when there’s a perfect fit between the buyer’s needs and what the seller has to offer. I love that moment when there’s a match!

What’s your advice to practitioners who’ve just taken their first million-dollar listing?

Price the property right, and be accessible and flexible. We’re not in the housing business, we’re in the people business — and that’s one of my strengths. I love people. Listen to other practitioners and clients. If you can’t listen, you can’t help. Every deal will have its ups and downs, so remain focused on a happy ending for everyone.

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