Unusual Homes for Unusual People

An Arizona practitioner’s eyes for the unique helps her land a $2.95 million deal and carve a niche within the luxury market.

December 1, 2006

In this REALTOR® Magazine Online exclusive series, Colorado broker Jeff Ordonez talks with practitioners who sold the highest-priced property in their MLS in a given month. This month, Susie DeConcini with Long Realty Co. in Tucson, Ariz., explains how she sold a $2.95 million home by showing off the property’s unique characteristics.

In October your listing sold for $2.95 million, which was the priciest listing in your MLS area. How did you get the listing?

DECONCINI: I knew the family from awhile back. About 25 years ago, the family owned several shopping centers, and back then, I was involved in commercial real estate. I leased a commercial space to one of the family members. But, the seller must have been about 6 or 7 years old then. I had never met her.

So how did you connect?

DECONCINI: I held an open house for a fellow practitioner and this lady walked in. My intuition kicked into overdrive. She was accompanied by someone else — both were very quiet and I could just tell they really liked the home. I approached them, and they were not willing to share much, so I left them alone and handed them my business card on the way out.

Did you get their contact information?

DECONCINI: No. She had explained to me that she was a high-profile person and would prefer to remain anonymous for the time being so I respected her wishes. Besides, I had a feeling we were going to talk again sometime soon.

Was the open house for a million-dollar listing?

DECONCINI: Yes, it was beautiful and very unique. I love to be involved with unique properties — that’s one of my fortes.

When did you hear back from her?

DECONCINI: She called the same afternoon … I knew she was reserved about her information so I didn’t push very hard. Instead, I approached our conversation as a friendly chat and mentioned to her that she would probably like another home I knew about.

What happened next?

DECONCINI: Sure enough, she liked it. That’s why she put her home on the market. A week later, she contacted me to look at her house. It was magnificent. It was very tastefully designed and very unique. Her house was the best example of my niche market, so I knew I had to do just about anything to get the listing. My motto is “unusual homes for unusual people” so this listing would put me at the top of my niche.

How is the property unique?

DECONCINI: This property was unique in many ways. One of the most prominent features is that the lot is small in comparison to the house. So the house was maximized to it fullest potential for the lot. Also, it was not the most expensive area and the design elements were not standard. It had elegant 1920s-1930s flair to it. So I had to target a very special buyer.

What kind of listing terms did you negotiate?

DECONCINI: I got a one-year listing with a 4.5 percent commission, with 1.5 percent my way. In my 30-year career, I’ve never taken any listing that low, and I probably never will again. But in this case, I was banking on future sales. So in the grand scheme of things, it made sense to take a loss. Even my staff was opposed to the terms, but I was confident that good things would come from this.

When did you get the property listed?

DECONCINI: It took two months, but I finally got it on the market in March.

Why did it take so long?

DECONCINI: It’s difficult to compare a unique home like this to other homes on the market. Also, it was going to be the priciest home in the area. It truly was a spectacular home, but how do you justify that to a lender, a buyer, and appraiser? After two months, we agreed that $3.4 million was the appropriate price.

How did you market the property?

DECONCINI: I produced a slick brochure that was as unique as the house, and then I got in the front page of our Long Realty Magazine, I added [the listing] to our company Web site, created a Web page of its own, and ran an ad in The Wall Street Journal and the Arizona Daily Star.

How much did the marketing cost you?

DECONCINI: $14,500

Did you find the Internet to be an effective marketing tool?

DECONCINI: Absolutely, most of my affluent clients come from the Internet. Any one who’s shopping for property today shops the Internet.

Did you use ad words or search engine optimization?

DECONCINI: No. I printed our site address in all my print marketing. That’s how the buyer was made aware of the property.

Did you use any direct mail marketing?

DECONCINI: No. This was a very special target, and I couldn’t justify spending the money to blanket an unknown demographic. Instead, I held personalized “By Invitation Only” open houses.

How did the invitation-only open houses work?

DECONCINI: I invited all the agents who could potentially help me sell the home. And every showing we had was from the agents whom visited us. So the open house provided us with great exposure and traffic. I held one more open house for neighbors only, in the hopes they would talk up their neighborhood and the home.

Did you encounter any challenges with the transaction?

DECONCINI: Yes, the buyer and seller began to talk directly, and the deal began to fall apart because of the personal belongings.

How did you keep the deal together?

DECONCINI: I advised the seller not to respond to any communication from the buyer. And I made sure to cover myself and my company with the proper documentation specific to the deal.

You said this listing could potentially help you land other high-end listings. Has that happened?

DECONCINI: Yes, today I have a $2 million listing that I can directly attribute to the notoriety of the recent listing. By the way, with this listing, I’m making sure that all personal property is negotiated after the close.

What are your thoughts on the overall market climate?

DECONCINI: The overall market is soft. Prices have dropped, buyer resistance is up, and the number of listings has increased. The higher-end market — homes over $800,000 — is selling and prices are not being reduced as drastically. The homes under $500,000 are getting hit the hardest.

Do you have any advice for other practitioners?

DECONCINI: First, never underestimate your ability. Second, step out in faith. Third, create a clear style of your own. And finally, let integrity be your guide. Integrity will get you recognized. There’s another principle I like to live by — respect. I am beginning to see a lack of respect for customers and clients. I strongly believe in respecting others; we should all respect one another.

Susie DeConcini
Long Realty Co.
Tucson, Ariz.