Clients Come First in a $2.9 Million Oregon Flip

A Lake Oswego real estate practitioner jumps in to help a couple flip a multimillion-dollar villa after it sat on the market for two years.

February 1, 2007

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. In this month’s column, Susy Darm with Hasson Co. in Lake Oswego, Ore., explains how targeted marketing and always putting the customer first helped her sell a couple’s house flip in June 2006 for $2.9 million.

How did you get this listing?

DARM: I’ve known the sellers for about 15 years; they’re friends of mine. They own several companies and flip houses as a fun project every few years. I actually had tried to list this house for them almost two years ago, but they decided to go with a competitor because my market analysis showed it would be worth less. The house sat for two years. Then the sellers finally called me.

Have you worked with these sellers on previous flips?

DARM: Yes, I had done two previous transactions with them. I call them about every two years to see if they want to list any current flip they might have — they tend to live in their project home for at least two years and make it their primary residence. Under these circumstances, tax laws allow individuals to sell their primary residence with little or no tax liability on the profits.

Tell us about the property. Why is it worth nearly $3 million?

DARM: It’s very classy. In 2000, the sellers tore down the home that was

originally on the property and hired a top architect, Jeffrey Miller, to design a beautiful Mediterranean Villa style home. It has 7,834 square feet and four bedrooms. It’s in a great neighborhood, too, and on 8 acres. It has a stream-fed pond, an eight-stall equestrian building, another detached building to store big items, and great landscaping.

How long did you have this listing?

DARM: With a big listing, I go for a contract. This time the sellers wanted a six-month contract and it turned out that was enough time because I sold it in about two months. It was a lot of work but I got it done. I put up the sign, initiated my marketing methods, and started showing the property like crazy. I showed this home an average of twice a week. Each showing took three hours due to the amount of property and the specialty offerings this home has.

It’s kind of unusual to hear of that many showings on a high-priced home. How did you get so much traffic?

DARM: I’ve learned that high-end homes need to be marketed to high-end brokers. Buyers at this price point rely on a professional to find a specialty home. So I made the information readily available to my colleagues and mailed property brochures with a nice cover letter to the top 250 brokers in my area. They have the traffic I needed. For every mailer I send, I might get more than one buyer aware of my listing. That’s money well spent.

What other kinds of marketing methods did you use?

DARM: Nothing unusual — local newspapers, online exposure, a great home book, and brochures. The home book was probably the most expensive to produce. The design alone was $1,500, and then $5 per book. I still have a few left and use them for listing presentations now.

How did you generate online exposure for the home?

DARM: I used our company Web site, Hasson Co., and the local MLS service. Our company site is easily found by major search engines, so it serves the client well and it’s convenient for me. Also, for this particular home, I hired and paid a local contractor to produce a virtual tour. But the home sold so fast that we never had a chance to upload the tour.

Overall, how much did you spend on marketing?

DARM: Around $10,000.

Why do you think you were able to sell the house in two months after it had previously been listed for two years without any results?

DARM: Price was key. I found a price point that the sellers would consider. I shared with them how the market was more prone to buy under the $3-million mark. They agreed and we priced at $2,995,000. For two years, the home was listed at various price points over $3 million, so it just made sense to appeal to a broader market.

Was the 2-year wait for the listing worth it?

DARM: The timing actually turned out pretty well. In January 2005, I was diagnosed with stage-three colon cancer and by the following December I was finished with all my treatments and surgery. Then I needed six months for recovery, so by the time I took the listing I felt strong and ready to be running my business again.

Did your long absence affect your business?

DARM: I was overwhelmed. But my clients stuck with me — they supported me 100 percent. I usually close $10 million to $13 million per year. In 2006 I only worked about six months and closed $8 million. That’s loyalty!

What makes your clients so loyal?

DARM: I really care for them. I’m involved in their lives — if someone is pregnant and they need a pediatrician, they call me for a referral. If someone needs help with a college application, they call me.

What advice do you have for your fellow real estate practitioners?

DARM: Watch out for your client. Put their wants and needs first and forget about your own. Your care will come back to you. Help them in every way possible with one of the biggest decisions of their lives — buying or selling a home.

Susy Darm
Hasson Co.
Lake Oswego, Ore.