Atlanta Investment Gem

The mansion wasn’t even for sale, but that didn’t stop one luxury broker from helping his client buy the lavish property for a cool $9 million.

July 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. This month, Bill Rawlings, formerly with Jenny Pruitt in Atlanta

and now with CoraBett Thomas in Savannah, Ga., explains how persistence throughout a year-and-a-half home search helped him land a $9 million sale.

First off, how did you manage to help your client buy a home that wasn’t listed?

RAWLINGS:I took my buyer to the property about a year and half ago when it was actually on the market. But my buyer wanted to see a different property, so he chose not to make an offer at the time. The asking price was right around $9.9 million. With that high of a price, it’s pretty uncommon to find buyers, so it’s not surprising that it didn’t sell right away. The seller eventually took the home off the market.

What can you tell us about the property?

RAWLINGS:It’s new construction on 16.2 acres of verdant lawns and woodlands in Buckhead, a prestigious suburb of Atlanta. The private estate includes two guest bedrooms, three children’s bedrooms, a children’s playroom, a mud room, a three-floor elevator shaft, a private office and command center, two laundry rooms, two 2-car garages, and a terrace that can be used for an expansion.

How did you meet your client?

RAWLINGS:A couple of years ago I was introduced to him through an investor I was helping with an investment property. The buyer had invested some money in the deal too, and I stayed in touch with him ever since. So when I found out he was looking for a home, I stepped in to help him. He wanted to find an estate on several acres for his family, and having lots of privacy was one of his top concerns.

What made the buyer want to purchase the house so long after he had passed it up?

RAWLINGS: After a year and a half of searching, we just couldn’t find the right

land for him to build a custom home, or a property that was as nice or as private as the home in Buckhead. Plus, that home was new and almost exactly what the buyer had in mind. Except for a few minor architectural changes, the house was a perfect match. So last fall, we contacted the previous listing agent and submitted an offer.

You mentioned that your client wanted to make some architectural changes. What kinds of changes does he envision?

RAWLINGS: He really wanted to build a custom home; that’s why it took so long to find a property. Instead, he ended up with a home that he could make changes to. He wants to add a five-car garage, spa and pool area, more porches, and a fence around the entire property. He also wants to change the configuration of the rooms and double the size of the master wing. All of these changes will probably cost him about $3 million.

How long did it take to close the deal?

RAWLINGS: Less than 60 days. It was actually a pretty normal deal. We had a few issues during the walk through, but we got those resolved. We also had to consult with both the architect who designed the home and with the buyer’s architect to make sure the buyer could make all the changes he wanted to make. We closed this past November.

How did you keep in touch with your client for the year-and-a-half that he was searching for a home?

RAWLINGS: I mostly used the phone and some e-mail. I would usually talk to him about once a week, but there were times when we wouldn’t talk for a month. It was really a matter of just staying in touch with current news about the market. With so many calls we got to know each other pretty well and became friends. We were working together for a specific outcome, which was to find him a home that would be a good match for him and his family. He wasn’t desperate for a house so it wasn’t a need-based purchase. He still had a house he was trying to sell for $7.6 million.

What would you say was the contributing factor that brought the whole deal together?

RAWLINGS: The agent, Kelly Bourdrenu from Jenny Pruitt, who I also brought into the deal to help me represent the buyer. I needed her help because I was in the middle of leaving sales and transitioning into full-time management with CoraBett Thomas, so this wouldn’t have happened without her. This was truly a team effort. We all worked really hard and cooperated extensively to make the deal work.

Did you have any second thoughts about leaving sales after closing a $9 million deal?

RAWLINGS: There are aspects of both sales and management that I like. I had started in sales then moved up the ranks to become the vice president of career development for Jenny Pruitt. Today, I’m the Chief Operating Officer for CoraBett Thomas Realty & Associates, in Savannah, Ga. I’m fortunate enough to coach agents in their deals, so I’m still involved indirectly in the sales process. I have the best of both worlds.

What advice can you offer other REALTORS®?

RAWLINGS: One of the cornerstones of our business is relationships, and for relationships to flourish we need communication. So it’s important to stay in touch with your clients and customers. Build relationships before and after the transition. I also think it’s important to respond to clients quickly and use the technologies available, such as BlackBerrys and cell phones. You need to be able to send a text message, e-mail, or call your client as soon as you can. If you lose contact with them, there’s a good chance you’re going to lose them as a client, too.

Bill Rawlings
Corabett Thomas
Savannah, Ga.