A spectacular rat race to sell the most expensive, most lavish mansions has overtaken Los Angeles’s hot luxury market.
The most recent example is Chartwell, a 1930s neoclassical chateau that belongs to the family of the late billionaire Jerry Perenchio. It went up for sale in posh Bel Air for $350 million on Aug. 7, making it the most expensive listing in the U.S. There’s also Opus, a $100 million Beverly Hills spec home developed by Nile Niami, who plans to unleash another megamansion next year for a listing price of $500 million.
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But behind the drone-assisted aerial images, seductive promotional videos and carefully curated press releases, a few top luxury listing agents have the onerous task of getting facetime with of a pool of billionaire buyers that numbers only a few thousand in the world.
So how do brokers sell a home without, or with scant, equal? Experienced agents say sealing the deal on a $100 million-plus listing requires a stacked Rolodex, a willingness to globetrot and a newsworthy sales pitch.
“The marketing of a home of that price range requires you to completely wipe your board clean,” said Scott Durkin, chief operating officer of Douglas Elliman, a brokerage that’s handled major sales at luxury Manhattan towers like 432 Park, where the most expensive penthouse sold last year for $87.7 million, as well as nine-figure listings in the city and the Hamptons.
Create a Buzz
Some mega-mansion sellers tend to be camera shy when it comes to their homes, but Mr. Durkin says drumming up buzz among media and fellow brokers is key.
“Getting the home the most exposure you possibly can and targeting the audience, that’s really the goal,” Mr. Durkin said. “Once you’re north of nine digits, you can’t just wait for the phone to ring.”A promotional video uses sex appeal to sell the $100 million Opus spec home in Beverly Hills.
Hilton & Hyland
For example, the marketing team for Opus, the new build in Beverly Hills by Mr. Niami, put out a promotional video so racy it spawned a second wave of press coverage. The video features writhing half-naked women in the massive modern property that boasts two bars, a wine cellar and home theater. Women in gold body paint and little else show off the 10-car garage staged with a gold Lamborghini and a gold Rolls-Royce, before the movie cuts to a woman skinny dipping in a waterfall pool.
Drew Fenton of Hilton & Hyland, the luxury broker on the property, began marketing the $100 million property in February. He did not return a request for comment.
Adam Rosenfeld, a founding member of brokerage Mercer Vine, is representing a different buzzworthy listing in La La Land. The historic Owlwood Estate, a 1930s mansion where Jay-Z hosted a Grammy brunch party a few months ago, hit the market last month for $180 million.An interior shot of the historic Owlwood Estate
For an estate of this caliber, Mercer Vine created a brand and story unique to the property, Mr. Rosenfeld said.
“When we are marketing a property usually we are using our company’s brand to sell,” he said. “But we created a brand for the property… the Owlwood brand is a brand in and of itself.” That includes leveraging Jay-Z’s celebrity-riddled party and a history of star ownership that includes Sonny and Cher, Tony Curtis and 20th Century Fox co-founder Joseph Schenk.
Besides Opus and the $350 million Chartwell, Hilton & Hyland has two other nine-figure whisper listings in Los Angeles plus a nine-figure new development on the horizon.
A Holmby Hills mansion came on the market in March for $129 million; and Formula One heiress Petra Stunt is now selling her home, also in Holmby Hills, for $200 million.
Jeff Hyland, president of Hilton & Hyland and one of the seven brokers on the Chartwell estate, said the growing number of nine-figure listings boils down to limited buildable land (you basically have to knock down a mansion in order to build a new one) and, for the moment, a very lively luxury market in Greater Los Angeles.
For sales of this kind, brokers often need to get on planes and use some finesse when approaching wealthy and powerful buyers. For instance, a billionaire buyer with a fleet of business managers and assistants may not want his gatekeepers to know about potential real estate dealings.
“The biggest problem is if you have you get to a Middle Eastern prince, how do you get from the gatekeeper to the actual client? That’s a skill set when you’re in this league,” Mr. Hyland said. “If it means getting on a plane to London or the Emirates…we do it.”
Keep in Touch
Another strategy for selling these homes is for brokers to keep former clients in their back pockets. For instance, Hilton & Hyland handled the record-breaking sale of the Playboy mansion for $100 million last year to next door neighbor Daren Metropoulos, who Mr. Hyland had sold a home to five years earlier.
Indeed, 80% of luxury sales in the Los Angeles are to domestic buyers, meaning that despite the necessity of creating a media buzz and jetsetting off to big clients, Mr. Hyland said: “The buyer could very well be someone who lives around the corner.”
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