The Wow Factor: How to market prestige property

Gone are the days prestige homes were sold just like any other property. Kylie Dulhunty takes a look at how big ticket homes come with marketing campaigns almost as large.

Ballerinas dancing inside bubbles, weeping cherry trees, launch parties worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and curated dinners are among big-ticket ways prestige homes are marketed across the country.

Forget quick photo shoots, 2D floor plans and a snappy artist’s sketch; prestige property marketing has reached epic proportions as developers and real estate agents seek to engage the five senses when pitching their products to society’s elite.

Years of research and months of hard work go into the marketing campaigns, and a photo session at one of Sydney’s luxurious Rose Bay properties runs for two long days.

Leading the way
Leading the way with jaw-dropping property marketing in Australia is Crown Group, a developer known for its opulent apartment developments here and overseas. When the group launched its Japanese-inspired development Mastery, in the inner southern Sydney precinct of Waterloo, they threw a $650,000 unveiling event.

It featured a blush-pink cherry tree programmed to drop petals every five minutes, so those looking for the perfect social media picture had the ideal backdrop. Those posts then pitched Crown Group to many more thousands of people than the 2,000 at the exclusive party. Similarly, a $500,000 launch event unveiled the Waterfall development with a ballerina floating around in a bubble on a water feature at the party.

Director of Sales Prisca Edwards says Crown Group stands for innovation, not just in the property it develops but in how it presents that product to the market.

“No one remembers the second man who landed on the moon,” she says. “We have to be the biggest or the first. Innovation plays well here.

“We’re not going to make our unveilings just another event; we want it to be ‘the’ event you care about. Like the Oscars.”

Multi-sensory experience
Rather than creating just a visual spectacle, Crown also markets using sound, scent, touch and taste.

“At the Waterfall unveiling we had bird noises and water sounds, and we created smells using aroma diffusers,” Prisca says.

“We engage the five senses.

“At Mastery we had dancers and ushers wearing Japanese kimonos, drummers, musicians and Japanese food along with a $30,000 Japanese bell that we used to cover the model.

“We lifted the bell to reveal the model of the development. There were so many people taking pictures and posting them to Instagram and Facebook, and that’s part of our marketing strategy too. We think everything through.”

It’s important to note that large amounts of sponsorship near-cover the Crown events. They also feature the old-school marketing techniques such as models of the development and rendered images, only on a grander scale of course.

“In our displays, we have a model room and a render room with a massive screen,” Prisca says.

“The big screen gives you a sense of reality in that you see the plants, the trees and facilities in real size.”

Prisca notes that a lot of research goes into Crown Group’s marketing campaigns, including taking trips to Las Vegas for the CES Conference in January.

The idea is to see and keep up with the world’s best innovators and inventions as they relate to real estate.

“We were looking at Facebook, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and the latest tech and new research,” Prisca recalls.

“We concentrate on what we think will work in the real estate market because we want to make sure we are always one step ahead.

“Even though our product is apartments – and good ones – we stand for innovation. That translates to the quality of our product, the design and the way we market it.

“We don’t think property represents just one side of our lives. We use a lifestyle way of marketing, so we look at fashion, we look at food, we look at activities.”

In the USA
Sally Forster Jones, from US real estate firm Compass, is no stranger to selling trophy homes.

The Executive Director of Luxury Estates sold the Spelling Manor, built by entertainment royalty Aaron and Candy Spelling, for $150 million in 2011, and in 2014 she sold 1181 Hillcrest Rd, Beverly Hills, to Minecraft creator Markus Persson for $70 million.

Sally says it’s crucial to tell the story of the home and lifestyle available when marketing prestige property.

“Recently we have been previewing luxury estates to the media, top brokers and prospective buyers with beautifully curated dinners,” she says.

“Not only is this effective for bringing people in to view the home, but it also helps boost PR awareness, resulting in media hits and widespread awareness.”

Using models and luxury vehicles in video montages for prestige property is another way to convey the lifestyle on offer, but she warned that it needed to be done tastefully or you risked portraying the home in a negative light.

She says technology also assists in marketing prestige homes, with wealth mapping tools allowing her to pinpoint the buyer pool, along with their interests.

“This allows me to figure out if the house is a good fit for them and the media outlets they enjoy so I can advertise accordingly,” Sally says.

High-End versus prestige
Back on home soil, The Agency’s Ben Collier sells in Sydney’s premier eastern suburbs including Rose Bay, Vaucluse and Double Bay.

He says high-end properties start from about $5 million, while prestige properties tip the $15 million mark.

While homes on the water were once the only ones considered prestige, the influence of the Chinese market has reshaped that thought process to include properties further back from the ocean if they had excellent elevation and picturesque views.

Unlike the regular real estate market, Ben says the prestige sector transacts differently, with homes bought as a desire rather than a need.

“It is an entirely different world,” he says.

“It’s different because the buyers don’t have to buy. They are already living in a nice home, and they don’t ‘have’ to buy the big house by the water, but they do as a reward for all of their hard work and effort.

“They might have an aspiration to be on the water with their own jetty and a boat. Their motivations are very different, and for that reason, at that end of the market, there are certain homes that seldom come up.

“In 28 years there are some homes that I’ve never seen come on the market.

“Homes such as Elaine and Fairwater, the Fairfax homes, had been passed down through the generations for more than 100 years before they were offered for sale again.”

Ben says the tightly held nature of prestige homes and the different motivations for buying them meant there was depth in the market.

“When you have something like that come up there’s always someone in the background who knows that if they don’t act now they don’t know when that home will come up again,” he says.

Auction more accepted
Earlier this year Ben sold 20B Tivoli Avenue, Rose Bay, for what is believed to be more than $23 million. Initially, it was for sale via expression of interest but at the last minute switched to an auction campaign due to the high number of interested parties.

It passed in at $23.25 million but sold soon after, although Ben can’t say for what figure.

Once upon a time auction would never have been considered for such a pricey property but Ben says it’s becoming more and more accepted due to its transparent nature.

The marketing campaign for Tivoli Ave was carefully constructed with articles or stories coming out in the media at regular intervals throughout the campaign.

“The vendors go to enormous amounts of effort to get prestige properties of this nature ready for sale,” Ben says.

“It’s not as simple as a quick tidy up and mowing the grass.

“At Tivoli Ave, it took two days to shoot the still photographs and three days to get the video done. We were there from 5am to 9pm to capture the different moods at different times of the day in the house.”

Organisation is key
Ray White Double Bay’s Craig Pontey sold 38B The Crescent, Vaucluse, via EOI, in six weeks, for $65.25 million last year.

“The marketing we managed to achieve for that property, because it was high profile, a trophy home on big land, with a tennis court, a swimming pool, a jetty and water and city views, was excellent,” he says.

“Newspaper, television and radio coverage is easy to get when it’s a trophy home or has a high profile

“We had a report on how much free media we achieved, and it was almost $2 million of free airplay.”

He says the property took two days to photograph, video and take drone shots and the vendors were consulted every step of the way to make sure they were happy.

“In the old days we’d take our own photos with a little black and white camera and then write our own copy,” Craig recalls.

Craig says marketing prestige homes must be tightly organised.

“Buyers don’t want to be mucked around,” he says.

“If they want a floor plan or a contract they want it in five minutes and don’t want to wait three weeks for it.”

Homes of the rich and famous

Tennis great Michael Chang’s Coto De Caza mansion hit the market with an $8 million price tag.

But how do you market a luxury trophy home in an opulent Orange County, gated, private community when the owner is world famous?

Compass agent Chris Kwon says it was vital to check Chang was OK with having his name attached to the property, located at 15 Via Terracaleta, and that would-be nosey parkers were kept well away.

“It’s important that we vet each and every potential buyer who has expressed interest in the home,” he says.

“The events hosted for the property aren’t open to the general public.”

Nestled on a gentle hillside comprising about 9.58 acres, the grand estate features an opulent seven-bedroom, five- bathroom main house and a two bedroom, two- bathroom guest house.

An interior designer has brought the main house to life with a phenomenal foyer with a semi-spiral staircase, hardwood floors, remodelled bathrooms and restored fireplaces.

The chef’s kitchen is expansive, as is the master suite with its deck, a wet bar, a double-sided fireplace and ensuite with freestanding bath.

The property also has two tennis courts, a half basketball court, three putting greens, a large pool, spa, waterfall, fire pit, outdoor kitchen and a koi pond.

“Interest in the property has been good so far, and there have been several showing requests from out of the area buyers interested in moving to the Coto De Caza community,” Chris said (back when we spoke to him in May).

“Half of the interest has been local, from the LA region, and the other 50 per cent has come from outside the state.

“We wanted to capture not only the local market but wanted to make sure the home had national and international exposure.

“We wanted to make sure we promoted the listing to several different Asian outlets … since
the owner has a strong Asian following locally and abroad, we definitely wanted to make them aware.”

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Editor at Elite Agent.