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July 2011

Luxury Market Heating Up With the Summer?

Some of the recent headlines from around the U.S. suggest that the luxury segment (which has been the untold good "news story" throughout this downturn) continues to gain momentum...

High Rollers Move Up (UPI) 

Luxury Homes are Moving Faster (UPI)

House Prices Hit Record Highs in Houston (HAR)

Luxury Home Sales on the Rise (Denver Business Journal)

Hamptons Home Prices Climb as Luxury Beachside Properties Attract Buyers (Bloomberg)

Reportcover_110x142 According to our ILHM National Market Report the trend for the past few months for the nation's luxury markets in aggregate has been price stability, moderate increases in inventory, declining days on market, a situation of general market stability.

What are YOU seeing in your market?


Photo Friday: Telling the story with images and words

We're off to Lake Tahoe this week with some beautiful photos of 360 Abbey Road.  As you'll see, Elaine Casteleyn has done an absolutely superb job of capturing the key features of this property with excellent photography.  

Not only that, but through her use of captions with the photos, she's speaking directly to key prospects and translating those features into benefits.  The language she uses for the captions is simple, but designed to resonate emotionally and appeal to the specific lifestyle needs of  the targeted prospects and likely buyers.  The words chosen are evocative of connoisseurship and success, two qualities the buyer will likely embody.

The property website is elegant and easy to navigate.  The homepage features a photo slideshow with the following captions overlaid on the images.  

Welcome to 360 Abbey Road...
Escape to the tranquility of Lake Tahoe...
Enter into your private sanctuary...
Down the 1/2 mile drive to take you home...
To luxurious and spacious living...
Savor the spectacular lake vistas...
Host unforgettable social events...
Relax in the warm and inviting study...
And celebrate each day...
With heavenly views at every level...
Accommodate visitors in the guest house...
Or unwind at your own pace...
Where nature and beauty surround you...
360 Abbey Road - 10 acres of outstanding opportunity

As you can see, the captions very subtly highlight the benefits and the lifestyle activities that the owner might enjoy.  They spark the imagination and help the viewer experience the home.  Even imagined experiences can be powerful and tantalizing! 

For example, the caption for the photo of the kitchen isn't a list of appliances, its a hint that this is a perfect home in which to "Host unforgettable social events."  Can't you just see folks mingling happily in the kitchen with wine glasses in hand?

The home features a large wine cellar, but the caption doesn't highlight the technical features or attributes (temperature and humidity control, bottle capacity, etc).  Instead the caption says simply, "And celebrate each day."  It is a simple phrase that again evokes success and connoisseurship.  Successful people celebrate, and clearly the owner of this home is a coconnoisseur with much in life to celebrate and the means to do it.

Elaine has done a fabulous job positioning the property with images and words.  Here are some of the key things she's done to make this so effective:

  • Defined the unique features of the property
  • Defined a prospect group based on the lifestyle these features afford
  • Uses professional quality photographs that capture the property's key features
  • Created captions that turn key features into benefits in the minds of her prospects
  • Used language that is experiential, emotionally evocative, and which appeals to the targeted prospects wants, needs, and values
  • Used a simple, elegant presentation

Good photos are powerful.  Good photos with good captions are even more powerful.

Photo Friday: Cherry Pickers

Some of you seemed to like the idea of a regular (weekly?) photo feature, so let's kick things off with a photo submitted by CLHMS and Million Dollar Guild member Lisa Wadey


As you can see from the photo above this large, Mediterranean-style home sits right on a beautiful golf course at the foot of scenic hills in Scottsdale.  

The unique perspective of the photo captures all these important details--the front facade, the golf course to the rear, the mountain view in the background--in a single shot.  This is the photo that "says it all."  The catch of course is that it was shot from 40 or 50 feet in the air!  

The secret to shots like this?  
One technique for capturing a property from an elevated perspective is to use a boom truck or "cherry picker."  These trucks can typically be rented for very reasonable rates (here in Dallas that's about $250 for two hours with a driver) and offer great flexibility to help you or your photographer capture that perfect shot.

You'll find tips on this and so much more in the How to Photograph Houses eBook by Stan Barron (Members can download it for free from the Document Downloads page of our website).


Would you like to have your property photos featured in a future Photo Friday blog post?  Email me at waco(at) and we'll consider them for upcoming posts.

A look at London Luxury

The London luxury market is still hot.  According to a recent study by Knight Frank, June prices for London luxury properties are up 8.1% year-over-year.  The average price was 3.7 million GBP (US $5.9 million).

Here are some recent stories on the London luxury market:

Tightening Limits on Jumbo Loans


On October 1st Fannie, Freddie, and the Feds will be lowering the maximum amount the government will guarantee on  Jumbo loans.  The new limits will vary by region.  Under the new rules, the  maximum eligible loan will fall from $729,750 to $625,500.

If you have buyers "on the fence," now's a good time to have a conversation with them and make sure they understand the potential ramifications of this.    

As for the effects on the housing market in general, the jury's still out.  Some folks are predicting that banks will step in and fill the gap by lowering lending requirements and rates in the hopes of capturing a bigger slice of the jumbo pie.  

Here are some current stories on the subject:

Bloomberg: Banks May Soften Blow of Jumbo Loan Limits

Wall Street JournalRebound or Retreat After Mortgage-Cap Declines?

Why You?


Why should people work with you?  

Why would someone choose you over your competitors?

What can you deliver that's uniquely yours and that they value?

To answer these questions, you have to have an understanding of your prospect's values and expectations.  

The top 5 attributes that affluent buyers and sellers are looking for when selecting an agent:

  1. Knowledge about the buying/selling process
  2. Market knowledge
  3. Ability to use the internet/email
  4. Ability to fully qualify prospects
  5. Ability to be discrete 

How well do agents deliver?  

Only 50% of affluent buyers and sellers reported that they were "very satisfied" with their agent's performance on their most recent transaction.  

Takeaways?  Expertise and market knowledge are highly valued and can be used as key differentiators.  A good market report targeted to a specific market segment is likely to be one of the best ways to demonstrate this knowledge and one of the most effective marketing tools an agent can utilize.   

With a satisfaction rate this low, there is clearly much room for improvement.  Remember it is not just about execution, it's about understanding client values and expectations and delivering on them.  There are clearly many opportunities for competent agents to capture new clients from under-performing agents.