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October 2012
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December 2012

November 2012

LIL 2012 Charleston Conference Makes Headlines


This past October, The Institute held its annual Leaders in Luxury (LIL) event in beautiful Charleston, SC; named Top U.S. City and Top Destination in the World by Condé Nast Traveler 2012. The LIL hospitality committee’s local expertise helped plan a property tour of the historic district in Charleston for attendees. A follow-up article published in The Post and Courier confirms that it was a fantastic event!


The vast array of luxury Realtors embarking on the exploration were able to experience what luxury Lowcountry has to offer by visiting 3 unique listings. From a $23 million mansion, to a $1.975 million priced property with a double piazza, this group of high-end real estate professionals were treated to the best of Charleston homes.

Listing agents for each property on the tour met LIL attendees and guided them through the magnificent residences. From the sound of The Post and Courier article, this event was a huge success for all involved! Read more…

Tax-fleeing French Create Home Buying Opportunities

“Au revoir This Paris Life” is what many wealthy French property owners are saying to France as they flee to avoid the government’s proposed 2013 revenue squeeze on the wealthy.   With a possible 75% tax rate on salaries above $1.3 million, plus increases on capital gains, many affluent are selling their French residences and moving to tax friendlier locales.  Others are poised to s ell if the tax hikes take effect as expected.  As a result, inventory in the high-end of France’s housing market is increasing.  For buyers who are not primary residents of France, this is a boom.  They won’t be subject to the punishing taxes, have more residences to choose from, and growing inventory levels may cause prices to soften.     If you have affluent clients who dream of a French chateau or an apartment overlooking the rooftops of Paris, now may be the time to suggest they shop for a second home in France.  Can you say “bargain price” in French?  Try “prix d'occasion.”

To take a look at what France has to offer by checking out this Paris blog.  You can also read more about the tax-fleeing French in this NY Times article

Need to refer a client to France?  Remember that you can network with agents around the world on Proxio, the international MLS.  If you haven’t taken advantage of the free membership which The Institute provides, find the details in the members’ only section of our website.

Lights, Camera, and Action – Although Inventory is at Record-Low Levels, It Hasn’t Stopped Northern California’s Raziel Ungar from Producing Big Numbers

For Raziel Ungar of Coldwell Banker, selling luxury real estate in the areas where he grew up – Burlingame, Hillsborough, and San Mateo, California – is second nature.  And it’s this familiarity to his market that has propelled the 30-year-old to become one of the Top 10 Agents in Burlingame, to become one of the Top 1 Percent of all Coldwell Banker agents nationwide in 2011, and has put him on pace to close nearly two dozen deals this year.

As the youngest agent in his office, Raziel is bringing an entirely new and different way of marketing to the industry – in the form of video.  Find out how this former Jeopardy intern and film and video buff has successfully incorporated all of this and more into his business – and how it even helped him snag a $1.5 million buyer and others from the internet.

Raziel gives Institute for Luxury Home Marketing members his insider perspective on the Burlingame, Hillsborough and San Mateo County market. Raziel Ungar

What’s the typical starting price for the luxury homes segment of your market?

RU – In Burlingame, the starting point would be approximately $1.5 million, while Hillsborough would be the low-to-mid $2 million range.

What will $1.5 million buy you in Burlingame?  How about $2 million in Hillsborough?

RU – In Burlingame, you’d likely get 3 bedrooms and around 1,800 – 2,400 square feet.  The age of the home would vary and could be a refurbished home that could be as old as 80 to 90 years old, or it could be a much newer home.  A new construction home in Burlingame typically sells for around $2.2 million to $2.4 million and is usually 3,000 square feet on a 6,000 square foot lot.

In Hillsborough, all lots are a minimum of ½ acre.  And at the $2 million price point, a buyer can expect to get 2,500 to 3,000 square feet, likely 30 to 60 years old that may or may not have been updated.  The average priced home in this market in late summer was $3.2 million.

How would you describe the pulse of your market?

RU – There is a lot of action and not a lot of inventory.  Here’s an interesting example of how hot the market is in San Mateo County; the average sales price is 104 percent of the asking price.  Inventory is incredibly low – as much as 40 percent lower than previous years.

One of my more popular blog posts this summer took a look at Burlingame’s inventory over the past 24 months and came to this conclusion; in August we had the fewest number of homes for sale than at any point in the last 24 months.

How different is your market from last year at this time?

RU – The market is a lot stronger than last year at this time.  Prices are up 5 to 10 percent.  A lot of the activity is certainly due to the low interest rates.  Ten percent of buyers in Burlingame last year were cash buyers, primarily from the tech, biotech or financial services sectors.

The level of enthusiasm and low inventory are what sets this year’s market apart from last year’s.

Which segments are hot and where are the best opportunities in the market?

RU – Move-up buyers have the best of both worlds; low interest rates and they can take advantage of the appreciation from the last few years and move those gains into their next purchase.  First time buyers flush with cash from a recent liquidity event are also driving the lower-end of the market for sub $1.2 million homes.

How are you adapting your business to the market conditions and opportunities?

RU – My marketing is pretty different than most agents.  I focus a good amount of resources on video and feature my client’s properties, documentary style short films about the Burlingame community through my web series, Burlingame Buzz, and educational videos for buyers and sellers on my YouTube channel here.  I’ve just completed work on a video series featuring each neighborhood in Burlingame, and am aiming to produce videos for each neighborhood in my marketplace.

In fact, I employ a videographer 20 hours per week and I feature every neighborhood in Burlingame.  This has really helped my search engine rankings and was the reason a $1.5 million buyer found me and is now a client.

Film and video always interested me.  I went to college at UCLA and was even an intern on Jeopardy.  I’ve always had a huge interest in video and it’s great because now I get to incorporate it into my business and the marketing of my clients’ luxury homes.

What do they see ahead short and long term for your market?

RU – In the last 10 years or so, we’ve seen a shift in this market with buyers.  Places like this are a premium destination and buyers buy because they really want to be here for the long haul.

In the short term, I think we will continue to see low inventory levels through the end of the year, with perhaps an uptick in inventory next spring.  In my eight years of practicing here, I’ve yet to have a client tell me they felt like there were a lot of homes to choose from.

Thanksgiving for 40

NY Times Thanksgiving


For some, preparing Thanksgiving dinner requires careful planning and precise execution. For Linda Horgan of Long Island, NY, it requires spreadsheets! This may be because Linda will be welcoming about 40 guests to her home for Thanksgiving this year; a mixture of family and friends.

A huge fan of the holiday, Linda goes all out, paying attention to every detail of her Thanksgiving feast; down to the size of her biscotti. She rents tables and chairs, sets up a bar, and even arranges a dessert buffet for her invitees

Plastic take-home containers are a must for guests, along with the willingness to participate in this extravagant spread; which could include a helping hand in the kitchen or with the day’s entertainment.

Institute member Kelly Cobb is no stranger to this type of Thanksgiving enthusiasm either. Each year, Kelly offers her clients their choice of pumpkin or pecan pie! Having the pickup location at her office allows Kelly to enjoy some nice face-time with her clients, which is invaluable to her repeat business and referrals.

Linda and Kelly’s over-the-top Thanksgivings make for some excellent holiday fun. For Kelly, her Thanksgiving is about a big slice of client appreciation. And, the only rule Linda seems to have for her Thursday dinner is if you bicker, you’re barred!

However you celebrate, happy turkey day to you and yours! Read more…

Using Bling to Buy Bling

The latest coveted piece of luxury may be coming in the form of a Visa gold card made of actual gold!  Let’s not forget the diamonds and mother of pearl adornment on this extra high-end card.

That’s right, a bank in Kazakhstan is planning to offer this bling-worthy card, made of solid gold and .17 carats, to its top 100 high net worth customers. Visa is touting the “infinite card” as the ultimate status symbol for the ultra-wealthy.  It’s said to offer the best of the best in customer service and be packed with accompanying benefits inclGold-Diamond Incrusted Credit Carduding health insurance, 24-hour phone service, and a brand new iPhone.

This flashy card comes with a flashy price tag of $100,000 ($65,000 for the card itself, the remaining $35,000 applied to the card as credit).  There’s also a $2,000 annual fee. But, you don’t have to worry about scratching or ruining your credit bling at the ATM, as the card itself does not possess a magnetic strip. You’ll have to pull out your everyman’s Visa for that.  Read More…

Kitchen Sprawl

Any Realtor can tell you that the kitchen is the heart of the house.  A recent article in The Wall Street Journal reports that we are more kitchen-centric than ever before.


Today’s kitchen is gobbling up more square footage and morphing into a multi-purpose great room made up of a showcase kitchen with commercial grade appliances, along with a casual family living area, dining space, butler’s pantry, powder room, adjacent outdoor kitchen and perhaps a second prep or catering kitchen, where  the “dirty work” like cooking and dish washing actually takes place.  Homes targeting Asian buyers may also feature a wok cooking area.   Read more…

A Revealing Look Into the Mind of the Luxury Home Consumer

So what’s going on with luxury home buyers and sellers in 2012?

It’s a question we’re often asked, and one that Laurie Moore-Moore , Institute for Luxury Home Marketing Founder, addresses head-on with her keen insight into the trends impacting the luxury home segment.

What exactly are the 10 new attitudes of the affluent? 

AG BeatLaurie details them and much more – our friends at the highly respected
AG Beat have published her entire national column and thoughts profiling the luxury consumer here.

It’s a must read for all luxury home real estate professionals.

$1 or $1,000,000? Letting the Market Decide

If you attended our recent Leaders in Luxury conference, you probably had an opportunity to meet (and possible even dance with) Ken DeLeon.  He's currently the top agent in the country, with approximately $275,000,000 in closed transactions in 2011, including one $100 million whopper - the most expensive home ever sold in the U.S.

Ken is currently getting attention for listing a $1,000,000+ condo in Mountain View, CA for only one dollar.  As the press release states:

Ken DeLeon, owner of DeLeon Realty, Inc., announced today that he will list a condo in Mountain View, CA, home of Google, LinkedIn and other tech titans for only $1 on Thursday, October 25th. This truly lets the market decide the value of the home, a new take on the standard listing approach in the competitive Silicon Valley real estate market. DeLeon will have a "silent auction" for the property, setting the offer date for Thursday, November 8th. "There is no loan on this property, so whatever it goes for that day will be the sale price, even if it's $1," DeLeon stated.

Realtor Ken DeLeon Lists Home For $1. (PRNewsFoto/DeLeon Realty, Inc.)
To get some background on Ken's thinking, listen to this short interview where he discusses his thoughts on just such an auction strategy, and the notion that "The list price is a placeholder."  

In a market as hot as Silicon Valley, where cash buyers are competiting for properties and multiple offers are the norm, perhaps this is a sales strategy that makes sense.  

Or does it?  

Ken and his seller will find out on Thursday...

Home Staging Inspiration

Looking for some inspiration for staging your listings? Remember that the home magazines can be a great source of ideas.

HBTake a look at this short slide show on the House Beautiful website. While the magazine’s tips for accessorizing rooms include the use of pillows, fruits, and flowers (no surprise here), you’ll see some other ideas which might help you, your stager, and your homeowners add other creative touches which can give positive punch to the rooms in your listing.

ELLE DECOR is another good source for ideas.  Take a peek at their Great Ideas and Trend Alert pages.  And don't forget about Architectural Digest, Dwell, and the other design and shelter publications out there.


If you have some time to kill, browsing social media is always fun.  You never know what you'll find. Take a gander at the Home Decor category on Pinterest to see what's trending online.


Leaders in Luxury event offers “pearls of wisdom”

“In my 29 years of selling homes, I cannot recall ever attending a seminar so filled with pearls of wisdom. 
I am revived again!”

That’s what Institute member Kelly Cobb from Long and Foster in Chapel Hill (NC), had to say about this year’s Leaders in Luxury—or as we call the event, “LIL”

Held in Charleston in mid- October, approximately 120 Institute members, who specialize in million dollar properties, gathered to share marketing techniques and other best practices.

Keynote speakers included the number one agent in the country, Institute member Ken DeLeon of DeLeon Realty in Silicon Valley (CA), who closed $275 million last year. Other speakers were international agents Tony and Barbara Young who are currently selling a billion dollar resort community in the Swiss alps; Ted Jones, Chief Economist for Stewart Title; Kay Green of Kay Green Design, a noted Florida-based interior designer.   In addition, the agenda included numerous top agent presentations, expert panels and ample networking opportunities.

The meeting also included a multi-category marketing awards competition. This year’s Leaders in Luxury marketing award winners, chosen for the quality, creativity and effectiveness of their submissions include:

  • Best Market Update Report
    Raziel Ungar, Burlingame Properties Coldwell Banker, Burlingame (CA)
  • Best Property Marketing
    Cecilia DeFritais, RE/MAX Premier, Woodbridge, Ontario (Canada)
  • Best Personal Marketing with Emphasis on Agent Branding (tie)
    Maria Babaev, Laffey Fine Homes, Greenvale (Long Island, NY) &
    Dawn Thomas, Intero Real Estate Services (Silicon Valley, CA)
  • Outstanding Personal Achievement with Emphasis on Giving Back to the Community
    Lenard Lind, L.D. Lind Realty, Aurora, Ontario (Canada)

Watch for a webinar in the next few months featuring the marketing award winners’ entries.

Victoria Horstmann, with Premier Sotheby’s, Long Boat Key (FL) sums up the event with this comment,

“Leaders in Luxury is an invaluable tool for any Realtor expecting to become known as a luxury specialist in his or her market. Not only do you gain tremendous insight into the luxury seller and buyer, but you receive counsel from many of the top producing Realtors worldwide.”

LIL connects our Million Dollar Guild members, giving them a venue in which they can share productive ideas, learn from each other’s experiences, and gain new insights into the luxury market from experts in a variety of fields.  

Attendees gave the meeting (and Charleston) rave reviews. Thanks to all who came.

We’ll be announcing the location for Leaders in Luxury 2013 soon.  
Stay tuned.