The $18.8-Million Question

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How do they sell super-high-end homes? Here’s some insight:

It’s every real estate agent’s dream to list and sell a high-end, multi-million-dollar property, but selling such a listing on Long Island’s North Shore, where asking prices can approach $20 million, takes hard work and special strategies.

“The most important thing is to get fabulous photography on the house,” said licensed real estate salesperson Jill Berman, who represents Douglas Elliman Real Estate’s Port Washington office. “Most people start their search online, as opposed to years ago when they came to a broker and the broker had a book.”
Berman is the listing agent for Bay Winds, a Sands Point estate, which has an asking price of $9,999,999. Berman, herself, has lived in Sands Point for more than 33 years with her husband, sportscaster Len Berman, and knows the owner personally.

Sunninghill
Sunninghill

Debra Quinn Petkanas, who is representing the Sunninghill estate in Old Brookville, a nearly 28-acre property that’s listed for $9,900,000, agrees with Berman. Petkanas, a licensed associate broker who manages the Glen Head/Old Brookville and Sea Cliff offices for Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, used a helicopter to photograph the property.

“The aerial photo was very significant because there was no way you could have captured the 27 acres or more in one photo,” she explained.
Sunninghill has historic significance in addition to six bedrooms, six bathrooms (plus two half baths), a quarter-mile track, outdoor pool, detached cottage and living quarters above three garages that can accommodate 10 cars.

An earlier owner of Sunninghill was veterinarian James Hill, who was part owner of Seattle Slew, the only horse to ever win racing’s Triple Crown while undefeated.

Sunninghill’s current owner gave her the listing as she had previously been involved in one of his other properties.
“He tracked me down,” Petkanas laughed.

“It’s much more expensive to market a high-end property,” Elliman’s Berman pointed out. “You certainly spend a tremendous amount more in print advertising. You’re spending a lot of money out of your own pocket to market the home.”

“We’ve used advertising in specialized magazines that have been distributed in all of the high-end hotels in Manhattan,” said Petkanas.
“And there are certain publications that only accept properties over a certain amount,” Berman added.

Both Laura Rittenberg, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, and Susan Campagna, a Coldwell licensed sales associate, also believe in the importance of photography. One way they use their images is on specialized websites.

Oyster Bay Cove
Oyster Bay Cove

“We have a marketing program which is designed for our high-end properties with different websites,” Rittenberg said. “Our special program, Previews, dates back to 1933 when Coldwell made home movies of high-end properties that were shown privately to wealthy customers. Now, we use videos.”
Campagna is currently showing a seven-bedroom Oyster Bay Cove residence on five waterfront acres with an asking price of $18.8 million. The home features views of Oyster Bay Harbor, Long Island Sound and Connecticut. Another agent referred the owner to Campagna.

“This property is probably going to end up with an international buyer,” she said. “We have offices all over the world. We don’t just translate our website into other languages. We build it in the native language, so it’s a lot easier for international buyers to do their searches.”
“If you don’t build it in the native language, the property won’t be returned in a local search engine,” said Rittenberg. “We get such good results from our international websites. We actually do business in other countries, and that gives us a competitive edge.”

How do agents find buyers for these very expensive properties?
“It’s harder to sell a high-end listing because there are fewer buyers who can afford a high-end listing,” said Berman.
Open houses for the public, common with listings in lower price ranges, are generally avoided.

“Most of my clients prefer that they not be done,” Berman said. “They prefer ‘by appointment only.’”
“We do open houses for brokers only,” Petkanas said. “Some have had buyers for us and brought them, and some have come who just love the excitement of seeing a property of such magnitude.”

“We do our research as to what kind of buyer would be attracted to this property and try to market it properly,” said Rittenberg, referring to Coldwell’s $18.8-million-dollar home.

“I think as you go up the ladder of price, the window of buyer does narrow,” said Petkanas. “However, there are people who live on Long Island and Manhattan and in the Hamptons who can afford a property of this magnitude and greater, if they wish. So far, interest has been kind of even between local buyers and international buyers.”

“They do have choices,” she continued. “It’s a matter of right person, right place, right time and the right criteria.”
Discretion is also key, according to Coldwell’s Campagna.

 Bay Winds
Bay Winds

“It is not unusual for both the buyer and the seller to require that we allow some anonymity for the parties,” she said. “It’s not unusual in this price range for the buyer or seller to be a sports figure or someone who’s famous in some way. We always protect the privacy of our clients.”
Agents for the three properties said that they had little trouble in setting prices.

“We compared it to a number of waterfront properties,” Campagna said of her $18.8-million listing. “We analyze carefully and we research where we feel a buyer will perceive value and then, of course, we watch the market very closely.”

“We’re quite confident in our pricing,” added Rittenberg.

“There were some recent properties that are either on the market or have been sold that give us a good pulse on what the buyer may be willing to pay to gain ownership,” said Petkanas, regarding Sunninghill’s almost $10-million price.

“I’ve sold acreage in Spring Hill [off Glen Cove Road] that is comparable in price,” Berman said about Bay Wind’s nearly $10-million price.
“A celebrity bought 10 acres of land from me which was comparable,” said Berman. “This property is unique because it has Manhasset Bay on one side and the Sound on the other.”

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