Site-Specific Events Help Sell Top Properties
By Kathy A. McDonald
The delectable aroma of fresh-baked apples or cookies before an open house may make a house feel more like a home, but on the high end of the Los Angeles real estate market it takes more than wafting, feelgood scents to entice buyers. Events are the new baked goods—staged for not only the real estate community but for prospective buyers, press, and influencers who can generate positive word of mouth and awareness for a multimillion-dollar property.
In general, the more expensive the property, the longer it may take to sell, due to the smaller pool of prospective buyers. “In a difficult market, more successful agents will find ways to market properties in unconventional ways,” says Jason Oppenheim of Coldwell Banker Beverly Hills South who, along with partner Joyce Rey, is a seasoned seller of top-tier real estate. In conjunction with advertising efforts, events have the tangible benefit of allowing a potential buyer to see the house in action as a party space.
“We’re big believers in event marketing to get the word out and to create excitement,” concurs Mauricio Umansky, founder and CEO of The Agency, the Beverly Hills–based luxury real estate firm. “Many of the reasons people buy these larger homes is to entertain,” he finds. Guest lists are kept specific and targeted “to create an atmosphere, which becomes beneficial for the house and marketing,” confirms Umansky. To promote a $16.495 million estate on Sarbonne Road in Bel-Air, the firm threw a bash for 200 guests with the intent of proving there were no parking issues for large parties. Instead of a FOR SALE sign, a pre-Emmy beauty and spa retreat at the Beverly Park home of Adrienne Maloof (of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills) coincided with the home’s launch on the market. And to show off the residences in The Ritz-Carlton Residences at L.A. Live in Downtown LA, Umansky and partners produce intimate dinners and fundraisers (the Magic Johnson Foundation was highlighted in November) catered by WP24 by Wolfgang Puck.
Rey tailors events to the locale as well. While a home in Bel-Air—the $25 million Barnaby Estate for instance—is ideal for a wine and cheese reception accompanied by a jazz quartet and new Bentleys in the drive, parties in Hollywood come with a DJ. Malibu homes are shown off via a poolside barbecue at sunset. The guest list is culled from Oppenheim’s and Rey’s extensive databases of interested or past clients, architects, designers, and builders who may have clients who are looking. “The purpose is to attract the demographic that’s more likely to buy the house,” says Oppenheim.
The strategy is effective for leasing homes as well. “When you have an event, your house becomes known,” advises real estate entrepreneur and restaurateur Adolfo Suaya who hosts soirees at his Hollywood Hills’ aeries (he has two). Using his expertise from years of entertaining publicly and privately, he completely redesigned the manse overlooking Sunset Strip with enough space to host a runway show. As soon as he put it up for lease, a broker contacted him to rent it for a high-profile actor client.
His second Hollywood Hills home, built from the ground up, takes the idea of in-home entertaining to the next level. The all-black stucco exterior is one indication of his aesthetic: walk down the white marble staircase into a great room and show kitchen that opens to awe-inspiring city views. Reclaimed-wood floors and a custom-cast pewter bar give the room a Soho House–like feel; the infinity pool brazenly catches the horizon line.
“When a home is built for entertainment people will come to your place,” says the entrepreneur whose ventures are in the tradition of fabulous LA party houses renowned for over-the-top events like the Paramour Mansion in Silver Lake, where charity fundraisers featured performances by Sting and Sir Elton John (until neighbors put the kabosh on grand fêtes). Or the iconic John Lautner–designed Sheats-Goldstein Residence (preferred for fashion spreads) that welcomed Porsche Design’s glitzy 40th birthday bash this past summer.
Then there are design showcase houses, which feature a mix of designers who each transforms a room or two. The house often goes on the market after the showcase with a mixed bag of designer touches. Anticipate the next generation of design house/event space from The Agency in the first quarter of 2013, when the firm comprehensively brands and promotes a Beverly Hills house. “A design house is a pretty jumbled piece of real estate, but we’re presenting a cohesive piece of work. In our model, the house is the star,” explains Umansky. To be unveiled in Beverly Hills (at a yet undisclosed price), the house will be marketed via exclusive dinner parties and other festivities. Guests will be welcome to enjoy dinner and perhaps make an offer.
Photography by Elizabeth Daniels