When asked what I like to write about, my short answer is…things that are happening to people (myself and others), and people that make things happen. In “slow times” who makes things happen; who is selling, when no one is buying? How do you sell a dream, something that will only become a reality, in the future. Like good wine ☺, or even one of our design concepts?
To get some illumination on this I talked with local entrepreneur Judith Matheson, who has been orchestrating successful deals for over 20 years.
“What I do is eliminate problems before they surface, or I have solutions ready as soon as they do”, says Judith. “For example, right now everyone is concerned about financing. This concern is actually stopping people from even looking for property. So a couple of weeks ago I had a mortgage broker share my “event” at an open house, and she had financing options ready as soon as my guests passed through the front door. And yes, my open houses become a “networking event”, and you’d be surprised how much cross-promotion happens, and how this leads to selling more product! For all of us!”
Pre-selling properties prior to their completion has its own set of issues. As the “Internet bubble” was bursting in 2000, the One Wall Centre property was still under construction in Vancouver, BC. A real architectural statement for the city of Vancouver, it received the award for the best “Millenium Skyscraper” in 2000, and best in the world in 2001. Yet it appeared few could actually visualize the “dream lifestyle” possible in what was one of the most interesting and innovative residential buildings of the times.
Enter Judith, to sell this new and very different (like nothing before in Vancouver) city experience. Her sales office was located on the 35th floor in an adjoining hotel building across the Wall Centre Courtyard, where she and her exclusive buyers could watch the building evolve into the tallest city icon, and where they were able to experience the unobstructed views similar to what would be theirs, thus immediately eliminating any view-related concerns.
I asked her how she sold and closed the 64 penthouse-style suites for this extremely forward thinking developer.
“First of all, I listened a great deal, and learned very quickly what my potential buyers were finding difficult to imagine about buying into and living on one of the top floors of a skyscraper; specifically a residence above a hotel with 95 feet of curving ceiling to floor glass, and the opportunity to customize their space.
“In their subconscious, the residents needed to begin “living the dream”, and this is some of how I made the dream real, one, two or even three years in advance! When buyers arrived at the airport, the hotel limo picked them up and brought them to the adjacent hotel tower (already in operation), where I had reserved a room approximating the view of the suite they were considering purchasing. If my buyers arrived by car, then they were able to experience the residences’ valet parking, one of the amenities available.
“I ordered room service directly to my sales suite, which became a frequent destination for my buyers, and where I pampered them with lunch, cappuccino, and later reserved the hotel limo to take them to a downtown restaurant for dinner. Both the room service and the limo are perks for the residences. ☺
“Many of my buyers were international, and getting up to speed fast with routine and unusual services became a prerequisite for buying & doing business in a unfamiliar city. To accommodate this, I had to compile a unique database for my diverse clientele, who needed bankers, accountants, lawyers, beauty salons and spas, designers, caterers, and multimedia experts amongst others. I had to make sure these professional resources would be available to any of my clients at a moments notice.
“At the same time future residents embraced the Wall Centre lifestyle, we focused a lot on the actual interior spaces. The interior design by Mitchell Freedland featured superior furniture-quality kitchens, dropped and curved ceilings, and defined open spaces. Many buyers chose designs that were showcased in my sales suite; others opted to bring in their own designers and architects for some unique customization (see below) , and a few really incredible multiple suites combined.
“I was with the project from the initial sales contact to the final handing over of keys. I became a ‘fixture of continuity’ for my clients, and I communicated with some of the early adopters (buyers) for nearly three years. I worked with several very closely to facilitate their designers and architects. This was a continuing journey in care and service; really, just what ‘living the dream’ in a skyscraper over a hotel is all about”
I asked Judith what happens if people have “view issues” when there isn’t a neighboring hotel to ‘proof’ things from….☺
“There is almost always some way to remove a barrier, or eliminate a fear when something is very new….Believe it or not, quite recently I had to rent a crane with a viewing platform, and hoist my buyers up to the approximate location of their view on the 8th floor of Sterling House at UBC; all this so they were completely confident it would not be blocked (see below). What an event that turned into!”
Obviously in some situations there is nothing one can do to close a sale. I asked how this played out when pre-selling the residences at One Wall Centre.
“Rarely can you make a sale when a couple can’t agree. I could have completed some pre-sales quite a bit faster if I could have arranged some husband swapping; though that’s a bit extreme even for me! ☺
“Also, if a couple is too agreeable, or one or the other is playing the “I’ll make you happy dear” couples game, every offer is just too low to clinch the deal, yet “I am doing everything to make you happy!” he says………..”
“I sell by marketing a lifestyle; painting mind pictures…..in fact creating a movie in a persons mind, but also making sure the movie is not better than the reality…..too easy to do. I would rather have my buyers surprised by the wonderfulness rather then disappointed.
“One by one I remove their concerns, solve the issues, until, if it is something a buyer really wants or is considering, there is nothing left stopping them from buying. If I think about it, I pretty much go through the same process myself every time I buy something, no matter how major or how small.”
On a final note, I asked Judith if there was anything else that was important in closing deals during slower markets:
“I might only add that working together with my network of fellow professionals is extremely important to me at all times, but perhaps even more so when things are slow. When I am selling a property I attend every showing, and have all the information or try to, available, so all questions are answered, and all solutions to problems handled even before they are raised.”
One surprise for me was that prior to using email, Judith networked by fax, like no other; mimicking twitter today, she faxed what seemed like 140 character messages back and forth, and yet she admittedly has been slow to adopt social networking as a business tool so far. Though intrigued by the changes social media is bringing, she feels with her particular contacts she wants to maintain the “specialness and exclusiveness” which she is known for. Though she has heard it is working for several other city Realtors, she feels it is currently not for her. Do you agree with Judith, or should she be embracing Social Media to expand her business?