Selling Multimillion-Dollar Homes On A Smartphone
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Selling Multimillion-Dollar Homes On A Smartphone

These agents explain what it’s like to close high-end deals virtually.

By AMY GAMERMAN
Wed, Jun 2, 2021 12:01pmGrey Clock 3 min

Q. What is it like to do a remote transaction with a client on a multimillion-dollar property?

Ryan Flair

Partner, ranch broker at Hall & Hall in Bozeman, Mont.

I had been working with this client for close to 18 months, so I had a general sense of what he was looking for. Then Covid kind of creeps up and puts us in a situation. We were all in lockdown and couldn’t do much. No one was flying commercially, you had to quarantine for 14 days if you came in from outside the state. My client wasn’t inclined to travel.

One of my partners had a client with a really beautiful property that hadn’t been on the market in a long time—a 20,000-plus-acre ranch. He let us know it was going to come on the market.

I was texting with my client and he said, “I’m very interested, let’s learn more.” We had a tour of the property—five brokers in five trucks—with the ranch manager in his truck. I’m taking photos with my smartphone, and video and panoramas and narrating them, and as soon as I get back service, I’m sending them to him. I went back a separate time and spent six hours there, going around the ranch taking videos on my phone and geo-marking them on a map so the client could see where they were.

One of the most challenging things about the property is access. I had to video myself driving—“Hey look, this road isn’t great, you need to understand you’re not going to drive a motor home on it.” He does have a motor home—one of those super high-end ones.

We put in an offer. This wasn’t a couple-million-dollar deal, it was a very large price tag. My client knew it was one of those rare ranches that don’t come along often. Once we got the ranch under contract, we hired a helicopter. I did the same thing with my iPhone—taking video and narrating from the helicopter.

The sale closed before my client saw it. There were a lot of sleepless nights for me. The first people to see it were his family members and friends—so, hey, no pressure. But he loved it. The guy ended up with a great ranch. It was one of our biggest sales that year.

Jeremy Stein

Associate broker, the Stein Team at Sotheby’s International Realty, New York City

We were approached by clients—friends more than clients—who wanted to sell this absolutely spectacular townhouse in the heart of Greenwich Village. They owned homes in different parts of the country and had thought about living a different way. Then when Covid hit, it made the decision a lot easier for them.

We put it on the market for US$28.5 million. We created a very high-end video of the property, and we did a 3-D Matterport scan, which allows you to tour every nook and cranny. We had a number of virtual showings over the summer, where agents would come and FaceTime with their client in the Hamptons or Jackson Hole or Europe or wherever. We got an offer in the mid-$20 millions. Then an agent I know called and said, “I have a client who is not in New York. They’d like me to come and take a look at it and maybe FaceTime.”

So we did a FaceTime tour. I walked them through the house, just as if they were behind me, as their broker held the phone. I pride myself on reading buyers. Some don’t want to be talked to at all, and some are like, “Show me every drawer.”

I didn’t have that ability to see how the people were reacting. I did see her face to say hello, and from time to time the camera may have gotten turned so we were looking at each other.

These buyers wanted to know about the air conditioning. Maybe a few times they wanted to see what the view was like. If we went to the window, she was, “Oh, can you tilt up? What does the sky look like?” To this day, I don’t know who they are.

Soon after, I got a call from their agent, who said they’d like to make an offer: $27 million. She said, “But we want you to not show the house and not to entertain new offers, we really want exclusivity.”

My clients said, “We’ll do that, but it’s going to cost $1 million.” So we said $28 million. They accepted and we went to the contract stage. It closed last year in November. A few months after the closing they still hadn’t seen it.



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Home prices declined at a faster pace in May in major cities, while other data show a mixed picture for the world’s second-largest economy

By REBECCA FENG
Tue, Jun 18, 2024 3 min

China’s broken housing market isn’t responding to some of the country’s boldest stimulus measures to date—at least not yet.

The Chinese government has been stepping up support for housing and other industries in recent months as it tries to revitalize an economy that has  continued to disappoint  since the early days of the pandemic.

But fresh data for May showed that businesses and consumers remain cautious. Home prices continue to fall at an accelerating rate, and fixed-asset investment and industrial production, while growing, lost some momentum.

“China’s May economic data suggest that policymakers have a lot to do to sustain the fragile recovery,” Yao Wei, chief China economist at Société Générale, wrote in a client note on Monday.

The worst pain is in the property sector, which has been struggling to deal with oversupply and weak buyer sentiment since 2021, when a multiyear  housing boom ended . The market still doesn’t appear to have found a floor, even after Beijing rolled out its most aggressive stimulus measures so far  in mid-May  in hopes of restoring confidence.

In major cities, new-home prices fell 4.3% in May compared with a year earlier, worse than a   3.5% decline in April, according to data released Monday by China’s National Bureau of Statistics. Prices in China’s secondhand home market tumbled 7.5%, compared with a 6.8% drop in April.

Home sales by value tumbled 30.5% in the first five months of this year compared with the same months last year.

“This data was certainly on the disappointing side and may ring some alarm bells, as May’s policy support package has not yet translated to a slower decline of housing prices, let alone a stabilisation,” said Lynn Song, chief China economist at ING.

Economists had also been hoping to see a wider recovery this month after Beijing started  rolling out  a planned issuance of 1 trillion yuan, the equivalent of $138 billion, in ultra-long sovereign bonds in May. The funds are designed to help pay for infrastructure and property projects backed by the authorities. Investors  gobbled up  the first batch of these bonds.

Monday’s bundle of economic data, however, underlined how the country still isn’t firing on all cylinders.

Retail sales, a key metric of consumer spending, rose 3.7% in May from a year earlier, compared with 2.3% in April, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. While the trend is heading in the right direction, it is still a relatively subdued level of growth, and below what most economists believe is needed to kick-start a major revival in consumer spending.

The expansion in industrial production—5.6% in May compared with a year earlier—was down from April’s 6.7% increase. Fixed-asset investment growth, of which 40% came from property and infrastructure sectors, also decelerated, to 3.5% year-over-year growth in May from 3.6% in April.

Key to the sluggish economic activity data in May—and China’s outlook going forward—is the crisis in the property market, which has proven hard for policymakers to address.

The property rescue package in May included letting local governments buy up unsold homes, removing minimum interest rates on mortgages, and reducing payments for potential home buyers. It also included as its centerpiece a $41 billion so-called re-lending program launched by the People’s Bank of China, which would provide funding to Chinese banks to support home purchases by state-owned firms.

The hope was that by stepping in as a buyer of last resort for millions of properties, the government would manage to mop up unsold housing inventory and persuade wary home buyers to re-enter the market. In turn, Chinese consumers, who have  most of their wealth  tied up in real estate, would feel more confident about spending again, thereby lifting the overall economy.

But the size of the re-lending program wasn’t big enough to convince home buyers, said Larry Hu , chief China economist at Macquarie Group. “Meanwhile, their income outlook also stays weak given the current economic condition,” he said.

For the property market to bottom out and reach a new equilibrium, mortgage rates, which stand at around 3-4% in China, need to be as low as rental yields, which are currently below 2% in major cities, said Zhaopeng Xing, a senior China strategist at ANZ. He said that a large mortgage rate cut will need to happen eventually.

The other key part of China’s push to revive growth revolves around the manufacturing sector, with leaders  funnelling more investment  into factories to boost output and reduce the country’s reliance on foreign suppliers of key technologies.

The result has been a surge in production. But with domestic consumption not strong enough to absorb all those goods, many factories have been forced to cut prices and seek out more overseas buyers.

Data released earlier this month showed that  Chinese exports rose  faster in May than the month before.

However, the export push is  butting into resistance  as governments around the world worry about the impact of cheap Chinese competition on domestic jobs and industries. The European Union last week said it would  impose new import tariffs  on Chinese electric vehicles, describing China’s auto industry as heavily subsidised by the government, to the point where other countries’ automakers can’t fairly compete.

The U.S.  has also hit  Chinese cars and some other products with hefty duties, while countries including Brazil, India and Turkey have opened antidumping investigations into Chinese steel, chemicals and other goods.

Beijing says such moves are protectionist and that its industries compete fairly with global rivals.