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May11

Secret real estate listings you won’t find on the market

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Just because there isn’t a “For Sale” sign in a yard, doesn’t mean the homeowner isn’t taking offers. You just have to know the right person.

Despite strong demand in many markets across the country, some homeowners are skipping the process of officially listing their home on the multiple listing services, leaving agents with the task of finding a buyer without publicly advertising it.

And real estate professionals say these “secret” listings — commonly known as “pocket listings” — are becoming more popular.

Kofi Nartey, a real estate broker at The Agency in Los Angeles, has recently seen an uptick in off-market lists. He says they currently make up around 10% to 15% of his firm’s sales.

Related: Here’s what’s driving up housing prices

But in a seller’s market with bidding wars driving offers well above the asking price in some areas, why would a homeowner sell their home in secret?

The reasons vary: some want privacy, others are testing the waters and some think the exclusivity can draw a higher sale price.

“Many times I’ve had pocket listings where people will say, ‘If I get this number I will sell, otherwise I have no desire,'” said Jade Mills, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Beverly Hills, who recently sold a $38 million home off market. These secret listings make up about 10% of her sales, an increase from previous years.

Not publicly listing a home can reduce the pool of buyers, which could potentially mean missing a top offer.

Mills said nonpublic listings tend to be advantageous for properties listed at $10 million or higher. “In the upper price ranges, you don’t have as good of a chance of getting multiple offers.” She recently sold a house for $1.35 million, more than the asking price and after getting multiple offers, something that she said probably wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t publicly on the market.

Tool: How much house can you afford?

Off-market listings can be beneficial to agents by upping their commissions if they represent both the buyer and seller. But connecting the right buyer for an off-market listing or drumming up new listings can be a challenge, experts said.

Nartey frequently plays real estate matchmaker at social events.

“Any time I hear at a cocktail party or birthday party … if a [guest] mentions they are considering selling, I make a mental note of it,” he said. “And then when I am another event and hear someone who is looking, it becomes a matching game.”

He added that public sales can lead to off-market sales when a neighbor stops by an open house and questions the asking price of the home. When the home sells for that once-thought inflated price, Nartey will sometimes approach the neighbor about selling. “We have the buyer demand to pair them with a home that isn’t even on the market.”

Pocket listings are also sold among agents representing buyers and sellers. Those with an offline property will work with other professionals to find a seller.

Some use a distribution list to connect an off-market seller with a buyer, said Brett Forman, managing director with Dolly Lenz in New York City. “There are people we know in trusted markets and companies that we believe have the Rolodex to insert themselves into a unique situation,” said Forman.

Apr30

Q&A: Kofi Natei Nartey, LA Luxury Real Estate Broker to Sports, Movie Stars

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Go ahead and watch Kofi Natei Nartey sell a house to former NFL star Marcellus Wiley, and you’ll quickly get why the real estate industry in southern California is buzzing about one of its up and coming stars. Mr. Nartey is an agent at The Agency RE, in Beverly Hills (he leads its sports and entertainment division), and his experience is primarily in Los Angeles’s booming luxury market. He is also a featured agent on HGTV’s Selling LA. We talked to him about his goals, professionalism and one very common misperception about the luxury market in L.A.

BlackEnterprise.com: People who have worked with you rave about your professionalism. Talk to us about what they’re referring to. Kofi Natei Nartey: A professional is a person who is committed to learning and training at a specific craft, and consistently executes at a high level. My clients appreciate my command of the real estate industry, and my ability to bring a level of calm to what can be a highly emotional transaction. Also, I am extremely responsive to my clients’ needs. Simply stated, people like to know they are in good hands. I have been in this business for over ten years, have closed millions of dollars in transactions, and have trained hundreds of agents. I put every bit of this experience to work for my clients. Also, the majority of my clients come from the sports and entertainment industries and I have had experience in both. That helps me relate to their lifestyles. I understand things like the need for taller doorways or countertops for my NBA clients, or a screening room for my actors, directors, and producers. What is different about working with celebrity clients and do you have a preference? Privacy and trust become more critical when working with celebrity clients. Once that trust is established, however, it is a more complete trust. They want to find the best person for the job, turn the work over to that person, and focus on what they do best. Working with my team allows them to stay focused on their craft, while we take care of their real estate needs. Also, we often work with a representative for the celebrity for a large part of the transaction. Most celebrity clients have managers, agents, and assistants that become an integral part of the buying or selling process. We work with them as a team to take care of the client’s needs. When the celebrity is available, flexibility and agility are important to make everything work with their schedule. I once received a call that one of my celebrity clients was arriving in town in two hours and wanted to see homes that day. We made it happen. As for a preference, I truly enjoy working with both celebrity and non-celebrity clients because I enjoy working with people. It is very rewarding helping clients with the major transition that real estate can be. It can be just as exciting to help the newly signed athlete find a hip/modern pad as it is to help first time parents find the right family home. What are your first questions to a high profile client? You seem rather comfortable with former NFL player Marcellus Wiley. How do you establish that relationship with your clients? Is it a balance? Understanding my client’s motivation for buying or selling a home is most important. Their “Big Why” is what will drive many aspects of their real estate decisions. It is also important to assess their needs as thoroughly as possible up front. That way, I don’t have to waste their time with properties or issues that can be handled by me and my team. Understanding the client’s needs helps me service them better and make the most of my time with them. There is definitely a careful balance between the business and personal relationship. I get along well with almost all of my clients, but what is most important is finding or selling their home. Closing the deal is usually a prerequisite for any relationship beyond the transaction. I have been invited to movie premieres, concerts, sporting events, and parties. These invites may have come because I was likeable, but more importantly, I delivered on my professional promise and took care of their real estate needs. What’s the one or two things about luxury real estate people only slightly familiar with the marketplace would be surprised to know? I sometimes speak at national real estate conventions, and those audiences are always shocked to hear what is NOT considered luxury in the Los Angeles market. I have sold $1M and $2M properties that were not considered luxury homes in Los Angeles. It really depends on the size and location of the property. People are also surprised to hear stories about clients paying millions of dollars for a property, only to completely remodel it or even tear it down. At the higher price points, people are used to getting exactly what they want. This is the case with their properties as well. One of my colleagues sold a $17M house to a gentleman who bought it to live in while his primary residence was remodeled. Also, I am often asked what particular celebrities are like to work with. Unfortunately, I can’t always say. It does not pay to kiss and tell in this business. What are your plans for the future? I believe we all have a responsibility to discover all of our gifts and talents and share them with the world. We must work to realize our potential in whatever field we are in, and I want to seize all of the opportunities that real estate has placed in front of me. Ultimately, I will continue to build my team of agents as I pursue my goal of becoming the top sports and entertainment real estate broker in the country. Along the way, I hope to assist and inspire other young agents to have the courage to blaze a path where one never existed.

Apr30

Behind the Scenes of HGTV’s ‘Selling LA’

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There’s a lot to consider when deciding to air your personal life on reality TV. And when it’s your business in the spotlight, there’s even more at stake. But for real estate agents Kofi Natei Nartey and Katy Landrum, there was more to gain than lose from joining the cast of HGTV’s “Selling LA.”

As the director of The Agency‘s Sports & Entertainment Division serving high-profile athletes and celebs, Nartey saw “Selling LA” as an opportunity to show a more human side of his Hollywood clients. Landrum is a real estate agent primarily serving West Los Angeles. She’s had a lot of fun — and laughs — with her clients on the show, learning how to do her day job in front of the camera. We spoke with Nartey and Landrum to learn more about their experiences behind the scenes of “Selling LA.” Here’s what they had to say. Zillow: What’s it like being on a reality TV show? Is there a lot of drama? Nartey: There’s not a lot of drama. That’s part of why I agreed to be on the show. With reality TV, it can hurt or benefit your business. On “Selling LA,” the drama in the show is what we are experiencing in real life. For example, if we are facing a deadline to get a property sold or a fire-drill during a sale — it’s not fabricated. Landrum: The whole experience has been fun and challenging. Having no prior camera experience, it was hard to act like completely natural like no cameras were around. But I have found it easier as I’ve done more episodes. Zillow: Does being part of the cast affect your day-to-day job? If so, how? Nartey: Sometimes for reality TV, it’s “scripted reality” if you will. But on “Selling LA,” if I don’t have a property to sell, we are not shooting. So it’s done in real time. When I have something scheduled, I let them know and we coordinate the cameras around that. It can be fun; it can also be time-consuming. Zillow: What’s so different about selling Los Angeles real estate that makes it entertaining for television? Nartey: The L.A. market offers a unique variety of homes and neighborhoods. It’s like Disneyland with Fantasy Land, Frontier Land, etc. Los Angeles has so many pockets. And within those mini markets, some neighborhoods have traditional Spanish homes, others have mainly Craftsmans, and Hollywood Hills has a lot of modern homes. I think this offers enough variety to do season after season. Landrum: The scenery and homes here are so unique to the rest of the country! I say to myself on a daily basis how lucky I am to live here … there is nowhere better. Having grown up in Seattle, I truly appreciate the clear blue skies appearing on a daily basis. Nartey: The show also offers a glimpse into ultra-luxurious homes — we’re talking $20 million-plus. Zillow: How do your clients feel about the show? Landrum: Fortunately, my clients have all been very cool with being on the show. My episode with the fabulous interior designers Chris Barrett and Jenika Kurtz was the best! We laughed for hours and made fun of each other for stupid words and things we said. Then, we all watched it together and laughed the entire time. Best experience ever! So fun. I’ll never forget it and will have the video forever to go back and watch. Nartey: Clients have opted to participate and usually enjoy the process. Life brings stress anyway and we don’t bring additional stress. And, if there is something my clients want to showcase — something about their own lives beyond being a celebrity or athlete — it’s an opportunity. Maybe they want to promote a charity, for example. Zillow: How do you choose the homes to be on the show? Nartey: It’s sort of a recipe: a great property, an interesting client or story. Earlier seasons were primarily about the properties, but now they want interesting stories of individuals or how they handle selling one of their properties. Landrum: I choose properties that I like personally and go from there. Nartey: Also, I only pick people that actually want to do the show. Some clients don’t want to be on reality TV, and I respect that. Zillow: What have you learned from being on “Selling LA”? Landrum: I have learned that when opportunities are presented in your life, you have to take them with no regrets. You can’t take yourself too seriously and just have fun everyday because life is too short not to enjoy the ride. Nartey: It’s all in good fun. I love seeing my clients enjoy the process and capture those moments where we have a victory. I get asked if the show actually helps my clients, and yes, the show is definitely beneficial. For my clients selling properties, it gives them additional exposure. Some stories will show homes that don’t sell, but once the show airs for a national audience, it generates a huge bounce in the number of people viewing that listing.

Apr30

Luxury Sales Continue to Bounce Back, Brokers Say

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ATLANTA — Cash buyers, low mortgage rates and rising consumer confidence are among the biggest drivers pushing luxury housing in the U.S., according to luxury real-estate agents at the annual conference of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

The luxury markets, which vary from a low-end in Atlanta of $750,000 to a minimum in Los Angeles of $3 million, are rebounding as buyers bounce back from the housing crisis. International buyers are fueling some purchases, with up to 20% of buyers in L.A. being from overseas, says Kofi Nartey, an agent at The Agency in L.A. Many of them are paying full cash, speeding up closings and eliminating the need for appraisals. He adds that there were 697 home sales over $5 million in California in 2012, an all-time high, many of which were all-cash deals. In other markets, the low interest rates are spurring sales. In Cape Cod, for example, buyers who traditionally paid cash are lining up for mortgages with 2.25% interest rates and 10-year terms, says Jack Cotton, an agent at Sotheby’s International Realty. In Atlanta, 80% of luxury buyers are financing their purchases, according to David Boehmig, president of Atlanta Fine Homes, who says pent-up demand has helped his market recover. Amenities buyers are looking for include outdoor kitchens with large patios, home spas and properties with a story — say, a famous former owner or a renowned architect. Mr. Nartey says certain ultra-high-end clients also are drawn to the “wow factor,” citing one current home being built that went through a maze of hurdles to get the city of L.A. to allow it to build a moat around the home. As for pricing, the highest sale in Mr. Cotton’s market in the past couple of years has been $19.5 million, while the Atlanta market has seen a $10 million sale. In L.A., Candy Spelling’s manor, which sold for $85 million, still holds the record in recent years. On list prices, Mr. Nartey said it won’t be long before the U.S. sees a $200 million listing — the record now is believed to be $190 million for a property in Greenwich, Conn. — but that many of these ultra-high-end properties are priced that way merely as a suggestion, or to invite only a certain caliber of buyers to the table. Most ultra-high-priced homes end up selling for 50% to 60% of the original list price, he added. Agents are also seeing an increase in pocket listings, or listings that aren’t publicly put into the multiple-listing service, both as a way to keep a seller’s name confidential and to up the exclusivity factor. Pocket listings are viewed differently depending on the market. Some agents don’t mind them, but other agents say they limit the exposure of the property, making it harder to sell.

Apr30

Pulling a Zuckerberg: Why Tech Titans Are Buying Neighbors’ Homes

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As Mark Zuckerberg’s social networking company, Facebook, celebrates its 10th anniversary tomorrow and has worldwide usage by 1.23 billion people, the tech titan finds himself at the forefront of a real estate trend: tech bosses who are buying up their neighbors’ properties.

Zuckerberg made headlines last fall when he reportedly spent $30 million to purchase four of his neighbors’ homes. Not only were the homes not on the market, but Facebook’s chairman and chief executive officer turned around and leased them back to their original owners. Two weeks later, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer reportedly bought a funeral home near her residence, with the Daily Mail proclaiming, “Yahoo! Marissa Mayer does a Zuckerberg and starts to buy up her neighborhood.” Three days later, the Silicon Valley Business Journal announced “Elon Musk pulls a Zuckerberg,” when news surfaced that the inventor and Tesla Motors CEO had purchased a home across the street from his Bel-Air pad. While this tech titan home-buying spree was newsworthy in its own right, buying up neighbors’ homes is not a new phenomenon. FromBrad Pitt to Reese Witherspoon, celebs long have been known for making multiple real estate moves in their neighborhoods. The question is whether tech titans have the same motives as Hollywood stars or if this new breed of celebrity is rewriting the high-end real estate playbook. To find out, we asked The Agency’s Kofi Natei Nartey, who helps celebrities and athletes buy and sell homes on HGTV’s “Selling LA,” and Silicon Valley real estate agents of the Boyenga Team to share their insight.

Privacy is paramount

According to Nartey, it’s common for Hollywood stars to purchase neighbors’ homes as a way of protecting their privacy. “It’s a way to control who is your neighbor,” Nartey explained. “In the Hills, there are homes with amazing views, but with that comes limited privacy.” Eric Boyenga says it’s the same for high-profile tech execs, who are increasingly becoming household names. “It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to purchase neighbors’ property,” he said. “In the social era of today, those like Zuckerberg tend to be a mix of Hollywood star and tech titan, whereas a lot of execs in the past didn’t get a lot of fanfare.”

A normal quality of life

But unlike A-list celebs who are accustomed to dodging paparazzi, Boyenga says tech bosses are often in search of a more “normal” quality of life. “We’re more engineer-driven here. Execs don’t want any news about them,” he said. “For a celebrity, that’s par for their course, but for a tech entrepreneur, they want the focus on their firm and [to have] a life outside of that.” Younger tech company execs — including 29-year-old Zuckerberg — are drawn to the vibrant culture in Palo Alto. “We have hills like the Hollywood Hills here that are more private, gated estates with views,” Boyenga said. “But, Palo Alto is where things are happening. It’s a very idyllic neighborhood and a great place to raise a family.” He says most people who move to Palo Alto want to keep the neighborhood the way it is, and tech entrepreneurs are no exception. For instance, when Zuckerberg began buying additional homes in his neighborhood in December 2012, it was because he reportedly learned of a developer’s plans to capitalize on his residence in the area. “These are tech titans that want to be part of their community but also want to make sure they don’t have someone move in next door that they don’t want there,” he explained. “It’s not a control thing as much as about quality of life.” No way to buy bigger Because Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are drawn to historic neighborhoods such as Old Palo Alto and Crescent Park, they’re subject to a competitive market. “Inventory is so hard to come by,” said real estate agent Janelle Boyenga, Eric’s wife. “What we’ve seen is people are buying properties and keeping them to pass on to generations to come. Inventory is only going to get tighter as the years go by.” And, unlike celebs who buy sprawling Beverly Glen estates or Manhattan penthouses spanning multiple floors, execs living in the Valley don’t always have the choice to buy a bigger home. “In Old Palo Alto, there are not many large lots. Most are less than a quarter of an acre,” Eric Boyenga said. “Only a handful are half an acre, and they just don’t get sold off.” Making room for friends & family But when tech titans buy neighboring properties, it instantly raises questions about what they’re going to do with the lot and how it will impact the neighborhood. “Marissa Mayer [buying the funeral home] — I’m curious about that one,” Boyenga said. “It could just sit there for years to keep a big development from coming near her property.” He’s skeptical that Mayer can drastically change the property, even if she wants to, because of building restrictions. For this reason, Boyenga says most people tend to use neighboring property as a place to have friends come and visit. “It’s not easy to buy a parcel and take the house down,” he said. “Most of these people are looking to use for guesthouse purposes or just for privacy.” Rumors about high-profile real estate purchases are common — fashion mogul Kimora Lee Simmons’ reported 2009 purchase of her neighbor’s tennis court to build a pool is a good example. Nartey points out that often rumors are just because, frankly, it’s very difficult to drastically change a residence in L.A. “You have to get permits from the city for any remodel or new construction — anything that might undermine the aesthetics of the neighborhood,” he said. At the end of the day, whether celebrity or tech titan, it’s about finding a place to call home. “More than anything else these buyers are buying for privacy and quality of life,” Boyenga said.

Apr30

10 Best Practices When Working With Celebrity Clients

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As the director of the Sports & Entertainment Division at The Agency, I have the pleasure of working with celebrities from the world of TV, film, music and professional sports. It’s an extremely rewarding yet challenging niche, as celebrities have very unique real estate needs and concerns when it comes to such things as privacy, location and amenities. While there are numerous things to know about working with the A-list set — indeed it’s an ongoing learning process that’s impossible to master overnight — here are 10 quick “best practices” to consider when working with celebrity real estate clients.

Be an expert

This is No.1 on the list for a reason. Celebrities want to know they are working with an expert. You should know your market and your industry but also know about regulations that may be relevant to the celebrity’s lifestyle. How high can the privacy walls or hedges be? Can they put a gate around the property? Are there building restrictions for the area?  Also, be sure to understand contracts and negotiations.

Be discreet

Keep your client’s name and personal information confidential. You will have access to a part of your client’s personal business, and people will even ask you what it’s like to work with them. Keep it to yourself. Don’t brag or boast about who you are working with.

Be professional

Be on time. Be responsive. Be proactive. The bottom line: Be a professional, not a fan. I have been invited to numerous concerts, games and events of my celebrity clients, but only because I’ve never asked.

Be flexible

Celebrities’ schedules change faster than the weather. Be ready for last-minute showings, cancellations, rescheduling and explaining to other agents why your client is running “a few minutes behind.” Being flexible will make it a more enjoyable experience for you and your client.

Identify all of the decision makers

Whether it’s a business manager, agent, friend or relative, find out who will be influencing the celebrity’s decision to buy or sell. It might even be a pet. (Candy Spelling had her dog Madison help her pick her real estate agent.) Work closely and professionally with these key contacts. Treat them like the celebrity.

Have a reliable network of vendor referrals

You may be called on to refer anything from an interior designer to a company that installs tennis courts. Have trusted, professional vendors with a track record of working with high-profile clientele in your rolodex (by rolodex, I mean iPhone).

Be mindful of their time

Celebrities are busy people and don’t have time to waste. Preview properties whenever possible. Don’t waste time on properties that don’t fit their criteria. Again, be on time. They can be late, but you can’t.

When selling a celebrity home

There are numerous things to consider, but here are a few key points. Decide up front whether or not to disclose the celebrity status of the property. If it is inevitable that the owner’s identity will come out, it can be better to embrace it. Also, keep lookie-loos out of the property. Celebrity homes can attract unwanted prospects who just want a peek into the celebrity’s life. Screen all prospects (even those with agents). Unfortunately, we cannot always rely on the other agents to verify that their client is qualified and serious.

When working with a celebrity buyer

Respect their budget. Listen to what they want to spend and stay within that range. Also, keep their identity private until it is necessary to disclose it. This may help during negotiations. Finally, try to include all decision makers at the showings when possible. Be prepared to show properties to an assistant, agent or business manager who has been instructed on what to look for. They have trusted this person to preview the homes and should trust the feedback they provide.

Have fun!

Working with celebrity buyers and sellers can produce the same stressful moments as a regular transaction, so enjoy the parts you can. If you are like me, you enjoy your job. When you truly enjoy your job, your clients pick up on that, and it can be a more enjoyable experience for them, too.  Celebrities can be demanding, but they can also be a lot of fun. As always, FOCUS & FINISH!

Apr30

Many pro athletes are drawn to L.A.’s beach cities, Calabasas

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The South Bay, with its low-key atmosphere and sought-after beachfront, has been attracting athletes since the 1980s, when the Joe Montana-led 49ers were Super Bowl fixtures, Kurt Rambis was minting four NBA title rings with the Lakers, and Steve Sax and the Dodgers made their last two World Series appearances.

Montana, Rambis and Sax each called L.A.’s beach cities home during those championship years. The Los Angeles Kings roster, Lakers players and coaches as well as athletes for teams outside of California have joined the most recent wave of residents. In the South Bay, Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach have been some of the most popular spots, particularly among the reigning Stanley Cup Champions. Last year, Kings center Jeff Carter paid $5.25 million for a home in Hermosa Beach, near the team’s practice facility in El Segundo. Fellow teammates, including team captain Dustin Brown and goalie Jonathan Quick, followed suit, each buying homes in Manhattan Beach. “There is a high congregation of hockey players in the South Bay, Manhattan Beach in particular,” said Kofi Natei Nartey, director of the sports and entertainment division at the Agency. “But you also see a lot of out-of-state players who want to live here and train in more favorable conditions.” Diana Taurasi, the former Connecticut Huskies basketball star who currently plays for the Phoenix Mercury, became a resident of L.A.’s beach cities in June, buying a Manhattan Beach townhouse for $3.3 million. Former Stanford guard Landry Fields, currently with the Toronto Raptors, paid about $2 million for property in the area in July. In Calabasas, there’s a different vibe — and it’s not just reserved for the Kardashian clan. More sports figures are gravitating to the guard-gated communities in the affluent pocket between Agoura Hills and Woodland Hills, even at the sacrifice of a more practical commute. “A lot of athletes, particularly those with families, are attracted to the peaceful, gated lifestyle,” said Nartey, who has worked with WNBA star Candace Parker, former Chargers tailback LaDainian Tomlinson and Lakers guard Nick Young, among others. “When they travel, they have peace of mind. They have security.” It’s also an area where someone can get more bang for their buck, said Nartey, whose clients, many of whom are originally from the Midwest, are accustomed to larger properties. For scale, Keyshawn Johnson’s former estate, which the retired NFL star sold to Kourtney Kardashian in February, occupies nearly two acres in the exclusive Estates at the Oaks enclave. Former NBA all-star Mitch Richmond, who lives nearby, is seeking $8.495 million for his 2.23-acre property. Whereas homes were once looked at as merely trophies, many sports figures see real estate as a way to build and diversify their portfolios. “There is a shift taking place among athletes in that there is a desire to build wealth as opposed to just getting rich,” Nartey said. Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety and Carson native Dashon Goldson has purchased investment properties in Marina del Rey in recent years, as has 49ers tight end Vernon Davis.

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