Shaun Osher, CEO and founder of CORE Group Marketing, spoke in an interview with The Real Deal about the impact of high-tech marketing and how, in a cooling luxury housing market, amenities are driving sales. Osher’s real estate marketing firm is expanding its global reach. Osher, 40, came to the United States from South Africa as 19-year-old a saxophone player. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Sands Point, Nassau County.
Your firm has doubled in size over the past year to 45 brokers. You started in 2005 with eight people. Can the company get too big?
There is definitely a maximum. I have no intention of being the next mega-company with 100 offices in the city. I don’t want to be next to every Starbucks and Gap.
Have you encountered any problems as the company has grown?
Growth has definitely had its set of challenges but the biggest challenge for me is identifying the top talent and people who believe in our goals.
How are you using some new techniques, such as 3-d virtual tours?
The fundamental approach to selling real estate is still largely understanding who the buyer is what their needs are. We are now able to create virtual tours and movies that we never could have done a couple of years ago. The more technology evolves, the more resources we have at out fingertips, the more we want to employ them to communicate what we are selling to our buyers. The rendering process has definitely become much more sophisticated. I believe that branding has to be much more targeted directed to your demographic.
You have been making trips overseas to sell your exclusive New York properties. Why go international?
In the last four months I have been to London, Ireland and Dubai. I have had sales teams in Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Moscow. We are taking advantage of that international market quicker than anyone else can because we are a much more nimble organization.
What role has the weak dollar had on international sales?
The fact that the dollar is historically weak is playing a big role in the affordability of our real estate, relative to (international) real estate. Also, the fact that a lot of foreign countries have changed their laws with respect to the amount of money that can be invested in foreign real estate is definitely helping us.
How do you see the city residential market developing?
I think it is not going to be appreciating at the rates we have seen over the past couple of years, because I think that was an anomaly. I think prices — and I am talking about the condo luxury market — I see prices holding firm. I don’t see rapid appreciation, and I see the absorption rates slowing down slightly.
How has the buyer and market changed over time?
The Manhattan market as a whole is definitely becoming smaller and smaller. A buyer 15 years ago or even 10 years ago would be driven by neighborhood-specific projects. That is still true, but more buyers are driven to lifestyle-specific projects within a much broader variety of neighborhoods. We’ve got people from the Upper East Side buying in Chelsea and people from the Financial District buying on the Upper West Side. We have a lot of crossover.
What are some new projects that you have in the works?
In New Jersey there is a project we are looking at that is over 1 million square feet that is within 45 minutes of the city. We are potentially working on a project of approximately 1 million square feet in Westchester County. They are all residential condos, and are still in the very early stages.
What are some of the latest amenities?
We are going to see a lot more projects with hotel components in them. By that I mean buyers are very drawn to services that make daily existence a lot better and easier. In certain buildings you may have a strong family orientation. A great amenity would be a children’s play room and baby sitting services. A building in another neighborhood may be much more single females — a very powerful buyer in today’s world — and things like a spa, a fitness center with personal trainers, a concierge that takes care of all of your dry cleaning or a dog-walker [may be appealing]. The amenity needs to fit the buyer, who is very sophisticated and is turned off by paying for an amenity that they are never going to use.