The Real Deal Miami

Brokers giving home tours by land, air and sea

By Jennifer LeClaire | April 23, 2009 04:35PM

By land, by air and by RV, real estate brokers won’t stint to sell homes in an ailing housing market.

One broker in Florida’s Cape Coral area gives boat tours to show foreclosed homes to potential buyers. Another offers affluent prospects helicopter tours. Still another tours the Southeastern United States in an RV and sleeps in vacant homes to raise awareness of bargains in the ravaged real estate market. Whatever it takes, they say.

Ree Cole caters to high-end clientele through the Skywater Group. The Fort Lauderdale-based brokerage sells jets, estates and yachts. Her yacht- and jet-buying clients are candidates for home sales and vice versa. But these busy, wealthy folks don’t have time to drive around South Florida looking for the perfect mansion along the coastline.

“With a helicopter, I can show my clients homes all over the state in less than a day,” Cole said. “The helicopter also gives them a perspective of where the home is in relation to downtown or the beach or whatever their desired location is. You don’t get that perspective in a car.”

Of course, Cole reserves the chopper for clients who are “very likely” to purchase a property, because it cost her upwards of $1,000 for a couple of hours in a helicopter. It comes out of her pocket whether or not the deal closes. But she feels this value-added service sets her apart from other brokers in the luxury market.

Meanwhile, John Wieland, CEO of John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods in Smyrna, Ga., keeps crossing the Southeast on a “Get Housing Moving” tour. Armed with a mattress, a fold-out table and a lamp, Wieland travels in a Winnebago to raise awareness of how critical housing is to the economy, and he hopes sell 101 homes in 40 days.

“Our prices are 5 to 25 percent below what they were six months ago,” Wieland said. “The interest rates are at historic lows and there are good choices on the market right now. We are trying to get the message out that this is the perfect time to buy a home, especially for first-time home buyers.”

Could the unusual schemes be working? Florida’s existing home sales rose in February, making it the sixth consecutive month that sales activity showed increases in the year-to-year comparison, according to the latest housing data released by the Florida Association of Realtors. Brokers who undertake the attention-getting tactics report increased sales.

Cole and Wieland aren’t taking any credit for a housing market recovery in the Southeast, but both said their methods help them sell homes. 

Cole said 95 percent of the clients she escorts through the South Florida skies end up buying homes. She does two or three helicopter tours a month. For Wieland’s part, he’s sold more than 85 homes in the past month through his willingness to sleep in vacant homes on a roll-up mattress.

“My goal with this tour is to find out why the vacant homes didn’t sell. Was the price too high? Was there debris in the lot next door? Is it strange floor plan?” Wieland said. “In this market, you have to get creative about selling homes. The old days of sitting in a sales office waiting for somebody to walk in are gone.”