In early January, Jonathan Postma was hired to market a seven-bedroom mansion with an expansive view of the Intracoastal Waterway. The Boca Raton-based broker at Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate immediately began planning what he hoped would be the biggest open house party Deerfield Beach’s The Cove neighborhood had ever experienced.
“I must have spent $10,000 just advertising the event,” Postma said. “And we had about 1,000 guests stop by. By throwing a big party, you have a good chance of finding a buyer right away.”
Sure enough, someone who attended the bash stepped up and paid $2.7 million for the waterfront estate on Jan. 21.
When it comes to hosting open houses for South Florida’s luxury homes, wine and cheese platters just won’t cut it anymore. From West Palm Beach to South Beach, brokers marketing lavish multi-million dollar mansions and penthouses are spending tens of thousands of dollars on over-the-top parties to reel in buyers. While they might be smaller than the parties thrown by developers for entire new condo projects, they’re impressive in their own right.
Richard Goihman, director of the Goihman Group at Douglas Elliman, says high net worth individuals want to be wowed by a residence when they first see it.
“It’s not enough to just hold an open house,” Goihman said. “You have to do something upscale that appeals to an upscale crowd.”
Goihman said brokers are trying all kinds of quirky party ideas to create a buzz for their listings, from hosting fashion shows to converting driveways into exotic car showrooms to throwing theme parties.
Postma has organized several elaborate open houses.
For the house party in The Cove, he hired models to dress up like Geishas and serve guests sushi and sake. Postma also threw a “South Beach” party at a waterfront mansion in Boca Raton by parking 15 Lamborghinis in the driveway and staging a swimsuit fashion show.
“Every listing I take, I commit to spending from Day 1 on marketing,” Postma said. “People like to party.”
Events can help potential buyers envision what they could do if they owned the property, according to Postma. “Anybody can stick an open house sign on the front lawn and hope for the best,” he said. “But if you give people a reason to come in, it can be more effective.”
David Pulley, principal of the Pulley Group at Opulence International Realty, has a system for coming up with themes for his open houses.
“The first thing to take into consideration is what message you want to send about the home you are selling,” Pulley said. “You want to make sure buyers see the lifestyle and what makes a specific property so special.”
When he wanted to show off a spacious, luxurious condo on South Beach, for example, Pulley organized an Art Deco theme party to play up the history of the neighborhood. The cocktail servers and models were dressed in period costumes that incorporated Charleston dresses with long white gloves or one-piece swimsuits.
“The atmosphere was cool, refined sophistication,” Pulley said.
Of course, Pulley points out, there is a limit to how much an individual broker might want to spend on an one-off open house.
“It would be extremely foolish to spend $25,000 on a $1 million property, because that is your entire commission,” Pulley said. “Party budgets don’t have to be over the top.”
Some agents are even throwing outlandish fetes when it’s just other brokers in attendance. For instance, Goihman organized an awards ceremony honoring Miami’s top 100 real estate brokers at an ocean view penthouse in the Bella Mare condo in Aventura’s Williams Island. At the time, he was marketing the $4.9 million pad.
“It was a great opportunity because getting the top 100 brokers in one venue is hard to achieve,” he said. “Holding an awards ceremony is going to get everyone to come.”
Goihman brought in a film crew to document the festivities, highlighted by award presentations to the top sellers in Aventura, Bal Harbour, Miami Beach, Sunny Isles and the downtown Miami/Brickell area with the most transactions for more than $1 million. Tui Lifestyle decorated the terrace space like a cocktail lounge. Goihman estimates he spent north of $20,000 putting the party together.
And brokers don’t expect this trend to stop anytime soon. “Everybody in Miami likes to have a good time” Pulley said. “The idea behind doing these events is to sell a lifestyle to the potential buyer.”