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USA celebrity broker offers top tips

7 April 2017

Celebrity broker Tanya Stawski, who is ranked in the top 2% of agents in the United States, shares her listings advice and the similarities between the Sydney and LA real estate market.

One of Australia’s top auctioneers, James Pratt, interviewed Tanya whilst on a work trip to Beverly Hills and Los Angeles in January and February 2017, where he worked alongside 10 luxury brokers.

James, who runs James Pratt auctions, said: “The American luxury real estate market has plenty of similarities to the Australian luxury market, and what agents in Sydney are doing to market these properties is very similar to what top agents in Bel Air and Beverly Hills are doing.”

Question and answer 

Tanya is a powerful figure within the luxury property market in America and one of Sotheby’s top agents worldwide.

Her clients include celebrities, billionaires and media tycoons. She is currently selling former Hollywood celebrity ZaSu Pitts house and the original Bond girl Ursula Andress’s Beverly Hills home.

Here are some of the questions and answers from James and Tanya’s interview.

What are the most important things for agents to remember when selling a home? 

“Have a strong and different marketing strategy and timeline on each home. Everyone’s house needs a different marketing strategy.

“People confuse this by thinking a strategy is determined by budget. The strategy is determined by property type, area and targeted buyer.

“Also never judge a person by their clothes or dress. The richer the client often means the less they feel the need to dress up to impress you.”

Do you see any similarities between Sydney and LA in the real estate market?

“Supply versus demand plays a big part in the Los Angeles real estate market, and it appears that way in Sydney too.

“Great climate, diverse industries and an excitement is a common aspect why people like Los Angeles.

“It’s not just people overseas moving to Los Angeles, it’s interstate buyers also, and I see Sydney has a lot of migration from within its other cities.”

Do many people use auctions in California or the United States?

“In Los Angeles auctions are very rarely used to sell property. If a property is going to auction it’s mainly because it’s a bank foreclosure rather than a prestigious sale, and so is often in a lower price point.”

Do you work with many Australian clients? 

“I quite often work with young Australians in the entertainment business. More often than not, they’re looking at Hollywood Hills properties and/or full service condo buildings.”

What's the best way to get listings in the luxury Los Angeles market?

“It starts with everyday contacts such as your neighbours and other parents at your child’s school, and extends to social functions, community events, workouts at the gym, and even dinner with friends. 

“Celebrity clients don’t want an agent who wants to be famous selling their house. Rather the celebrity clients value privacy, trust and a reference from someone in their circle.

“Also, a global network is very important rather than just a local market database. As someone who was born and raised in Germany, and has lived in Boston, Chicago and Boca Raton Florida, I’m fortunate to have a fantastic network all over the world.

“This is especially important because LA has become a major destination for international buyers. 

“This gives me an advantage over many other LA agents, because I can relate to and connect with buyers and sellers from a range of cultural backgrounds. 

“In addition trust is important, and whoever hires me knows I’ll get the job done properly. I don’t have any assistance when running my open houses – I do it all myself.”

What's the biggest obstacle you find at listing presentations?

“The most significant challenge is helping vendors see the points of difference you can offer, because in the current marketplace, many vendors are interviewing a number of agents, all well trained, polished and offering everything 

“As such, you usually only have a short window of time to present yourself, your experience and the marketing plan for the property in question.

“This means it’s vital that you present confidently and succinctly, to give yourself the greatest chance of winning the listing.”

What new marketing or technology are you personally introducing in your business?

“The Sotheby’s website updates international currencies three times a day, which means that a client sitting in Germany will see my listing prices in Euros, at the most up-to-date exchange rate.

“On top of this, my listings are all featured on, one of the number one real estate portals we use to reach China.

“On a personal level, I regularly call Sotheby’s agents in our offices around the world to pitch my listings. 

“Technology-wise, it’s absolutely vital to invest in drone footage and 3D virtual tours, open house tech databases and virtual furniture placement, in addition to a high-quality photo gallery of the property.

“Also, as I work not only with local clients but international clients as well, I’m a big fan of FaceTime and providing video tours of my properties. 

“In fact, my first property sale was to a Chinese buyer, and this was achieved through a combination of FaceTime and property videos. 

“The sales point was over $6 million, and my clients never actually saw their house in person until after they closed escrow.”

Can you describe your marketplace, including your clientele?

“I work across a whole range of buyers and sellers from local first timers to experienced investors to celebrities and entertainment professionals.

“The market price for houses in my area is from $1 million dollars to $250 million.

“My buyers also include out of state buyers. An advantage in the US is the multi listing service which means I can represent buyers on sales interstate and take a commission regardless of who is selling the property.”

How has luxury property performed in this area in the last two years?

“I would say it has changed drastically, but this is also a symptom of the changing lifestyle in LA. 

“For instance, the current trend is towards vertical living, with properties boasting city views and close proximity to fine dining and shopping proving the most popular.

“That said, there are still a lot of luxury condos and houses on the market, with one example being a home in Bel Air, which is currently listed for $250 million.”

Would you say celebrity houses are harder to sell?

“The short answer is yes and no. We have a large number of international buyers who are very keen to purchase a celebrity home, and this usually adds value to the sale price.

“As such, it’s important to maintain a strong database of these buyers and keep in regular contact with them. Without this regular communication and follow-up, the process becomes much harder.”

Why is Los Angeles real estate so strong at the moment? And why are Hollywood apartments so in demand right now?

“To put it simply, I think it’s because LA offers so much. From the fantastic climate to the great schools and colleges, the entertainment industry, and the high tech businesses in the city, there’s so much to recommend LA.

“Many homeowners enjoy the fact that you can be close to the beach but at the same time not too far from the mountains, and as far as house prices go. LA is still inexpensive in comparison to other big cities such as New York and London and Sydney.”