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An Exclusive Look into Growing a Global Presence

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By Stephanie Andre

RISMEDIA, Jan. 8, 2008-When you think of the name Sotheby’s, you immediately think “luxury” and “prestige.” A name so entrenched in history, it makes perfect sense that it is now a world-renowned, high-end real estate brand.

“With such a rich history, we have a responsibility to this brand that we don’t take lightly,” says Mike Good, president and CEO, Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC. Here, in an exclusive interview, Good and Wendy Purvey, senior vice president of marketing, discuss the strong, global name and unique tools the Sotheby’s International Realty brand offers its brokers and what their brokers, in turn, have to offer their clients that makes them unique.

Real Estate magazine: How does the rich history and prestige of the Sotheby’s name benefit brokers?
Mike Good
: We are fortunate to be caretakers of this esteemed brand. The name is recognizable, savvy and has great panache and prestige with people of substance all over the world. Therefore, it is our responsibility to live up to that expectation and show consumers our quality difference.

RE: Given the market trends, how is the Sotheby’s International Realty brand weathering the storm?
MG
: We face the same market and same challenges as everyone else. That said, our companies are growing, and it is because of a number of factors: our brokers and agents are being asked to represent some of the finest homes, and they have the ability and resources to market those properties effectively all over the world.

More than 60% of our companies are up in sales volume over last year. Part of that is because the upper end of the market has not been as significantly hit as other price ranges. But also, in many markets, our brokers are attracting quality agents from other organizations and growing, while others are pulling back.

RE: How are you positioning your brand to differentiate itself from others in the real estate space?
Wendy Purvey
: One of our initiatives for 2008 will be to focus on better utilizing the network to showcase properties to the world. One of the ways we’re doing that is by creating what we believe to be a truly international Web site-sothebysrealty.com. It allows visitors to search by international properties without leaving the site. One of the most popular functions we offer is the ability for visitors to search by lifestyle; our information tells us that more than 50% of visitors are searching by or refining by lifestyle. We find that most often, people are looking for amenities in the home and a lifestyle atmosphere more than just location and price.

We’ve also adopted a less-is-more attitude toward our brand advertising. We made a conscious decision to be uniquely understated. We have incredible placements in magazines such as Architectural Digest, Wine Spectator and Gourmet. As proof that our marketing plan is working, we’re consistently well-placed within the first several pages of these publications each month.

Our brand positioning also is unique in the real estate space. As an example, Sotheby’s Auction House magazine, Preview, allows us to advertise and reach their valued clientele, which is a great benefit to our brokers.

RE: What can your brokers offer or do for their clients that is different from others in real estate?
WP
: The quality of our brokers is unmatched. When you combine the quality of our brokers with their consistent use of the resources we offer, you have an unparalleled level of service in this industry.

MG: For starters, we have our affiliation with the Sotheby’s Auction House, which is something no other company can claim. People who visit sothebys.com can see what’s happening there, but they’ll also see banner ads that show photos of properties.

In fact, they can even start a search by property or lifestyle that will then send them directly to our Web site. The Sotheby’s Web site is a very significant driver to our site. We also work with their employees on real estate referrals and they work with us on fine art. For example, we recently traveled to Hong Kong for an art show where they included our real estate display. We are constantly involved in leveraging our ongoing relationship with the Sotheby’s Auction House.

RE: Being a “luxury” brokerage, does your process for selecting brokers differ from the norm?
MG
: We have a very different selection process than other franchisors; we are the only luxury franchise brand in the world. The entire eligibility process and selection is different. Markets have to qualify and standards have to be met just to apply for a franchise. We also have all face-to-face meetings with prospective franchisees so that they understand what makes us unique.

RE: What’s the biggest difference between being a Sotheby’s International Realty franchise and joining a luxury organization?
MG
: There are certainly a lot of organizations that are now trying to create luxury affiliations. The difference is that those companies don’t really brand themselves differently with those relationships; it’s just a loose marketing affiliation. For us, it’s total immersion; people are very proud when approved to be a part of this network. They appreciate what it means to be a member and their entire identity changes.

WP: Everyone on our leadership team has extensive real estate experience at the field level. We are very proud of the fact that we are creating one of the most unique and prestigious brands in the industry. From the Brokers’ Perspective Sotheby’s International Realty brokers weigh in on what the brand affiliation means to them.

For those living both internationally as well as in the U.S., the Sotheby’s International Realty name is “a trusted brand,” explains Peter Newbold, general manager, Browns Sotheby’s International Realty, Queenstown, New Zealand. “They value the brand and its integrity.”

According to Pat Petersen, president and CEO of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty on Long Island, New York, the brand name reaches far beyond just impressive listings. “It’s not just a luxury brand, but a quality brand,” she says. “That’s the distinction. Anyone in the real estate world is looking for that. It’s delivering impeccable service with measurable results.”

“It’s precisely the history and prestige that the brand exudes that make it such a powerhouse,” adds John Vatistas, chairman, Equitable Sotheby’s International Realty, Scottsdale, Arizona. “The Sotheby’s International Realty brand is much more than a logo: It means something to affluent buyers and sellers in my market. They associate Sotheby’s and-by extension-my brokerage company, with sophistication, smarts and discretion. And we’re able to deliver on that brand promise.”

When a home is listed with the Sotheby’s International Realty brand, it is truly being exposed to a global audience-something this trio says is unmatched.

“On the sell side, it’s really about access to a worldwide network of offices and buyers no other brand can reach,” explains Vatistas.

Adds Newbold: “The name “Sotheby’s” has strong recognition amongst overseas purchasers.”

“The Sotheby’s name is recognized across the globe. It’s also a brand that people aspire to-that’s success,” says Petersen.

For more information, visit www.sothebysrealty.com.

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