Here at Great Spaces, we highlight the best of the best: lavish, magnificent properties owned by celebrities and other filthy rich clientele. Let’s face it: gawking at homes of the rich and famous that we will never be able to afford is (regrettably) a guilty pleasure we all enjoy. Whether recently sold or just hitting the market, Great Spaces has been featuring properties so extravagant, they are, at times, beyond our wildest imaginations.
But what if you were the one trying to sell them? What if you were the agent working with some of the most famous stars on the planet?
We had a chance to speak with Pej Barlavi, CEO of Barlavi Realty, LLC in New York City to learn all about the ins and outs of dealing with high-end clients, managing egos, and keeping it cool in the face of celebrity.
Real Estate Magazine: How can an agent looking to dive into celebrity listings get started in that sector of real estate?
Pej Barlavi: One of the best ways to start with celebrity listings is to reach out to managing agencies or talent agencies with specific high-end properties in mind. That’s the way we started—we helped a managing agency find an apartment for a celebrity and they really liked the way we took care of her, so the company started sending us more celebrities to handle.
RE: What is your best advice for dealing with a particularly difficult celebrity?
PB: You just have to go with it. They all have their own quirks and wants since specific taste varies so much. If you want to be an agent helping celebrities, you just have to go by what their requirements are. Our job really is service oriented; we have to service them as they wish. They’re also going to be compensating you, so you have to be flexible. They could be in and out of the city quickly, or they may come in very rarely, so you have to be available to arrange showings and building access for them on a day’s notice.
RE: What’s your best advice for learning how to appropriately feed a celebrity’s ego?
PB: We see so many apartments day-in and day-out that we have a good sense of what can be done with certain spaces. If they make a remark, good or bad, you have to just go with it and feed their ego in that way. If they want to put certain things in the space or discuss where to put their personal items, it’s OK to say, “Yes, that’s a great idea! I like what you’re thinking.” On the other hand, you can overdo it. If you’re constantly in agreement with them, when it comes down to them purchasing the space and they want to make some crazy offer or crazy requests, you’ve lost ground because you’ve agreed with them and fed their ego too much. When you try to correct them or help them, you’ve lost that voice and respect with them; when it comes down to business, you’ve lost that credibility.
RE: How concerned are your clients with privacy?
PB: Very. Their privacy concerns are a major issue for us, so a lot of times we try to find doorman buildings that have another access besides the front, such as a service entrance they can go in and out of. It’s always in the back of our minds and brought up often with several different celebrities. Also, which way the windows face and who can see in and how high the apartment is are all factors. Specifically in New York, everybody can grab binoculars and look into your windows at any time. How far the buildings are from each other sometimes becomes an issue.
On the other hand, we also have the condo board’s or security’s concerns to pay attention to. What do they need to do or pay for in addition to a doorman? There are certain buildings in Central Park that go beyond the doorman—extra security, extra cameras, an extra security booth in the building. A lot of buildings don’t have that though. A condo board always wants to know if it’s going to require extra costs. Will there be personal security renting in the building? Does personal security need special access? Not only is security an issue for the celebrity, but the condo needs to make sure there are no problems, not only for the celebrity and the building, but also for the privacy of the other tenants.
RE: How difficult is it to sell a property that is tainted with death or murder, for example? How does a good agent spin that in order to showcase the property’s best features?
PB: There are two thoughts on this, as a majority of people find it creepy or are even superstitious about someone dying in the home or apartment they’re living in. No matter how you try to spin it, they just don’t go with it. There’s nothing you can say to those superstitious people. On the other hand, for some people, especially in the U.S., living in an apartment and buying, say, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s old apartment that he died in has so much history that people don’t mind it. Living in the last place he lived and died in is actually something to brag about. It’s about equal between both groups.