How to sell a mansion

A Realtor, a photographer, a caterer—it takes a village to sell a seven figure home
How to sell a mansion
Illustration by Adam Avery/YCN

It may be the Realtor’s face that you see smiling alongside a real estate listing, but when selling a home priced at seven or eight figures, it takes a village.

1 The home manager
Typically hired by an owner who has already relocated, the home manager, who lives temporarily on the grounds of a home for sale, adds an extra layer of security to a property that would otherwise sit vacant. Patricia Tinsley of Charmed Home flits from one luxury residence to another in Atlanta’s priciest zip codes, acting as “a combination of homemaker, docent, feng shui coordinator, and ghost whisperer,” she says. She addresses odors, spotty paint jobs, pests, or cracks in a sidewalk—any picayune deficiency that might make a dent in what must be a pristine impression, and all paid for out of her fee, which can be as high as $10,000.

2 The videographer
In an era when homes can have their own websites and social media pages, it’s not enough to have video. To stand out from the competition, you need Hollywood quality. The VSI Group, an independent video production company that often works with real estate agents, has six drones of different sizes at the ready for indoor and outdoor shoots. One of their recent creations: a video for Tyler Perry’s estate at 4110 Paces Ferry Road, a French Provençal mansion that sits on a 17-acre tract by the Chattahoochee River. In the film, the drones majestically swoop over the custom-built fountain in its lushly manicured landscaping, a gazebo overlooking Atlanta’s skyline, and an infinity pool. The cost: $15,000.

3 The caterer
Tony Conway owns Legendary Events, which caters 1,200 events a year, including real estate showings and agent caravans. “The first thing we do is assess the house,” he says, to create a menu that complements the property. “For a Southern home, we might do fried chicken, but if the home is modern, we might bring in a sushi bar.” And then there’s the event decor. Conway once put 1,200 red roses in an entrance to draw attention to the home’s contemporary art; on another occasion, he commissioned an art gallery to hang a temporary installation. He even provides valet parking.

4 The Realtor
“The psychological aspect can be best described as ‘perception is reality,’” says Jenny Doyle, of Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty, who has helped Braves pitchers and Top Chef contestants select their lairs. “It’s not just about selling the home; it’s about selling a lifestyle, a story.” Even the listing language must be tailored to an ultra-wealthy clientele. For example, “You don’t use the word house; you use estate. You’ve got to talk about privacy from neighbors, security and surveillance, a gated entrance, extra garages, ease of airport access.” She also works with Sotheby’s 11-person in-house marketing team in Atlanta, which creates bound, book-like brochures for select homes; the company’s website translates into 18 languages and 50 currencies.

5 The stager
“It takes most people six seconds to form an opinion of a room,” says Barbara Heil-Sonneck of Design2Sell, who works with Realtors to stage and style multimillion-dollar homes. “We try to create excitement and emotional connection.” For high-end properties, that could mean spending thousands on furniture, art pieces, and paint jobs. Heil-Sonneck recalls one home that had been on the market for more than two and a half years. “We redid the entire kitchen, upgraded the bathroom fixtures, and installed new carpeting,” among other enhancements. “That was a $65,000 investment, but afterwards the home sold within three months.”

6 The photographer
To create lush images worthy of a luxury ad or magazine spread, Realtors turn to people like Joshua Vensel of Venvisio LLC, who has been shooting homes since 2006. “I use very deliberate lighting to highlight the most attractive features of a room, as well as multiple cameras to produce images for both print and digital.” He usually spends at least two hours shooting and then another few hours in post-production “making sure the perspective is right, the exposure is good.” The most opulent home he has photographed: Big Poppa’s House from The Real Housewives of Atlanta on West Paces Ferry. “The outdoor entertaining area was fantastic.”

7 The model
Nick Hoback has worked in print and commercial modeling, but his video for the sprawling Tanners Mill Estate in Gainesville was a first. Priced at $17.5 million, the property features a home theater, along with rolling pastures, a mill, and natural waterfalls. “I wanted to use models to accentuate the kind of family lifestyle you would have [here],” says Realtor Chase Mizell, of Sotheby’s International, so he called on Hoback, who was shot munching popcorn in the theater and fishing in the lake with his fictional daughter. “I dream of living in a place like that,” says Hoback, “and it was an aspirational experience to portray the kind of person who actually does.”

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This article originally appeared in our March 2016 issue.