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What The One Percent Look For In Luxury Real Estate

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Senada Adzem, luxury real estate

With Senada Adzem, National real estate expert and top producer for Douglas Elliman.

Senada Adzem boasts an extraordinary career in the luxury real-estate market in addition to having endured an early life that only few can imagine. Steve’s interview with Senada covers her challenging and courageous beginnings as well as her brilliant career as a record-setting real estate agent in South Florida’s luxury real estate market.

Making the single largest sale at the St. Regis in Miami Beach for 24.6 million dollars is a long way from dodging bombs and bullets in war-torn Sarajevo, which is how Senada experienced her early teenage years.  Her English language skills and not a little grit allowed her access to United Nations’ organizations and eventually to the United States where she completed a college education with a degree in business and political science. Senada eventually segued into the world of real estate in possibly the biggest way imaginable, through the Trump Organization, where she eventually became vice president of Trump International.

Her move to South Florida, she says, was inspired by a strong desire for a walk-in closet (NY apartments being the size of walk-in closets), her love of its beauty and lifestyle, as well as the strong luxury real estate market in the area.

When Steve asks Senada if the super rich are really different from “you and me”, she answers that they certainly are more discerning and generally more specific about what they want. In spite of how many millions of dollars the home in question, the key is understanding the client’s position in life, their relationship with loved ones, and how they envision their lifestyle, all of which demands not a small amount of intuition and understanding. Having lived through the perils of war, Senada is sensitive to the emotional component of her clients and knows that they, in turn, recognize integrity and authenticity in her.

One of the most interesting aspects of Steve’s interview involves the headline-generating stories that can accompany the advertising of multi-million homes. Senada relates how she once created quite a bit of publicity by advertising a property that included a replica of the Starship Enterprise as a home movie theater as a Star Trek house.

Not only are the rich different from you and me, a real estate agent selling to the rich must be unique as well, as this compelling interview with Senada Adzem clearly reveals.


Disclosure: The opinions expressed are those of the interviewee and not necessarily United Capital.  Interviewee is not a representative of United Capital. Investing involves risk and investors should carefully consider their own investment objectives and never rely on any single chart, graph or marketing piece to make decisions.  Content provided is intended for informational purposes only, is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and should not be considered tax, legal, investment advice. Please contact your tax, legal, financial professional with questions about your specific needs and circumstances.  The information contained herein was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however their accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. All data are driven from publicly available information and has not been independently verified by United Capital.

Read The Entire Transcript Here

Steve Pomeranz: Senada Adzem is a recognized national real estate expert, but with a twist.  She’s also a record-setting real estate agent and having had the single largest sale at the St.  Regis in Miami Beach for 24.6 million dollars and a 10.4 million-dollar sale on an unfinished penthouse in Boca Raton, Florida, which, of course, is our hometown, as well.  I’ve asked her to join me today to give us some insight into the world of selling homes to those who can spend tens of millions of dollars on a single property.  Hi, Senada. Welcome to the show.

Senada Adzem: Thank you so much for having me.  It’s a pleasure.

Steve Pomeranz: Before we get into the gist of what I want to speak to you about, I do want to talk a little bit about your childhood.  You grew up in Croatia at a time when war broke out in 1991.  How old were you, and what happened to you at that time?

Senada Adzem: Well, I was 14 years of age when the war broke out in the former Yogoslavia and it was a very scary time.  My family and I ended up going to Sarajevo, which was Bosnia at the time, and it was relatively safe.  Little did we know that Sarajevo was going to become one of the worst areas in the world, in terms of safety and the actual war and defeat of Sarajevo.

Steve Pomeranz: Did you speak English at the time or just the local language?

Senada Adzem: Well, Croatian and Bosnian obviously was the local language, but I spoke very good English.

Steve Pomeranz: Okay.

Senada Adzem: When I was little, I was obsessed with learning English, which I find such a beautiful language, so that actually helped me when I was a teenager and in a war where there were so many journalists and, of course, the United Nations.  All of the sudden, it needed local employees who could interpret, so my knowledge of English language helped me tremendously because I was able to get a job when I was 14 years of age.

Steve Pomeranz: When you first landed in New York, what were your first thoughts?

Senada Adzem: It’s scary, it’s hectic, it is overwhelming, but at the same time, what I loved about New York is that it’s such an international city.  You can meet people from all over the world, and it’s truly intellectual, it’s truly cultural, and it’s truly …  It gives you an ability to be yourself, regardless of who you are, where you’re from, and the differences were celebrated instead of …  When you go to some of the smaller cities you feel like you stick out, and in the city, you’re just embraced because everyone is from somewhere else.

Steve Pomeranz: Very interesting.  How did you end up in South Florida?

Senada Adzem: I ended up deciding to resign from Trump International in New York after four and a half years of working there, and decided I wanted to have a walk-in closet, which I couldn’t have in New York, and I wanted to have a car, which at 28 years of age, I didn’t even know how to drive a car.  Florida was just beautiful, and people were nice and more relaxed, and I could actually focus on what I loved doing, which was real estate.

Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, it’s pretty funny.  I mean, how many people move to South Florida because they want a walk-in closet?  You think it’s all these other reasons, but really that’s the primary reason. Please, give me a break.

Senada Adzem: Yeah, it is, particularly if your apartment in New York is the size of a closet.

Steve Pomeranz: That’s right.  You ended up in the real estate business, but you said you worked for Trump International and then you went out on your own.  Is that what happened when you came down here?

Senada Adzem: Yes.  Well, when I came to Florida, I decided to first go on my own and then got approached by Blackstone, which acquired the Boca Raton Resort and Club back in 2006 and the Corcoran Group.  I joined them, and I ran the pre-development marketing and sales of One Thousand Ocean, which is a fabulous brand new building on the peninsula, right where the inter-coastal and the inlet begin.  I fell in love with Boca Raton.  I get teased a lot when I come up to New York.  I’m presenting all these magnificent companies in Boca Raton, and they still think, often times, that Boca Raton is this place where only retired people go, and it’s just a sleepy resort town, and I have had to educate them, not just by my presentations, but also I’ve brought CNBC.  I’ve brought many big media outlets to Boca Raton to show that it’s this really beautiful place with now a very diverse segment of the population of different ages, different backgrounds, and it’s become a very vibrant town.

Steve Pomeranz: I guess being a real estate agent also requires that you have …  You sound like you work for the Chamber of Commerce too.

Senada Adzem: Well, listen, if you love a town, a place where you live, yes, you also have to show what’s best about that particular town.

Steve Pomeranz: All right.  Let me get to some of my questions.  I don’t really know the real estate market all that well.  I’m an investment advisor, and I work with individuals from all walks of life and all ranges of income and assets, from the rather small to the rather large, so our paths, in terms of business, cross, overlap to some degree.  But I’m very interested.  I think working with high net worth individuals that are buying these homes …  It’s a different kind of business.  What is the difference between selling a 10-million dollar home and a $400,000 home?

Senada Adzem: Well, the big difference is the fact that the super rich are extraordinarily discerning.  They know what they want, they know what they want to get, and when you are representing an extremely wealthy person, there are goals in selling, and that’s what we always have to get to the bottom of, which is what are the reasons they’re selling.  Most people think that real estate is brick and mortar, and be it that you’re acquiring or selling real estate, that it’s about that house or a condo.

What I’ve learned, particularly working with the super rich, is that it’s more about emotions rather than the brick and mortar, and with the extremely wealthy people, for the most part, money may not be an object.  They can afford what they can afford, and then they give you that range.  It happens to be in millions or tens of millions of dollars, but what I’ve learned from them is that it depends where they are in their life.  What is important to them at that particular stage of their life?  What relationships they want to have with their loved ones, because a home is a place where you have relationships, not just with your children, with your family, with your friends, and it truly defines how you live.

That almost cliché word of lifestyle is truly evident in the lives of the super rich, and when they want to scour and acquire a piece of real estate, you have to truly understand what they’re thinking, what they’re feeling, what stage in their life they’re in, what’s important to them, and then what that lifestyle looks like.  They’re going to be much tougher than a person who is looking at, say, at a one million home versus someone who’s looking at a ten million dollar home.

Steve Pomeranz: All right, so understanding your customer and what’s driving them is important.  I’m sure there’s a lot of competition in the luxury real estate market, and I have to tell you, I’ve seen a lot of ads and all the people that are selling real estate …  They’re really, really good looking.  They dress extremely well, they drive wonderful cars, and they seem to be very comfortable around the wealthy, but what really differentiates one luxury home real estate agent from another?

Senada Adzem: What differentiates a phenomenal real estate agent from another is the level and the depth of knowledge and expertise they have, number one, and number two, how they treat that client.  What I mean by that, and I will give myself as an example of this, I’ve lived through a war.  I know what it takes to lose a life.  I have dear friends, I have family members who’ve lost their lives, and when I come and speak to a client, I see them as a human being.  I truly care what they’re about.  Being authentic is very important to them because they’re used to getting pitched or sold to and they really want someone who’s very authentic.

Steve Pomeranz: Right.

Senada Adzem: What I’ve got is that you obviously have to be authentic, you have to have integrity, and very important …  You have to understand what they want.  You have to care, okay?  If you don’t care about your clients, they’re going to know and they’re not going to feel very special, so I think that’s a second part that’s very important.  The last and the third is that you have to understand what’s important to them, be it wealth preservation, be it growing their money, be it lifestyle, and being able to deliver on all of those, because time is very precious, and they don’t want to waste any time.

Steve Pomeranz: Right.

Senada Adzem: One thing I learned from Donald Trump when I first started working for him was start from the end.  Get to the bottom line, figure out what’s important  and deliver on that without wasting any unnecessary time.

Steve Pomeranz: My guest is Senada Adzem.  She’s a recognized real estate expert but also a top real estate broker in South Florida. Senada, sometimes the pricing of these expensive homes seems so arbitrary.  I mean, I mentioned in my opening that you sold a place for 24.5 million dollars.  You hear some of these numbers, 100 million and 70 million.  There are really no comparables.  I mean, it’s not like you can look in the neighborhood and then say, “Well, we had five sales this year.” How is a price derived?

Senada Adzem: That’s a really brilliant question.  I will first tell you though that the value of real estate is determined by what someone’s willing to pay for it.

Steve Pomeranz: Okay.

Senada Adzem: That’s why a lot of people come up with prices that they’ve just pulled out of thin air.  Okay?  If you look at a more systematic approach to valuing real estate, you’re right.  There are no comparables, so you have to come up with a number that may be outrageous and then really gauge because at the end of the day, if you have a 50 million dollar home, which— value of which is based on the value of the land plus what it would cost to reconstruct it—you have to price it that way.  If you don’t have comparables, then you can put it at 65 because, at the end of the day, the super rich really enjoy negotiating.  They’re never going to pay the asking price.  It’s sort of a game.  At the same time, you don’t want to overprice it because then you’re going to turn off a lot of people.  You have to be very close to the range of what you think is going to sell, but you’re right.  Price valuing a home first and foremost, and then pricing it is not a science.  It’s an art, and you have to be a really great artist when it comes to that.

Steve Pomeranz: The fact that listing a home or pricing your home at some very high price is also a marketing tactic, it seems to me, because it’s going to get a lot of press, and that was my next question.  When you’re marketing a home of that size, I don’t think an MLS listing is going to do it.  What is different about marketing a 10 million dollar house versus a normal home?

Senada Adzem: The big difference is having a story.  You have to have a hook.  It’s not even about the price.  What I do is I come up with a story that that home tells.  For instance, I had a house that had a one million dollar exact replica of Starship Enterprise.  It’s a movie theater.  I thought that’s really cool.  That’s different.  The owner was obsessed with Star Trek, so what I said to him was,  “Why don’t we position this as a Star Trek house?” What we ended up gaining out of this very coherent story that I’ve created is we had more publicity than any other home in the ultra-luxury sector in Florida ever.  We had people wanting to know what does this look like?  It created headlines.
I think that’s the secret.  You have to come up with a really interesting, compelling story that’s going to create headlines.  The second very important thing that I do is that I have a relationship with CNBC.  The show called Secret Lives of the Super Rich showcases some of the most magnificent homes in the world, also yachts and also very fancy toys.  But having exposure and reaching the ultra high net worth consumer through television, through media that they’re now watching, you have to realize that the days of putting an ad, or like you said MLS, are way gone.

Steve Pomeranz: Yeah.

Senada Adzem: The current consumer is at his or her dining room table, in their pajamas, at a computer with a glass of wine, looking through listings.  They want to see the most fabulous videos.  Or they’re at home in their pajamas watching television, so you have to discern how to reach them in a way that, however, they’re spending their time.

Steve Pomeranz: You need to find a particular angle.  I know I’ve read in some articles that the use of art is also another very good idea.  If a person selling has great art, they may include it in the purchase price or,even someone mentioned, throwing in a beautiful car or something of that nature.  Tell me a little bit about the psychology there.

Senada Adzem: The psychology there is that you have to differentiate yourself.  You have to differentiate the property.  If someone has the most magnificent art, I will suggest creating partnerships.  I’m very, very big on strategic partnerships.  For instance, an art gallery can host an event at the venue, at this magnificent home, and bring a lot of their clients out.  I do a lot of partnerships with different charities, where I’ll give them the venue for free, and they will host their event.  I believe in providing value, and that will allow me to go out to different partners and say, “This is what I want to do.  I support your charity.  Why don’t you host the event?” In return, they bring their top donors.  They bring people who will be talking about this house.  Having partnerships is important.

Another thing that you mentioned is throwing in a car.  I did it in a very sophisticated way, I think, where I asked my seller, who had a very limited edition Rolls Royce Phantom that was worth over $580,000, but the house was worth over 15 million dollars, so I asked him, “If I were to get you and find your buyers willing to pay 15 million dollars for the home, would you include the Rolls-Royce?” He said, “Absolutely.” What I did is I created a press release, and I went to the public and said, “The buyer of this magnificent 15 million dollar home is going to get one of a kind limited edition Rolls Royce Phantom that’s worth over half a million dollars,” and it’s created a huge buzz.  I ended up doing partnership events with Braman Rolls-Royce from Palm Beach.  They brought their clients out.  It created a whole story, so I think that’s the key.

Steve Pomeranz: Yeah.  Smart.

Senada Adzem: Having a very unique approach.

Steve Pomeranz: Very smart.  My guest is Senada Adzem.  She can be found at sonataadzem.com.  To hear this interview again or to read the transcripts and to get to know us a little bit better, don’t forget to go to onthemoneyradio.org. Senada, pleasure meeting you.  First time.  Hopefully, we’ll run into each other once again.

Senada Adzem: Likewise.  Many thanks, and I hope you have a great day.