35 Luxury Real Estate Agents Share Their Secrets For Selling Mansions

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In a volatile housing market, one niche segment has remained fairly strong—the ultraluxury segment.While talking to realtors and industry insiders for our list of the most successful realtors of the past year (who we defined as making the biggest single-home sales in the last 12 months), we heard some great home-selling tales and got valuable tips about how to sell an astronomically-priced home.

It was all too good not to share.

JOSH ALTMAN: Experience is my best asset

Altman sold an 11-bedroom, 16-bathroom mansion on Beverly Park for $16.5 million.

The celebrity realtor, one of the stars of Bravo's hit Million Dollar Listings, scored the sixth-highest sale last year in Los Angeles County when this deal closed.

When pulling in such a mega-deal, Altman said his experience is his best asset.

'It's a strategy that you kind of just learn from doing lots of sales,' he said, adding that realtors have to be on their 'A-game' when dealing with high-end customers, because the customers are very smart and business-savvy and have lots of options.

Before joining the prestigious Hilton & Hyland firm, Altman invested in properties and began flipping homes about 10 years ago. From there he migrated to the finance side of real estate and eventually wound up on the agent side.

'The most important thing when showing these people houses is you've got to show them the value,' he said.

EMILY BEARE: The luxury market is shifting from Wall Streeters to creative types

Beare sold a New York City cupola penthouse apartment for $13 million.

Beare got a once-in-a-career chance when she scored the opportunity to sell one of the five residential cupolas in the city.

'This was truly, truly a very unique property,' she said.

That uniqueness of the apartment lent itself to an impressive sale. Beare never advertised the vacancy in the building, but people were still drawn to the listing because of how beautiful the building was.

Beare got her start in the industry after she was introduced to some South African developers who needed her help with a project. Through the project she met the CEO of CORE Group and her career took off.

During her time in the business, she has seen a shift in her clients.

'I think the luxury market is at least changing. It's changing with the times,' she said, adding that more creative types are snapping up high-end real estate.

And one of those creative types brought her to tears. Beare had been trying to place an artist in a home for years but the right thing hadn't come along. So Beare started waking up earlier and earlier to check the latest listings and she finally found an apartment that had just hit the market.

It belonged to Elizabeth Murray, a woman her client greatly admired. Once Beare brought her client to the apartment, she said they both burst into tears because they knew they had finally found the right place.

RAYMOND BOLDUC: Use the property's strengths to entertain the crowd

Bolduc sold an eight-bedroom, nine-bathroom home on North Bay Road for $20 million.

When Bolduc wants to close a deal, he throws a party.

He hosts events at the homes he is selling as a way to advertise the properties and bring in potential buyers. In the case of the home on North Bay Road, he hosted a gala at the house for 500 people, complete with yachts and Rolls Royces.

At different properties, he has showcased artwork or other luxury commodities.

'It (the party) has to fit the profile of the house,' he said.

After he earned his Master's in Boston, Bolduc said he bought a house and renovated it, giving him his first foray into the world of real estate.

He eventually moved to Florida to work with Sotheby's International Realty.

Throughout his career, he has worked with everyone from celebrities to international businessmen.

In particular, the sale on North Bay Road, which was ultimately bought by a Russian real estate developer, introduced him to clients from 10 different countries.

'So that was pretty exciting,' he said of the sale.

NANCY CALLAHAN: Every day is different

Callahan sold a four-bedroom, five and a half-bathroom mansion on Makena Road in Hawaii for $27 million.

PayPal co-founder and Facebook investor Peter Thiel bought the property from Huish Detergents founder Dan Huish.

Callahan represented both the buyer and the seller in her mega-million dollar sale, which is reported to be the biggest deal for a single-family home in Maui County.

The property was not listed and Callahan said she approached Huish with a potential buyer.

When she doesn't have the perfect client in mind, Callahan said she will sometimes use Bombardier Experience, a private jet magazine, to advertise her properties.

But, no matter how she markets the sale, Callahan said it's important to realise that only the client truly knows what's best.

'I have a sign on my desk that's 'Homes sell themselves. Brokers should have the best information,'' she said.

Before moving to Maui, Callahan got her start in real estate during her twenties while living in New York's West Village. She was with Halstead Properties when the company opened its first SoHo office on West Broadway.

'It was a very unique time,' she said.

When asked if she had any funny stories from her lifelong career, Callahan said she couldn't think of just one, saying instead, she had enough stories to fill a sitcom.

'Each and every transaction is unique to itself,' she said. 'It's really a people business and things do happen. You couldn't write this stuff.'

CLIF CHASE: Real estate is in my blood

Chase sold a waterfront property in Nevada for $9.4 million.

Despite the economic downturn, Chase said he still sees the high-end market as an area of opportunity, citing the fact that those who can afford such properties are less likely to be affected by the uncertain economy.

When it comes to closing the deal on expensive sales, location is key. Chase International has an office in the gated Glenbrook community, which is where Chase made his blockbuster sale.

'There's a lot to it,' he said. 'It's all about networking.'

Even though he didn't immediately jump into the business, real estate is in Chase's blood. His family owns Chase International, and after about 10 years working in middle management in corporate America, something he grew tired of, Chase said he decided to join the family business.

'Sales just comes natural to me,' he said.

Just because it's a natural talent doesn't mean Chase hasn't faced any unusual issues. Once, he said, when he was trying to sell a $6 million waterfront property, the prospective buyers asked to see the house at sunset. But right after the sun had set, thousands of bats started streaming out of a hole in the property's roof.

'It was like something out of a Hitchcock movie,' he said.

PHIL COLLINS: You have to know your clients

Collins sold a seven-bedroom beachfront mansion on Gordon Drive in Naples for $13.7 million.

For Collins, his affiliation with Sotheby's International Realty is his biggest asset. That connection translates into strong website traffic, he said.

'We get a lot of activity through that website,' he said. 'And we do get a lot of inquiries.'

However, every inquiry may not be legitimate.

While Collins was selling a multi-million beachfront home, he received an inquiry through the site from people claiming to represent a prominent Italian banking family. While deals of that nature don't normally being with an online query, he said he really became suspicious when the people asked him to travel to Milan to close the deal.

Through his connection with Sotheby's, Collins said she was able to track down a legitimate representative of the family, who said the family had not expressed interest in the property.

Collins got his start in real estate working for his family's development company in Chicago. He was familiar with Naples because of old spring break trips to his grandparents' home and he ultimately decided to take the plunge in the 1980s and move to Florida to work in real estate.

JACK COTTON: Wealthy people like to live near other wealthy people

Cotton sold a $6.5 million home on Eel River Road in Osterville, Mass.

Cotton began his real estate career in his dorm room in 1974.

'It's all I've ever wanted to do,' he said.

Throughout the years, Cotton has learned some valuable lessons about the industry, saying 'it's really the relationship business.'

According to Cotton, his buyers tend to buy in the same areas because people in the high-end market like to be around others who similar to them.

'Typically they have a people connection,' he said.

In this case, the property's neighbours bought the home for family use.

MIRCE CURKOSKI: Let the client make his own decision

Curkoski sold an eight-bedroom, 10-bathroom home in Miami Beach for $11.75 million.

Curkoski got his start in real estate when he met Miami real estate 'superstar' Carlos M. Justo.

'Once I met him, I guess he just took me under his wing in the high-end luxury real estate market,' Curkoski said.

When it comes to reading clients and the market, it seems his mentor taught him well.

'What we do is just give the client all the information and they make a decision,' he said.

While, for reasons of privacy, Curkoski said he can't discuss his clients in detail, working in the high-end market offers an interesting work day.

Curkoski said he might pick a client up with a limo, go to a private airport, fly to Key West where they get on a speedboat to get to a property, spend about 30 minutes as the property, and then zoom back to Miami Beach.

Dein sold a 236-acre, residential property in Kula, Maui for $6.5 million.

When selling such an expensive property, Dein uses all of the advertising means at his disposal. He posts listing in various luxury housing magazines, and he uses Realtor.com, as well as the Century 21 website.

But, he goes 'old school,' too.

'We do a lot of beautiful brochures,' he said.

Dein, who grew up in Florida, was living in Ithaca, N.Y., but just didn't feel like it was where he wanted to be. He worked in upstate New York from 1972 through 1996, but he and has family used to take vacations to Maui. And over the years, the vacations got longer and longer until they finally decided to move.

He made the leap to the real estate industry in 2000 when he earned his licence.

'Friends of mine always told me I would be a really good realtor,' Dein said of his career change.

After he obtained his licence, Dein said he traveled across the country, earning more licenses and Realtor designations.

GARY DEPERSIA: Behold the power of advertising

BONNIE DEVENDORF: I use a multi-prong approach to advertising

Devendorf sold a seven-bedroom Tudor-style home on Horseshoe Road in Mill Neck, NY for $14 million.

When marketing such an impressive piece of property, Devendorf said she relies on a 'very high-end marketing program,' that utilizes local, national, and international listings, websites, an 8-page brochure, and Sotheby's auction house in New York.

Devendorf got her start with a small firm in Locust Valley more than 25 years ago.

'In those days, there were smaller, independent firms,' she said.

She eventually came to work for the Daniel Gale/Sotheby's affiliate office in Locust Valley.

'We have market share but it's the overlay with Sotheby's that's so important to us,' she said.

And while she has some crazy stories about her work in the real estate market, she wasn't at liberty to share. Since she works with celebrities and wealthy international buyers, her work has to be confidential, Devendorf said.

She has also sold luxury properties in Lattingtown and Centre Island, NY.

VALERIE FITZGERALD: Appearing on TV has attracted clients

Fitzgerald sold a five-bedroom Spanish-style home at on Doheny Drive in Los Angeles for $5.6 million.

According to Fitzgerald, her experience in the business, as well as her star power, help her move properties.

'I've got a database of probably 7,000 people,' she said.

Plus, she's starring on an HGTV reality show called Selling L.A. She said she's seen an increase in inquiries as the show, which is in its second season, has gained traction.

Fitzgerald moved to Los Angeles for a job at Revlon, but the job ended two months later. Once the job ended, Fitzgerald said a friend recommended she sell real estate so she went to night classes and earned licence.

Her career started with her fighting to get showings and then bringing her to daughter to the showings when necessary.

'It's always about getting the appointment,' she said.

Her career has yielded some crazy stories, Fitzgerald said.

One time, when she was showing a house to a very conservative lawyer and his fiance, they happened upon an S&M film that was filming near the location.

DINA GOLDENTAYER: I know who I'm selling to

Goldentayer sold a three-bedroom, two-bathroom, waterfront home in Miami Beach for $5.1 million.

There is no predictability in the real estate market, according to Goldentayer. She might find a house she thinks is a perfect bachelor pad and then a 60-year-old couple ends up purchasing the home.

To combat that unpredictability, Goldentayer pays close attention to her clients.

'We always want to pre-qualify the buyer,' she said.

In order to make sure the buyer is legitimately interested in the property, Goldentayer and her team ask prospective clients basic history questions, such as where they're from, what they do for a living, and if they own any other property in the area.

Other than pre-screening clients, Goldentayer relies on 'extensive marketing,' which shows the home to prominent Miami Beach residents as well as the international community.

She got her start in real estate at 21 when she purchased her first condo. Goldentayer said she saw the way her broker worked and paid attention to the process, which inspired her to get her own real estate licence.

KATE GREENMAN: I use my connections to my advantage

Greenman sold a seven-bedroom, four-bathroom house in Jamestown for $6.3 million.

Turns out, being affiliated with Sotheby's International has its benefits, especially when it comes to promoting a property.

'We have a great international network of marketing,' Greenman said.

Other than her affiliation with Sotheby's, Greenman said her reputation in the community helps bring her the most business.

'Sphere of influence is one of the factors,' in finding clients, she said.

Greenman got her start in real estate when she moved back to Newport, her hometown, after having lived in New York and taken a lengthy sailing trip.

Her dad was reopening his real estate agency in the area and she joined up with him when she was 28.

'I really like it,' Greenman said, adding that she loves working with people and properties and nothing is ever the same in her business.

JILL HERTZBERG: Familiarity with the market is key

Hertzberg sold a seven-bedroom, eight-bathroom in Miami Beach for $19.8 million.

Hertzberg's advice on working in the upscale market?

'You have to really know your market,' she said.

The success of her mega-million dollar closing can also be attributed to the fact that she loved the property.

'It's one of the finest properties in our whole city,' she said. 'You had a very, very significant home.'

The sale of the Fisher Island mansion, which is a 10-minute walk from the heart of Miami Beach, garnered the second-highest price for a home sold in the area, Hertzberg said.

BRAD HVOLBECK: The luxury market is not much different than any other market

Hvolbeck sold a Greenwich mansion for $32.5 million, which includes a gallery, conservatory, library, and five bedrooms.

According to Hvolbeck, working in the luxury real estate market isn't that different from working with any price point.

'It's pretty much what you do with all properties, except everything is magnified.'

He got bitten by the real estate bug as a young boy while shopping with his mum during the summer. He said he noticed 'two very dapper men,' who drove convertibles and were surrounded by women and his mum told him the men sold real estate.

So in college, Hvolbeck attended business school where he took real estate classes and ultimately got his licence at 28.

'It's not an easy business,' he said of his chosen profession. 'It's a very challenging, complicated business. The negotiation has to be handled very carefully.'

While he can't disclose the names of his clients, Hvolbeck said he's worked with everyone from royalty to financiers.

'They're not easy to work with,' he said of the former.

LARRY JONES: A realtor's reputation is everything

Jones sold a seven-bedroom that boasts ski-in/ski-out capabilities for $16 million in Snowmass Village, Colo.

'That particular home is the largest home to be built in Snowmass Village,' Jones said of his monster sale. 'You just can't really duplicate it.'

The family that bought the home includes 10 children and 20 grandchildren, making the large home a necessity.

In such a competitive market, a realtor's reputation is key, Jones said.

'More than anything, it's about building up trust and experience over time.'

Jones began building his reputation nearly 25 years ago. He got his start in property management and earned his real estate licence quickly after.

ROB KILDOW: We have great public relations

Kildow sold a four-bedroom, five and a half-bathroom at the Hualalai Resort in North Kona for $16.95 million.

The home was purchased by hedge funder Ken Griffin and his wife in March.

Kildow has worked with everyone from Cher to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. But, surprisingly, he didn't find his high-end clientele through magazine or Internet ads.

'We do no advertising,' Kildow said. 'Fortunately we've got the world's best PR company.'

Not that he think it takes that much effort to sell his properties.

'The place embraces you,' he said of Hualalai Resort, where he sells properties.

And he walks the walk when it comes to talking up the resort. He and his wife actually lived there when they made the transition to Hawaii.

Before moving to the island, Kildow made beer for Olympia Brewing Company in Washington, which he said was the dream job for someone in his 20s.

But his racquetball partner sold real estate and convinced Kildow to do the same.

'I guess I'm a real estate junkie,' Kildow said.

Click here to tour the estate >

ROBERT KINLIN: A good website is essential

Kinlin sold a waterfront estate, complete with an elevator, in Cape Cod for $11.5 million.

'In terms of marketing these properties, it's like a puzzle,' Kinlin said of the advertising he uses to showcase his properties. His strategy includes utilising referrals, direct mail, print, and advertising campaigns.

But online is really where it's at, he said.

'A website is the place that really drives an awful lot of business to everyone's company today,' Kinlin said.

While most realtors work for years to make it in the high-end luxury market, Kinlin jumped right in. He belonged to a country club and used the club's membership list to network his way into the market.

But it hasn't been all fun and games. A fight between buyers and sellers once ruined a sale for Kinlin.

Kinlin said he made the mistake of letting the buyers in the house while the sellers were home. The sellers overheard the buyer's wife insulting the home's decor, which offended the seller's wife. The couple selling the home then laid down some ground rules.

'I was told that I could continue to show the house to this particular buyer but not the wife,' Kinlin said.

Kinlin warned the selling couple that wasn't a good idea, 'and they said they did not care.'

The sale ultimately fell through.

DAVID KRAMER: Every detail counts

Kramer sold Aaron Spelling's former home, which includes a bowling alley, for $85 million.

'Money is not so much the object, it's more about their happiness,' Kramer said about his gigantic sale. 'You really need to get into their head space to see what drives them is what I always say.'

Even though Candy Spelling originally wanted $150 million for the mega-mansion, she finally dropped her bottom line.

'The price of the house is the cost to extricate the seller, because they don't need to sell,' Kramer said. 'We were there at the right time with the right buyer.'

He had the right buyer, but, from the sounds of it, a pretty difficult time getting that buyer--who the world later found out was Petra Ecclestone--into the house. Everyone has their new house inspected before they move in. But we're guessing most people don't bring in an entire team of PhD's.

'Inspections at this level are very intrusive, or can be,' Kramer said.

The Ecclestone team hired a professor with an advanced degree to test for mould in the house. They used a team of forensic inspectors and set up a lab in the middle of the now-former Spelling mansion. They collected 95 samples and were able to get results immediately.

'That was the most fascinating thing we did,' Kramer said. 'It was an interesting transaction.'

Click here to tour Petra Ecclestone's new mansion >

ALEX MAHER: I send out email blasts to clients in our database

Maher sold a 4,200-square foot, four-bedroom house in Jackson for $6.95 million.

'This was a cash deal,' Maher said about his expensive sale.

Interestingly enough, cash deals normally make up about 90% of his real estate company's transactions.

Maher is a big believer in technology when it comes to marketing his properties.

'We certainly have all of our listings on our website,' he said, adding that he also sends out monthly email blasts to all of the clients in his database.

It was through these email blasts that he found the buyer for the Creamery Lane property.

Maher began his real estate career in Jackson in June of 1998, when he signed on with Coldwell Banker. Within six months he created flyfishingproperties.com to sell real estate on trout streams.

He left Coldwell two years later and started his current company, Live Water Properties.

'It's a niche market,' he said.

EVA MOHR: A career change turned out to be lucrative

Mohr sold a New York townhouse that was a former art gallery for $31 million.

Mohr is a senior vice president at Sotheby's International Realty and has ranked as one of the company's top producers for more than 24 years.

Her monster sale on E. 70th Street, in which she represented the seller, ranked as one of the top five residential sales in 2011.

'The property was in a landmark area first of all,' she said about her multimillion dollar closing. 'And it had a marvellous looking facade.'

Before joining the ranks of New York realtors, Mohr worked as an interior designer in Florida. She moved to New York City more than 30 years ago and opted for a career change.

'I wanted to do something other than just go to lunch every day,' she said. 'And I thought real estate would be really lucrative.'

She began her career with Alice Mason Limited and then moved over to Sotheby's, where she has been for nearly 25 years.

BREFFNI MCGEOUGH: Being task-oriented is my best trait

McGeough sold a house on Evergreen Point Road near Lake Washington for $6.433 million.

McGeough attributes his success to the fact that he is task-driven.

'If you're task-driven and you get your tasks done, then you don't have to worry about commission because people come to you,' he said.

Before moving to Washington and entering the real estate field, McGeough and his wife ran a hotel in the South Pacific.

They returned to Seattle for the birth of their first child, who ended up having Downs Syndrome and heart problems.

Their child required a year's-worth of doctor visits so the couple sold their hotel and McGeough landed a job in real estate in 1992.

NEAL NORMAN: I have a strong network of buyers

Norman sold a mansion on Hanalei Bay in Kauai for $13.375 million.

Norman has worked in Hawaii real estate, which he calls a small market that can 'dominate' the high-end field, for nearly 30 years.

'I have a very strong network of buyers,' he said.

In his market, there are only a few people working with luxury homes, which means that about '5% of the brokers are doing 95% of the work,' Norman said.

Before becoming a realtor, Norman worked as a builder and furniture designer. Even though he has switched career paths, Norman said he's still a developer and loves architecture and beautiful properties.

'In that price range, there is a lot of really beautiful stuff,' he said.

MYRA NOURMAND: Listings must be visually appealing

Nourmand sold a home in a gated community in Holmby Hills for $21.5 million that boasts a tennis court and swimming pool.

For Nourmand, her connections help highlight her properties.

'We're one of the leading real estate companies of the world,' she said, adding that her job is to have great photos, virtual tours, and well-written descriptions to make her listings more appealing.

Her entrance into real estate began as a family affair. Nourmand's husband founded the company in 1977 but became bored with the business while Nourmand was 'barefoot and pregnant,' she said.

Nourmand took over the firm in 1988 when her youngest child, who now serves as president of the company, was nine.

It's not that she was drawn to real estate as a profession, Nourmand said, but all of her discussions with her fellow mothers seemed to circle back to real estate, so her husband recommended she earn her real estate licence.

While Nourmand said she has worked with many interesting clients, she declined to share any stories, saying her motto is 'Show and sell, not show and tell.'

MARIANNE PRENDERGAST: You need to trust your colleagues

Prendergast sold a custom-built luxury home in McLean, Va., for $7.5 million.

For Prendergast, it's all about the people you work with. Her sale in McLean was made easier by the fact that the home was created by one of the finest builders in the area, she said.

Her client, who moved to McLean from out of the area, wanted to create a certain look for the home, one that wasn't flashy or grand but classy, which they achieved by working Associated Builders.

'I just had a fantastic property to market,' Prendergast said.

She was able to sell the property before it hit the market. But if the property had become available to the general public, Prendergast said realtors in the area benefit from reaching out to clients in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

'We do market to all three jurisdictions,' she said. 'Networking is the most important aspect of my marketing.'

Prendergast's children helped her make the transition to real estate. Once she had kids, she knew she wanted to leave the demands of her consulting job. After a job writing for a luxury real estate magazine, she made the transition to realtor in 1990.

REBECCA RISKIN: You never know what you're going to encounter

Riskin sold a two-bedroom, three-bathroom home in Montecito for $10.7 million.

'That was an interesting sale,' Riskin said of her multi-million dollar listing. The house was a little cottage but sat on good land. And it went up for sale at a perfect time.

Riskin had former clients who were having difficulty building their dream home because their current lot wouldn't support their plans.

When the Edgecliff Lane property became available, Riskin said her clients were in New Zealand.

She called them and the husband got on a plane, flew to Santa Barbara for two hours to look at the property, and then flew back to New Zealand so he could on safari in Africa.

'They bought it on the spot for full price,' Riskin said. 'It was a fun and unique sale.'

Before becoming a realtor, Riskin worked as a professional ballet dancer in New York. But an injury forced her to abandon that career and move back to Los Angeles.

Riskin said her mum was fixing up houses and selling them at the time, so Riskin got her real estate licence in order to represent the properties her mum was fixing up.

'I got my licence and I completely loved real estate from the get go,' she said.

When asked if she had any interesting stories from her career, she could only laugh.

'Oh God, I could write a book,' Riskin said.

Which is what she's doing.

Riskin and her sister have started writing a book about the ridiculous things Riskin encounters in the real estate world.

DEBBY ROMNESS: The deal-making is the best part

Romness sold a five-bedroom, seven-bathroom in Indian Wells, California for $6.9 million.

Romness has been selling real estate for 19 years. She began her career in Minnesota, and after 12 years in the industry, relocated to California with her husband.

'I was looking for a profession where I could set my own hours and be my own boss,' she said of her choice to become a realtor, adding that she wanted a career where she wouldn't have to work all the time and could balance her professional and personal lives.

'I also love houses,' she said. Of the working in the high-end market, she said, 'it seemed to be the best fit for me, It was just where my career headed. That's just the way it worked out.'

But that doesn't mean her chosen profession is without its difficulties.

'Every big deal falls apart before it comes together,' she said.

But that just makes it fun.

'I like deal making,' Romness said.

ROBERT SCHULMAN: Be grateful for the deals you get

Schulman and Swift sold a full-floor apartment on Park Avenue for $25 million.

Financier David Matlin's apartment was listed as a co-exclusive between Robert Schulman of Warburg Realty and Joan Swift of Prudential Douglas Elliman.

'Yes it's a big deal, it's a very big deal,' Schulman said. 'But in all cases, in all deals, it's got to be right for both parties.'

Schulman was brought in on the deal because the sellers had been his clients in the past.

'You're thankful that you have a chance to be involved in something like this,' he said.

He got his start in the market at birth. His father was a successful real estate developer in Washington County, and Schulman worked for his father during high school and for 15 years after college.

'I always say I was trained by one of the best negotiators in the industry,' Schulman said of his father.

When it comes to his own success, Schulman stressed the important of being honest, fair, and accountable -- traits that give him an advantage over his competitors, he said.

LISA SIMONSEN: It's about who you know

Simonsen sold a 6,000-square foot condo in The Plaza for $48 million.

Russian composer Igor Krutoy and his wife Olga reportedly bought the condo from Simonsen, who said she made the sale for the unlisted property through a personal connection.

'We never advertised that property,' Simonsen said.

Before joining the real estate world, Simonsen ran a successful company, which helped her transition into her new role.

'I've always just been fascinated with real estate,' she said adding that her intuition and customer relationships help her succeed.

At the end of the day 'there's always something that will surprise you with your clients,' Simonsen said. Clients who originally wanted a view of the park might wind up in Tribeca, or dramatically change their plans in some other way.

'You just have to be flexible,' Simonsen said.

RICK TEED: Video is our best marketing tool

Teed sold a mansion on Jackson St., near the Presidio for $9.52 million.

Teed, a developer by nature, had a personal connection with this San Francisco mansion before placing it on the market. He purchased the property in a probate sale in 2009 and fixed it up before placing it back on the market.

'It is one I physically owned and developed,' he said.

To sell the property, which wasn't completely renovated when he showed it to the buyer, Teed relied on a tried and true method he and partner Butch Haze developed three years prior.

Video.

'We're the first team to do video,' Teed said. 'It became a key marketing tool.'

Teed and his team record video listings for all of their properties, which Teed says has made a huge difference. Listings that include only a photo and text get between 200 and 300 hits, he said. However, his video listings get about 14,000 hits.

The client was a big CEO, whom Teed couldn't name, relocating to San Francisco for a new job. Teed showed the man the property before it was developed, and used video updates of the development to keep the man's interest in the property while renovations were completed.

'The video is what kept the dream alive for him,' Teed said.

Teed got his start in real estate as a developer. He purchased his first house at 19 and renovated it.

In 2002, he obtained his realtors licence. But he didn't do so without some hesitation. His mother was a realtor in Connecticut and Teed didn't really see the job as a career.

However, he said he soon learned real estate is a profession in a city like San Francisco.

SHAUN TULL: Locally, we rely on old-fashioned print ads

Tull sold a six-bedroom home in Rehoboth Beach for $6.7 million.

Even though his company utilizes the Internet to promote its properties, locally, they like to rely on good, old-fashioned print ads.

He distributes print listings around the Rehoboth area to keep a presence in the area, Tull said.

'We have a lot of listings and we also work with a lot of buyers,' he said.

Tull, who graduated from college in 2000, said he wasn't sure what he wanted to do upon graduation. But the fact that he could be his own boss as a realtor appealed to him.

'It's just a good opportunity,' Tull said.

The fact that he got to work in Rehoboth Beach didn't hurt things.

'We live in a resort town,' Tull said. 'It's a good market to be in.'

MIKE WONDKA: Always check behind the woodshed

Wondka sold a waterfront property on Yellow Jacket in Glenbrook, Nevada for $9.95 million.

For Wondka, the business is murder.

When talking about his experience selling real estate, Wondka remembered a man calling him to sell his house but when Wondka went over to check the place out, it was 'a real dog,' he said. The walls were black, there was a leaky roof, and mildew everywhere.

Wondka told the man the land was the only valuable part to the property. The man said he'd sell whatever the land could bring in but when Wondka asked to meet the man's wife and get her signature on the documents, the man said she'd moved to Las Vegas.

But the next day the man came to Wondka's office with the paperwork all signed by his 'wife.' The situation seemed fishy Wondka said and a fellow realtor joked the wife was probably dead and buried under the wood pile in the backyard.

It all came to a head when the man brought a woman to the closing and had her pose as his wife. Wondka discovered the lie when the woman spelled the wife's names wrong on the documents.

As it turns out, the man actually had murdered his wife and buried her under the wood pile behind his falling-apart house.

'20-one years in the business, you think you hear it all but you always run into something new,' Wondka said.

He got his start in real estate at 19 in 1978. He left the business in 1980 but joined the Lake Tahoe real estate market 21 years ago.

'I can't be stuck in one place,' Wondka said of why he chose his current profession. 'I have to be able to move around.'

KELLY ZACCARO: Negotiating is the hardest part

Zaccaro sold the former Dawkins mansion in Rumson for $12 million.

The sale of the former Dawkins mansion tested Zaccaro's skills as a negotiator, she said.

The house was originally listed at about $20 million, which Zaccaro's buyers weren't willing to pay. Negotiations to lower the price and close the deal lasted about six months, she said.

'I think they did realise it was a little overpriced when they had it at that number,' Zaccaro said of the sellers.

Before joining the New Jersey real estate ranks, Zaccaro worked in New York City but decided she didn't want to commute while her children were little.

So she switched career tracks.

'This is something I have a passion for,' she said. 'It's really emotional for me. I feel like I'm not working.'

Zaccaro has had some interesting experiences while working as a realtor. She recently sold a property at 72 Bayside Road, which, she later found out, had been the site of top-secret, government radar research and testing between 1941 and 1945.

'I was wondering why it had a barbed wire fence around it,' she wrote in an email.

ZARBOD ZANGANEH: It's all about personality

Zanganeh sold a 17-bedroom, 32-bathroom in Las Vegas for $15 million.

Zanganeh credits his personality as the secret to his success.

'We're far more personable than anybody else,' he said of his firm, Luxe Estates Collection.

His company doesn't send assistants into the field to show houses to potential customers. Instead he has 'a SWAT team of agents,' who show houses, he said.

That dedication to service might be why Zanganeh counts the late King of Pop as his favourite client.

'He was extremely knowledgeable,' Zanganeh said of Michael Jackson, adding that he always had the sense Jackson asked questions he already knew the answer in order to check whether people were telling the truth.

Zanganeh got his start in real estate at the tender age of 13, when he landed an internship at a mortgage company. By 15, he had an internship with a commercial broker.

How do these brokers stack up to the competition?

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