Steve McAuliffe and Cheryl McCormick Brown believe they mastered a niche in the real estate market after selling luxury condos worth $45 million in just over a year at the Towers of Channelside.
The duo is using its success to move from St. Petersburg's JMC Realty to form McAuliffe & McCormick Inc., a real estate sales and marketing collaborative. They plan to use their decades of experience in the building industry as well as sales and marketing to tailor programs for builders, lenders, developers and receivers who need to quickly sell property at a profit.
They point to their success at the Towers.
After emerging from bankruptcy last year, the Towers of Channelside's owners needed to sell the last 137 condos in the 257-unit complex. Brown and McAuliffe urged the owners - four banks and a hedge fund - to drastically slash prices.
The owners agreed to a 45 percent price cut but wanted eight units sold a month. McAuliffe and Brown delivered at least 10 sales a month. Deep price cuts have been the key to selling everything from suburban homes to waterfront condos across the bay area in the past 18 months. But McAuliffe and Brown said it took more than slashed prices.
The duo marketed the condos in newspaper and radio advertisements and on the Internet via social media. In a region littered with vacant and distressed properties, they believe a need exists for the new company.
"We fully recognize that the traditional cookie-cutter mentality will not work going forward," McAuliffe said.
Besides price cuts, what are the key elements to selling high-end distressed properties?
McAuliffe: The same basic marketing principals still apply ... everything just speeds way up compared to a normal selling cycle. Selling distressed properties is an all-out sprint. A strong understanding of the target market and how to systematically reach it. Quickly understand the product forward and backward to identify defining moments in the customer's purchasing experience so that each of their touch points is a positive and memorable experience.
What was the biggest challenge at the towers?
Brown: There were several to overcome as we initiated the required sales velocity put forth by the bank syndication. We had to overcome street talk concerning the project's stability as it went through the foreclosure process, a perceived empty building, the physical condition, solvency and security of the community. While these were not stories that we lead with, the team was sure to have very positive, assuring responses that quickly overcame the concerns and actually shed the project in a very positive light.
Won't anything sell that is properly priced?
McAuliffe: Yes. But how quickly? And, who says it is priced correctly? You still have to have demand and find buyers that believe that the homes are properly priced. You can't just drop prices and expect to engage buyers. A proper pricing strategy is critical; it comes from understanding the components that enter into a customer's current needs and beliefs. You have to stand by it. We call it value integrity.
How will your plan attract new clients?
Brown: Steve and I have nearly 50 years of real estate business connections and experience between us, all the while creating a high level of success and respect in the marketplace. We have held leadership roles in local, state and national industry associations and maintain an alliance with leading organizations, such as National Association of Home Builders, the Urban Land Institute, National Association of Realtors and Tampa Downtown Partnership.
Won't the distressed market eventually dissipate?
Brown: Absolutely. We certainly plan on it happening. There will always be supply and demand for housing. Our knowledge and skills give us the confidence and freedom to adapt to changing economies, buyers and trends, so that we zero in on the needs of our client-partners, cut through distractions and save time and money.
What role did social media play at the towers?
McAuliffe: A vital supporting role. The necessity to deliver immediate sales velocity created an even greater need to get information to our market in a timely and relevant manner over a variety of channels like blogs, eBlasts, Twitter and Facebook. We immediately created a website, recognizing that our prospects would search online both prior to, and during, their buying cycle. Social media created very effective and efficient referral tools in real time and was a large reason we came in under budget.
Mark Puente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markapuente.