Back to the future with Sotheby’s

When you think “Sotheby’s,” you probably think “auction house.” But since 1976, it has also been a luxe international real estate firm.

When you think “Sotheby’s,” you probably think “auction house.” But since 1976, it has also been a luxe international real estate firm. Recently, we spoke with Pamela S. Pagnini, senior vice president and brokerage manager of Sotheby’s International Realty’s Greenwich Brokerage, about its storied past, challenging but successful present and high-tech future:

1. Sotheby’s was founded on New Bond Street in the heart of London in 1744 as an auction house. In 1976, Sotheby’s International Realty was founded. It’s not a huge leap of the imagination to go from auctions to luxury residential real estate, but how and why was Sotheby’s International Realty created?

“Sotheby’s International Realty was founded in 1976 as a real estate service for discerning clients of Sotheby’s auction house. Sotheby’s International Realty inherited the iconic brand name and benefits from its rich 277-year history, building on its legacy by delivering unrivaled real estate services. Only agents affiliated with the Sotheby’s International Realty brand enjoy privileged access to market their listings to Sotheby’s exclusive client database.”

2. Sotheby’s International Realty is known for its premier luxury properties worldwide, licensing its name to franchisees through Realogy Holdings Corp. since 2004. What markets are currently seeing strong growth?

“Sotheby’s International Realty maintains a global presence in approximately 1,000 offices in 75 countries and territories around the globe with more than 24,000 independent sales associates.

“In 2021, the brand released its 2021 Luxury Outlook report, which examines the high-end residential markets across the globe in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. The comprehensive report found that buyers are turning seasonal markets into year-round destinations, driving million-dollar home sales in secondary and tertiary cities. The fundamental shift in home buyer’s priorities has fueled a sharp rise in demand for homes in popular vacation areas, from Colorado ski resorts to the French Riviera and even the Caribbean. 

“Sotheby’s International Realty has performed extremely well in areas like Vail and Aspen, Colorado; Destin, Palm Beach and Naples, Florida; Nantucket, Massachusetts; Fairfield County, Connecticut; the Hamptons, New York; Sonoma, Monterey and Carmel, California; Santa Fe, New Mexico; the list goes on. Housing prices across Montana and Wyoming have shot up, with homes in cities like Missoula, Montana, selling for above-asking prices, and ski towns like Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Big Sky, Montana, also drawing investment well outside peak season.”

3. Among your significant sales have been Tom Cruise’s Telluride, Colorado, home this year. You are known for record-breaking property sales. Is there a minimum price point for a Sotheby’s International Realty home?

“Luxury is not about price; it’s about an experience. Sotheby’s International Realty prides itself on setting the highest possible standard for quality and service. Clients know that the brand will understand their desires, anticipate their needs and embolden their aspirations.”

4. How has the pandemic affected your luxury market?

“Following the initial Covid-19 outbreak, our market experienced a temporary slowdown, like most of the world, as uncertainty gripped the market. But shortly thereafter, with (Gov. Ned Lamont) declaring real estate agents/brokers as “essential workers,” the showings began in earnest with new safety protocols. We were well poised to handle the showings with our ability to virtually show the properties since we had the tools and programs available to our agents. Since Greenwich is under an hour away from New York City, we experienced an explosion of home sales, as a new wave of wealthy New Yorkers and others fled here — seeking more space for their children, who were often attending school remotely, as well as for those working from home.

 “The Greenwich real estate market has continued to experience sustained growth in the number of units that have sold, as well as the dollar volume of those sales with fewer days on market and higher median prices and less inventory. According to the Greenwich Multiple Listing Service data, when viewing the entire residential market — including single-family homes, condos and co-ops — and comparing pre-Covid 2019 to today, we have experienced an increase of 45%  in the number of closed transactions, with 999 closed sales in 2021 year to date, compared to 687 in 2019 for that entire year.  When homes are appropriately priced, there are still multiple bids and the selling price often exceeds the list price.

 “Similarly, town-wide, the dollar volume of closed transactions over $5 million increased 145%, from $334.6 million in 2019 to $821.2 million in 2021, again not even a full year yet, but we have already exceeded 2019 in its entirety. In addition, the active inventory decreased by 20% and the days on market decreased by 70% for those homes, which traded over $5 million year to date.

 “This past August townwide experienced a slight downturn in activity. When comparing this August sales of single-family homes to last year’s, the number of closings of single-family homes decreased from 102 to 98. The median sale price for a single-family home decreased to $2.202,000 in August, 2021 from $2.222,000 in August 2020. The average days on the market for residential homes was 84 days, which was a decrease from 181 days on the market in August 2020.

“Our office represented Tommy Hilfiger with the sale of his home, located at 30 John St., which was listed at $48 million and which sold for $45 million with multiple showings as well as bids with 61 days on the market.

“We sold a number of additional properties over $10 million and we currently have a number of properties on the market priced over $10 million.”

5. “Dancing with the Stars” choreographer and Realtor Christian Perry is teaming with Sotheby’s International Realty Greenwich Brokerage for an “I Love Greenwich” campaign. (See story on Page 36.) What other innovations are propelling Sotheby’s International Realty forward? 

“Sotheby’s International Realty recognized the importance of technology early on and pioneered the use of high-resolution photos, videos, virtual and mixed reality for its listings in 2010.

“Sotheby’s International Realty was the first global real estate brand to support 3D virtual reality home tours on listing pages in early 2016 and, in late 2016, the brand was the first real estate brand to launch an Apple TV app. 

“In 2018, Sotheby’s International Realty was the first real estate brand to elevate property listings beyond virtual staging with augmented reality.

“The brand launched its new editorial website in 2020, which enables millions of viewers to immerse themselves in 3D virtual reality tours, high-definition videography and high-resolution photography. The new website is available in more than 14 languages and nearly 60 currency conversions to continue serving the brand’s growing international clientele and fuel referrals worldwide.”

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