Buying a seaside mansion or country estate is a dream for many Americans, but sometimes those purchasing such properties have interesting quirks, peculiarities and odd requests. Katriel Calderon is a real estate agent specializing in luxury properties, and he says that through his experiences working in the industry he has encountered many intriguing characters. Below he provides a glimpse into the unusual happenings of a luxury real estate agent.
What is your background in real estate? How long have you been involved in the field?
I have been involved in real estate since age 13 in different areas, from construction, financing and property management, to brokering rentals and sales. I also served in the army, which exposed me more to different cultures and helped me stand out to my clients.
Can you shed some light on who is buying luxury properties in the States today?
Around three quarters of my clients are either foreigners, entrepreneurs or both. The other quarter usually consists of a great mix of executives and people who come from upper class families.
Having worked in the field of luxury real estate for more than ten years, I'm sure you have dealt with some interesting people. Can you share a story or two?
Definitely. In fact, the people are one of the main reasons I love my working in real estate. One time, a deal almost went sour because the buyer demanded that the adjoining indoor parking lot have sufficient room for his son, who was an aspiring skateboarder, to practice in. He insisted that we install a skating ramp.
Another client who I represent on a regular basis will only view potential properties if his spiritual guide approves of the Feng Shui. I have to contact his spiritual advisor about the real estate and escort her to the actual property. Only after the spiritual adviser has a reading will she give him advice. And based on her reading, we either move forward or don't. He invests mostly in Manhattan and Brooklyn, NY.
Finally, another strange scenario involved a wealthy woman who put in a bid on a beautiful condo in the Upper East Side and was afraid of it being sold. As such, she put down a good faith deposit of $200,000.
The sellers accepted the offer and when I called her to give her the great news, she had no recollection of anything! The only thing she claimed to remember was writing me a check, but she couldn't recall the amount nor the unit we saw together. Needless to say, we didn't close that deal. I have a lot of strange stories, but these are three that always stick out to me.
Most people have to take advantage of mortgages and other special financing to pay for their homes. How do your wealthy clients finance their properties?
For the most part, they buy their properties with partial financing and pay anywhere between 25 to 50 percent of the purchase price in cash. The rest varies from collateral-based loans or financing that is secured out of the equity of other properties.
Are there certain issues that tend to arise in the luxury real estate field?
Yes. This may not come as a surprise, but egos have a tendency to make some deals difficult. As brokers, we have to go the extra mile for our clients. Sometimes, that can result in either the client's or the broker's ego playing a huge role in how it ends up.
What's the furthest you've gone to close a deal?
A while back there was a big buyer from Russia who was obsessed with American Army and the culture that goes along with it. It was also known that he loved barbecue food. He was in the States attending open houses with his girlfriend, and I caught wind of when he was going to be in town. So I personally delivered him burgers and an invitation to our open houses, where we just happened to be screening the action army movie, Rambo, and having barbecue food served.
I literally changed the whole concept of the open house because I knew he was ready to buy. I rented a projector and had a barbecue cooked for him and his girlfriend, all while playing the movie Rambo.
Needless to say, he canceled all his appointments and stayed the entire day. He actually ended up throwing a party in the home when we closed the deal with the exact same theme: Rambo.
What are some unusual problems that have come up, and how have you resolved them?
One weird scenario that have happened included a seller wanting in writing that the buyer would not make specific alterations, and that he would only use a certain contractor to do any remodeling in the future. That was indeed weird, but the issue was resolved when I negotiated a discount on any future remodels with the contractor.
Another time, there I was selling a beautiful, two bedroom co-op facing central park. The widow who lived there was selling because she didn't want to leave it to her grandchildren. She further demanded that I not sell it to any young person, only married couples. In the end, the deal went smoothly since the buyers were a newly married couple from Florida!
Most of us will probably never get the chance to buy a luxury townhouse or country estate, but there is an eclectic crowd of buyers out there. And as a real estate agent specializing in this market, Calderon deals with them on a regular basis. "We really have one of the most incredibly funny careers, probably just underneath stock brokers," laughed Calderon.
Alex Levin is a writer for JW Surety Bonds, a full service surety bond agency operating nationwide.