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The Art of Selling a Luxury Home: Secrets of A Top Realtor

September 29, 2021

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The living room of a luxury home for sale that sits right on the sand with ocean views from every window.

If you’re considering selling a luxury home, keep in mind that sales are soaring. In fact, multi-million-dollar home sales surged by 88.2% year over year in the second quarter of 2021. Just look at the images included in this blog taken from my Iconic Miramar Beach House listing and you’ll see why luxury home sales continue to soar. Even so, there’s a lot of thought and energy that goes into selling this type of property. And it all begins by choosing the right agent.

READ: What Makes a Home a “Luxury Home”?

With today’s technology, countless websites promote the “best new tools” to successfully sell a property. But there’s a reason most luxury properties are sold by a handful of real estate agents like me. The key to selling a luxury home is part art and part science. The process is not standardized, and nor is it a result of repetitive systems where one-size-fits-all. When it comes to the luxury market, agents must do much more than just solidify standard information, such as price and move-in dates. To get to escrow quickly and for the best price, sellers must consider an agent’s access to luxury buyers.

The primary bedroom inside a luxury home complete with a view of the  sparking ocean just outside

Who is the buyer of luxury property?

Typically, luxury property buyers are experienced real estate purchasers. When these sophisticated buyers are searching for a new property, the purchase is largely about their wants, rather than their needs. In my experience, I find one of the most important things luxury homebuyers want is a desire to feel a connection with the property. By this, I mean they’re looking for a certain lifestyle, and design elements that work with their daily routines -- from the first steps of waking up in the morning, to the overall flow of the days to come.

READ: Today’s Top Luxury Real Estate Trends

According to The National Association of Realtors, today’s homebuyers between the ages of 37 and 51 have the highest household incomes. Drilling down further, the average age of today’s luxury real estate buyer is 46 years, with assets around $8.75 million, and $2.6 million in average real estate holdings. These buyers spend more time consuming media than any single generation to date and appreciate the ability to find the information they want when they want it. That’s why luxury agents like me must know where, and how to reach them. And they must set the stage for success via their multi-tiered marketing plan.

5 Important Steps to the Art of Selling a Luxury Home

Here’s an inside look at what goes into a marketing plan to sell luxury real estate such as that in and around Santa Barbara:

1. Selling “the story”

For today’s affluent buyers, luxury real estate is all about lifestyle. That’s why top real estate agents work closely with a seller to analyze and understand their habits, how they’ve lived their best life in the home they’re selling, and what made them fall in love with the property in the first place. Many of us in the business like to call it “the story.”

READ: The Sweet Spot for Luxury Homebuyers: Not Too Big, Not Too Small

No detail is left behind when it comes to understanding the psychology of the seller’s relationship with the property and their life in it. Is the property an oasis of quiet and serenity? Is it a dream home for those who love to entertain? What does the property offer families? Is it far away from the maddening crowd? Is it close to all the action? These are the type of questions that can create a compelling story.

In other words, the most important thing to understand is the space itself and the story behind it, because a luxury property buyer cares about the story as well as the price. The secret is in asking the right questions and listening carefully to the stories of the seller and the buyer. Once the space and the story are clear, marketing is a key tool for storytelling—and specifically, targeting those who will be a great fit to purchase the property.

When crafting the story, agents must also consider the surrounding environment and location. There are a lot of people who are eager to use the resources of their home area as much as possible. For instance, my Miramar Beach House is located right on the sand. This property is the perfect place for the unbridled beach lover.

The backyard of this Miramar Beach House is the pristine white sand.

2. Creating luxury marketing tools

Luxury agents must consider what kind of messaging will resonate with potential buyers. The most successful tools to tell the property story are visual, along with compelling verbiage that helps bring the visual to life. Humans are visual creatures for good reason. Half of the brain is devoted to processing visual information. The eye’s retina is an outgrowth of the brain with hundreds of neurons devoted to visual processing. That’s why compelling images and videos are so important.

Interesting, informative copy is vital as well – especially for sophisticated buyers who are well-educated and thorough when it comes to their research. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, but a few written words can greatly enhance the effectiveness of that picture. For example, a photo of a hardwood floor is a photo of a hardwood floor. Needless to say, however, companion verbiage explaining that the floor is made of wood salvaged from an 18th-century tavern frequented by signers of the Declaration of Independence would make an impact far beyond that of the photo alone.

The art and the ultimate success in selling a luxury home happens when the buyers feel the connection to the property through visual storytelling—the best of which captures the imagination of the buyer and connects the buyer to the land, views, and overall feeling of life in the property. All this can take place before the buyer sets foot into the home through captivating marketing materials that focus on the beauty and design of a particular luxury property. (Hint: Check out this website!)

READ: 6 Shopping Strategies of the Affluent Buyer

3. Crafting an engaging marketing plan

Crafting an effective strategy to target the high-net-worth homebuyer and stand out in the media landscape of luxury homes for sale is essential. This step requires a comprehensive and targeted media strategy that includes a variety of media outlets.

READ: Montecito Realtor Cristal Clarke in the News

Many of today’s affluent buyers spend a great deal of time engaging with screens. However, they also report that when shopping for anything related to their lifestyle, traditional media like magazines and leading newspapers are effective places to advertise. That’s why both are integral to the success of a luxury home sale.

When creating a plan designed to catch the attention of any specific group, there are many options available today. To reach affluent millennials, an agent might decide to focus their marketing campaign on social media channels. Baby boomers and Gen Xers, however, still rely heavily on newspapers and magazines. The best campaigns include both strategies.

For me, access to The Berkshire Hathaway Network offers unique opportunities not found with any other agency. My company has worked hard on developing and maintaining some amazing partners such as Juwai, Mansion Global, The Wall Street Journal, Unique Homes and DuPoint Registry. These exclusive partnerships are designed to get luxury properties marketed and sold as quickly as possible. Agents can also tap into the company’s vast global network to highlight a particular property directly to more than 2.3 billion people in almost 120 countries as well as to top connections in the corporate world.

The outside of an Iconic Beach House that sits right on the sand in Miramar Beach.

4. Luxury buyers have specific requirements

It’s also no surprise that buyers in this sector have requirements of their own. The fact that most luxury buyers have many more constraints on their time effects the selling process. It’s a fact, the more a home costs, the more likely the buyer works extended hours, travels frequently and has multiple responsibilities that can make sitting down for a close difficult.

Because of these realities, I’ve found that successful sales of luxury homes are more like business-to-business interactions than business-to-consumer. It’s not unusual for high-net buyers to purchase a home without stepping foot in it. That’s where a seasoned agent comes into play—one who knows how to answer the unique questions from this group, like specific garage information to ensure their luxury vehicles will fit properly.

Luxury agents also must be knowledgeable with non-disclosure agreements, a legally binding document that prevents buyers from discussing any information included in the contract with any non-authorized party. The information may have to do with property revenue, taxes, marketing plans, planned capital improvements, the identity or financial status of investors or partners, or other confidential information that provides the seller with an advantage over similar property owners.

READ: A Luxury Realtor’s Homebuyer Guide to Property Easements

These sellers count on their agent to market their luxury home to high-end clientele. The basic process is like selling any piece of property; however, many real estate agents don’t have the contacts needed when selling a luxury home.

5. Pricing is key

Luxury homes have an even higher standard when it comes to getting sold since the marketplace of buyers is already smaller than it is for non-luxury homes. With fewer buyers, that means luxury home sellers need to be at the top of their game when it comes to presenting the home for sale. And that includes pricing it right from the beginning.

Pricing is one of the crucial aspects of selling any real estate. Generally being higher priced means a luxury home will spend a little more time on market due to the limited pool of buyers. Overpricing the luxury home when it first hits the market can make it all that much harder to find the right buyer.

Pricing a property correctly is a real skill, especially when it comes to luxury real estate. Many factors go into pricing, including location, lot size, condition, market conditions, both local and nationwide. In addition, if there is a celebrity connection, like we have with many of the luxury homes here in Santa Barbara, that must be considered, too.

Pricing a home too high when listing can cause major problems. The longer a home sits on the market without any offers, the greater chance buyers think there is something wrong with the property and will avoid it completely. The net long-term effect requires the home seller to drop the price to get any interest. That’s why it’s extremely important to set the right price from the beginning. Which is where a veteran agent comes into play.

I’ve been a luxury real estate agent for more than 25 years now, focusing on prestigious areas of Santa Barbara, such as Montecito and Hope Ranch. If you are looking to buy or selling a luxury home in any of the surrounding upscale neighborhoods, please give me a call at (805) 886.9378 or email me at Let me put my award-winning sales techniques to work for you!

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Client Reviews

“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch