The owner and CEO of The Boutique Real Estate Group in Orange County has seen a significant shift in buyer attitudes since the onset of the pandemic
This spring has been an exceptionally tumultuous one for the luxury market — a pandemic, an initial fear of a market crash and, later, a boom of affluent buyers looking to spend big money on homes in places like Orange County and the Hamptons.
Raj Qsar, the owner and CEO of The Boutique Real Estate Group, has been at the forefront of that ride through the unknown. His brokerage, which works with homes from $2 million to upwards of $10 million in Orange County, California, has seen a direct shift in buyer attitudes — from fear and hesitation when the pandemic first hit in March to a present-day focus on finding a home that can be a long-term source of shelter and enjoyment. Money is going toward not just primary and vacation home markets but also home improvements aimed at making a home a personal haven.
“Many dual-income millennials who are making decent money have really changed their perspective,” Qsar told Inman, adding that size and amenities are the hottest trends in real estate. “You can see a definite mindset shift. They’re really coming in and not buying that tiny shack with room for one bed. They want a single-family home with a front yard and a backyard.”
We’ve interviewed Qsar about what his buyers are asking for and how that could shape the future of luxury real estate for years to come.
Inman News: What’s been happening in the Orange County luxury world during the last few weeks?
Raj Qsar: We’ve definitely seen a change in the luxury market. You could even say it’s on fire. It’s picked up a lot, at all price points — $1-$5M, $5-$10M and $10M and up. Buyers and sellers are definitely both in the market. There was a pause at the beginning of the virus just because no one knew what was going to happen. The last two weeks of March were definitely interesting but then things slowly started picking up. In the blink of an eye, the market was back. It’s now the strongest it’s ever been, really.
Is that due to pent-up demand, springtime buyer interest or a combination of both?
We keep hearing about pent-up demand from every news channel. I think there’s a little bit of truth to that but I think that people also, after going through what the country went through and spending so much time locked up inside, just want a nice place. Home offices were gone and now everyone wants a home office again. They’re working from home and want a place to be when the kids are all over. The secondary housing market is strong too because people want a place that they can escape to.
So the initial fear of the pandemic prompting a housing crash has been far from your experience?
That’s right. They’ve been saying that the market is going to crash and that we’re going to go into a recession for the last four or five years. The exact opposite is happening, actually. The market is stronger than ever, and people want to spend money on real estate. The first couple of weeks were a little bit scary, but I really do feel like people want to spend and they want to spend it on their house.
What are some other things that luxury buyers are asking you about?
Pools are back in, outdoor kitchens, outdoor barbecues — anything outdoors. People are putting money into their homes, upgrading with really nice high-end appliances, things like that. Owners want to love their house and everything about it. A lot of stuff that was being put off, like adding another bedroom or bathroom, is back. People are doing whatever they wanted to do.
You’ve observed a big change in buyer priorities?
Yes. Many dual-income millennials who are making decent money have really changed their perspective. You can see a definite mindset shift. They’re really coming in and not buying that tiny shack with room for one bed. They want a single-family home with a front yard and a backyard. All the stuff that wasn’t important has become important again.
Could these buyer preferences alter how future houses are built for years to come?
I think so. There’s definitely a shift in the whole indoor/outdoor space. People want the inside to feel like the outside and the outside to feel like the inside. Living rooms, cabanas, TVs — the stuff that we’re seeing right now is jaw-dropping. The stuff people are doing to their houses, it’s like going to a beach party in Vegas. We’re just a few months into the virus, but the aftermath of it is going to be years and years. People are always going to remember 2020 and being locked up at home. That will influence what they want in their homes.
Raj Qsar and Rachel Holder join Chris Smith & Jimmy Mackin on their latest #WaterCooler roundtable discussion, as they discuss the specific tactics and strategies they are using to navigate “the new normal.”
The best agents are focusing on how to market, sell, and recruit during these unprecedented times. Find out exactly what they are doing day in and day out to stay productive and keep their teams motivated.
With so much panic and uncertainty in the world today, I figured there was no better person to interview for this week’s 10 Questions series than my good friend, Raj Qsar. Raj is the owner of The Boutique Real Estate Group based in Orange County, CA. Not only is Raj one of the leading minds in real estate innovation, but he’s not too proud to share everything he knows with the industry he loves to challenge us all to find new ways of doing things. His marketing is a step above the rest (just check out one of his videos) and when it comes to just about anything – I know Raj not only has everyone’s best interests at heart but delivers with a laugh and a smile. Get to know more about Raj here.
With a new “smart” something coming out almost every day, what products amaze and astound you?
I am pretty sure you know my answer to this… TikTok. It is not just a dancing app where you are being silly. It truly is addictive. And the skills an individual can learn from mastering the app will carry on for years to come. What you can simply do on TikTok used to take a team of five people to pull off 5 years ago. It also gives you some insight into what is trending and relevant in today’s world.
With a million things happening at any one moment, how do you manage your time?
I am a huge believer in having a schedule and time-blocking chunks of the day. My routine is pretty much the same everyday (for work and my personal life). The details of what I am doing may change, just like a real estate transaction, but the core is the same.
What is something you’re really proud of? Why?
Probably the fact that back in 2008 I decided to take a leap and shoot a video. And not just a video but an actual movie on a listing. This was back before any of us knew how to shoot video on anything. I wanted to be different. I wanted to stand out. I wanted to give our clients the best chance of success on selling their home (which they tried to do several times before they met me). We had no idea of what we were doing or how to cut or edit the video but it was one of the most critical “ah ha” moments in my real estate career.
What’s the best and worst thing about getting older?
Worst – The fact that you are getting older and realizing that you can not control time. Best – You truly realize who your tribe is over time. The people that stick with you, love you no matter what and want to do time with you. You also realize that life is full of moments with people (not things). And every moment is what you make of it and is irreplaceable.
How do you relax? Ever since I was a kid I have loved the ocean. I am not sure why because my parents really do not love the water. I mean my Mom does not know how to swim? But at an early age, they got us all into swim lessons and started taking us to the beach. In Orange County, I love to relax (in the afternoon) on any beach and watch the sunset.
What kind of projects would you like to do more of? I think there is a huge need in our industry for true camaraderie, especially in leadership. CEO’s helping CEO’s navigate the waters we sail every day. Our industry is so complex and slammed with “what if’s” that it can sometimes be difficult to have a standard way of doing things. So to answer the question, I would love to be able to reach out to more CEO’s and give my time and see where I can assist and have a CEO sounding board where you can throw stuff and see if it sticks.
What did you want to be when you were a kid? As you know I went to medical school. So pretty much from college on that’s what I wanted to do, but life does take some interesting turns. I found out by going to medical school it truly was not my calling. It’s a long story on how I eventually landed in real estate but, for now, it is where I belong.
Why do you believe having mentors is so important? Sometimes I think the world puts people in front of you for a reason. There are some really good people out there and these are the folks you need to cling to. When starting a business there are people who have run your race and finished the course and are willing to share their experience with you. Whether they take on the role of “mentor” or simply “friend” it is these opportunities that make you and your business better. No one business person has all the answers, it is humanly impossible.
What gets you fired up/energized? It has become a trend that most people in our industry will do the least amount of work possible, put in the least amount of time and try to have the biggest rewards. Our team has become know in Orange County as the cleanup kids (and we are not kids anymore). But basically, when a listing does not sell due to over promises and under delivery, we get the call. This is not a business where your brothers, daughters, next-door neighbors dog sitter who just got licensed should be navigating the sale of someone’s most valuable asset should come into place to save x%. So coming into a listing that has not sold, charging the same amount and delighting our clients is what gets me the most fired up. We recently took a listing that had been listed 5x by 5 of the top brokers in Orange County and we sold it for full price. We truly care and every single listing matters.
Catch video pioneer and real estate influencer Raj Qsar on CNBC Squawk Box chatting about the influence of video marketing with his real estate company. Homes selling for more money and faster using highly produced and directed video marketing.
Raj’s story goes a little something like this. Beautiful design evokes emotion. Emotion stirs the soul and creates a connection between client, agent and the home buying or selling process. The Boutique Real Estate Group has invested heavily in bringing all aspects of the real estate experience completely in-house. From custom design, professional staging, architectural photography, award-winning cinematography, and social media to technology, internet optimization, cloud-based transaction management, and global listing syndication. This not only provides The Boutique with complete control of the design, marketing & technology of luxury real estate but also gives them the look & feel of a true boutique marketing agency. This design & tech-forward approach has earned The Boutique Real Estate Group accolades & awards worldwide.
Raj Qsar is eyeing the sky nervously. It’s early afternoon in Corona Del Mar, Calif., and his six-man camera crew is on the clock only until sunset. But clouds are rolling in fast over this wealthy Southern California neighborhood, and the next scene on today’s docket — a glamorous drive down the Pacific Coast Highway followed by a beachfront double date — is now feeling tricky.
On other film sets, the producer and director might huddle and order a break, or call it a wrap until tomorrow. But Mr. Qsar isn’t a director — he’s a real estate agent. And the star of his film is not a good-looking young actor (although there are four of those on set), but rather, a $1.7 million Orange County home. This short and sudsy film, he hopes, in which two young couples drink wine, play board games and wander through sleek, neat rooms, will do the trick to attract a buyer.
“Telling stories and creating connections with people takes more than just photos,” said Mr. Qsar, who heads a luxury brokerage called The Boutique Real Estate Group. “For us now, it’s all about the power of video.”
Video marketing is not new territory for home sales — wide-angle walk-throughs of staged living rooms and sweeping drone footage of leafy neighborhoods have become common tools in real estate agents’ kits. But cinematic mini-films, complete with paid actors, lighting crews and full-fledged story boards, are something new.
Mr. Qsar began dabbling in cinematic videos in 2008, just two years after leaving his job as a pharmaceutical sales representative to jump into the Orange County housing boom. He came across a wedding videographer who was producing emotionally charged, story-driven films for brides and grooms, and, he says, a light bulb went on.
“I had an idea about telling the story the same way, but as the story of a house,” he said. “One of the things I always tell my clients when they walk through is, ‘Can you see yourself having Christmas dinner here or birthdays and bar mitzvahs here?’ I wanted to really pull out the emotional aspect.”
After putting the wedding videographer on his payroll and investing $20,000 of his own money in video equipment, he made a handful of short film promotions for homes in the $1 million to $2 million range in Orange County, including a four-bedroom Mediterranean-style estate in Villa Park.
In that video, images of a young blond wife sitting at a piano and singing Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Wind” are spliced with images of a Porsche-driving husband arriving home from work. As he showers upstairs, the wife ushers in a flock of eager friends and children with balloons and sets up a surprise party by the pool. The song reaches its crescendo, the husband descends the stairs, and there’s his family, there’s a cake, and there’s a sweet, picture-perfect backyard celebration.
When that home sold, for $1.7 million, it set a record as the most expensive home sale ever in Villa Park.
“Once real estate agents started doing high-end video productions, putting in models and actors was a no-brainer,” said Jimm Fox, president of OMM Video Marketing, a Canadian agency that tracks trends in cinematic storytelling. “You’re not just selling an address, you’re selling a lifestyle. And to do that, you need humans.”
Production budgets for these films can range from $3,500 to $70,000. Often the real estate agent is picking up the tab, but in some cases, agents discuss their plans with sellers and agree to split the bill or have the costs added to their fees.
Mr. Fox said the trend for Hollywood-style videos kicked off around 2007 and was a natural progression from the lush but empty footage of staged homes that preceded it.
“Real estate at the high end is always an aspirational sell,” he said. “You want to showcase a lifestyle. So you start shooting homes, and then you add models to make it more vibrant, and very soon you want to turn it into a story.”
The Australian production studio PlatinumHD claims to have been the first to produce these Hollywood-style real estate films. In 2011, the studio helped the trend spread internationally by producing a video for the Queensland-based property management firm Neo Property.
In it, a young woman clad only in a lacy bra and panties and bound to a chair inside a hyper-modern luxury home, makes an emergency call for help and is asked to describe where she is. As she describes the home’s chef’s kitchen and waterfront views, its in-house movie theater and its private elevator, a SWAT team descends to rescue her, led by none other than Neo Property’s real estate agents themselves.
The film, of course, is as much about the appeal of the model as the home. But by using sex, helicopters and shots of a gleaming red Corvette to sell the property, Neo made it quite clear: In this sort of marketing, peddling a fantasy can help close a deal.
Ben Bacal began adding actors to his listing videos in 2014. The Los Angeles-based agent, a former film student who also dabbles in internet companies and has more than $2 billion in sales to his name, is a fixture on the high-priced home circuit in Hollywood. He offers his clients a professionally produced video for every home he agrees to represent, and he estimates that in 40 percent of those cases, he includes actors and a story line.
Some are sweet: A home in Bel Air, which he listed in March 2016 for $48.5 million, shows a brother and sister channeling their best Ferris Bueller impressions, faking sickness in their custom bedrooms before dashing out to their backyard infinity pool with skyline views after their parents head off to work. (The home sold for $39 million in December 2016.)
Others are more slapstick, like the film for a home on Rising Glen Road in Los Angeles (the house where the actress Brittany Murphy died), in which an adorable corgi named Sherlock Bones inherits the mansion listed for $18.5 million and heads there to live his best canine life. (That home sold in 2017 for $14.5 million.)
In all of Mr. Bacal’s videos, plots are thin but visuals, and humor, are laid on thick. That’s intentional, he says.
“Instead of telling a long dramatic story, I like to pull characters through the house and do something that makes it voyeuristic, where you can see the property. Focusing too much on story takes away from the home,” he said in a phone call from Mykonos, Greece, where he was on vacation. “I’m not Quentin Tarantino.”
His greatest triumph to date is a home on Hillcrest Road in Beverly Hills. Markus Persson, the Swedish video game programmer behind Minecraft, saw the short film that Mr. Bacal produced for the eight-bedroom, 15-bath home, showing two young women arriving in a Rolls-Royce and enjoying the home’s features, which include a candy room and a 24-seat theater. Beyoncé and Jay-Z were also reportedly interested in the property, which was priced at $85 million. Just seven days after seeing the film, Mr. Persson purchased it for $70 million.
Mr. Bacal credits his success to his ability to not just create compelling footage, but also to distribute it effectively.
He pours cash into boosting the films on YouTube, advertising them across Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and promoting them in the right markets. In Mr. Persson’s case, Mr. Bacal had made the decision to promote the mansion not just in the United States but also in Sweden, a decision that paid off.
“It’s not just about creating a 90-second video. It’s also about knowing how to use video to effectively market that property. And that’s going to mean breaking it up into smaller components and using social media platforms to promote it,” said Mr. Fox, the Canadian marketing executive.
It makes sense that Hollywood-style promotional real estate is hitting a peak in Southern California, said Jonathan Miller, a New York City-based real estate appraiser and consultant. That’s because the high-end market from Los Angeles to San Diego is flush with inventory, creating longer marketing time, reduced foot traffic at open houses and greater competition between agents.
“In a market where there’s escalating supply but still anchored to another time, the sellers are trying to market much more creatively,” Mr. Miller said. In his mind, the sleeker and more expert-looking the video, the more likely it is that the seller is trying to justify a high price tag.
“When I see these videos, or something like a camel at an open house, that’s a clear sign of something that’s overpriced,” he said.
Mr. Qsar, the Orange County real estate agent, produces a video for every home that he represents, spending from $2,500 to the low six figures to produce them. He pays out of his own pocket. While he has had eight-figure listings, most of his sales are in the $1 million to $2 million range.
“Fifteen years ago, I never thought I’d be shooting films,” said Mr. Qsar. “I had a day job and just wanted to sell a couple houses and see what happened. But then I sold 10 and then 15 and 20, and then social media hit, and I thought, ‘O.K., how can I be different?’”
In the hypercompetitive world of Southern California real estate, he said, it’s worth it because his videos give him a definitive edge.
“Our listings are recognizable before they even hit the market, because people see them on social media,” he said. “So now, every time I get together with my team on a house, the first question we ask is, ‘What is the story going to be on this house?’”A version of this article appears in print on Nov. 16, 2019 in The New York Times International Edition. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
2. Attend & be present in as many sessions as you can possibly attend! DO NOT MISS ANYTHING. Specifically, look for the sessions that pull you out of your comfort zone and will challenge you on a personal & professional level. See the full schedule here and meet the speakers here. This year catch Molly Bloom on the main stage sharing the story of “the most exclusive high stakes underground poker game in the world.” 😮
Bonus: Please do not miss CAR’s #womanup on Tuesday at 2pm with Sara Sutachan, Leslie Appleton Young & Debra Trappen. See the full lineup here.
3. Have you joined the Inman Coast to Coast Facebook Group? If not join here for all the latest posts, connections and updates. Hashtag is #ICLV
4. The Party after the Party! Do I need to say anymore? This is VEGAS! Text “PARTY” to 415-818-1555 (thanks Jessie) to find out about all the parties, after-parties and events at #ICLV. We all know the real fun starts after midnight! So just ask around, jump in an Uber (download app here) or Lyft (download app here) and find out where the action is. Check your email for last-minute invites to all the happening VIP parties and events. If you still can not find the party make sure to DM Joe Schutt or Laurie Weston Davis (they will steer you in the right direction, I promise). If you are looking for the top-secret karaoke party then there is only one name you should know 👉🏼 Notorious.
5. Lobbycon! You have heard all the rumors and it is true! You will find everyone in The Aria’s Lobby Bar (open until 2am) and this is the spot where you will meet the CEO’s, Founders, Presidents, movers & shakers all just “hanging out.” Bring your selfie stick & business cards and make sure to say hi. BTW, when is the next time you will be in the same hotel with folks like Brad Inman, Sherry Chris, Sharran Shrivatsaa, Rich Barton, Glenn Kellman, Robert Refkin, Glenn Sanford, Ryan Gorman, Eric Wu, James Dwiggins, Joel Singer, Leslie Appleton Young & Josh Team.
7. Stay fit and drink a ton of water. It will be over 100 degrees the whole week we are in Vegas and you will be eating, drinking & sitting in a lot of sessions. Please make sure to stay mentally & physically fit at the hotel gym, or find the local SoulCycle, OrangeTheory, CrossFit Gym, TopGolf or 24 hour fitness. If you are still alive midweek there is a group hitting SoulCycle at The Wynn on Wednesday morning at 7am.
8. Ambassadors. These are the ones who will lead us through
the first ICLV. Joe Schutt & Laure Weston Davis have
been “in charge” of this program for years now and if you have a
question about anything ICLV these are the folks to ask. Have you met them? If
not connect with them here.
🔥If you made it this far and are headed to #ICLV please find me in one of the sessions, lobbycon or at one of the after-parties. I would love to connect with you and hear your story.
You can not make this stuff up! If you have 60 minutes then please hit the play button. If you know Keith Saarloos or Raj Qsar you will not want to miss this epic LOVE FEST! Two guys who are doing something they are NOT supposed to be doing. I will personally call this episode Passion in a Bottle Part 2.
In its second year, Agent2021 is a one-day conference that educates agents and owners in four industries (real estate, auto, insurance, and mortgage) on how to use innovation to grow your business. Join Gary Vaynerchuk and other industry thought leaders on Jan 17, 2019 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL to learn about the tools, platforms, and tactics that can be used to start marketing for the year we live in.
Our very own Raj Qsar will be speaking on the topic of ‘Personal Brand Building in the Age of Tech!’ To purchase your ticket to this event, please visit https://www.agent2021.com/
Personal Brand Building in the Age of Tech
With the rise of real estate tech, buyers can now browse and buy listings all online, without ever calling an agent. So how do you stand out as a Real Estate agent in the age of tech and show your value to prospective clients? We’ll hear from top producing agents on how to use today’s tools to skillfully build an online presence that inspires trust and positions yourself as an expert that will aid buyers in the home buying process.
We were recently recognized as #14 of Property Spark’s top 100 Real Estate Slogans in 2018!
Top 100 Real Estate Slogans In 2018
These remarkably talented real estate agents and brokerages have summed up their real estate value in a few words. Here are the best real estate slogans for 2018.
A good real estate slogan is important for professional or personal branding and creates an emotional connection with potential clients. It can help you stand out in a crowd and set you apart from everyone else. We have gathered the best real estate slogans from the top professionals in the industry. Below, we present to you the Top 100 Real Estate Slogans In 2018!
When it comes to personal or team branding, a great real estate slogan can help set you apart from the crowd. Sure, your logo was designed by a pro, your website looks amazing, and you toiled over your latest business card. Can you sum up your real estate value in 4 words or less?
The amazingly talented agents, teams, and brokerages on this list have…
That’s why we chose them as having the best real estate slogans and taglines for 2018.
Another Los Angeles startup, Raj Qsar’s the Boutique has competitors that might make lesser brokers run for the hills. (Just not the Beverly Hills).
In order to help his brokerage stand out, Raj focused on branding that is friendly, and accessible, but still ticks all the boxes that well heeled homeowner’s and buyers need from their agents.
Their slogan manages to convey their dedication to service, but also highlights their focus on relationships rather than deals. An attractive proposition for people who may be less than excited to work with your typical stuffy luxury brokerage.
Let’s face it. Local knowledge is important to be successful in any region of the country, but in places like New York’s Hamptons, it’s absolutely crucial.
That’s why with 65 years of combined East End real estate experience, Town and Country Real Estate Hamptons highlighted their local roots in their tagline. It just works.
On other hand, as deep as the upper crust roots of the Hamptons go, it’s still ostensibly a relaxed beach town. Albeit one with a Gucci store… That means a softer edge than the hard charging Manhattan real estate cliche makes perfect sense here.
That’s why I love T&C’s other tagline: ‘The Hamptons Are Our Boardroom”. It manages to bring together business acumen and the laid back vibe a beach town offers vacationers.
3. “Move to What Moves You”
Along with their new (and amazing) rebranding, Halstead has some creative and effective real estate slogans. From the ‘Our Agent of Change Will Move You” tagline in our featured image to ‘Move What Moves You” it’s abundantly clear that Halstead too the time, energy, and money to build a brand that will last as long as Halstead has.
With their new branding, Halstead is walking the same fine line between timeless luxury and up-to-the-second instagram worthy cool that characterizes so many great brands today.
Having risen from a humble background to become the number one sales team in Los Angeles, and number two team in California, Halton Pardee founder Tami Pardee knows a thing or two about changing lives.
That’s why I love that they’re using this tagline for their branding efforts online. What better way to help change someone’s life then counsel them on getting a great new place to live?
5. “A home changes everything”
Founded by Y Combinator Alum Brett Hagler, New Story builds homes for those in need around the globe. Amazingly, New Story promises that every penny of your donation will be used to build homes.
With support from Docusign, Sotheby’s International, and Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, New Story has enough real estate bonafides to go along with their slogan to make this list.
Since you all witness the joy that a new home brings you clients, imagine how much joy a new home might bring to someone without adequate shelter…
Sadly when it comes to real estate the bar for customer service quality is set very low. In many cities, the number of mediocre or even dishonest agents and brokerages sometimes outnumbers the good ones.
“Expect Better” speaks to that issue, and even adds an aspirational element for people who had just okay experiences with other brokerages. What if your real estate experience could have been ever better?
7.“Client Focused. Results Driven.™”
In the world of New York City real estate, Dolly lenz stands alone. Sure, there are a ton of “million dollar” brokers strutting down Park Avenue staring at their iphones, but Dolly Lenz has been doing it longer and better than all of them.
As you might imagine, here real estate slogan is about as good as they get. She manages to convey both her team’s dedication to clients, as well as their passion for closing. No easy feat, especially in 4 short words.
When your market is multi billion home builders like Toll Brothers, your taglines need to spell out what benefits you’re providing them. In Ben’s case, he boiled it down to what every single corporate bigwig wants more than anything else: simplicity.
Massive companies are almost always bogged down by complexity, so coming right out and offering them an incredibly valuable service, that’s easy is an offer almost too good to resist.
This might be part of the reason Ben Cabellero was recently named the Realtor to be added to the Guinness book of world records for most homes sold in one year; and astonishing 3,556 homes closed last year!