First of all, we want to send our support & love during these uncertain times. The global COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most difficult scenarios we’ve had to face as a company, industry, and community. When I started The Boutique, my dream was to develop a culture where everyone is considered family. My intention in doing so was to create something better, not only for our agents, staff, and clients but for our industry as a whole. This dream remains our companies driving force as we move forward each & every day.
To our most valued clients, please know that during this time, we will continue to serve you with support, knowledge, and care. Now more than ever, The Boutique family will come together to communicate and collaborate, as we work safely on your behalf.
Our agents will remain available, providing online and video conversations, live streaming property tours and sharing updates on all our social media channels. We work in a completely digital office and can manage all documents online. We will pick up food for you, grab groceries for you, drop off medicine for you or just simply call you to check-in. We will continue to monitor the guidelines set forth by our local, state and national governments, as well as our real estate industry associations.
We are here to help & support you in every way possible and are committed to providing you with the utmost service and guidance moving forward.
On behalf of The Boutique family, we send our love, prayers and best wishes for the health of you and your loved ones. We will get through this, together and come back stronger than ever.
Raj Qsar, CEO / Owner The Boutique Real Estate Group
During this time, we want you to know that we’re here to help…
💕 Our hearts go out to our families with children with schools shut down, our parents, grand-parents & great grand-parents, our seniors in assisted living, our neighbors at the hospitals, our local businesses struggling and anyone impacted by this pandemic.
🍊 TBREG was born here in The OC in 2013 and many of our agents were born and raised here as well. We are fortunate to know people who may be able to help you out for a trip to the grocery store, watching children or just someone to speak with to get the facts.
😊 You’ll be surprised how many good people are here locally who are happy to help you. They WANT TO HELP! Its time for our community to rally for good.
📲 Call or email us if you need anything. We can be reached at 888-917-8267 or info@TheBoutiqueRE.com. We can see if we are able to assist in some way or know someone who can help. To see how our business and team are operating for the time being, please visit our Instagram or Facebook page.
These are crazy, unprecedented times. Together, we will get through it.
The impacts of the coronavirus, the novel respiratory disease that began in China but has spread into an international pandemic with over 140,000 cases around the world confirmed, are just starting to reverberate across the real estate sector. Brokerages have had to close for deep cleaning after some of their agents became exposed to the virus while people in some of the hardest-hit parts of the country are isolating themselves voluntarily and holding off on all buying for the time being.
According to NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, 11 percent of agents surveyed earlier this month saw less buyer traffic while 7 percent reported lower seller traffic thus far.Luxury real estate, which is generally considered to include homes worth between $5 million and $30 million, follows different rules. In 2018, high-end homes sat on the market for an average of 506 days compared to only 80 for an median-priced home. That said, this segment of the industry has not been immune to the fear and financial impact surrounding the novel disease.
Senada Adzem, a Douglas Elliman broker working with homes worth as much as $30 million in Boca Raton and other parts of South Florida, said some of her wealthy clients are especially hesitant to hold showings and require much more detail about who is coming into their home.
“We had to convince the seller to allow us to show and register every person who was coming in,” Adzem, whose eight-agent branch has cancelled all open houses until the outbreak stabilizes, told Inman. “After we were done, they had a cleaning team come in and wipe everything down.”
As a result, Adzem’s team has had to screen whom they show houses to not just by the standard ability to afford the property but also by travel history and whether they are showing any visible signs of illness, such as coughing or a fever. Adzem, who fled the war in Bosnia during the 1990s, said that crises like these cause people of all financial and social classes to panic.
She has been striving not only to reassure her clients but work around their fears. In the most extreme example, some clients with private jets have begun asking her about buying homes on islands and in other isolated areas that they can flee to in case of disaster.
“When people are in a panic mode, they think differently and make a different set of decisions,” she said. “As agents, we have to take it seriously and not just pretend it’s not going to impact our business.”
Still, the outbreak is not impacting all parts of the country equally. Raj Qsar, the CEO of the Boutique Real Estate Group in Orange County, California, said members of his team have held 20 open houses last weekend and have seen them packed with people each time. They have another 15 open houses scheduled for this weekend and do not expect a lot of changes in traffic due to the coronavirus.
This could be due to Orange County being a particularly hot market. In the area, median sales prices rose by 7.2 percent year-over-year in December while sales inventory is down 36 percent. According to Qsar, many people are so desperate to invest and tap into the market that a national pandemic hasn’t slowed them down — particularly when the stock market is responding to the cancellation of flights and adjustments to the typical workday.
“If people have funds in a 401K and those funds go down, those funds may not be there anymore,” Qsar said. “This is a 30-year opportunity for a three-month incident.”
The California Association of Realtors expects the virus to have some impact on the luxury market as people hold off on buying second homes and investment properties in the face of uncertainty. Qsar has seen both buyers and sellers who are in the escrow process and need to travel transfer power of attorney to a family member or other trusted person. Rather than the fear of contracting the virus, some fear a quarantine, not having access to WiFi and allowing a sale to fall through their fingers
“They may put their masks on, they may bring hand-sanitizer with them but they’re still going to walk into that open house,” Qsar said, adding that he does not expect serious buyers to be deterred by the coronavirus.
New York City real estate has been particularly responsive to market effects from the virus — the state has seen more than 200 cases of coronavirus and, subsequently, 13 percent of open houses had no traffic at all last weekend. According to CNBC, average open house attendance fell 27 percent in the last week alone — from an average of 5.6 people to 4.1 peopleper event.
McKenzie Ryan, a Compass agent working on high-end properties in Manhattan, said that the New York real estate market is particularly affected by daily headlines. And while that’s having real-world effects, some wealthy buyers are also capitalizing on the situation. She’s seen billionaire clients who normally spend a large portion of their time traveling get landlocked in New York and, as a result, use the extra time to arrange private showings.
“I think people are going to stay focused on their long-term goals and take precautions to keep themselves safe in the interim,” she said.
Would you be willing to spend a few minutes a day to obtain over 100,000 page views for your new listing video? Better yet, what if it cost you nothing? This is what TikTok can do for your business provided you’re willing to jump in and play.
Agents are finally realizing that if they want to remain competitive in 2020, video is a must. The challenge is that producing video requires time, separate uploading to the various social media sites, plus identifying a way to attract page views.
Next-gen social networking: ‘social entertainment’
Emarketer explains that TikTok is a part of a new type of “social entertainment” where users can watch and create short videos. They can also create profiles and interact publicly with a network of contacts, as they do on other social media sites.
It’s this social entertainment element that differentiates TikTok from other social media channels and has led to the app being installed nearly 1.6 billion times.
An article from Inside Hook explains why this is happening:
“The platform is currently the best way to reach young people, as they’re the age group using the app more than any other (60 percent of its users are ages 16 to 24). If you’re looking to get a message across to the largest (about 1.5 billion) and, arguably, most influential group of consumers, a short 15-second TikTok video is, at the moment, the fastest way to do that.”
7 reasons TikTok matters for your business
When you first visit TikTok, you’ll probably wonder how a site that features Gen-Z users dancing to trendy music — like the viral “Renegade” dance challenge — could be relevant for real estate. Here are seven reasons TikTok should matter to your real estate business.
1. It hits the sweet spot for millennial buyers and sellers
In terms of TikTok’s users, 26 percent are between the ages of 25 and 44, the sweet spot for today’s millennial buyers and sellers. The average user spends 52 minutes a day on the platform and opens the app eight times throughout the day.
2. It generates insane amounts of free organic traffic
Gary Vaynerchuk argues that TikTok and LinkedIn are the two places that give you amazing organic reach that don’t happen on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. He likens it to buying real estate in Manhattan in 1898, long before it became incredibly valuable. Vaynerchuk recommends posting a minimum of four videos per day.
To illustrate this point, Alisa Glutz, a Scottsdale mortgage broker and author of Color My Credit, decided to “go play in the sandbox” over at TikTok because her two daughters and their friends were all avid users. Her experience illustrates how powerful this app can be for real estate.
In less than 60 days, she generated over 4 million page views, 455,000 likes and 77,000 followers. Today, at the 90-day market mark, she has generated over 8.4 million page views.
TikTok has also generated leads for her mortgage business, in addition to becoming a referral source for her clients who need the services of a real estate agent. What’s more, she sold 800 copies of her book in only one week. Before TikTok, it had taken her three years to sell that many books
3. It’s about the moms
Glutz was surprised by how many adults are embracing TikTok. What’s fascinating is that the teens who have seen Glutz’s “Color My Credit” videos are going to their moms and saying, “Mom, I don’t understand what she’s saying, but I think you should watch this.”
In other words, what teenagers see on TikTok has the potential to influence their parents’ approach to the listing or buying process.
4. It provides genuinely helpful information
Glutz uses text boxes to provide her message. “How to Create a Great Credit Score” has garnered 845,600 views:
A different approach is to explain a topic without the music. “How to Handle Late Payment to Get It Removed” has received about 674,100 page views. (Note that Glutz has two additional videos in this series. The total length of the three videos is only 45 seconds):
5. It’s a syndication hub for other social media platforms
According to Raj Qsar, the CEO and founder of The Boutique Real Estate Group, TikTok allows you to syndicate your TikTok videos to other social media sites with a single click. You can also cut and paste your link to IGTV (Instagram TV) and YouTube.
6. It’s a great tool for brand building
When Qsar first began using TikTok, he was receiving about 200-800 views per post.
Once Qsar figured out that TikTok did not have to be so formal and that you could use trending dances and popular music, his view count climbed into the thousands. Here’s an example of how TikTok provides exposure for his brand.
Jeff Pfitzer heads up a USA Mortgage team in St. Louis and has been training the real estate agents he serves to use TikTok. Pfitzer explains that your goal is to reach the local micro-community that would be interested in buying or selling where you do business.
Both Pfitzer and Qsar agree that your TikTok videos work as tease for your listings. Once viewers see your TikTok video, they can then “swipe up” to your Instagram, Facebook and YouTube pages, where you can share longer videos. Since your buyers and sellers are on these sites, this is where the lead conversion actually occurs.
Because of its global reach, TikTok can also be a powerful resource for generating international real estate leads as well.
Real estate’s most successful TikTok user
Aaron Grushow, a 23-year-old Compass agent, has probably garnered more page views than any other real estate professional on TikTok. His posts typically receive at least 50,000-100,000 views. His goal is to establish his brand and generate leads.
Grushow shoots 15-second videos highlighting lavish multimillion dollar estates in Beverly Hills, Bel Air, and Malibu. The following video has garnered 1.7 million views:
Grushow’s videos illustrate how amazingly powerful coupling unusual content and the right music can be. The following video is set to the theme for Jaws — something that Gen X-ers and Boomers would recognize, but many younger people wouldn’t know. It generated 4.2 million views.
Local children’s museums Kidspace, The Children’s Museum at La Habra, and Pretend City all celebrate with balloon drops, live music, sparkling cider, and a countdown to 2020 at 12:00 noon instead of 12 midnight. It’s the best of both worlds for little ones: a New Year’s Eve bash and an early bedtime…for everyone… LOLOL.
2. Family Festival
Shoreline Village in Long Beach offers a free, early evening, family-friendly celebration featuring all manner of entertainment for kids. The ball drops and the fireworks fly at 9pm, timed to coincide with the east coast, and sensible bedtime. Make even more of a Long Beach day of it by adding a stop at Queen Mary Christmas in the afternoon (open 12n-6pm on New Year’s Eve).
3. Knott’s New Year’s Eve
Is it Knott New Year’s Eve already? Apparently it is—and happily, the Knott’s New Year’s Eve party definitely is a party, with family entertainment everywhere you look, all day and way into the night. We had some friends do this last year and had a ball; and by the time it started getting really crowded, the kids were ready to call it a year anyway.
4. Arcade Night
Dave & Busters invites the whole family to play video games and count down to 2020 at the Irvine location. Bubbly drinks for parents and soda for kids are all-you-can-drink at the open bar, and food is included in the ticket price, too.
How about some good old-fashioned fighting? No, really, old-fashioned—as in knights in full armor jousting and clashing broadswords. Medieval Times Dinner Theater has a family-friendly New Year’s Eve bash planned (with the emphasis on bash). Could be kinda fun?
If you want the closest you can get to that Times Square crowd energy, the Happiest Place on Earth is also one of the most popular places on Earth. Disneyland fireworks are grander (and happen twice) on New Year’s Eve, and the party is all around, as you ring in the new year with every Disney character your kids normally dream of at this time of night.
7. Winter Fest
Orange County has another family-friendly, large-scale celebration option if the theme parks are not your thing. The holiday festival at the OC Fair & Event Center rings in the new year at 6pm for the early-to-bed set, then stays open late to do it all again at midnight, with snow, fireworks, a parade, and a ball drop.
8. First Night Fullerton
This family-friendly, alcohol-free event will be celebrating its 28th year from 7pm to midnight. The free event features live musical performances, food vendors, games, activities, and a fireworks show at midnight.
9. Torchlight Parade (Not in The OC)
And now for something totally different: Two of Orange County’s nearby ski resorts have an annual tradition of a Torchlight Parade, in which hundreds of skiers head down the mountain after dark in a row bearing torches. It costs nothing to watch the spectacle at either Mountain High or Snow Summit, or to participate in the accompanying festivities. Of course, once you’re there, why not go skiing? Especially if you have a 5th grader who can ski for free?
As I walked into the lobby of the Cheddar Los Angeles TV building in #hollywood this morning I was hit with a huge neon sign that read, “do what you love.” 💡 My mind travels 100 MPH in a 55 MPH world so it is difficult to pause, reflect and take it all in and realize that I am doing what I love. So I made the most of my 6 minutes on the air today with co-hosts Max Godnick and Alyssa Julya Smith on CheddarTV 📺 chatting about my journey in real estate, video marketing, and social media. When we were done I just wanted more. I was like, “it’s over? Ask me more?” So what’s next? Video clip coming soon… 😉
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
SafeWise is happy to release our fifth annual Safest Cities report. Here are the 50 Safest Cities in California for 2019. See if your city made the list.
California saw some big challenges in 2018—and one of our safest cities, Thousand Oaks, went through two major events. This community faced a mass shooting and a devastating wildfire. But it was able to limit both violent and property crime to below state and national averages in 2017, making it our 28th safest California city.
Overall 86% of this year’s safest cities are on the list for the second consecutive year. And Northern California gained one more city this year, to claim 40% of the state’s safest cities—plus the number one city, Danville, is from the north. But Southern California continues to dominate, with 30 of its cities making the list.
The five safest cities in California in 2019 are Danville, Irvine, Rancho Santa Margarita, Yorba Linda, and Murrieta.
Take a look at the full list to find out how your city ranks, and whether it’s one of the Golden State’s safest places to live.
Every city on the list had fewer than two violent crimes per 1,000 people, and 26% saw fewer than one.
California’s violent crime rate is slightly higher (4.51) than the national rate of 4.49.
At 26.08, the state beats the national property crime rate of 27.11.
92% of cities had lower property crime rates than both state and national averages.
Despite lower property crime rates, Californians ranked property crime as their biggest safety concern on our State of Safety survey, with 64% ranking it number one—that’s five points above the national average.
21% of respondents cited personal experience with property crime in the past year, and 16% reported experiencing a violent crime.
California’s Earthquake Fear Factor
Earthquakes were the number two environmental concern of Californians on our State of Safety report—60% named quakes their biggest natural disaster fear, coming in behind air quality with 72%.
Beyond Safest Cities: What Are the Biggest Safety Concerns in Your State?
Crime statistics are one thing, but do they line up with what people are really worried about when it comes to safety? To find out, SafeWise conducted a nationwide survey. See what the biggest safety concern is in your state—and learn more about what your neighbors are nervous about—in our State of Safety report.
If you would like to contact a SafeWise Safest Cities Analyst, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to Make a Safe Home Anywhere
Wherever you live, feeling safe in your home can bring greater peace of mind and happiness. Whether your city made our list or not, we recommend adding extra security to your home with monitored security services.