Luxury Real Estate Tips from Million-Dollar Listing's Madison Hildebrand

Last Updated Oct 12, 2009 2:46 PM EDT


I confess that "Million-Dollar Listing," the Bravo reality show that follows the lives of three high-end realtors in California, gives me a bit of an ice-cream headache. However, judging from the series' expanded run, lots of us like ice cream. Starting tonight (Monday) at 11 pm Eastern, Season Three is back for nine episodes rather than the usual six.


The show is certainly full of goodies like glimpses of high-end homes and the wicked behavior of buyers and sellers -- not to mention the drama in the lives of the luxury real estate agents. However, since I'm one of those practical people who likes the fact that ice cream is full of calcium, I'd like to point out that it can deliver some real estate lessons too.

Madison Hildebrand, one of the show's stars and a Malibu realtor who has also written "Activate Your Passion, Create Your Career," did a phone interview with Moneywatch.com, and offers these five tips for buying and selling luxury real estate:
  • Try to roll with the softer market. "Real estate was fun until now," wails Hildebrand in the show's first episode. However, he notes as a realtor who has sold $100 million worth of real estate in the past five years, "it's the first year where I felt like I had a lot more time to myself." The good news, he says, is that "things have picked up in the past couple of months." (We've seen this in the stats for Manhattan too, which had a little of a third-quarter rebound.) For buyers, Hildebrand says, "there are a handful of great deals in Malibu; prices have come down significantly -- on the order of forty percent."
  • Remember pricing is not an exact science. "There is no calculation that you can punch in and come out with an exact number," Hildebrand notes. However, people who work in real estate do have a sense of general market levels, which can move slowly, and you'd be wasting your time to ignore that. "Six months ago, the people who were interested in writing offers were only interested in writing them 40 percent below asking, at a time when the homes were coming on the market at a fair price," says Hildebrand. "The homes were never going to get there."
  • Marketing involves many channels, including advertising and networking. Hildebrand posts his new multi-million dollar listings on Facebook. Does that mean only social media sells homes? Networking is broader than that, he insists. "I always get leads through Facebook, but it's not like I'm selling my followers, it's about being part of a community," he says. "When I started I had fifty contacts in my sphere of influence ... now I have several thousand."
  • Fess up to your realtor. "Tell me your secrets because I need to know them," says Hildebrand, who notes that he keeps his client's trusts. "My role is to take the stress and fear out of negotiating and marketing, so we can get top dollar ... but if a client only has six months left [to be able] to pay the mortgage, I need to know that. Don't come to me, like happened on the show, and say, 'I need to sell my house in thirty days.'"
  • Don't take staging suggestions personally. Apparently they have a lot of leeway in Malibu, because in the first episode of Million-Dollar Listing, Hildebrand markets a house with a wire sculpture that I would have tossed in a closet tout suite. (Let me just say this: balloons for boobs). However, he notes that he did once request an owner to pack up some of his 14 taxidermied African animals, including an elephant-foot nightstand. "Malibu is a pretty eccentric community so we can get away with a lot that you can't in the suburbs," says Hildebrand, "and I only offer suggestions. But you are hiring me to market a product, and it's not about you, it's your house."



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photo of Madison Hildebrand visiting a property by Bravo's Vivian Zink, courtesy of NBCU Lightbox

  • Alison Rogers

    Since graduating from Harvard summa cum laude, Alison Rogers has been a reporter, an editor, a real-estate agent, a Wall Street desk jockey, a columnist, a failed flipper, and a landlady. A member of the National Association of Realtors, she currently sells and rents luxury co-ops in Manhattan for the Chelsea-based firm DG Neary. (If you've got $27,500 a month, the firm has an apartment for you!) Her book, Diary of a Real Estate Rookie, was called "a valuable guide for rookie buyers" by AOL/Walletpop, "beach-read fun" by the New York Observer, and "witty" by Newsweek.

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