By Kofi Natei Nartey, Director, Sports & Entertainment Division at The Agency
Actually, the blue, human-like creatures in Avatar are called Na’vi, which means I sold a house to one of the Na’vi. However, for the purpose of this story, I will refer to my client as an “Avatar,” as most affectionately refer to them. Taking things a step further, my Avatar client is representative of many of the athletes and entertainers that navigate through the luxury real estate market and are represented by The Agency. Some of the basketball and football players are as tall as Avatars, and many of the entertainers are part of a Pandora that is foreign to most.
Day one of the property search started with my Avatar pulling up to our first showing in the Toyota Prius that Avatar director James Cameron had delivered as a gift. The other main cast members also received the environmentally friendly vehicles, keeping with the film’s “planet first”
theme. The unexpected gift from the spoils of the billion dollar film was enough to cause my Avatar client to turn in its gas-guzzling SUV and use the Prius as a daily commuter. Well done James! I must note that the Avatar kept its second car; a 550 horsepower convertible sports car for those days it felt like driving something that reminded it of being on the back of a banshee.
As in the movie, a huge part of working with an Avatar was gaining its trust. Trusting a human, let alone a real estate agent, was not automatic. Trust was gained through professionalism, rapport, expertise and discretion. While being part of the highest grossing movie of all time is nice, most Avatars don’t want to be in that same spotlight when buying a home. I would ultimately help my Avatar buy the house under a Trust, for even more discretion. One of my goals is to keep my Avatar clients off the “Maps of Stars Homes.”
Negotiating on behalf of an Avatar is also an interesting dance. While it’s illegal in real estate to use race, religion, or ethnicity to help or keep someone from getting a house, mentioning that you are working with an Avatar has some perks. Most Avatars are assumed to be qualified buyers. If you are working with an Avatar, it is also assumed that you know what you are doing. Most agents would also like to be in a deal with an Avatar. The majority of buyers and sellers that have reached Avatar status have business managers that will work as hard as the agents to ensure a smooth transaction.
On the other side of the coin, despite the prosperity that comes along with being an Avatar, they want the same thing as other buyers, and that’s a good deal. And a good deal is what we found. It was important not to let the other agent assume that just because my client was an Avatar, their budget knew no limits, or that the number of zeros in their offer should be a direct reflection of the number of television shows or films they had seen them in.
Like other Avatars, my Avatar wanted a place that allowed for personalization. The bones of the house were important, the finishes were not. Ideas for remodeling would eventually come through the guidance of other industry friends and their contractors. Their input, along with my guidance, would factor into the decision to write an offer on the property. I was also happy to show the Avatar’s friends the prospective properties, because Avatars usually have some pretty cool friends.
Getting an Avatar financed can be a little tricky too. While Avatars typically make money in large lump sums, it is not always consistent. And the days of stated income loans are essentially gone. Fortunately, we have a handful of lenders that understand the lifestyles of Avatars and with the assistance of the business manager, the financing wasn’t an obstacle. Raising its debt ceiling is apparently easier for an Avatar than it is for the government these days.
After numerous searches, calls to other luxury agents, exhausting the pocket listing market, and LOI’s to unlisted properties that fit the criteria, I was able to find a house that made me an honorary Na’vi in my Avatar’s eyes. It’s always great to put a smile on an Avatar’s face. Ultimately, I was able to get the offer accepted, open escrow, go through inspections, and close the deal at a higher appraised value that gave my Avatar immediate equity.
While assumptions are often made about Avatars – their lifestyles, needs, and idiosyncrasies – they are not dramatically different from the other buyers and sellers in the luxury real estate market. They want to know that they are in the hands of a qualified agent, who will get them a good deal and get it done in a world that requires flexibility, anticipation, professionalism, and discretion. A little fun doesn’t hurt either, as Avatars know how to have a good time.
Now it is time to head back to Pandora and on to my next Avatar!
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