By teaming up with other local luxury brokers as well as the finest brand sponsors, Decker enticed buyers from around the globe to the shores of northern California.
It takes genuine creativity to transform a simple home tour into the social highlight of the season. But those lucky enough to partake in a special week-long real estate gathering in September were able to indulge in the best that San Francisco has to offer. From opening night galas for the opera and symphony to fine dining and black tie affairs, the week was a whirlwind of wonder punctuated by intimate tours of the region’s finest estates available.
There is no lack of luxury homes on the market from Silicon Valley to Napa Valley, with San Francisco and Marin County in between, which was exactly the inspiration for the California Lifestyle event. Über-Realtor Olivia Hsu Decker knew she could jump-start the semi-stalled market by introducing local, national, and international ultra high net worth individuals in the market for Bay Area real estate not only to the beautiful homes, but also to the cultured lifestyle that residing in San Francisco Bay Area provides.
By teaming up with other local luxury brokers as well as the finest brand sponsors, Decker enticed buyers from around the globe to the shores of northern California. The event was planned to coincide with the opening nights of the San Francisco Opera and the Symphony, which conveniently open within one day of each other in early September. This relieved Decker from having to throw her own black-tie galas. “I didn’t have to reinvent the Opera Ball and all of the festivities,” Decker explains. “I only had to plan my food and wine events and luxury home tours around the opening nights, and make it a week-long experience.” Being as Decker is a member of Board of Directors of San Francisco Opera Guild, the organizer of this annual major fundraising event, it is a win-win situation for the Opera Ball and the guests were able to enjoy it.
With the dates decided upon, Decker began lining up sponsors, selecting to work with only the best brands. This, of course, included the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco and Meadowood Resort in Napa, which were the host locations for the out-of-town guests. The detailed itinerary was bookended by a cocktail reception at Meadowood Resort and a finale dinner party at a $38 million Los Altos Hills estate, complete with live-music and a jewelry show. During the week, guests had the option of touring 20 of the finest homes from Silicon Valley to Napa Valley, including a $65 million Belvedere landmark mansion, the $27.5 million 2008 SF Decorator Showcase home, three beautiful mansions in Woodside and Atherton, and a $22.5 million Napa Valley vineyard estate. These home tours, which took place in intimate groups, were punctuated by dinners, wine tastings, brunches, and cocktail receptions at each of the properties, as well as a luncheon at St. Frances Yacht Club.
Nearly two hundred guests RSVP’d from a cross section of the world’s most glamorous cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, London, and Paris, as well as from Scotland, Macau, and Switzerland. “Many are multiple home owners looking for more homes,” Decker explains. The first evening’s cocktail reception at Meadowood Resort was sponsored by Bentley, which provided two beautiful Continental Flying Spurs for test-drives to the dinner event at the $11.8 million home of designers Eugene Anthony and Todd Taylor. “Interesting enough,” Decker says, “five other attendees arrived in their own Bentleys.” Bentley also provided a fleet of the Flying Spurs for the two opening nights, which added even more elements of glamour and luxury.
Day two and three were more reserved, as guests toured magnificent properties and indulged in poolside lunches followed by cocktail receptions at some of the multi-million dollar homes. Wednesday, guests were invited to attend the opening night of the San Francisco Symphony, with tickets ranging from $375 to $1,750 as donations to the Symphony education fund. On Friday, the opening night of the San Francisco Opera and the Opera Ball provided the evening’s entertainment for some of the guests who donated $1,500 for the ball ticket.
In total, Decker estimates the event to cost well over $100,000, not including hotels and transportation, with the cost being funded by the attendees who purchased the tickets to the galas, the sponsors, and Decker herself. But the returns on this investment are expected to be high. While no sales have yet been finalized, Decker says there were several interested buyers for two of the priciest pads. But ultimately, “the timing was not good as the financial crisis got worse shortly after the event,” she says. “The buyers decided to wait. And I don’t blame them! Sure enough, their wait paid off. The $65 million Belvedere landmark home was just reduced to $48 million last week and other sellers are more motivated now.”
But that doesn’t mean the event wasn’t a total success. All of the realtors who participated are betting that this week-long marketing tactic, which is getting rave reviews by attendees (Client Tom Perkins wrote in an email that this event was “absolutely brilliant marketing” that will go down in the book as “the most innovative idea.”), will pay off, so much so that Decker is already planning on making this a yearly affair.
And the sponsors, which included AIG, Bentley, First Republic Bank, Old Republic Title Company, NorthStar Insurance Services, M, Golden Anchor, and Steward Assets Management Group, have been getting referral businesses from Decker and her clients as well as excellent media coverage. Bloomberg News, NBC and the San Francisco Chronicle covered the story in September, and ABC News’ Nightline and local CBS Channel 5 show Eye on the Bay will air segments about this event in January 2009. The media attention provides the sponsors and the homes included in the tour exposure beyond the attendees. With the flawless execution of this whirlwind week of luxury, an invite to this event will be one of the most coveted in the world’s top real estate circles.