Marketing from the top

Editor & Publisher

At the pinnacle of Longboat luxury properties stands the Ohana Estate.

Priced at $19.9 million, it resides in its own echelon. In many ways, it represents the ideal intersection of Longboat Key living and a residence built unlike any other in the region to the most exacting standards.

First, the property is comprised of 2.57 Gulf front acres, which are uniquely protected by a seawall, thereby avoiding much of the shoreline erosion drama found throughout the region. An original home that existed on the property prior to the construction of Ohana was preserved and renovated into a guest house. But what is most inspiring is the estate itself, a 9,262-foot retreat composed of organic pavilions reminiscent of a Balinese resort with natural finishes inspired by South Africa and Southern Indonesia. Each pavilion is both connected and yet private and features expansive balconies, terraces and a free-form Gulf-front pool, as well as a private tennis court. The home was designed by Architect Guy Peterson and built by Michael K. Walker.

As important as the home is the landscaping, courtyards, walkways and what can best be referred to as the ‘outdoor living area.’

The entire property is brimming with exotic palms and native plants and was designed by Landscape Architect Raymond Jungles.


Marketing vision

So how does one market and sell such a unique property that is almost twice the asking price of anything else on Longboat Key?

In this and many similar instances, Michael Saunders & Company’s Deborah Beacham is an ideal fit.

Beacham’s specialty is a talent to recognize not only what makes a property unique and convey it effectively to a prospect, but her uncanny ability to have an almost Zen-like approach on how to reach the potential buyer who can afford to live wherever he or she wishes.

In fact, if you look at Beacham’s track record, it is one of listing at the very highest end — in the multi-million dollar range of the market. Geographically, this generally includes Lido Shores, Casey Key and select Longboat, Sarasota and Siesta residences.


In the beginning was the word

Deborah and Walton Beacham

Beacham’s background before she entered the world of real estate in Sarasota was in publishing. She and her husband, Walton, founded Beacham Publishing, which developed and published reference books for college and high school libraries.

Most of the editing and marketing was Deborah’s job. She was tasked with developing a customer base of institutions that bought their publications.

Before that, she had a career in marketing in the computer industry for Lotus Development.

Their move to Sarasota after a successful run in the publishing business followed a familiar refrain — they were running from the snow.

The Washington, D.C. area was hit by six snowstorms in January 1993, and the couple drove south slowly yet eagerly looking for a place to relocate.

They went to Hilton Head, Charleston, Savannah — all beautiful and intriguing, but they were not yet captivated. It was not until they wandered to Sarasota that the moment of realization came. Like so many, the combined draw of the Sarasota waterfront and its evolved cultural offerings lured them into soon making the area their home.


A realtor is born

After buying on Casey Key, the couple still owned their home in Washington, D.C. and ran their publishing business out of their new residence. Two things occurred in rapid succession that became defining moments for Deborah Beacham.

At the time, their house in Washington, which was an architecturally significant home in a diplomatic overlay zoning district, was on the market. The couple thought they could sell it as a future small embassy and after two years there was an offer, but it kept dragging on and on and would not close.

The offer was from the Republic of Albania to build as its first embassy abroad.

The Beachams grew frustrated and Deborah had an additional frustration relative to their home on Casey Key. She fixed both problems with a yellow chainsaw.

On her birthday, she was sitting in their concrete block house on grade on the bay side of Casey Key and she said she could not see a single piece of water. Bushes, trees, shrubs — a veritable jungle — blocked any chance of any view. Without saying anything to her husband Deborah drove to Sears and bought a chainsaw. She said she wanted something pretty, so she picked out a yellow model and a 250-foot extension cord.

Deborah went to work. She ripped and sawed for hours. When she was in the middle of clearing the jungle, she had an epiphany. She put the chainsaw down and called the Real Estate Division of the State Department, which had a hand in approving any sale of their Washington, D.C. home.

“I told him I had instructed my agent to take it off the market,” she said.

That simple, yet direct, action got a call back within 45 minutes and the State Department official said, “We will close; the money is in America. Do not take it off the market.”

“I then realized a very important rule in real estate is ‘the take away,’” said Beacham.

Meanwhile, as her realtor was working things out with the Albanians, she finished her backyard project and suddenly the waterfront view opened up and her husband said, “What on earth’s happened? It looks like a hurricane has gone through the yard.”

But the reality is in one single afternoon, Beacham had transformed her property from jungle view to full waterfront and she fulfilled what she says, “Was the very reason we moved to Florida in the first place — to enjoy the water.”

Secondly, her assertive action with the State Department forced the agency to stop holding up the property and to close the transaction.

Soon after, her neighbor on Casey Key asked her to put his Siesta Key investment home on the market and she held an open house every Sunday for six weeks. She noticed the same man kept coming to visit the open house week after week. She was convinced he wanted to buy the property and after a conversation he asked if she would sell his house and condominium and that he was impressed with her diligence. She sold his properties and he bought the house. Her new career was born.


Attention grabbing…

Beacham says her years editing and marketing form in her approach a combination of diligence, paying extreme attention and an affinity for checklists. Perhaps she says it most eloquently — “I’m a complete control freak.”

Her success is through intuitive targeting.

“I am selective in the listings I take on. I do not go after every listing, I have no interest in that. You cannot do justice treating real estate like a turnstile just to make a living. When it comes to the Ohana property for instance, it cannot be experienced through only the Internet or simply on paper. It is a sensory and tactile experience. A serious buyer will have to spend an hour on the property to do it any kind of justice,” said Beacham.

So how do you find a buyer when the buyer will likely come from somewhere other than Sarasota?

Beacham’s answer is, “It is essential to capture the imagination of the ultra-uber-wealthy. We have over 1,500 billionaires in the world. The challenge is creating demand for an unique property such as Ohana because they have the world to choose from. The biggest thing in today’s market is grabbing attention.”

When not selling and marketing and filling her mind with the swirling thoughts of capturing the imagination of the next uber-wealthy buyer, Beacham enjoys life at home. She is an avid musician and plays the harpsichord as well as the piano. She loves to walk the beach with her husband and of course spend time with her poodles, Wilson and Jackie, which she refers to as two of the Motown Three.

But all life intersects. Once and only once she knew her harpsichord would stage a particular home perfectly for a walk through. She moved her harpsichord to the property and as eclectic as it may seem — the move worked. The home sold.

Deborah’s husband has learned to stop questioning when she grabs a yellow chainsaw, or moves the harpsichord or even more impressively — calls the bluff of the Albanian government.

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2 Responses for “Marketing from the top”

  1. Mitch says:

    Agreed, Ohana is overpriced. At best it is a $13 – $14 million property, sitting on the market for 4+ years makes the case for the lower price.

  2. ghostrider says:

    It’s a lovely property that is NOT saleable. Fifteen years from now it will be the club-house for the high-rise next to it. Former Miami Maurice Ferrer’s house on Brickell Avenue in Miami created this wonderful precedent.
    A billionaire wants to be separated from the masses in our society. There is a marked difference between Jupiter Island and Longboat. Thirty years ago you were allowed to ride down Jupiter’s extended road. Now there are guard booths at both ends. Longboat is simply too developed for that transition to now take place. (It’s on it’s way to becoming an Anna Maria Island 2.) Since you are not part of the paw folk, you do understand that no billionaire wants “the public” walking on their beach. There are fences and walls on Jupiter that separate properties and extend into the water.
    Guard booths are now EXPECTED for affluent developments.
    I do congratulate whoever had ZILLOW mysteriously change its assessed value for the property. At best it’s a ten million dollars property.

    You also violated critical tenets of the “4X Rule”, but, I’ll allow someone in the trade to explain that to you.

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