By Christopher Seepe

How many people in Canada are in the market to buy a 28-room summer home with 1,450 acres of land, 9,000 feet of lakefront, three wet slips, two farms and a modern four-bedroom log cabin?

At $12 million, very few, so broadening the buyer field through exposure to a worldwide market is essential. Marketing a luxury property is as different as marketing an oil refinery, farm or airport, and the owner and listing agent should be prepared for a potentially long sales cycle, possibly years.

Sandy Point Estate (SPE) is a one-of-a-kind, historically significant, turn-of-the-century mansion with additional buildings, situated on a small peninsula jutting into the deep, clear swimming waters of Pigeon Lake. It’s part of the famous Trent-Severn Waterway system in the spectacularly scenic Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario, about a half-hour drive north of Peterborough.



SPE is steeped in Canadian history. William Claxton bought Sandy Point in 1873. His son sold it to Sir Edward Kemp, politician and businessman, in 1913. Kemp built a 7,400-square-foot summer home with a nine-hole golf course that he named Missisquoi, after his birthplace. Kemp was Minister of Militia and Defence during the First World War and served in London, England as Minister of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada. In 1917, he was knighted for his wartime service. Two Prime Ministers – Meighen and Borden – visited the home as did the Pellatts of Casa Loma, Toronto. Sandy Point was later sold to Eugene Cost of Egypt and when he died, to Louis Cadesky, a famed breeder of imported Hereford cattle from Scotland.

This is not a post-it-on-the-MLS-and-wait-for-calls kind of listing. Creative strategies and a lot of hard work go into marketing a world-class property to elite target markets.

We first built a property-specific, search engine-optimized webpage with a strongly associated domain name (www.sandypointestate.com), populated with everything needed to answer the most common questions – photos, surveys, aerial maps and zoning. We took photos of the inside and outside of 14 buildings. Descriptive features, distances to towns, shopping, hospitals and emergency services and more were added.

A list of potential  uses was assembled – resort/hotel (with private amphibious landing strip), community and recreational use development, year-round gaming lodge, mixed-use lodging/restaurant, active lifestyle retirement, seminary, trailer park, entertainment complex, marina, hobby farm and more. A university student expert translated the webpage into Simple and Traditional Chinese.

Comparables were non-existent so we developed a methodology for justifying the asking price by dividing the property into categories – buildings, services, waterfront, tilled land, forested, conservation, road-accessible and so on.

Five 8×4 double-sided or v-signs were strategically located on roads running alongside the property. A custom 16×12 vinyl tarp was affixed to the boathouse to attract luxury boat owners passing by.

We met with local and regional municipalities to discuss their preferred uses, zoning and other topics. The Ministry of Agriculture was contacted to learn of any incentives they might be offering to farmers.

More than 4,200 REITS, hoteliers, resort operators, land banks, commercial and residential Realtors, landlords, developers, high net-worth individuals and select retailers were contacted by phone and personalized email. Print advertisements were placed in commercial investor and exchange print magazines. One-time ads rarely work. They must be repeated at least three times and preferably six. Editorial coverage was obtained in the National Post, Real Estate Magazine and the Lakeview Herald.

Online listings and advertisements were posted on the MLS (several  listings by property type since it still uses antiquated search technology), Kijiji, Loopnet, World Properties, Luxury Property, Luxury Real Estate, ICIWorld, ICREA, Proxio Pro and Cottage Country. The property videos were posted on YouTube.

We worked out an arrangement with a homes magazine to insert a tear-out four-page colour piece into the centre of the magazine, which is delivered to the first-class lounges of a major airline and a railway service. The lounge’s demographics suggested many patrons are high net-worth individuals and large company decision makers.

We tried contacting luxury brokerages affiliated with Christies and Sotheby’s but most representatives didn’t return phone calls or emails. Two who did wanted to co-list. Some online luxury websites are elitist, requiring a prior luxury property sales track record before allowing membership.

We joined online international Realtor community websites and contacted over 250 agents and brokerages worldwide. We particularly targeted countries with high inflation and/or weak economies, reasoning that high net-worth individuals would be attracted to Canada’s stable real estate market, so investment profits would not erode as they might in their own country.

These marketing activities have led to over 150 inquiries and 14 walkthrough tours including a prospect from England and a group from China. Our two strongest prospects currently are the China Group, which is looking at a high-end resort getaway for their wealthy clients, and a large farm operator from the Middle East to operate a 150-head cattle and cash crop farm.