Few brands can match the history, renown, and prestige of Sotheby’s. In 1976, the company began a new chapter when it made a landmark move into the world of real estate. Today, it is the global leader.
The “Sotheby’s” name initially calls to mind fabulous auctions featuring the world’s rarest treasures and paintings by great masters. Who else but Sotheby’s can boast of having sold Napoléon Bonaparte’s library, the Duchess of Windsor’s jewels, and Keith Haring’s personal art collection? Founded in Britain in 1744 by Samuel Baker, the US-based auction house has always enjoyed an enviable brand image, which is now associated with a network dedicated to the real estate sector: Sotheby’s International Realty. “This network is present in 75 countries, with over 1,000 offices and 24,000 sales associates, including 600 in Canada,” explains Daniel Dagenais, managing broker for Sotheby’s International Realty Quebec. He goes on to point out a key feature that sets the company apart: all the Canadian offices are owned by a single individual, making it much easier to control the brand image. “You will never see a Sotheby’s International Realty ad on a billboard or the back of a bus; even the business cards do not feature photos of the brokers.” As Dagenais notes, the company exhibits a very Anglo-Saxon discretion, letting its expertise and reputation come through in its property listings. “The focus is on the brand, the clientele, and the properties.”
The first Sotheby’s International Realty office in Quebec opened in Old Montréal in 2006. Francophone culture and the environment appear to be assets, because the province attracts both Canadians abroad who want to move back to the country and citizens from around the world. “Quality of life and access to a first-rate education at a lower cost than what is offered in other provinces or the United States are determining factors for Montréal and Quebec.” The company’s offices, even the newest scheduled to open in Brossard’s Dix30 district, are now used primarily to promote the brand, for most of the work is done via the Web. “A variety of electronic tools enables us to be really effective. With electronic signatures, we can complete a brokerage contract, a purchase offer, and counteroffer directly online. Applications like Zoom and FaceTime mean we can offer virtual tours without buyers having to travel or vendors having to worry about their health.” That being said, the Web is simply a tool. A broker’s expertise, experience, prompt responses, and strong network remain key elements in a world where sales are being negotiated at top speed, especially during this busy period. “The pressure comes from the market. One must be able to support the seller or buyer and work as quickly as the market demands.”
Ways of doing business have changed drastically since the beginning of the pandemic, but Sotheby’s International Realty has always functioned with an exceptional worldwide network. “Our company is known globally for its high-quality networking and referral system. Our clientele is very loyal to the Sotheby’s International Realty brand. When clients are looking to move or purchase real estate in a country, their first impulse is to contact us.”
Sotheby’s brand reputation is equally helpful to sellers trying to find a buyer for a million-dollar property. This is even truer today, when deals are being made almost exclusively over the Internet. For example, the transactions involved in selling an $11 million property recently were carried out solely over FaceTime, a testament to the trust associated with the brand and those who work for it. “I am not sure that an international buyer would have had the same confidence in an unknown broker for this type of transaction,” asserts Dagenais. Furthermore, Sotheby’s International Realty does not limit its listings to luxury properties. A charming, well-appointed condo that stands out from neighbouring apartments will also attract this major realtor, which focusses on helping clients find the property and neighbourhood that best suit them. “We offer our clients assistance with insurance and schools, almost like a concierge service, especially when they come from outside the country. The key is quality of life,” says Dagenais.
When asked about the future of the real estate market in big cities, Dagenais, like a true expert, gets to the heart of matter. He explains that, in the last few years, residential complexes have been creating smaller, more compact condos to focus on common areas, exercise rooms, and swimming pools. During the pandemic, when these spaces became inaccessible, clients began rethinking their quality of life and looking for fresh air outside the major urban centres. “This does not mean that small condos will no longer sell, but the clientele will be different. Second homes outside big cities will become primary residences for those who can manage it, while condos will be used one or two nights a week to work in Montréal, for example, or to house children studying at university.” This transformation has already begun. However, the vitality of big cities will continue to attract culture aficionados, connoisseurs of fine dining, and those who thrive on the special energy of urban settings. If the city has to reinvent itself, thankfully there will always be companies like Sotheby’s International Realty to help us understand and familiarize ourselves with it.