"Our business is about residential psychology – we know where our clients would like to live, and we create the suitable environment, hoping they'll choose to live there," explains Louise Sunshine, owner of US real estate marketing and consulting firm Sunshine Select Residential Worldwide.
Sunshine says that the difference between her company and real estate agencies is huge in that real estate brokers sell clients property whereas she tailors property to suit her clients.
Sunshine has pretty much seen it all when it comes to luxury residences. She began selling luxury real estate in New York in the 1970s. Today, the hubs of her activity are New York, California and Florida, and although she rarely operated outside the US, she recently changed course and two years ago began selling luxury residential property in the US to foreigners.
Several years ago, she established a close relationship with prize-winning architect Richard Meier, who introduced her to billionaire entrepreneur Nicolas Berggruen, and the two brought her in to handle the consultation and marketing of the Meier-on-Rothschild
luxury apartment tower in Tel Aviv.
Meier designed the apartments for Berggruen Residential and the Israeli Hagag Group.
During the time Sunshine worked as a fundraiser for newly elected Governor of New York Hugh Carey in the 1970s, she met Donald Trump, who became a pivotal figure in her life. The two teamed up to broker luxury property in Manhattan and the partnership lasted a decade and a half, until the mid 1980s.
Sunshine explains that Trump was in charge of entrepreneurship, and together they devised the marketing schemes. Once she quit the partnership, says Sunshine, Trump ceased the development activity.
Sunshine then founded Sunshine Group, which she sold to Cendant Corporation seven years ago for $50 million – an extraordinary sum in terms of the New York real estate market at the time.
She then partnered with her son Paul, and they extended their circle of clients to affluent foreigners seeking luxury residential property in the US.
Sales expanded overseas. Meier-on-Rothschild simulation (Photo: Berggruen Residential)
Having names of rich and famous on a project's buyers-list can boost sales and brand it as prestigious, says Sunshine. Although not in the habit of dropping names, she makes an exception during the interview and mentions Nicole Kidman, Calvin Klein and actor Hugh Jackman as her clients.
As the sale of a luxury apartment to a celebrity usually entails the approval of the buyer's attorneys, PR reps and personal manager, and the buyer actually sees the property when the price is negotiated, the houses are put up for sale only after they are completed lock, stock and barrel.
"These people don't want to deal with decorating", say Sunshine. "Usually they prefer to have someone else establish a done deal."
When asked whether she has seen any interesting luxury property in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Sunshine says, "I'm unable to find a penthouse or a nice place to stay in in Tel Aviv. If wanted such a place, I'd have to buy one. The hotels here are not at a level to accommodate the type of people we aim at".
The Meier-on-Rothschild project will offer 20 one- and two-bedroom apartments, which are offered as a "suitcase sale", meaning they are fully outfitted for people who want to move in, unpack their suitcase and not be bothered with anything that has to do with the apartment.
Richard Meier will handle the interior design as well as the design of the project's public spaces, and will design part of the furniture and fixtures which will bear his signature.
"Our clients can be from Russia, Great Britain or France. They seek a home away from home when they visit Israel
three-four times a year", Sunshine says.
Asked whether Madonna, who frequently visits Israel's Kabbalah Center, could be a potential buyer, Sunshine replies: "Wow. Really? I wasn't aware of that. I'll call her agent next week and schedule a meeting. We've known each other for years."
Four years into the Meier-on-Rothschild project, Berggruen Residential admits that sales were sluggish in the first two years. A turnaround came once the Hagag brothers entered a partnership with Berggruen and sales were expanded overseas two years ago.
According to Berggruen Residential CEO Yigal Zemah, "So far we've sold 62% of the residential area. We aim primarily at US and European markets but are not overlooking the Israeli market."
This interview was originally published in Hebrew